Friday, August 22, 2014

SOMETHING TO BOAST ABOUT (Galatians Chapter 6)

Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What does the cross of Jesus Christ mean to you?  It is a question of supreme relevance and importance.  As Martyn Lloyd Jones once wrote, “My dear friends, there never can be a more important question than this; what does this cross do to you?”

Some don't give too much thought to it, as Oswald Chambers, once said, "All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell is terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more less ignore its meaning."  To some it simply doesn't appear to be all that important.  Years ago this assessment was offered by someone regarding the preaching of the liberal church, "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."  The modern church likewise has worked to diminish and undermine the preeminence of the cross.  Many refrain from the mere mention of sin or Christ's death or future judgment.  Someone has said that "it is a sin to call people sinners."  Self-help sermons are in vogue, the cross not so much.

The cross is a subject that elicits varying responses.  The Galatian believers apparently were confused about it.  Paul wrote to address that matter.  He himself had been used by God in the founding of the church.  He had proclaimed the message of the cross to them (Cf. Galatians 1:11, 3:1).  He had taught them to believe in Christ and that salvation was by faith in Him, but others—legalistic false teachers--had come bearing a different kind of teaching.  They were preaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6); that faith alone was not sufficient; that a person needed to be circumcised and do the works of the law to be saved.  Some of the Galatians were buying into what the false teachers were selling and were confused about the relevance of the cross to their lives.

Others are opposed to the cross.  That was the case of the false teachers (Cf. Galatians 6:12-13).  They were compelling people to be circumcised and to keep the law.  They were motivated by two things.  They had a desire to "boast in (their) flesh” (Galatians 6:13).  In their prideful self-righteousness they sought superiority through the gaining of followers.  In addition, they did not want to “be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12).  The cross was, and continues to be, a litmus test for the identification of those who truly belong to God.  The cross represents different things to different people.  To the saved it is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23).  To the unsaved it is a "stumbling block" or “folly” (1 Corinthians 1:23)."  The Judaizers were of this second opinion.  It was a “stumbling block” to them.  They didn’t understand it.  They opposed its message. 

Paul had a much different perspective on the cross.  His statement in Galatians 6:14 is a bold statement.  There is tremendous truth here.  What was Paul saying?  What does it mean to boast in something?  The word Paul uses here appears some 37 times in the NT, usually in a negative sense.  It means “to boast or glory” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  Paul uses the term here with the sense of having great regard and high affection for.  We might say "I take pride in."  Paul is saying that He takes no pride in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ.  He takes no pride in himself.  He takes no pride in his gifts.  He takes no pride in his deeds or his accomplishments.  He takes no pride in his abilities.  The only thing that He is willing to take pride in is the cross of Jesus.  His life provides the best illustration of what he means. 

Saul was a Pharisee.  Before he came to know Jesus he was consumed with zealous observance of the law.  He was perfect religious specimen with respect to his religious heritage and practice (Cf. Philippians 3:3-7).  He had much to boast about by way of his own achievements.  But in his salvation he came to esteem such things “as rubbish” in view of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8).  Paul was saved and radically transformed by means of the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).  He henceforth refused to boast about anything related to his own accomplishments—his position (he referred to himself as a servant; Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1); his own accomplishments (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10); his own abilities (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5); his spiritual stature (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:14). 

This is really quite a remarkable thing.  Paul was the greatest missionary the church has ever known.  He reached more lost souls for Christ than any other human being.  He wrote more books of the Bible that anyone else.  His writings contain the deepest and most profound thoughts.  From a human perspective he had much reason to boast--but He says "but far be it from me to boast, except in the cross” (Galatians 6:14).  God would have us to say the same.  “Jesus, keep me near the cross—There a precious fountain, Free to all a healing stream, Flows from Calvary’s mountain.”

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