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CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, August 23, 2008

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live”
(Galatians 2:20).


I have been criticized for quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous statement, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1963 reprint, p. 7). Conservative Christians have told me that Bonhoeffer was a theological liberal. On some things he was, but there was one point on which Bonhoeffer was more fundamental, more true to the Bible, than many conservative preachers, and this is the point – “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” I think he meant exactly what Paul meant in Galatians 2:20,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20).

I think Bonhoeffer understood that verse. Oh, yes, I know he studied in a very liberal seminary when he came to New York from Germany. I know he believed some liberal teachings he learned there. I was told this about Bonhoeffer at the liberal Southern Baptist seminary I attended. But I also know that Bonhoeffer was a better Christian than he was a theologian. I mean that his heart was better than his head. This comes across in that famous statement of his, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” I think he was saying, in his own way, what the Apostle Paul said,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20).

What a man does is the best revelation of his heart. And Bonhoeffer literally lived out that verse in his own life. He returned from England and New York, where he had preached and studied, to Nazi Germany under Hitler. He had signed the Barmen Confession, which was written by some German pastors and theologians against Hitler. He deliberately went to Germany to preach Christ under Nazi persecution. It cost him his life. He was arrested by the Nazi Gestapo and put in prison for his preaching. A few days before the end of World War II the Nazis, under order from Hitler, tied a piano wire around his neck and hanged him. He choked to death, a martyr for Christ, shortly before the Allied forces liberated Germany at the end of World War II. He was thirty-nine years old. I admire this German preacher because he gave his very life as a martyr for Christ, thus proving to my mind that his faith was better than his theology, and that he truly believed what he said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And I think that his words reflect that statement by the Apostle Paul,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20).

What did the Apostle Paul mean by that statement, “I am crucified with Christ”? Dr. Lenski said,

Note the force of the perfect tense “I have been crucified”: having once been crucified, Paul remains so; the effect is permanent. This state of crucifixion is the state of death Paul entered when he died to law. Only by being crucified with Christ does one die to law. It is the one avenue of escape. Otherwise law has us by the throat and will destroy us. Faith…alone joins us to Christ crucified to be crucified “with” him (R. C. H. Lenski, Ph.D., The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 reprint, page 116).

I believe that Paul meant that the real Christian must die with Christ, if he is to live with Christ.

1.  Jesus began to die in the Garden – under the weight of man’s sin. So, you must go through the experience of Gethsemane before you can be crucified with Him, and become a real Christian.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live”
      (Galatians 2:20).

2.  Jesus went through great agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. So, you must go through the agony of conviction and inner torment for your sin before you can be crucified with Christ and become a real Christian.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live”
      (Galatians 2:20).

3.  Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, beaten and mocked by the high priests – so you must go through belittling and pain from unbelievers before you can be crucified with Christ and become a real Christian.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live”
      (Galatians 2:20).

4.  Jesus was flogged under Pontius Pilate. This flogging was part of the payment for your sin. So, you must be flogged with Christ by God’s Spirit, until your heart is softened and you feel your need for Christ strongly enough to want Christ.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live”
      (Galatians 2:20).

5.  Jesus was nailed to a cross to die for your sins. So, you must be crucified with Christ. You must die with Christ to the allure of the world.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live”
      (Galatians 2:20).

6.  Only then can you say with the Apostle,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live”
    
 (Galatians 2:20).

These are the marks of a real conversion: the suffering of conviction for sin (as Christ did for you, so you must experience it by being convinced of your sin). You must go through agony of soul, as Christ did in the Garden, before the weight of sin burdens you to the point of dismay. You must go through belittling and scorning by former friends. As Jesus did, you must lose your dearest friends (they all forsook Him and fled). You must be flogged so hard by God’s Spirit that you feel torn up inside. As Jesus felt when they scourged Him, you must feel the scourging of your own soul for your inward and outward sins. More than that, you must go to the Cross with Jesus, and be united with Him in His dying agony for your sin. In short – you must be “crucified with Christ.” It is only when you come to Jesus, that you can be crucified with Him. And it is only when you have died with Him, in real conversion, that you can say,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20).

George Bernard Shaw once said,

People are so inoculated in childhood with small doses of Christianity that they seldom catch the real thing (quoted by Richard Wurmbrand, In God’s Underground, Living Sacrifice Books, 2004 reprint, p. 120).

If you have been in church a long time in a lost state, it is doubtful that you will be converted, because you have been “inoculated with small doses of Christianity.”

Those who suffer for Christ as martyrs have truly been crucified with Christ. They are not “inoculated with small doses of Christianity.” They have caught the real thing. They can say,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20).

Pastor Wurmbrand said,

      I was kept in solitary confinement in this cell for two years. I had nothing to read and no writing materials; I had only my thoughts for company, and I was not a meditative man, but a soul that had rarely known quiet…
       Did I believe in God? Now the test had come. I was alone. There was no salary to earn, no golden opinions to consider. God offered me only suffering – would I continue to love Him?
       Slowly, I learned that on the tree of silence hangs the fruit of peace. I began to realize my real personality, and made sure that it belonged to Christ. I found that even here my thoughts and feelings turned to God, and that I could pass night after night in prayer, spiritual exercise, and praise. I knew now that I was not play-acting. I BELIEVED (Wurmbrand, ibid.).

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20).

You also must go through a dark night of the soul. You must feel your sin, feel the lash of the law, feel the nails, die with Christ, and be born again – united with Christ in His death and resurrection – washed clean from your sins by His Blood!

(END OF SERMON)
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