BTonight is a celebratory occasion (for the cross of Christ is the launching pad that ultimately gets us to Easter morning). But tonight, is also a solemn occasion (for on it the sinless Son of God became sin and was forsaken by God for all who believe in Him). We speak of this often and rightly so. If we lose sight of the cross we lose sight of the centerpiece of our faith. There is a danger before us this evening though…they say familiarity breeds contempt, that breathtaking realities become dull from overexposure. Have we fallen prey to this? Perhaps people have grown weary of Holy Week, of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter because we know what will be spoken of, and having been so exposed to it we grow blind of its beauty. We must therefore, not only recognize the temptation to lose our astonishment of the cross, but seek to once again be amazed with it. How do we do that? By seeing the cross as our boast, as our glory.
Everything in creation boasts or glories in something. The bird has its song, the lion has its roar, the shark has its razor sharp teeth, the whale has its size, and the eagle has its quickness. Mankind isn’t any different in this respect, we glory in many things: power, riches, approval, material possessions, social status, and on and on and on. In a true sense this isn’t a bad thing for us to do, for it is a poor and dull heart that doesn’t glory in anything!Our hearts ought to be fully alive, but my oh my does it matter what we glory in. For what we glory in will reveal where our true heart’s affection lies, and our mouths will show it clear as day, because out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
Think of the Apostle Paul, he had much to glory in. “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6). Or maybe Paul would glory in his suffering for Christ, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:24-28). He could’ve gloried in these things, but what did he glory in above all? That is our question facing us on this Good Friday. To answer we turn to Galatians 6.
After confronting those who have troubled the Galatian Church deeply and after challenging the Galatians themselves Paul says it. He’s moved with a passionate desire for them and an intensity builds within him to drive his point home with a vigor at the close of his letter. So, in 6:11 he takes the pen away from his secretary and writes big letters with his own hand. He first summarizes the evil of those who desired to lead the Gentile Galatians away from the truth, saying they only wanted to be able to boast in their flesh, in that they were able to convince them to return to a kind of Judaism even after becoming Christians. Paul will have none of it! Everything God requires of these Gentile converts is found in and made their own by faith in Jesus Christ not by works, especially not in works of a Jewish ritualistic religion. Contrasting these false heretics desire to boast in the Galatians being brought back underneath the Law, Paul makes it plain where his boast is in v14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
There it is. Of all he could boast or glory in, for Paul it’s only the cross of Christ. Let’s ask and seek to answer three questionsthis text poses to us:
When asking ‘Why?’ what’s really in view is this: why does Paul glory or boast only in the cross? It’s a legitimate question is it not? We’ve just seen how much he could’ve boasted in, why then does he boast only in the cross? Didn’t he tell the Corinthians the cross is folly to those perishing in the world? Yes he did, and the cross is, from all apparent reasoning a grand display of weakness and defeat, for on it there seems to be not triumph but tragedy. That’s what all of the world sees when it sees the cross. So yes, Paul said this to the Corinthians, but that’s not all he said to them. Yes, the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing in their unbelief, but to those who are called Christ isn’t folly but is both the very power of God and the very wisdom of God. What power? The power to overcome the plight of man and the penalty of sin. What wisdom? The wisdom of God which ordained a way for the love of God, to deliver us from the wrath of God, without compromising the justice of God.The cross was a mirrorfor Paul that showed him his own sin that made such suffering necessary, that showed him the wrath we must face for our sin, and ultimately showed him the death sin takes us too. But after confronting him the mirror of the cross brought him great comfort. There He beheld the Father’s great love in sending the Son as well as the Son’s eager and joyful willingness to bear sin and shame once and for all. The cross was a magnetfor Paul that drew him to Christ in faith and love and affection and humble gratefulness. And the cross was a modelfor Paul. Not that he could imitate the redemptive sacrificial act itself, no one can, but he could live with others in light of the very love shown to him on the cross.
It is no wonder then why Paul boasted only in the cross! He deserved nothing but wrath for his own sin but because of the mercy of the cross he didn’t receive the penalty due him and because of the grace of the cross he received the pardon he never earned.
But let’s ask our second question…
Specifically, how did Paul boast only in the cross? It’s often easy to say these things but difficult to understand how they or we actually do them. So how did Paul actually boast in the cross? I think it’s safe to say that this boasting in the cross consumed his entire life, and that we see how it did so most clearly for Paul in his devotion to prayer and preaching. The moment he placed his faith in Jesus and was converted Paul breathed out prayer, pleading that Christ’s very resurrection life and power would more and more re-orient and control his own life. This prayer Christ was pleased to answer and from then on Paul relentlessly proclaimed Jesus Christ from the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Taking these two together, prayer and preaching both sown in weakness, wonderfully shows us how Paul reaped a bounty of joy and delight as he witnessed the gospel being propelled outwards with many hearing of Christ, believing in Christ, and churches planted built on Christ.
By faith Paul feasted on Christ and devoted his life to knowing Christ (prayer) and making Christ known (preaching). This is how he boasted only in the cross. But with this text in mind I think we see more from Paul, so let’s ask a new question now to end…
What happened to Paul after boasting only in the cross? What was the result? What changed? He mentions two things in v14, first that the world has been crucified to him, and that he has been crucified to the world. These are really two ways of saying the same thing, but taken on their own (as Paul gives them to us) shows us the considerable transformation of true conversion.
First, “…the world has been crucified to me…” After his conversion Paul realized his prior life before Christ was little more than a life lived in slavery to the world. All the world has to offer, its pleasures, treasures, honors, and values captivated Paul’s heart and he ran after them with all the might he could muster as he progressed up the ladder of religiosity and Pharisee-ism. But God drew him in and opened his heart to the gospel, and now after conversion, these things of earth no longer held him captive. They no longer enticed his heart and steered the course of his life. These things he once delighted in and lived to gain, but now he thought differently about them. The world truly could give Paul a lot, but all he could gain in this world he now counts as loss, as rubbish, to knowing Christ!
Second, “…and I to the world.” Because the world and all it has to offer now have no draw or appeal to Paul, Paul has truly been crucified to the world. Or in other words, Paul has become dead to the world. He’s already said this before to the Galatians. In 2:20 he makes this boast saying, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” What happened to Paul when he began boasting only in the cross of Jesus Christ? He didn’t become merely nicer, or merely more well behaved. Literally everything changed, and Paul became new. Paul could gain the whole world and all that comes with it but now he believed that if he didn’t have Christ he had nothing! But having Christ and knowing Christ and being in Christ, this is all he not only needs but wants. He had died to the world and become alive to God through Jesus Christ, which means to return to sin or give room to worldly habits once again would be a return to banquet in the grave. Rather, Paul’s new life is carried out above ground in all manner of righteousness and obedience. What makes this new life possible? Only one thing, the cross of Christ.
So Church, it is Good Friday. Where we look exclusively to the cross of Christ, what the world thinks is weakness and folly. Be reminded tonight of what it truly is. Not weakness or folly, but the very wisdom and power of God. By believing in Jesus and coming to the foot of this cross, we truly have died. The old self has died in its rebellion, slavery, despair, and death. But we now live too! We’ve been born again, a new man now lives who pines and yearns and longs for more and more of Christ! Christians, Galatians 6:14 is not one option of many worldviews you can choose to accept. No, you must embrace this worldview Paul offers us in this verse. You must count the world as nothing and Christ as everything. Be sure that when you do it, the world will count you as a fool, but will you mind? Not at all, because the world can never give you what Christ gives you.
So this very night I entreat you all, know only what Paul decided to know. What did Paul know? “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul truly did take all that he had, all that he did, indeed all that he was, and put it all away, coming forward with no other theme in his life, no superior love in his heart, and no greater message out of his lips.
Our Lord Jesus did not die on a cross to communicate the insignificance of His Person and Work. Rather, He died on a cross that He and His cross would get glory and that we would boast and glory in nothing but He and His cross! Church, never grow weary of this! Of all you could boast or glory in in this world, boast only His cross.
Charles Spurgeon, The Cross Our Glory(Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, accessed via Accordance Bible Software) 4.15.19.
William Hendrickson, Exposition of Galatians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1971) page 243-245.
John Piper quote, unsure of original source.
These three ‘m’ words come from Hendrickson, page 244.
Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Study Bible – notes on Gal. 6:14 (Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017) page 1583.