Friday, June 8, 2012

Hebrew for Christians: Feature Article "Crucified with Messiah"

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Michael James Stone
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 "Crucified with Messiah"
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Crucified with Messiah

06.06.12 (Sivan 16, 5772) We have been "crucified with" Messiah, which teaches us that God's way of deliverance is radically different than man's way. Man's way is to attempt to reform his nature, to strive to follow the law, to resist the impulse to lust and sin, to create "good karma," and so on, whereas God's way is not to make us stronger and stronger, but rather to make us weaker and weaker - by crucifying the old nature. 

According to the Scriptures, there is no other end for the flesh - the autonomous ego - than its repudiation and death upon the cross. The cross demonstrates that any attempt of the flesh to please God (i.e., "religion") is useless and needs to be laid to rest. The cross represents the instrumentality of the death of your religious aspirations: it is the surrender of all human effort whatsoever. 

Therefore the Greek verb used in Gal. 2:20 is a perfect passive, denoting action completed through the agency of another: "I have been crucified (συνεσταύρωμαι) with the Messiah." Like all sacrifices that were brought to the altar, we must pass through death to life by means of our union with the Messiah at the cross... It is only after the cross that it may be said, "It is no longer 'I' who lives; now it is Messiah who lives His life in me."

Of course since human beings worship themselves and glory in the flesh, the doctrine of the cross seems like foolishness to the carnally minded.

Thus Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: "Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in 'another' or 'better' life... The Christian faith is a sacrifice: a sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of the spirit; at the same time, enslavement and self-mockery, self-mutilation." 

To a "natural man" like Nietzsche, the message of the cross represents the call to resignation, passivity, and weakness, and the religion of the cross is therefore regarded as the cult of the victim, the slave, the weak, etc. Karl Marx similarly regarded religion as the "opium of the people," that is, a drug of consolation meant to assuage present suffering by escaping to another world... But such "wisdom of this world" is regarded as folly with God (1 Cor. 3:19), who traps the wise in their own conceits but reveals Himself to the humble of heart (Matt. 11:25).

From the perspective of one who has truly encountered ultimate reality, the cross represents the very power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). As Paul wrote, "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Yeshua the Messiah our LORD, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14).

Yeshua didn't die a painful and bloody death on the cross to save sinful flesh but rather to become sinful flesh in exchange for the sinner who trusts in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). That's the essence of the gospel, the power of God's salvation. 

On some mysterious level, the exchange of our sin with Messiah's righteousness is "ontological," meaning that it has real being, existence, substance, energy, and reality. 

Our identification with Yeshua on the cross represents the death of our old sin nature, which is forever put away and replaced by a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). We don't come to the cross to save face, to get "cleaned up," or to become religious, but rather to die and to be reborn to eternal life. 

By faith there is a divine exchange, whereby the natural life is crucified and buried and the spirit is miraculously given life from heaven. The resurrected life is given only after passing through death to life. It is Messiah in you that is the hope of glory.

If all this is hard for you to understand, take comfort in the words of Scripture. During his earthly ministry Yeshua foresaw the cross and understood that it was his mission to die upon it for the sins of the world. Still, even after he carefully (and repeatedly) explained all this to his disciples, "they understood none of these things... and did not grasp what was said" (Luke 18:31-34). 

The fact that Yeshua's message regarding the cross was hidden from them (i.e., κρύπτω, "made cryptic") shows us that unaided human reason cannot fathom its eternal significance. After all, reason wants to continue in the illusion that human life is redeemable by means of self-improvement (i.e., religion), and therefore God Himself must reveal the need for the cross by means of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Ultiamtely the miracle of new life comes from the power of God's Spirit:

לא בְחַיִל וְלא בְכחַ כִּי אִם־בְּרוּחִי
אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת

lo · ve·cha·yil · ve·lo · be·kho·ach · ki · im · be·ru·chi
a·mar · Adonai · Tze·va·ot

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says the LORD of the armies of heaven"
(Zech. 4:6)
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