Sunday, November 26, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

“The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
November 26, 2017 :: Galatians 6:11-18

We’ve reached the closing paragraph in Paul’s letter to the churches in the region of Galatia. And he doesn’t just say “goodbye” like he normally does.

He started this letter with a bang, and he ends it with a bang, as well.

Our series is called “The Truth of the Gospel” because that’s what was at stake in Galatia.

I hope that over the last fifteen messages in this series, we’ve all come to realize just how important it is to hold on to the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

No other gospel saves. No other gospel satisfies. No other gospel is true.

But the Galatians had been tempted to believe a different gospel.

False teachers had infiltrated their ranks and begun teaching that to be justified (to be declared righteous on the last day) a person must observe the Mosaic Law. And they taught this was true for Gentiles, not just Jews! Basically Gentiles must become Jews, the males through the mark of circumcision[!], to be declared righteous before God.

And that’s just not true!

That’s a different gospel.

And Paul says that it is really no gospel at all.

It’s not good news!

So for chapter after chapter in Galatians, Paul has been dismantling this false gospel, laying out the truth of the true gospel and its implications, and pleading with the Galatians to hold fast to the truth of the gospel.

And as he writes his last paragraph, he’s still doing it.

Paul carries this campaign to the very end of his letter.

Because he does not want to fail. He does not want to lose them!

He wants them to cling to “The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That’s our title for today, “The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul mentions the cross in verse 12 and again in verse 14. And what he says about the Cross is of the utmost importance.

Isn’t verse 11 interesting?

“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”

Most of the time, Paul probably used a secretary, or the big word for it is an “amanuensis” that is that Paul would dictate his letters to a friend or teammate who would write it all down for him. And then he would sign it to authenticate it in his own hand.

We see that in his other letters like Romans for example. Paul dictated Romans to an amanuensis named Tertius (Romans 16:22).

But this letter, and I think what he’s saying is that this last paragraph is personally written down by Paul himself.

He’s not just signing it. He’s writing out this last paragraph in great big letters.

Why big letters?

Well, it could be because his eyesight was failing. That could have been part of the illness that had laid him low and kept him in Galatia.

But I think it’s because he really wants them to get this.

He’s saying that he’s underlining this. He’s putting it in italics. He’s writing it in 88 point font!

“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”

Listen up, people! Pay attention. Heed my words. This is important!

And what is his last message? What does he want them to hear?

The same thing he’s been saying all along.

Don’t give in. Don’t back down from the truth of the gospel.

Don’t fall into the trap laid by the false teachers.

Let me put it this way in point number one of two.


Don’t minimize the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is going to draw a stark contrast between the way of salvation that the agitators are proposing and the way of salvation that Paul had been showing them through the Cross of Christ.

And only one of those ways can be true. V.12

“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly [literally, “in the flesh”] are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

Paul is saying, “Those guys want you to be circumcised. They are pushing you to be circumcised. Why?”

Why do they want that?

They say that it’s for your good.
They say that it’s for your salvation.
They say that it’s what the Bible teaches.

But Paul knows better. Paul knows what is behind this false teaching.

It is cowardice.

He’s already said in this letter that’s also greed and pride.

But here he points out that they are doing this (v.12) to “avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

If you elevate the Law of Moses, then you won’t get into trouble.

Sure. You can believe in Jesus if you want and you can even believe in his Cross if you are quiet about it. But don’t emphasize that!

That will get you in trouble.

Emphasize the Law of Moses. And you can fly under the radar of the leading Jews.

Emphasize the Law of Moses. And you can fly under the radar of the ruling Romans. And be treated as just another Jew.

Just get circumcised. Emphasize that.

And nobody gets hurt.

They are saying, “Just minimize His Cross.”

Don’t make such a big deal out of the Cross of Jesus Christ!

Make a big deal out of the Law of Moses and how you are going to obey it.

After all, it was given by God!

But that’s the very thing that Paul says we must not do.

Remember Galatians 2:20?

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Does that sound like he’s minimizing the Cross?

What does the next verse say? Galatians 2:21? It’s just as important.

Paul said, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

That’s the point of this whole book.

Don’t set aside the grace of God by trying to add anything else to it.

Including even the Law God gave to Moses.

And, of course, we still try to do this today.

We humans are always trying to add to what Jesus did for us.

We try to interject ourselves into the equation.

We say, “It can’t be that easy. I’ve got to do something to earn this.”

“I’ve got to play my part in my salvation, right?!

I mean, it was my sin. I’ve got to pay for that somehow, right?

I’ve got to help get myself out of this.”

No. You don’t. You can’t.

And neither could they. Neither could the false teachers. V.13

“Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.”

It doesn’t add up.

Those guys who are pressing for you Gentile Christians to get circumcised? They don’t even live up to what they preach. They don’t keep the law.

Sinners can’t keep the Law in that way. He’s been saying that all along in this book.

The Law can only get you condemned. It can’t save you. It never was meant to.

They’re just a bunch of hypocrites. They just want to add you as another notch on their gunbelts.

So they can boast. So they can brag that they won you over.

So that they can count your foreskin on their pile.

Don’t let them. Don’t give in to them. Don’t become one of them.

Don’t minimize the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, it will be easier if you do.

You will be able to fly under the radar.

But it will be all wrong.

You will get the glory that only Jesus should.

So don’t go there.

Paul wouldn’t go there. Look at verse 14.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Don’t minimize His cross.


Maximize His Cross!

What a crazy statement Paul makes here.

Think about what He’s saying.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...”

That’s like saying, “May I never boast except in the electric chair that killed my Lord.”

“May I never boast except in the lynching of my Savior.” [To paraphrase Clarence Jordan's The Cotton Patch Gospel: Paul’s Epistles (repr.; Macon, GA: Smith & Helwys, 2004), 101.]

“May I never boast except in the humiliating, torturing, shaming, painful public execution of Jesus Christ.”

What a thing to glory in!

The Greek root word for “boast” here is “kauchaomai.” And it means to boast about something, to take pride in something, to rejoice in something, to glory in something.

To say something is the absolute best and to be so happy to be identified with it.

We all glory like this.

I think a good example is how many people feel about their sports teams.

Like if I said, “WE ARE!”

Most of you would instinctively respond, “PENN STATE!”

That’s a kind of kauchaomai.

To love something and stand in it and be identified with it and rejoice in its strength.

It’s what many of us feel when we hear the Star Spangled Banner and we see the flag go by. “Yes! Kauchaomai!”

But Paul says that all of that counts for nothing.

All of that should be, at best, a distant second place. So far back there you can’t even see it from here.

And what should be in first place is the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Everything else should be minimized.

Our ethnic or racial identities.

Our family pride. I love being a Mitchell. It was great to be with Mitchells for Thanksgiving. But it’s nothing to boast in.

Our national identity. I love being an American. But it’s nothing to boast about.

Our personal abilities. Our strengths. How smart we are. How rich we are. How athletic we are. How popular we are.

How many likes and shares and follows we have.

How sharp we dress.
How perfect our lawn is.
How big our house is.

Even how good we act.

Especially how good we act!

We don’t boast in our goodness. Our good behavior.

That we do the right things.

So much moral preening and virtue signaling.

We are always saying, “I would never do that!”

No. If we boast, we boast in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Which destroys all of our other boasts.

Remember what Dave Catanzaro preached back in February? Ephesians 2:8&9.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can [what? kauchaomai. So that no one of us humans can] boast.”

God has set up salvation in such a way that He is the only One that gets to boast. He is the One who has done all of the work and gets all of the glory.

And if we boast, and we glory, and it’s only in Him.

And what His Son did for us.

Boast in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

That’s why we sing about it every single Sunday here.

That’s why we come back to the Cross in every single sermon.

That’s why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every month like we’ll do next week.

That’s why we talk about the Cross so much.

Because it’s our only boast.

Do you boast in His Cross?

Is His Cross the only thing that you are trusting in, hoping in, rejoicing in?

I think we are tempted to boast in so many other things.

And we’re tempted to give a nod to the Cross but to find our identity and strength in just about any other place.

I mean, who wants to boast in the suffering death of Jesus?

The Cross looks like weakness, shame, disgrace, and pain.

But it was that weakness, shame, disgrace, and pain that saved us.

He took on the punishment that we deserved.

Our sins they are many, but His mercy is more.

That’s where we got that mercy!

Boast in His Cross.

Because His Cross changes everything. Look at that last phrase in verse 14 once again.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

When Jesus was crucified, we were crucified to the world. And the world was crucified to us.

There was a fundamental change in our relationship to the world.

Now the world does not have a controlling influence over us.

The world’s approval and attraction are broken for us.

The world has no controlling power over us any longer.

We are crucified to the world and the world to us.

Martin Luther said this about Galatians 6:14 “Paul regards the world as damned, and the world regards him as damned. He abhors all the doctrine, righteousness, and acts of the world as the poison of the devil. The world detest Paul's doctrine and acts and regards him as a seditious, pernicious, pestilent fellow and a heretic.”

We are no longer friends with the world.

His Cross has made us enemies with the world.

So when we boast in the Cross, we should expect opposition from the world.

And we shouldn’t chase after the world any longer. We shouldn’t care what they think, what they feel, what they are going to do to us as long as we are following Jesus.

We are dead to the world.

And the world is dead to us.

Now, of course, we are also supposed to love the world like Jesus loved the world. We want those in the world to repent of being in the world and join us boasting in the Cross.

But we “do not love the world or anything in the world.” Like John said in 1 John 2:15 “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”

And we’re dead to that.

We boast in the Cross.

We don’t boast in our flesh but in His flesh broken for us.

That’s the point of verse 15.

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”

It’s not whether or not we are circumcised that counts.

What counts is if we are changed by the Cross.

Notice he says that it’s not circumcision (which we would expect) non uncircumcision. We aren’t supposed to boast in the fact that we know better than getting circumcised.

There is nothing wrong with circumcision if you do it for the right reasons!

Ethnic reasons. Traditional reasons. Medical reasons.

But not for justification!

Not for boasting in.

We boast only in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”

Are you a new creation?

What does that remind you of?

I hope it reminds you of 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“[I]f anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

If you are in Christ Jesus and trusting in what He did on the Cross, you are a new creation. And you are a part of the whole new creation that is going to come.

Are you in Christ?

Are you trusting in Christ alone?

That’s what counts.

What counts is being transformed by Jesus Christ.
What counts is being a new person because He was crucified for you and me.
What counts is being part of the firstfruits of the world to come.

Not whether or not you are circumcised.

Boast in His Cross.

Because His Cross changes everything.

Paul prays that this be true for everyone who sees the truth of the gospel. V.16

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule [all who keep in step with this pattern of teachings], even to the Israel of God.”

That’s an interesting phrase, “the Israel of God.” It might mean ethnic Israel. So Paul is saying “peace and mercy to all who believe that it’s Cross that matters and I hope that those who are Jewish believe it and get included. Like I did!”

Or I think it’s a bit more likely that he means that these people who believe in and boast in His Cross are the true Israel of God.

They aren’t just Israel in the flesh, they are Israel at heart.

They are what Israel was always supposed to be. Like the “Jerusalem above” in Galatians 4:26.

Either way, Paul is saying that this is where peace and mercy come from.

They flow from the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And only from the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us boast in Him.

Even though it will cost us in the short run.

It sure cost Paul something. Look at verse 17.

“Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Paul was pretty banged up from being persecuted.

The false teachers wanted to avoid persecution for the Cross of Christ (v.12), but Paul did not avoid it. He walked right into it. And he limped right out of it.

Paul never stopped boasting in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he paid for it dearly.

In a later letter, Paul would describe how he got these marks. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 this afternoon and see what he went through.

Paul was stoned not far from Galatia.

I don’t mean he took drugs.

He had rocks thrown at him. He was drug outside the city, and they thought he was dead. What must have he have looked like after that?

“Don’t give me a hard time,” he says.

I’ve put my skin in this game. I’m branded as a slave of Christ Jesus.

I’m serious about this.

I didn’t duck the persecution.

I took what comes when you boast in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And I don’t regret it.

He is worth it.

Jesus is worth it.

Boast in Him and His Cross.

Even if it costs you your life!

Because that’s where true life is.”

With his last big stroke of the pen, Paul is still trying to convince them to put their faith in Jesus Christ and in His CrossWork alone. V.18

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”

Grace! That’s been the theme of this whole book.
And grace and peace have been his prayer for them from the beginning.

Where does grace come from? V.18

From “our Lord Jesus Christ,” flowing from His Cross.

May that grace be with your spirit.
May you take that to heart.
May grace be the theme of your life.

Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”

He still believes they won’t give in to this false teaching. He still calls the Galatians “brothers.” Paul believes that they will hear the truth of the gospel and reject the false gospel and glory and boast the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ alone.



Messages in this Series:
01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel
06. I Live By Faith in the Son of God
07. You Foolish Galatians!
08. You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus
09. So You Are No Longer a Slave
10. I Plead With You
11. Abraham Had Two Sons
12. Called to Be Free
13. Keep In Step With the Spirit
Here We Stand (Reformation Sunday)
14. We Will Reap a Harvest