Paul was contrasting what some people trusted for salvation and in what he put his trust. There were heretics running around Galatia who were teaching that sinners must implement and trust various religious laws and practices. As a result, some of those people grew proud of their religious accomplishments and success. But actually, what they were doing further condemned their souls, because their faith was misplaced. Paul concluded his epistle by saying, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
How often during your Christian life – even before that – have you read or heard the words of our text? We have heard and repeated those words so frequently I’m afraid they have lost much of their strength. Those who were closer to the event, looked at it far differently that most of us. On a different occasion, when Paul was explaining his faith to King Agrippa – a man who knew exactly what the crucifixion of Christ entailed, he blurted out, Paul, “Thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
What was this crucifixion for which Paul was willing to be called insane? We can probably all picture the shape of the cross; I think the general image is correct. But how thick were the necessary pieces of lumber? 8×10? 12×12? And how was the cross member attached to the central beam? Do you think the Romans payed skilled carpenters to inset the two pieces so that they were flush? That would be the most logical, making it quite strong. But I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the cross piece was 6 or 8 inches behind the vertical beam That would have been the easiest to build and it would pull the arms back, creating far more pain. The cross was placed on the ground and the victim was be thrown down with his back to the wood. How many soldiers would it take to hold and crucify the average criminal? 6? 8? Or were the victims usually so beaten and weak that they couldn’t put up much of a fight? One or two men would hold the victim’s wrist and another would drive a nail through his hand. This wasn’t be a nice, sharp smooth-shafted nail like we use today. It was heavy, square, rough-shafted and wrought-iron, ripping the flesh as it entered. Before the second hand was nailed down, the executioner would make sure that the arms were not pulled too tightly, allowing a little flexibility and movement. Then with the victim’s knees bent, one of his feet was laid over the other with both flat down on the wooden shaft. Probably a single rough and ugly nail was driven through both feet at once. This would make sure that the legs were not parallel to one another, causing much more pain. Then several of the soldiers gathered at the head of the heavy cross and raised it until it dropped two or three feet into the hole which had been dug for it. Can you imagine the pain as the cross and its victim dropped 40 or 50 inches before violently stopping?
The victim – is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in his hands, excruciating, fiery pain shoots up his arms to explode in His brain. He pushes up with his feet, but more pain rushes up his legs. As his muscles fatigue, cramps seem to come from every part of his body. The men next to Christ are screaming with the pain. But soon the screams die down, because of the pressure placed on their hearts and lungs. Air can be drawn in and exhaled only in small spurts as the sufferer periodically pushes up just to breathe. As the suffered grows more weak and tired he becomes quieter.
In the mean time the rough wood is sending splinters into his back as he struggles to get air in and out of his lungs. The pain is incessant; the cramps are intermittent. As the body fights asphyxiation, more pressure is put on his heart. – or is it the other way around. Soon the pericardium begins to fill with fluids and the heart is compressed even more. Fever enters the picture, and the sun is blistering skin which perhaps has never seen the sun before.
All this and more Mark summarizes with “And they crucified him.” Such simple words. And to all this Paul says, “I GLORY in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul, “Thou art beside thyself.”
It is not simply because Paul gloried in the cross and the crucifixion that we should glory in it. Yes, we accept his example, but we are not fed by watching him eating his meal. It is only as we feast on God’s bounty that are we nourished by His grace. So we too should glory in the cross. But, again, not because there is some sort of beauty in it. It is uglier than a hangman’s noose or a blood coated French guillotine. I do not wear a cross about my neck like so many – I don’t find it either beautiful or charming. But I do glory in the cross. I don’t believe for a second that Paul ever wore a crucifix, despite what he said in this verse. Feel free to wear a cross if you like, but don’t assume that it means the same thing as Galatians 6:14.
I don’t glory in the cross because it is the fashionable thing to do. Even though the emblem of the cross can be seen just about everywhere. What we see is not the same cross upon which Jesus died. Why don’t people wear a cross of rough wood, driving splinters into their chests? Christ didn’t die on a gold or silver piece of jewelry. Among the hundred-plus national flags flying around the world, are many dozen with various crosses. But that doesn’t mean those nations glory in the cross the way Paul did. Church after church have the symbol of cross on their buildings, but it is rarely the cross of which Paul was speaking. A company years ago sponsored the erection of a cross in a Eugene, Oregon public park. Of course there was an immediate lawsuit against that all too public display of Christianity. The local court ordered that, based on the totally misconstrued principle of separation of church and state, the cross had to be removed. But the Oregon State Supreme court declared: “The cross may stay, because is simply a symbol, universally accepted, but now the cross has no religions significance. And thus does not violate the principle of separation.” Just because you see a symbol in the cross, doesn’t mean people are saying “Amen” to Galatians 6:14.
I don’t glory in the cross simply because it fulfilled some marvelous prophecies – even though it did. There were also prophecies about Jesus’ betrayal, and about Judas’ thirty pieces of silver. There are prophecies of His mocking, beatings, and even being spit upon. It was prophesied that Jesus’ hands and feet were to be pierced, but without any bones being broken. He was to suffer with criminals and agonize with thirst but to be given gall or vinegar to drink. It was prophesied that after his crucifixion He was to be buried with rich. There many miraculous prophecies about the crucifixion, but they are not why I glory in the cross. Maybe we should all wear bracelets with 30 silver coins. Would that make sense? Maybe we should wear necklaces with little vials of vinegar. But let me give you five simple reasons why I glory in the cross.
First, I glory in the cross because it freed me from the LAW.
Whether modern liberated man wants to recognize fact or not, Jehovah has a law by which all the world shall be judged. It basically says, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” It places an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of everyone of us, because human-generated holiness is impossible.
What if life on earth depended on cleaning up the solar system. What if we had to remove every asteroid, every meteor, every grain of space debris or life would end? First, we don’t have the capability to scour the Heavens like that. Secondly, we don’t have the manpower to examine ever square inch of space. Third, we don’t even know what we’re looking for. It’s impossible.
Some foolish people think, “No problem, Lord, I’ll take care of this holiness issue with one hour on Sunday or a few minutes on Easter. If I just add a little money to the offering or to a Christian charity everything should be fine.” I’m sorry – “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, For it is written, cursed is everyone that continueth not in ALL things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” “Whosoever keepeth the whole law, and yet offend in one point is guilty of all.”
This is precisely the kind life that Paul was living before he met the Lord Jesus and learned of the cross. When the glory of Christ radiated down on him that Syrian afternoon, blinding him and knocking him to the ground, he knew that never again could he claim the merits of his own obedience to law. Paul’s testimony became, “The law could not do anything for my soul because of the weakness of my sinful flesh.” “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.” “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
When they took Christ away as the God-ordained substitute for the sinner… When they stripped him naked and held His hands down on the timber of that cross… When they nailed his body to the wood of that tree, He became a curse for ME; He became MY substitute. And the very law, that I have failed so miserably to keep was nailed up there with Christ. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Christ took the ordinances of the law which were contrary to the sinner and nailed them to His cross. The debt created by our failure to be holy as the Lord is holy, was nailed to the cross of Christ. Jesus’ death was far more than just paying our sin-debt, but at the very least it was a part of it. Praise the Lord!
Then too, I glory in the cross because it has freed me from the FLESH.
As I have tried to show you last year, Galatians was written to answer the heresies of the Judaizers. And the theme of Galatians is that there were false teachers deceiving God’s people. They were making demands of the Gentiles which they couldn’t satisfy themselves. Yet, they gloried in the things of the flesh. But Paul rejoiced in freedom from the works of the flesh – because of the effects of the cross. Obviously, this is related to the keeping of the law. I praise the Lord, that the doors of Heaven are not hinged on the success of things I might achieve. The work of the flesh is not a part of the worship of God. I have to admit with Paul that “the good that I would I do not and the evil which I would not, that I do.” After Peter promised to stay by the side of the Lord, he fled like whimpering puppy. Even when John Mark and Demas vowed to preach the word and minister to saints – they later quit. But their salvation was not dependent upon their faithfulness.
Praise Lord, I am not required to hold out faithful to the end in the strength of my flesh. It was the flesh of Son of God that quivered in the pain of the cross that I trust. “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” I will indeed die trusting Christ and His cross, but even that will be by the grace of God.
Then, I glory in the cross because it freed me from my SIN.
And I stress that it was MY sin, mine alone. There was the Lord Jesus Who his own self bare MY sins in his own body on the tree. Christ didn’t die for sin in a general way – it was specifically for me He gave His life. And thankfully it was specifically for millions of others as well.
In “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Pilgrim had entered the gate of decision and faced the cross. As looked in faith and love upon the One who died for his redemption and forgiveness, the heavy burden of sin and guilt which had laid on his back for years … That burden which had been growing steadily, and which seemed to grow more rapidly since he had met the man called Evangelist … The burden that crushed his spirit as well, as his back, fell off as he gazed upon Cross. Down the hill it rolled and rolled until it entered a newly hewn tomb. Then it was gone for ever more – carried off by the death of Christ.
There is nothing that can remove the stain and guilt of sin but the events of Calvary. “All we like sheep have gone astray and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “Now are we free, there’s no condemnation, Jesus provides a prefect salvation. Come unto me, Oh, hear his sweet call, Grace hath redeemed us once for all.” I glory in the cross because it has freed me from sin.
And not only that but it freed me from the WORLD as well.
By that I mean my hopes, joys and delights are no longer provided by world. The average man clings to this planet and its life, as though everything depends on it. And in a way it does for him. His life is swaddled in the wrapping paper and bow of his seventy-plus years of earth. When his car is stolen; his wife dies, his dog runs off and his bank forecloses, he has nothing. But Paul – and I – have the Cross upon which Jesus died. The Apostle said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
I remember a tract – I still may have a few somewhere – it had an illustration on the cover: On one side of the page there were a number of wretched souls – obviously in pain and peril. They were surrounded by the things of the world, including all its toys, but they were miserable nevertheless. On the other side of the page there were a number of others with the joy of Heaven on faces. And between them was great gulf – a chasm so deep and wide that no one could jump across or climb down and up the other side. But there was a bridge over that abyss which some were happily passing from the world to heaven. And that bridge was in the form of a cross.
Meditation, medication, manipulation, moderation, mitigation and modulation – None can ever free a soul from its lust for the things of the world But the cross of Christ can. “The way of the cross leads home; It is sweet to know as I onward go, the way of the cross leads home. Then I bid farewell to the way of the world to walk in it nevermore, For my Lord says come and I seek my home, where he waits at the open door.”
I glory in the cross because it has freed me from the world.
And because it has freed me from FEAR.
It is only because Satan has blinded men’s minds that we are not in terror at thought of facing the Lord. To the average man in Post Falls, Jehovah will some day say, “Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire.” As most people approach the time of their death, the possibility of this fact looms larger and larger. The average American fears and hates death, because he has spent his life hating God of the Bible.
There is only one way to make peace with God – one way of reconciliation – the Cross of Christ. “And having made peace through the blood of his cross we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.” You may look at me and say, “Boy, I’m glad I will not be in his shoes when he faces the Judge.” And as I think of me in my flesh and in my sin – I have to wholly agree. But I have been washed in the fountain of Jesus’ blood, and through Him I have peace with God. It was at the ugly, bloody cross where peace with God was purchased and given to me. “There is therefore now, no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus,” and I am in Christ. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Can you see why I glory in the cross? It has freed me from the law and my weak flesh; from sin, the world and fear of the Judge. If you are still in fear of death and judgment, may I take you to Calvary? “If you from sin are longing to be free – look to the lamb of God.”