|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 34
Meditation Title: The Cross of Christ
Gal 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Paul is starting to draw to a close in this letter. Having just written about doing good as an expression of the Spirit-led life, in opposition to the old-sinful-nature-life, it's almost as if he thinks, “Well, that's it. The end,” and although he had probably dictated the letter so far, he puts a finishing touch to it in his own writing: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (v.11). Some have suggested that the ‘large letters' reference indicates he had poor eyesight (a day long before glasses were available!). But then he has second thoughts perhaps, and adds a form of summarizing what he has been saying.
“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.” (v.12a). The point of all this, he implies, is that those who are trying to get you circumcised are simply doing it to create a good impression with all other Jews. Now we have to say that Jesus does want us to make a good impression by our good works (Mt 5:16 ), as we've seen before, but that is not to be at the expense of the truth. He explains further: “The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” (v.12b). Paul has already had much personal experience of being opposed by the Jews (see Acts 13:45, 14:2, 5,19) and he knew that the Cross was an offence to them. These, Jewish believers, he says, want to take away some of that offence by getting you to be more like the Jews. Although the temptation is to try to appear just like our friends and neighbours, we are not to go to the other extreme and totally cut ourselves off from them. Our distinction should surely be that we are good! Somebody wrote, “ Part of the reason for Christianity's rapid spread, historians have remarked, was simply that the early Christians were such nice people. The very kindness of the Christians, and their service to the poor and downtrodden, attracted new adherents.” Now that is a good testimony!
But Paul hasn't finished with them yet: “Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.” (v.13). Look, he says, they go on about the need to keep the Law but the truth is that they themselves don't manage to keep it (see his argument about failing to keep the Law in Romans 7). This makes one wonder why, therefore, they are so intent on getting you to be circumcised. It can only be for one reason and that is that they want to be able to say to the Jews who aren't Christians, “See, we're really all the same, we've all been circumcised, there's no difference!” And that, of course, was about as far from the truth as you can get!
Why? Because of the Cross of Christ which is central to Christian belief but rejected by the unbelieving Jews: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (v.14). Paul wasn't going to boast in any outward rituals or in his ability to keep the rules or be good. As far as he was concerned there was only one thing to ‘boast' about and that was the Cross of Christ. He uses the word ‘boast' to counteract the boasting that the Jews were doing but he uses it simply to mean the one thing he longs to go on about, the thing that means most to him.
The impact of Christ's Cross, he explains, has been to come between him and the world and it is as if the world and all its ways, and its grounds for boasting, has been put to death as far as he is concerned. So now the world and all its attractions mean nothing to him and the world has no pull on him. The Cross has utterly transformed him and it is the Cross and the Cross alone which is the means of his salvation, not anything about himself or his own achievements. Do you remember what he said to the Philippians: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:8) and that after he had laid out his own ‘qualifications': “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Phil 3:4-6). Oh yes, Paul had every cause to feel good about his background but NONE of that impressed God – only the Cross of Christ.
Never think you impress God. Never try to get Him on your side by your ‘good acts'; you'll never be perfect. All He wants from you is your belief in what His Son, Jesus, achieved on the Cross at Calvary . Jesus died to take all your sin and all your guilt. You can't deal with either of those two things. All you can do is trust that Jesus has done it for you. That is all God asks of you when you come to Him.