Gal 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
In this morning's sermon, we have been trying to understand how our sufferings are a participation, a fellowship, in Christ's suffering. The afflictions that we experience in life are intended to turn us from self-reliance to reliance on God, so that as we learn more of the comfort of God we can minister and communicate that comfort to others, for their own salvation.
But in various places Paul teaches something that our share in Christ's suffering is rooted in something more fundamental than our experience of sharing in Christ’s suffering. That more fundamental reality is our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he is afflicted in his apostolic ministry for the churches; in Galatians, Paul does not say he is being afflicted. He is saying that he has been crucified; it's something that has happened, something that is objective true of Paul. This union with the cross of Jesus, this "co-crucifixion," is the basis for Paul's experience of sharing in Christ's sufferings. Paul's experience - and ours.
The eternal Son of God took our condition, all our afflictions, on Himself, by taking on our human nature. We are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and all that has happened to the incarnate Son happens or will happen to His body. The eternal Son of God, one might say, became flesh, suffered and died and rose again, so that He might make us into "organs" for his suffering and glory (von Balthasar).
This is what the sacraments point to. By baptism, we are joined to Christ, and the Eucharist is a continuing communion in His death and resurrection. Both baptism and the Eucharist remind us that our sufferings are nor ours but Christ's. We do not "carry our sufferings, but rather 'the death of Jesus in the body,' in order that the 'life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh'" (von Balthasar).
This is what it means to live by faith in the Son of God, and what it means to come to this table in faith: To recognize that all our sufferings and our glory do not belong to us, but to Jesus, with whom we have been co-crucified – Jesus who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, April 09, 2006 at 09:04 AM
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