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. (Galatians 2:20—NKJV)

One of the great markers of manhood is whether a man has embraced self-sacrifice and submitted himself to the commitments, rigors and demands of leadership, for the right to lead and the sake of leadership itself. A man at the verge of manhood will accept the challenge of manhood whether there is anyone following him or not, simply for the sake of the principle and the rightness of it. This quality of character becomes a signal to all who will follow of the selflessness, grace, and worthiness of trust bound in his great heart.

In other words, manhood is a state of voluntarily being owned by the highest of obligations, both those freely chosen and those thrust upon him. The greatest of men (like Einstein, Edwards, Spurgeon or Churchill) have lived their lives in view of a calling, whether to science, fatherhood, the ministry, leadership in times of great crisis, etc. The greatest of men are nothing more than men, but they have embraced a life within a life.

Our text speaks about a similar sense of being owned by a great sense of obligation. Paul speaks of the fact that Christ lived in him, just as Christ lives in every authentic Christian. This does not mean that Christ lives through us, like some parents think that their memory lives on in their children after they are gone. Our Savior does not find His existence augmented in us; rather His work is accomplished in us in the great partnership that He has extended to us. He is present in us and therefore lives within us. We are called to embrace the obligation this places upon us. What Paul seems to be speaking about is a spiritual manhood toward which all believers are to strive.

The obligations of spiritual manhood begin when one trusts Christ. Paul identifies the timing of entering spiritual manhood with the first phrase of the verse, “I have been crucified with Christ.” A parallel verse is found in Romans 6:6ff: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, for he who has died has been freed from sin.” Verse 11 expresses the obvious conclusion, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

From birth every man has a sinful nature, inherited from our common father Adam. Our sinful nature holds sway until Christ invades our life. That same sin nature is crucified, as Romans 6 explains, and we receive a new nature. Remember, the old, sin nature is not dead, it is crucified, meaning it has no more hold on the believer than what the believer allows as he takes up the manly obligation of living a new life, the life that Christ operates within him. Paul says, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me!” It is the kind of life that is renowned for its selflessness, grace, and worthiness of trust bound in a great heart.

Paul explains how this new life operates successfully in the maturing saint. First, this life is lived in the flesh, a life within a life. You are not released to a life of comfort, ease and bon bons. This is the arena of tough choices, eternal choices. There is no more difficult arena for a believer to live. It requires all the spiritual maturity a person can muster because the obligations are manly obligations. Second, this life must be lived by faith in the Son of God. This is a life that is not for the feckless, the squeamish, or the timid, but for the faithful, the hearty, and the committed. Faith is as simple as believing what God says. Immerse yourself into the Word of God and follow it with your whole heart. Third, this life is lived surrounded and supplied by the inexhaustible, immeasurable, and undimishable covenant loyalty and lovingkindness of the Son of God. No one deserves to be so blessed as every believer is no matter where he is on God’s earth! Fourth, this life is to be lived worthy of the self-sacrifice of the Son of God. You have been bought by His precious blood; what did He actually buy when he bought you? Though we are unprofitable servants due to our very nature, as yet in the flesh, we are freed by the purchase of His blood to live in partnership with Him fulfilling His will in us.

Though you may not be an Einstein or a Churchill in prominence and status, you most certainly can be like Stephen and the other first deacons (Acts 6:3), “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” Are you striving to grow in spiritual maturity, by God’s grace, so that Christ shines through? Trust and obey.