On Sunday evening, February 19, 1882, Charles Haddon Spurgeon opened his sermon with these words: “On whatever subject I may be called to preach, I feel it to be a duty which I dare not neglect to be continually going back to the doctrine of the cross – the fundamental truth of justification by faith which is in Christ Jesus”. Paul the apostle felt the same way when he wrote to the Galatians and stated: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” (6:14 NKJV). The hymn writer Isaac Watts captures the same idea when he writes: “When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most – I sacrifice them to his blood,” (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross). Having a proper view of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ should have a profound impact on our priorities. When Paul begins the verse that we have before us he starts with the word “but”. This is a critical word as it is a word that is contrasting the cross of Jesus Christ with the vainglory of legalism. Remember the reason Paul was writing this letter was because the Galatians were in the process of returning to the Old Testament law and practices.
Paul, who had been a rigid Pharisee before coming to Christ, glories in the cross alone because he knew it was the cross of Jesus Christ that changed his life so completely. The word “boast” in the Greek language has the basic concept of praise, but unlike our English word, it also necessitates the aspect of pride. Paul glories in and rejoices in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross in contrast to all those things that he could previously have boasted in (see Philippians 3:3 – 6). Paul was very indifferent to worldly praise as he knew he received his marching orders from the Lord Jesus Christ, and so should we. Let us glory in the cross and what Jesus has done on the cross on our behalf. The cross blinded Paul’s eyes to the vainglory of achieving fame or worldly popularity.
Paul says that the world had been crucified to him, referring to the fact that all of his motives were now Christ-centered in seeking to glorify the Lord Jesus and not worldly-centered. The world is filled with enticements, and we are confronted daily with subtle cultural pressures and overt propaganda to conform us into the image of this world system. Paul states that we must seek daily to ask God to help us escape the destructive influences of a worldly system, that is opposed to the very values we say we believe. Paul was not seeking the approval of his worldly culture, but rather the approval of the Lord Jesus Christ in every area of his life. Let us also glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we realize how powerful and how transformative the cross of Christ is, let us take time to meditate and consider its place in our daily lives. We need to come back to the cross frequently in order to move forward in our Christian life today. I hope these little studies help toward that end.
Glorying in the cross,
Pastor Rich Sivo