2001-02-02 - The Cross
Galatians 6:14 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.
The words of Paul are more than a little interesting because Paul, of all Christians who ever lived, probably had the most to boast about. His call into Christ's service was so personal and so clear that it was delivered by Christ Himself in Acts 9:4-6. He had fantastic success in his ministry. He had experienced miraculous deliverances that were a stamp of approval from God on his ministry. We even read in Acts 19:11-12, "And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out."
So if anyone could have boasted, it was the Apostle Paul. But in the above verse he says that he hopes to never boast, except in what the application of the cross of Jesus Christ has done for him. That's radical talk. Especially when you consider how prone we are to boast.
What do you think Paul meant by the cross of Christ? Sometimes we think of the cross as the tree that Christ was crucified on. This is the cross that Paul has in mind in Philippians 2:8. "… He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Paul is referring here to the piece of wood upon which Christ was crucified. Paul would not have glorified a piece of wood nor would he venerate it.
Sometimes the cross refers to the afflictions that Christians undergo. We are told, in Matthew 10:38, "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." But again, I don't think this is the sense of the phrase, "the cross of Jesus Christ" in this verse. Paul knew all about afflictions. He knew all about this sense of the cross. But this is not the sense in which he is using the phrase here.
The way that Paul uses this term, I think, refers to the doctrine that Christ died for sinners on the cross. He has in mind the atonement that Christ made for sinners on the cross by dying for them there. "The cross" stands for Christ crucified. For example, Paul uses the term in 1 Corinthians 1:18: "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." And this is the meaning, I think, that Paul had in mind in Galatians 6:14. Paul boasts only that, in Christ alone and His atonement for sin on the cross, he is saved from sin. And in the end, that is also the only thing we should boast about.
"Our salvation consists in the doctrine of the cross." John Calvin
Soli Deo Gloria,