************ Sermon on Galatians 6:14 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on July 8, 2012


Galatians 6:12-18
Galatians 6:14
"Boasting in the Cross"

Introduction
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ ..." (Gal 6:14). These words are our focus on this Lord's Supper Sunday. At the time of Paul this was an absolutely absurd statement to make. The cross was a means of execution used by the Roman government. The cross was a place of shame, disgrace, humiliation, indignity, degradation, and dishonor. The criminal was beaten, undressed, and nailed to a cross. He was spread-eagled, naked, and helpless. The entire process was designed to humiliate. Who would boast in something like this?

The cross was jarring. The cross was shameful. The cross spoke of pain and suffering. The Romans did not boast in this nor did the Jews. Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians? He said,
(1Cor 1:23) but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles

To help you realize how jarring this is, allow me to put Paul's words into today's language:
"May I never boast except in the firing squad."
"May I never boast except in the electric chair."
"May I never boast except in lethal injection."
I know this is not a means of execution, but perhaps I can also add, "May I never boast except in AIDS." Who among us would glory in such things? So, do you hear how absurd is Paul's language?

However, on this Lord's Supper Sunday we do glory in the cross of Christ. For we know there is no other way of salvation from sin.

I The Disciples' Resistance to the Cross
A When we study the gospels, we realize that boasting in the cross seemed absurd not only to the Romans and Jews but also to Peter and the other disciples. Let me remind you of what happened at Caesarea Philippi:
(Mk 8:31) [Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Cf Mk 9:31; 10:32)
What did Jesus tell His disciples? When it comes down to it, Jesus told His disciples He was going to be crucified (cf Lk 24:6-7).

And how did Peter and the other disciples respond? Listen to what we read in Mark's gospel:
(Mk 8:32) [Jesus] spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Peter and the disciples fought Jesus on this! They hated the idea. They despised the concept. To their way of thinking, Messiahs were victors, not victims. To their way of thinking, Messiahs did not suffer and die. To their way of thinking, Messiahs did not end up on a cross.

So what do we see, even at the end of Jesus' earthly ministry? In the Upper Room, at the Last Supper, the disciples were thinking about which of them would sit in the most honored positions when Jesus came into power (cf Lk 22:24-30). They were thinking of swords, battles, and victory. Which is why Peter was willing to pull out a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane when the crowd came to arrest Jesus (Mt 26:51).

In this light, consider Peter's three-fold denial of Christ. Jesus was led back and forth as a criminal. He was mocked and beaten and blindfolded and spit upon. When asked, Peter denied even knowing Jesus (Lk 22:54-62). Do you understand why? Peter denied knowing a Jesus on the way to the cross. Though the cross did not yet happen, Peter denied knowing a crucified Jesus.

Do you think Peter would have denied knowing Him if the Lord Jesus had gone to the palace and called Jerusalem and Israel to rebel against the Romans? Do you think Peter would have denied knowing Him if Jesus had been the one on Pilate's throne? Do you think Peter would have denied knowing Him if Jesus had worn a crown of gold instead of a crown of thorns? Of course not!

Do you know what Peter was fighting? Peter was fighting the idea of a crucified Messiah. Peter was fighting the idea of a criminal's death. Peter was fighting the idea of a suffering Savior. Peter was fighting the cross!

Jesus told His disciples He would be numbered with the transgressors (Lk 22:37; cf Is 53:12). In saying this, Jesus was telling His disciples He would die a dishonorable death, on the cross, between two thieves. The disciples resisted any thought of this to the very end.

"But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (cf 1 Cor 1:23). Paul indicates that he knew and understood Peter's struggle with the cross.

B Today, too, many people stumble over the cross. Those today who want to believe everyone is basically good in spite of tons of compelling evidence proving otherwise cannot accept the cross; they cannot accept the idea that all men are sinners before God. The intellectual elite today, just as in Paul's day, shudder at the idea that all men need an atoning sacrifice for their sins; they think the idea of sacrifice is primitive and old-fashioned, and are embarrassed by the cross of Christ. Those who scoff at the idea that the eternal Son of God took to Himself a truly human nature cannot accept the cross. Those who believe all paths lead to God and all religions are basically the same cannot accept the cross.

Even within the church there are those who deny the cross. I call them practical atheists. They don't outright deny the cross but they talk or live as if the cross was not there. As they present the Gospel, their focus is on anything but the cross:
Follow Jesus and He will straighten out your marriage.
Follow Jesus and He will make you better parents.
Follow Jesus and He will make you healthy and prosperous.
Follow Jesus and your relationships will become more satisfying.
Follow Jesus and your depression/anxiety/ grief will disappear.
Now, this kind of Jesus is easy to follow. This kind of Jesus is easy to like. This kind of Jesus is not embarrassing and awkward. This kind of Jesus gives us a comfortable pew. This kind of Jesus does not make us go outside of our comfort zone. This kind of Jesus is someone we can live with. Notice, their focus is anything but the cross and sin and judgment.

But the Jesus of the Gospels is not this kind of Jesus. Instead, as Paul puts it in Galatians 3:1, "Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified." And, those who follow Him are told to take up their cross rather then their Starbucks Coffee (Mt 16:24; 10:38). He is not a comfortable Jesus. He is not the Jesus of the Prosperity Gospel, the Health and Wealth Gospel. He is the Jesus Who experienced shame, disgrace, humiliation, indignity, degradation, and dishonor. He is the Jesus Who was beaten, undressed, and nailed to a cross. He is the Jesus Who was spread-eagled, naked, and helpless. He is the Jesus Who suffered and died. He is the Jesus of the cross!

On this Lord's Supper Sunday we notice that Paul's boast and glory is in this Jesus.

II Man's Boasting in the Works of the Flesh
A There was a time when Paul boasted in other things. Do you remember what he wrote to the church at Philippi about himself?
(Phil 3:5-6) [I was] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; (6) as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
Paul used to boast about such things. In terms of being a Jew, he was on the top rung of the ladder. You would be hard pressed to find anyone more religious than Paul. But with the coming of Christ, Paul stopped boasting about himself. Paul writes,
(Phil 3:7) But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Notice what Paul does: Paul stopped glorying in the works of the flesh. And his boast and glory was now found in Christ and His cross.

B In the church of Galatia there were people exactly the same as the old Paul people who gloried not in Christ but in their works. Did you hear what Paul wrote in verses 12 & 13?
(Gal 6:12-13) Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. (13) ... they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.

What is going on? What is the situation Paul is writing about? Paul is talking about Jewish persecution of the Christian church. The Jews persecuted the Christians not because they proclaimed Christ but because they would not circumcise Gentiles. The glory of these Jewish persecutors and their followers in Galatia laid in circumcision. Their glory lay in human works. Their glory was not the cross of Christ. Their glory lay not in the cross as the only
sufficient and effective source of salvation.

Contrary to the Judaizers and their sympathizers, Paul's boast was not in the flesh and its works.
(Gal 6:14) 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.

III Salvation Lies in the Cross
A There is only one thing that moves God to save you from your sin. It isn't your works because they are never good enough. It isn't your holiness because on your own there is nothing holy about you. It isn't your obedience because your obedience always falls short. It isn't your faith because it is never strong enough. The only thing that moves God to save you from your sin is the cross of Christ. No wonder Paul can say,
(Gal 6:14) 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.

B My brothers and sisters, on this Lord's Supper Sunday I urge you to keep your eyes on the cross. For, the cross lies at the heart of the Gospel. With this in mind, I want you to pay attention to the following words of Hebrews 13:
(Heb 13:12-13) And so Jesus ... suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (13) Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
Do you hear that? We are told to go to Him. We are told to go to Him outside the city gate. We are told to go to Him upon the cross.

Have you gone to the cross? It is not a nice place. It is the place of reproach, the place of ridicule, the place where the world laughs and scoffs. As a follower of Jesus do you pitch your tent every morning and every evening outside the camp at the cross?

Paul was so proud of Jesus and His cross that he made it the cornerstone of his preaching. But, then, Paul knew "salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

On this Lord's Supper Sunday go to the cross! Go to the cross in faith. Then like Paul your glory and your boast is not in yourself but in Christ alone.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page