APRIL 18 – THE CROSS YOU BEAR IS YOURS—NOT CHRIST’S

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

GALATIANS 5:24

To go along with Christ step-by-step and point by point in identical suffering of Roman crucifixion is not possible for any of us, and certainly is not intended by our Lord.

An earnest Christian woman long ago sought help from Henry Suso concerning her spiritual life. She had been imposing austerities upon herself in an effort to feel the sufferings that Christ had felt on the cross. Things were not going so well with her and Suso knew why.

The old saint wrote his spiritual daughter and reminded her that our Lord had not said, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself, and take up MY cross.” He had said, “Let him…take up his cross.” There is a difference of only one small pronoun; but that difference is vast and important.

Crosses are all alike, but no two are identical. Never before nor since has there been a cross experience just like that endured by the Saviour. The whole dreadful work of dying which Christ suffered was something unique in the experience of mankind. It had to be so if the cross was to mean life for the world. The sin-bearing, the darkness, the rejection by the Father were agonies peculiar to the Person of the holy sacrifice. For anyone to claim that experience of Christ would be sacrilege.

Every cross was and is an instrument of death, but no man could die on the cross of another; hence Jesus said, “Let him…take up his cross, and follow me!”[1]


The Conquest

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (5:24–25)

All persons who belong to Christ Jesus by faith in Him and His perfect saving work have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Have crucified the flesh is a strategic statement to grasp, because crucifixion was a means of execution. All but four uses of the term in the New Testament refer to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Three of the exceptions help in understanding the fourth, which is in the present text.

The first of the three is in the book of Romans, where Paul affirms that at the time of our justification, “our old self was crucified with [Christ]” (6:6). The other two are in Galatians, one before and one after the present text. The apostle says, “I have been crucified with Christ” (2:20), and, near the end of the epistle, asserts that “the world has been crucified to me” (6:14).

In each of those three passages, “crucified” is simply a vivid and dramatic way to say “killed,” or “executed.” In the first two passages Paul is teaching that at salvation his old, sinful, unregenerate self was executed and he was born a new man in Christ Jesus. In the third passage he is saying that the world has been executed and is now dead to him, so that it is no longer his master, holding him in bondage. He is therefore now free to serve the Lord.

Obviously, in none of those passages does Paul mean to imply that the crucifixion analogy carries the idea of total death, in which all influence ceases. Sin was still a reality in his life, and so was the temptation of the world. But there was a sense in which the power of the old self and of the world was broken. Those influences no longer dominated him.

In the text of Galatians 5:24, Paul is saying that the flesh has been executed. But how could that be in light of what he has just said in this chapter about believers having a constant war with the ever-present flesh? In what sense is the flesh killed at conversion?

It cannot be in the actual, complete, present sense or it would contradict the reality of the continual spiritual conflict with the flesh indicated here and in Romans 7:14–25. And it cannot be that Paul has some future sense in mind or he would have used a future verb form, saying, “shall crucify the flesh,” referring to the time of glorification.

The best understanding is to see have crucified as an allusion to the cross of Jesus Christ, which, as a past event, fits the aorist tense used here by Paul. It looks back to the cross, the time at which the death of the flesh was actually accomplished. Yet, because we are still alive on the earth and still possess our humanness, we have not yet entered into the future fullness of that past event.

Meanwhile, the flesh with its passions (or affections) and desires is dead in the sense of no longer reigning over us or of holding us in inescapable bondage. Like a chicken with its head cut off, the flesh has been dealt a death blow, although it continues to flop around the barnyard of earth until the last nerve is stilled.

Because the flesh is defeated forever, and we now live in the realm where Christ reigns over us by His Spirit, we should live according to the Spirit and not the flesh.

Because believers have new life in Jesus Christ, they should also have a new way of life. If we live by the Spirit, and we do, Paul says, let us also walk by the Spirit, as we must. He earnestly prayed that the Colossian Christians would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work. … As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith” (Col. 1:10; 2:6–7; cf. Eph. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:12).[2]


5:24 Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh. The verb tense here indicates something that happened decisively in the past. It actually occurred at the time of our conversion. When we repented, there was a sense in which we nailed the old, evil, corrupt nature to the cross with all its affections and lusts. We determined that we would no longer live to cater to our fallen nature, that it would no longer dominate it. Of course, this decision has to be renewed continually in our lives. We must constantly keep the flesh in the place of death.

5:25 If here carries the thought of “since.” Since we have eternal life by the work of the Holy Spirit in us, let us live out the new life by the power of the same Spirit. The law never could give life, and was never intended to be the Christian’s rule of life.[3]


24 Drawing a preliminary conclusion from what has just preceded (vv. 19–23), Paul now reminds the Galatians that being united with Christ by participation in his death is to be done with the living out of the “passions and desires” of the sinful nature. In this way he reinforces these immediately prior words by indicating that those who “belong to Christ Jesus” cannot live lives of libertinism. Using imagery reminiscent of his earlier depiction of living by faith in the person and work of Christ by means of “co-crucifixion” (2:19–21), Paul brings into sharp focus the need for believers to put to death sinful actions, cravings, and desires.

25 Paul draws here a second, hortatory conclusion from the catalog of vices and virtues above: those who claim to live by the Spirit should demonstrate that fact by a lifestyle that is in keeping with the presence and purpose of the Spirit. The wording used for this admonition is “keep in step” with the Spirit (stoicheō, GK, 5123, lit., “in a row”; cf. 4:3, 9). Stoicheō was commonly used to suggest agreement or to be in line with another. Paul has used it elsewhere to indicate walking in another’s footsteps (Ro 4:12) and living according to a standard (Gal 6:16; Php 3:16; cf. Ac 21:24). So here Paul instructs the Galatians to live out their faith in appropriate ways, empowered by the Spirit, following his ethical guidance and direction.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 170–171). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1895). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 631–632). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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