“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
It might be easy to speed past this reference to crucifixion in the passage above and miss an important point: crucifixion represented a horrific form of death. In the words of one source, “(Crucifixion) was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals.” (1)
This graphic imagery illustrates the type of death sentence warranted by the “works of the flesh.” The Biblical book of Romans builds on this idea in a similar manner…
“We know that the person we used to be was crucified with him to put an end to sin in our bodies. Because of this we are no longer slaves to sin. The person who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7 GW).
“…if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13 NIV).
So the path to overcoming the works of the flesh leads through the cross of Christ for “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (NLT). However, its important to note that death by crucifixion was seldom quick and never easy. The same is likely to be true of the flesh as well.
Therefore, in the words of Romans 12:1,“…I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service” (NET). We can associate the idea of a living sacrifice with a person who strives to identify the characteristics of the flesh and seeks God’s empowerment to crucify those traits on a daily basis.
Much like a victorious army in a captured territory, there may be pockets of enemy resistance that must be defeated before further progress can be made. However, the process of rooting out those enemy positions may be slow and difficult. This analogy is not unlike the process of crucifying the “…old nature with all that it loved and lusted for” (Phillips). Nevertheless, success is achievable through the power of the Holy Spirit for “…God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT).
(1) William D. Edwards, “Christ Died Quickly On The Cross” quoted in “The Book Of Jesus” edited by Calvin Miller pg. 388