When our Lord declared it is finished (perfect tense) He declared that everything needful for our salvation and perfection was completely performed by Him on the cross and that this salvation and perfection will most assuredly endure forever — for the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God (Hebrew 7:19) Christ literally bore our sins in His own body on the cross as Scripture so abundantly declares. He endured the wrath of God to the utmost until every single one of those sins were paid for. Our iniquities were forever done away with; Psalm 103:12 declares “As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
In light of this, I want to look at our perfect union with Christ. Through our vital and eternal union with Him, we can rightly say that what He did, we did; where He was, we were; where He went, we went. You see, when He kept the law, we kept it with Him. When He was crucified, we were crucified with Him; when He was baptised with the fiery baptism of God’s fury, we were baptised with Him. Of course Christ tread the winepress alone. He looked to the left and to the right and no man was with Him to help Him or to contribute in any way to the propitiatory atonement of His people. Yet He is our life and our life was hid in Him (Colossians 3:3,4). Thus, where He was, our Life was — and where our Life was, so were we. It is light of our union with Him (as the elect saints of God) and in light of our sins being born by Him in His own body that we read:
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
The Greek word for crucified with is the perfect, passive, indicative form of sustauroo [G4957; συσταυροω; soos-tow-ro’-o] which means to crucify in company with. We need to ask this very important question: When were we crucified with Christ? Consider the following from SYNTAX OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, James A. Brooks, Carlton L. Winbery, University Press of America, Lanham, Md., 1988, pp. 104-5:
“The perfect tense expresses perfective action. Perfective action involves a present state which has resulted from a past action. The present state is a continuing state; the past action is a completed action.
According to William D. Mounce’s “Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar:”
The perfect [tense] describes an action that was fully completed and has consequences at the time of speaking… [it] indicates a completed action whose effects are felt in the speaker’s present. The action normally occurs in the past.
John Gill states on the matter:
I am crucified with Christ,…. Not literally, for so only the two thieves were crucified with him, but mystically; Christ was crucified for him in his room and stead, and so he was crucified with him, and in him, as his head and representative. Christ sustained the persons of all his people, and what he did and suffered was in their name, and on their account, and so they were crucified and suffered with him, as they are said to be buried with him, and to be risen with him, and to sit together in heavenly places in him. Moreover, their old man was crucified with him; when he was crucified, all their sins, the whole body of them, were laid upon him, and he bore them, and bore them away, destroyed and made an end of them; they received their mortal wound by his crucifixion and death, so as never to be able to have any damning power over them; and in consequence of this the affections and lusts are crucified, and the deeds of the body of sin mortified by the Spirit and grace of God, in regeneration and sanctification, so as not to have the dominion over them; the world is crucified to them, and they to the world; and this is another reason proving that justification by Christ is no licentious doctrine.
In light of the verb tense at issue and the authoritative statements concerning it, it is clear that Christ utterly finished the work of salvation for His elect. We were perfectly, and passively, crucified with Him when He was on that fearful cross and the results of that crucifixion exist to this day. All that was needed to guarantee our entrance into heaven was accomplished by Him. This was something done, not something still being done — it is a finished act with continued benefits and ramifications. Consider:
Mark 5:29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
Healed is in the exact same verb form (the same tense, voice, and mood) as crucified; the woman was not both healed of the plague and continuously healed of it. She was healed in the one completed act and yet the continuous effect, or benefit, of that act was that she remained healed. When we were crucified with Christ, we were crucified unto perfection by His one completed act. We are not still being crucified; we were crucified with Him. Sure we have to crucify this flesh, bear our cross, and die daily; however, that is not to accomplish, maintain, or complete any aspect of our salvation or perfection in Christ — it is the working out, the manifestion in this life of the effects of what He has already done. In light of what was already done for us unto completion, we work out the realities of our state before God as we mature and grow in grace. Being already conformed to His image after the inner man, Christ will have us manifest His likeness in our daily walk. The key point is that we are already conformed after the inner man. Isn’t this what gives our Lord Jesus the glory? Doesn’t focusing on Him and His finished work honour His holy Name? If so, then should we ever allow anything to detract from these truths?
I am so very thankful, though never thankful enough, for the things that God has done for me. He has graciously weaned me off of so many temptations, distractions, and sins (though I speak carefully, knowing how easily I can slip back into such if the Lord so wills). He has given me such an increased hunger and desire to study His word and to seek His face. Yet, with all of this, I will not glory in these things. God forbid that I should allow anything He does in me, no matter how beneficial and blessed, to eclipse what He did for me on the cross. My sole hope and glory is Christ and Him crucified; second to that is the blessed doctrine of eternal vital union — the union through which He ever sustains me and all of His people.
To all who may read this, I urge you as strongly as I can — never make growth in grace or endurance in trials your glory; pray that Christ will make Himself and His finished work everything that you will ever need to boast in. Be exceedingly thankful for His provision and maintenance, but boast in Christ only and in His cross (as opposed to boasting in your own).
Praise be to God, in Christ, forever and ever.