It can scarcely be doubted, if the several passages are carefully examined, that the word "crucified" in Galatians involves the practical application of the cross, or the personal acceptance of the truth of death with Christ. Its first occurrence is in chapter 2, where the apostle says, "I am crucified with Christ." Does he mean in this statement that all believers have been crucified with Christ? That God regards all believers as associated with Christ in His death is one of the plainest teachings of Scripture. If it were not so, the apostle could not have written to the Colossians, "If ye be dead" (have died) "with Christ," etc., and again, "For ye are dead"; but the question is whether this blessed act of grace is referred to in this passage. Notice, first, that Paul does not say "we," but "I"; and, secondly, seek for the explanation of this form of speech in the context. We learn there that Peter, fearing the Judaizers amongst the saints, had withdrawn and separated himself from the Gentile believers, declining to eat with them any longer. Paul withstood him to the face, because Peter had in fact surrendered the whole truth of grace and of Christianity; and before all the saints the apostle of the Gentiles declared once again the immutable ground of justification, that it was not by works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. If this were true, as could not be gainsaid, there was henceforward no value to be attached to circumcision. The conduct of Peter and his associates was therefore utterly indefensible. Paul moreover pointed out that if they were found to be sinners, while seeking to be justified by Christ, as they surely would be if circumcision were still insisted on, the Judaizers were making Christ a minister of sin. Further, the apostle adds, "If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor"; and then he proclaims the way in which he had been delivered from the law and its claims as he proceeds, "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ." All the claims of the law upon Paul had been met, abundantly met, in the death of Christ; the penalties he had incurred during his unregenerate life had been paid by Another, and Paul was consequently "dead to the law," inasmuch as through the cross of Christ he was discharged from its claims, and had, been taken out of the sphere in which alone the law had its force and application. For he says, "I am crucified with Christ." As a believer, as one having life in Christ as risen from the dead, and owning now no other life, what was true of Christ was now, in the grace of God, true of Paul. The death of Christ was his death, the crucifixion of Christ was his crucifixion, and hence he could say, "I am crucified with Christ." He looked back upon the cross, and owned it to be the termination under judgment of his responsible life as a sinner under law, and he thus adds, "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," etc. It is therefore evident that such language in this connection could only be used by one who had accepted the practical application of the cross; for it is as clear that one like Peter, who had consented to the resuscitation of legal rites, could not affirm that he was dead to the law through having been crucified with Christ. That all believers have died with Christ has been affirmed, and that their old man has been crucified with Christ is taught in Romans 6; but this in no way interferes with the contention that the Holy Spirit confines the language of this scripture to the apostle Paul.
It is evident that the apostle in this scripture refers to the Gentiles as "afar off," and to the Jews as those "that were nigh." (Compare Isaiah 57:19.) The apostle Peter makes the same distinction on the day of Pentecost, when he says, "The promise is unto you" (the Jews), "and to your children, and to all that are afar off" (the Gentiles), etc. God had separated the Jews from all the nations of the earth; He had borne them on eagles' wings, and had brought them unto Himself. He dwelt, moreover, in their midst; and representatively, through their high priest, they had access into the holiest of all. They could therefore be described as "nigh," nigh through their position of favour before God, and nigh through the many privileges they enjoyed. The Gentiles were, on the other hand, "far off," because they were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." This is granted; but the question is, Does any such distinction exist since the death and resurrection of Christ? Most certainly not as between Gentile and Jewish believers, as the apostle immediately proceeds, after the words cited above, to show. But there is as certainly another distinction, not between Jews and Gentiles as formerly, but between those who are in the kingdom of heaven (also those who, though not converted, are surrounded with the privileges of the house of God - see Heb. 6:4-6), and those who are outside of the boundaries of these places of privilege and responsibility. This explains the ground of the awful judgments that will fall upon Christendom after the church has been removed to heaven. To the Jews it was said, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." The Lord will deal with Christendom on the same principle, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Another scripture may be adduced. In Romans 11 Paul expressly says that the Gentiles have dispensationally been "graffed" into the good olive tree (vv. 17-19), and that the term "Gentiles" includes all who are in the place of privilege on earth, professors as well as believers, is shown from v. 22, "Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God: on them which fell (Jews), severity; but toward thee (Gentiles), goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be 'cut off.' "Christendom has then, we judge, the Jew's place of nearness on earth, a position which entails, as we have seen, a very solemn responsibility. Outside of Christendom are the various nations of the world, and these are the "heathen" (nations) of the scripture. Though these are not in the place of nearness as to privilege, they are yet the object of God's thoughts of grace; and hence our blessed Lord charged His disciples to go "into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." It is scarcely necessary to add that morally all men are either alive unto God, having passed out of death into life through faith, or dead in trespasses and sins.