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Pastoral 2015

Boasting in the Cross

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“But God forbid that I should glory,
save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me,
and I unto the world”
Galatians 6:14

We are not Boasters in the Flesh

In his epistle to the Galatian church, Paul warned and corrected believers who were misled by a group of Jewish false teachers who had penetrated the church. These false teachers were what we now know as “Judaizers”. They insisted that Gentiles who became Christians ought to observe the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, such as circumcision and the dietary laws. According to them, faith in the atoning death of Christ is not enough; it must also be accompanied with the practice of the ceremonial laws.

After a series of arguments against the false teachings of the Judaizers, Paul came to a head when he wrote about them, “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (vv.12-13).

According to Paul, the Judaizers’ insistence on circumcision meant that:

  1. they were self-promoters – they wanted to present a pleasing front in the flesh, that is, outwardly, to other Jewish men by citing that Gentiles were circumcised by their effort.
  2. they sought human praise and approval – they were anxious to gain the approval and respect of the Jews who were hostile to the Gospel of Christ, a goal that should have shown the Galatians just how wrong-headed the false teachers were.
  3. they sought to glory in their flesh rather than in Christ – they, by insisting on circumcision, made their fleshly achievement far more important than the cross of Christ.
  4. they sought comfort and ease – they tried to avoid the bitter experience of persecution from their families and friends who rejected Christ by compromising and yielding to Jewish traditions. Many Jews who followed Christ wholeheartedly faced slander, threats, ostracism, mental and physical torture, etc.
  5. they sought to obey the ceremonial aspect of the law without yielding to its moral claims – they thus promoted a hypocritical religion. None can be justified through circumcision and be right with God if he breaks even one other commandment (cf. Galatians 5:3; James 2:10).

All such boasting in one’s flesh is utterly futile. Our justification and redemption are not our works. Be it the ceremonial or moral aspect, we have already corrupted the law and are unable to perfectly fulfil the righteous demands of the law. Paul said in Galatians 2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

We are Boasters in the Cross of Christ

Thus, Paul tells us that the only worthwhile boasting is in the cross of Christ - “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Our boasting is not in ourselves, but in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. We rejoice and are assured that our salvation is secured by the price that Jesus paid with His precious blood which He shed in His death on the cross. Our boasting is only in God’s grace and the price His Son has paid on Calvary to redeem us.

The only appropriate boasting is that Christ on the cross has eradicated our sins and guilt, and thus made us His children. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

We do not rejoice or exult in anything that this world offers more than the cross of Christ, which has removed our damnation and blessed us with eternal salvation and all divine blessings. Life’s status, human praise, reputation, wealth and all things that have a show of earthly splendour are not what thrill a genuine Christian. All such things are dead to him, as Paul said, “by whom (Christ) the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Dear Christian, is your boast in the Cross of Christ? Do you value Christ’s death more than the glittering prospects and the wealth of the world? Or does the world make your heart numb and cold towards Christ? “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).