“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
We can illustrate the spiritual concept behind Galatians 2:20 with a look at the horticultural process of grafting. “Grafting” involves the act of bonding two separate plants until they grow together as one. While a newly grafted branch is not original to an established plant, each unites together in a fundamental way. For instance, water and nutrients are delivered to the newly grafted portion of the plant and if successful, the graft will produce flowers, leaves, and/or fruit.
Jesus made use of a related concept in John 15:1-5…
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (NIV).
In a similar manner, Paul the Apostle saw himself as someone who was dead and separated from his old life and grafted into Christ, much like a branch that has been joined to a new tree. Just as a newly grafted branch participates in the life of a tree, Paul “died” to his old life through Christ and began a new life together with Him. (1) One commentary provides us with some further insight into this idea…
“How have our old selves been crucified with Christ? Legally, God looks at us as if we had died with Christ. Because our sins died with him, we are no longer condemned (Col_2:13-15). Relationally, we have become one with Christ, and his experiences are ours. Our Christian life began when, in unity with him, we died to our old life (see Rom_6:5-11). In our daily life, we must regularly crucify sinful desires that keep us from following Christ. This, too, is a kind of dying with him (Luk_9:23-25).” (2)
(1) Also see Romans 11 where Paul make a direct reference to this process.
(1) Life Application Study Bible KJV (p. 1221) Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.