Today I would like to take a break from our study in Habakkuk to share a few thoughts on the meaning of the cross. This Friday is Good Friday. We call it Good Friday because of the amazing sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf some 2000 years ago. Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross was one of the most significant and history-changing events of all time. Paul reminds us that the cross should really be the only source of our boasting when he writes, “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” (Gal.6:14 NASB). The word “but” here is a word of contrast, in the preceding verses Paul had been talking about those who boast in the arm of the flesh about keeping the law and circumcision. But Paul acknowledges the only source of his boasting is the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the cross that showed him his sin and assured him that the debt of his sin had been paid. Not only was Paul‘s sin debt canceled at the cross, but so is ours. Just as Paul’s salvation is certain because of the cross and the empty tomb so too is our salvation assured by Christ’s action.
Crucifixion on the cross was one of the most painful instruments of torture and execution ever devised. It was the instrument of death for thousands of prisoners, including the Lord Jesus Christ. Generally, if you knew someone who was crucified on a cross you would be very embarrassed for that person and their family and wouldn’t even mention their name. But Paul is stating here that he is not ashamed of the cross, but rather glories in the cross. He desired Jesus and nothing else, setting up anything in competition to Jesus he considered an utmost abhorrence. The person and work of Jesus Christ captivated Paul. And it was the cross of Christ that made Jesus more glorious to him. When Paul speaks of the “cross” he speaks of the atonement of Jesus Christ with which Paul identified and which he explained so thoroughly in his writings, especially in Galatians and Romans. Paul says in this verse that the world has been crucified to him and him to the world. Remembering that Paul was Saul, the zealous Pharisee who persecuted the early church, but when Paul came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ the cross ceased to be a stumbling block to him and became instead the very foundation of his message.
The Greek word “COSMOS” which is translated as “world” in this passage speaks of the system of practices and standards associated with secular society. The world that we live in today doesn’t care if we are “religious”, just as long as Jesus and the cross are left out. The world around us is filled with many allurements and enticements. Daily we are confronted by cultural pressures and blatant propaganda to try to shape the value system in our lives. The only way to escape these destructive cultural pressures is to ask for God’s help to crucify our interest in them, just as Paul did. Paul found that keeping a proper perspective on the cross can set us at liberty from this worldly system.
To know the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ is to understand and know God and to seek to glorify Him. Paul’s motives were Christ-centered, not worldly-centered. Paul desired to glory in nothing other than the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. This Good Friday will not be quite as normal Good Friday as we’re used to. Every year, before 2020, New Durham Chapel hosted a large community Easter Cantata. Though we won’t be hosting an Easter Cantata this year, each of us should take some time to quietly reflect on the meaning of the man on the middle cross dying for our sins. If you haven’t come to the point of placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ let me assure you that is the best decision you can ever make in your life. Paul's life was completely transformed because of the cross and the empty tomb. God is still changing hearts and lives when we keep the cross an important point in our lives. Success is not judged in our lives by what we start, but by what we finish. When Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30) He was declaring that the price has been paid in full for all of our sins. When we place our faith and trust in His finished work we are covered and included in that finished work.
All for God’s glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo