Your Identity & What it Means to be Crucified with Christ

Christ in Me

Across the top of the page, in bold all-capital letters, it read: “THERE ARE NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS.” The instructions were simple: Select all the words you would use to describe yourself. The list was long, with various words such as accepting, cutthroat, demanding, formal, flexible, visionary, and welcoming. On the next page, the word selection was the same, but the instructions were slightly different. Now, select the words that describe how you have to be to succeed at work. I mulled each word over, suddenly uncertain if I knew myself at all. “Am I these things, or do I just think I am? Am I acting a certain way to be successful? Would my family, friends, and co-workers describe me this way?”  

Whether you love or hate them, personality tests and work assessments exist for a reason: We need help understanding who we are. Isn’t it interesting that the question “Who am I?” can be challenging to answer? Even when we’re assured there are no right or wrong answers and we are intimately acquainted with the subject matter (ourselves), there’s still the lingering suspicion that we don’t really know who we are. 

“How do you identify?” 

That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? And how someone answers it is even more revealing. While that question presents unique challenges today, the issue of identity is not new, nor is it foreign to Scripture. If you were to ask Paul that question, how do you think he’d respond? We usually identify ourselves as ‘Christians.’ But did you know that the word “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible, and each time, it carries a negative connotation (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16)?  Paul never referred to himself or other believers that way; instead, his favorite identifiers were two simple but profound words: “in Christ.” 

Theologians call this state of being “in Christ” our union with him. Union with Christ means that we are in Christ, and he is in us. If you were to look up all the verses in the New Testament that describe the believer’s union using the related terms “with Christ,” “in Christ,” and “in him,” you’d find over 160 references! And by digging deeper, you’d discover those verses are a treasure trove of riches that describe who you are in him. While it would be impossible to summarize in one verse all that our union with Christ entails, Galatians 2:20 comes close. If you want to know how Paul self-identified, this is it: 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Emphasis mine.)

What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?

As Easter approaches, we’re reminded of the horrors of the cross. We see the blinding jealousy of the Pharisees and how they used the “justice system” to murder the perfect, sinless Son of God. Our stomachs turn as we watch the Roman soldiers carry out their torture and mockery of our King with a perverse sense of glee. We feel Jesus’ anguish as his closest friends betray, deny, and run away from him in his greatest hour of need. And we see his bloody, mangled body hanging there between heaven and earth, making atonement once-for-all, nailed to a cross of wood. The old rugged cross is as gruesome a death as one could possibly imagine, and we died there with him. 

“I have been crucified with Christ.”  

What does that mean? It means that when we are united to Christ in faith, we participate in his death, not physically but spiritually. We let our old selves and desires die with all our sins. All the patterns of sin we once took pleasure in, and the things we took pride in identifying with are dead and gone (Romans 6:2-6). We no longer strive to be  _____ (fill in the blank.) If you are in Christ, you have a new identity, and you are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). You died, and your new life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3).  

One day someone asked George Müller what was the secret of his victorious Christian life. He replied: “There came a day when George Müller died, utterly died! No longer did his own desires, preferences, and tastes come first. He knew that from then on, Christ must be all in all.” This is what it means to be crucified with Christ.

It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me

Do you feel the paradoxes of Galatians 2:20? I’ve died, but I live; it’s not me, but it’s Christ. We might scratch our heads and wonder how this works. Do we do the living, or does Christ? How much of this union rests on me and my efforts?

It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

My union with Christ doesn’t mean I no longer bear the responsibilities of growing in faith and obedience. On the contrary, my union fuels my enjoyment and communion with him. The more I live out my identity, the more fruit my life bears (Gal 5:22-23). But what Paul is saying is that because I’ve been united to Christ in his crucifixion and his resurrection, his life infuses and energizes mine. I’m not forced to work harder to live out the gospel’s demands by myself. I’m no longer under the curse of the law (Gal 3:10). There’s a new power source supplying me with all I need, and that source is Christ living in me. 

Martin Luther said, “You are so entirely joined unto Christ, that he and you are made as it were one person: so that you may boldly say, I am now one with Christ, that is to say, Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.” We don’t just share in Christ’s death; we share in his resurrection victory. This is no small thing. Your union with the resurrected Savior empowers you to live for him.

And the life I now live, I live by faith

How do we take hold of this new life and identity? Galatians 2:20 says it’s by faith. Rankin Wilbourne defined faith this way: “Faith is a God-given gift that allows you to take hold of God’s having taken hold of you. If you are in Christ, this is now the defining truth of who you are. Your life, your story, becomes enfolded by another story–Another’s story. That’s one way to define faith: faith means finding your identity in Christ.”

And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

Can you personalize this verse, as Paul did? Are you living by faith because the Son of God loved you and gave himself for you? Because of his great love for us, what other response will do? We can’t earn what he’s offering; we can only respond in faith that “Yes! I want this life you’re offering!”  

Ask a better question

Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question about identity. Instead of asking, “Who are you?” a better question is, “Whose are you?” 

If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, you are a new creation! Your life will reflect the genuineness of your faith as you continuously put off the old self and its practices and put on the new (Col 3:9-10). This is a daily, often moment-by-moment dying to sin, and choosing obedience so that you can enjoy communion with the God who’s bought your union with him. 

We no longer have to craft our identities to fit a certain mold. Our strivings can cease because being united to Christ means we can finally rest. You no longer stand condemned, and when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your sin—he sees the perfection and righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Your life is now hidden in Christ, and you are completely safe and secure with him forever.

Your identity has already been defined. You are in Christ, and he is in you. One with the Savior who loved you and gave himself up for you. It’s no exaggeration to say that there is no greater thing in all the world. 

He is risen indeed!

In Christ,


Related Posts about Union with Christ

P.S. The discovery of union with Christ has set my soul on fire! Once you see it in the pages of Scripture, you can’t unsee it, and you won’t want to. It’s everywhere! I’ve compiled a list of 125 (not quite all 160) references to our union with Christ. Download it today and start unearthing the treasure that’s yours…one verse at a time. 

5 Responses

  1. Wow. What an incredible reality. I loved that break down of that verse- thank you for that! Great quotes in there too. Union with Christ is so comforting and stabilizing!

  2. I love that God does not need me to toil any longer for my identity. My identity is founded on the basis of Christ who died and rose for me. I can be confident that my union with Christ gives me security and peace. Thank you for this post, Cara.

  3. As a new believer, this was one of the first verses I memorized. Years later, your breakdown of it deepens my understanding.
    It ultimately points to the question you posed, “Whose are you?”

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