“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”
Verse 20 expands on verse 19. Paul deals with the same point but in more detail. Paul died to the law at the cross. Paul details how he died to the law. His co-crucifixion with Christ killed the law’s demands on him.
I have been crucified with Christ;
The word “crucified” is a compound term, coming from two words: with and crucified — co-crucified. When they crucified Christ on the cross, God crucified Paul there as well. What occurred to Christ physically occurred to Paul legally. His was a positional or legal crucifixion. This is more than Christ being crucified for Paul but that Paul himself participated in the crucifixion itself. That is how he died to the law. Death was his one chance of escape from the penalty of the law.
The word “crucified” occurs five times in the New Testament: here, Romans 6:6 and three times in the gospels. All three times in the gospels have to do with Christ being crucified with thieves (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32; John 19:32).
The Greek tense for “have been crucified” means that Paul’s crucifixion had a permanent effect. God crucified Paul on the cross, and he stands crucified to the moment of writing. His crucifixion has present finished results. Our identification with Christ is forever. This is how we died to the law. Christ released us from every duty to the law so that we might “live to God.” Paul came to the point of crucifixion in God’s eyes.
The words “have been” mean that Paul received crucifixion [passive voice]. This is not something he did; it was something that God did to him. Paul cannot take credit for his crucifixion. The glory goes to Jesus Christ for that. He did not do anything to earn nor deserve crucifixion with Christ.
God does not command us to crucify ourselves for sanctification. We stand in the total efficacy of the work of Christ before God.
Our crucifixion with Christ completely frees us from the obligation to the law. We have perfect and permanent standing in God’s eyes. God looks upon us as participating in Christ’s crucifixion so that we do not have to merit salvation or sanctification. We receive it as a gift from God. God released us from a performance orientation and gave us a privileged position in Christ.
When Jesus engrafts us into new status with God, we gain new power to live the Christian life. As a flower gets its energy from its roots, so we get our dynamic from Christ.
Most people misunderstand the point of 2:20, even though it is a very popular verse. We cannot crucify ourselves. We died to the law in Christ’s crucifixion. The law cannot save or sanctify. We live out our new life in Christ by faith. We live by faith, not works.
When we believe in Christ, we acknowledge our inability to be saved or sanctified by works. Only by our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection can we live the kind of life God expects. The disgrace of the cross lies not in Him who died on it but in us who made the cross indispensable.