Singing of salvation
In contemporary worship, we’re very used to singing about the cross. It’s no surprise that of the Top 100 songs sung in churches today, many of them feature or focus on the cross as God’s work of salvation for us. ‘In Christ Alone’, ‘Cornerstone’, ‘How Great Thou Art’, ‘What A Beautiful Name’, ‘This Is Amazing Grace’ and ‘Living Hope’ – just this selection from the top 10 focus primarily, initially or wholly on the cross.
As the central part especially of evangelical faith, this is no surprise. But one trait is obvious – it’s all about salvation. ‘My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness’; ‘This is amazing grace . . . That you would take my place, that you would bear my cross . . . ‘ etc. And again – no mistake. It’s obvious we should be wanting to sing about this!
And yet . . . The cross is about more than just our individual salvation from sin.
Let me say that again, just in case it needs driving home: The cross is about more than just our individual salvation from sin.
It’s also about victory over death.
It’s also, I think, actually about God’s vindication of himself and his plan in the world, against the taunts and accusations of Satan against him – though that would take some more unpacking (it was in the back of my mind when I wrote ‘When Healing Hands Were Wounded’).
And for Paul, it was also something to identify with as something that had taken place in his own life.
This is the part where we might start to feel uncomfortable.
Singing about our crucifixion
‘I have been crucified with Christ,’ writes Paul, in Galatians 2:20. He is addressing a fundamental alteration that has taken place in his encounter with Jesus. The distinctions that once stood between himself and Gentiles are broken down because of Jesus’ death. The righteousness found by abiding by law means nothing, if Christ was crucified. If righteousness could be kept by being a law-abiding Jew, then why did Christ die? And if righteousness is found apart from the law, what distinction is there between Jews in Gentiles, in respect of salvation?
It’s a complicated matter, but it’s what stands in the backdrop of this astounding statement. ‘I have been crucified with Christ.’ Everything Paul knew and relied on before has been left at the cross – dead, with the death of Christ on the cross. ‘And it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live, I live by faith in [or, by the faithfulness of – more on that in another post] the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’
Paul so identified with Christ in his crucifixion that he was able to say, ‘I have been crucified with Christ.’ And hence, he too knew that his life was now a beneficiary of Christ’s resurrection power. Because, he yet lived, but no longer on his own terms as formerly, but by the power of Jesus’ risen life.
It is this aspect of the cross that I think we perhaps sing less about. For Paul, it seems to have been fairly fundamental.
This is why I attempted to write a song around these themes in ‘Crucified with Christ’. I hope it fills a gap. I also hope it helps us positively identify with Jesus’ death in a way that is helpful for our discipleship, and which leads us to understand how we also share in his resurrection life – in the present, and in the resurrection at the end of the age. And I hope it’s clear from the song that salvation is still a major part of this story – while reminding us that in coming to Christ for our salvation, it involves a dying to self, an association and identification with the death of Christ in leaving our old life behind.
Next time, more about why I opted to use the translation ‘I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God.
‘Crucified with Christ’ can be downloaded/streamed via the links below, with sheet music and other resources available from Essential Christian Songs.
Download from Bandcamp for bonus resources – radio edit version, complete sheet music pack and minimalist wallpaper.
Stream on Spotify if that’s your thing.
Check it out on Apple Music/iTunes – whatever suits you!
Also available on Amazon Music and other online streaming platforms.