An Exploration of Galatians: Those Who Belong to Christ Jesus
Galatians 5:24 - We are to crucify our sufferings and our desires on the Cross of Jesus!
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”
Galatians 5:24 NASB1995
Well, I didn’t get very far after spending 11 devotionals on two verses. I started researching verses 24-26 of Galatians 5 and realized that there is a great depth of commentary out there on verse 24 all by itself, so I will tackle this on its own. I can guarantee that casual readers of the Bible probably skip right over this verse that follows on the heels of the much more renowned and reassuring Fruit of the Spirit.
Where the dichotomy occurs in the analysis of this statement by Paul is addressed in this commentary from Bruce Hurt on Precept Austin on the two ways that we can view the phrase “have crucified the flesh”:
Have crucified the flesh - There are two ways that this verse has been interpreted and there are excellent expositors and commentators on both sides: (1) believers have been crucified (past tense) with Christ and are in union with and identified with Christ; (2) believers are to (effectively) "crucify" or mortify the flesh which, although crucified in the past when we died with Christ, is still active in every believer.
(1) speaks of a believer's position in Christ, while (2) speaks of the the experience made possible because of our position in Christ. To a degree both interpretations are reasonable, and are like two inseparable sides of a coin. However, if one examines the context closely, interpretation (1) which speaks of our position in Christ is followed immediately by a verse that speaks of our experience in Christ and exhorts us to live out that experience by keeping in step with the Spirit (our experience), something that would not be possible if we had not been crucified with Christ (our position).
Clear as mud, right? It’s amazing to me how deep Paul can get with a short sentence thrown in after he delineates the Fruit of the Spirit. Bruce Hurt is more accepting of the first idea, that we have already crucified our flesh and desires by being in union with Christ (others in this boat include John MacArthur and John Piper). It’s also interesting that Paul uses the term “crucified” rather than “killed”. David Guzik, from Enduring Word, is more aligned with the second explanation; here is his commentary on this phrase:
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires: God has a place for our flesh, with all its passions and desires. He wants us to nail it to His cross, so that it may be under control and under the sentence of death.
Crucified is an important word. Paul could have simply chosen the word “killed,” but he used the word crucified because it speaks of many things:
It reminds us of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
It reminds us that we are called to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
It reminds us that the death of the flesh is often painful.
It reminds us that our flesh must be dealt with decisively.
Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh: This speaks of something that the believer does, being directed and empowered by the Spirit of God. It was not and is not the sovereign, “unilateral” work of God.
The old man, the self inherited from Adam, is crucified with Jesus as the sovereign work of God when we are born again. Romans 6:6 says, Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him. We are simply told to reckon, or account, the old man as dead (Romans 6:11), we are not told to put him to death. But the flesh is another matter. We are called to choose to work with God to do to the flesh exactly what God did all by Himself to the old man: crucify the flesh.
“Please notice that the ‘crucifixion’ of the flesh described here is something that is done not to us but by us… Galatians 5:24 does not teach the same truth as Galatians 2:20 or Romans 6:6. In those verses we are told that by faith-union with Christ ‘we have been crucified with him’. But here it is we who have taken action.” (John Stott)
[James Montgomery] Boice on have crucified: “The verb is in the active voice and points rather to what the believer has himself done and must continue to regard as being done.”
The problem of our flesh will not be finally dealt with until we are resurrected. Until then, we are to constantly “nail it to the cross,” so that it hangs there, alive yet powerless over us. “To resist the flesh… is to nail it to the Cross. Although the flesh is still alive it cannot very well act upon its desires because it is bound and nailed to the Cross.” (Martin Luther)
After reading this again, I am more inclined to agree with Guzik and the other luminaries he cites here, including John Stott and Martin Luther, which is the second viewpoint from Precept Austin noted above. I think that as long as we draw breath in this fallen world, we will have to daily take it upon ourselves (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to nail the desires of the flesh to the cross. I’m also glad to have some of this commentary back again - the Enduring Spirit commentary on the Fruit of the Spirit was fairly minimal.
I explored the deeds of the flesh in detail, but many of them are here again, summarized in the word “desires” along with the word “passions”, which means sufferings. For learning’s sake, let’s do a quick word study on both of those words:
Passion comes from the Greek word πάθημα or panthema and it has the following Biblical usages:
that which one suffers or has suffered
externally, a suffering, misfortune, calamity, evil, affliction
of the sufferings of Christ
also the afflictions which Christians must undergo in behalf of the same cause which Christ patiently endured
of an inward state, an affliction, passion
an enduring, undergoing, suffering
We must undergo afflictions just like that which Christ patiently endured. This word has little or nothing to do with the modern cultural interpretation of a strong and barely controllable emotion, like the intent portrayed in the photo above. People use it in an exaggerated sense these days, trying to stretch the word “love” into something even stronger. Suffering can lead to deeds of the flesh, including outbursts of anger, strife and turning to things like drugs (outside of prescriptions) and alcohol to cope.
Desire comes from the Greek word ἐπιθυμία or epithymia and it means desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.
I think I’m seeing the light - we not only nail our fleshly desires (sins) to the Cross, we also nail our sufferings to the Cross, even when we still have those sufferings and desires until we join Him after we die. He takes these on and takes them from us, so that the Fruit of the Spirit can flourish and grow! We have not lost the fight if we believe in Him.
My next devotional examines the last two verses in Galatians 5 (25-26). Then I will dive into the last chapter of this marvelously complex epistle!
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
My prayer today to the Lord comes from the venerable hymn “Old Rugged Cross”, written in 1913 by George Bennard. Look to the old rugged cross:
1 On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.
2 O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
has a wondrous attraction for me;
for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
to bear it to dark Calvary. [Refrain]
3 In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
a wondrous beauty I see,
for 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
to pardon and sanctify me. [Refrain]
4 To that old rugged cross I will ever be true,
its shame and reproach gladly bear;
then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
where his glory forever I'll share. [Refrain]
United Methodist Hymnal
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin can be found Here.
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 1/28/2024 to review the lexicon for passion and desire.