“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.”
Paul was writing to the Galatian Christians because they were getting suckered by a false idea. No, no, he insisted: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). And it was this fight for freedom that serves as the context of this morning’s verse.
So what is “the liberty by which Christ has made us free”? It was the grace-rich and law-free lifestyle of those who believed in the sufficiency of faith in Jesus alone.
By contrast, Paul criticised these false teachers thus: “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.” (Gal 6:12-13).
The Judaizers emphasized the outward symbol of circumcision as a proof of righteousness before God. They emphasized the externals of religion; and sought to compel the believers to be circumcised as an outward symbol as well. In this way, the Judaizers could “boast” in how they got the believers to conform to their religious rules and regulations, and could avoid the persecution that Paul himself suffered from his kinsmen for his stand on the full sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ.
And it was here that Paul took his stand in opposition to these teachers who boasted in the flesh, and said, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).
The Greek word Paul uses for “boast” (kauchaomai) means to “glory” in something, or to “pride oneself” in something. The thing you “boast” in would be the thing you take your stand on and brag about. And notice that both he and the Judaizers “boasted” in something. The Judaizers boasted in the flesh. And this underscores the distinction between himself and them. They boasted in outward appearances – in something that would make them look impressive in the eyes of men. Elsewhere, Paul uses this same word to urge us not to “boast in men” (1 Cor. 3:21); and to set ourselves apart from those who “boast in appearance and not in heart” (2 Cor. 5:12).
But look at what Paul “boasts” in: the cross. Paul makes the cross his exclusive boast. He boasts in the cross and in nothing else. He says, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross.” He would not let himself boast in the things that those false teachers boasted in. In fact, Paul uses the strongest possible Greek way of expressing this: mê genoito; “may it never be!” He makes it very personal: placing emphasis in the original language on himself – “But as for me, may it never be that I boast …”
Now, for a man living in Paul’s day – and in the midst of Roman culture – the last thing in the world someone would naturally think of “boasting” in would be a cross. A cross was he most despised form of execution that the Romans ever invented. It was a thing of great shame, an instrument of humiliating death.
But it’s not the form or type of execution that’s at issue; Paul doesn’t boast in just any cross, but specifically in the cross of “our Lord Jesus Christ”. And to make his boast in the cross of Jesus Christ means that he makes his boast in everything that is involved in the cross of Jesus Christ.
He makes his boast in the one who died on the cross. “ Indeed, I also count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:8-11)
He boasted in all that was accomplished at the cross, and all that it implied. He embraced the fact that the cross declared him a sinner in need of a Savior. He embraced the sentence of death for his own sins that the cross affirmed. He embraced the shame and scandal of the cross. But he also boasted in the full atonement for that sin that was accomplished there. He boasted in the redemption purchased by the blood of Christ shed upon it. And he embraced the glory with Christ that the cross would lead to. He embraced it all. He made it all his hope. He took his stand on all of it. It was all his only boast.It’s enough!
So have you made the cross your boast as well? Have you placed your trust in the cross of Jesus Christ? Do you point to it and say – with a deep sense of both humility and pride – “That was for me! The cross alone is my boast; and it’s all I need!”
But Paul goes on, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Those who have truly been crucified with Christ must then go on to live a new kind of life in this world – or else the “self” has not truly been “crucified”.
So what is the “crucified life”?
Paul affirmed that his boast was in the cross of Jesus Christ; “by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The “world”, as Paul uses the word here, refers to all that has set itself against God and the message of the cross. The “world” is that system of priorities and values that is fundamentally “ungodly”, and that stands in opposition to God and His good will for our lives.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. …[for] the world is passing away, and the lust of it: but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).
What did it mean that the world was crucified to him? I believe that it meant he was no longer driven by the world’s approval. As far as he was concerned, the world was “crucified” – dead! He didn’t care what a dead “thing” said about him.
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus …” (2 Tim. 1:8-12)
And What did it mean that he was crucified to the world? It meant that the world still had something of its pull – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life; but it was no longer the driving force of Paul’s life.
The world keeps many people prisoner through the pull of the flesh. Its philosophy is, “If it feels good, do it.” That, in fact, has become the guiding principle in life for many. but Paul asserted, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more… Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. …. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:8-14)
Second, Paul was crucified to this world’s pull on him through the lust of the eyes. He was willing to suffer the loss of all things on this earth in order to be fully Christ’s.
The motto for many is: “He who dies with the most toys wins”. Jesus spoke of the foolish man who became prosperous, built up his barns to store his grain, then told his own soul, “Take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.” But God told him, “‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is…” (Col. 3:1-4).
Third, Paul was crucified to this world’s pull through the pride of life. Many are deeply concerned with how others think of them. They are either ruled by the ‘fear of man’ or they are driven to become feared by men. They longed to be looked up to and respected in the eyes of this world. The “pride of life” expresses itself in the world’s motto: “I did it my way”.
We are approval-junkies.
Paul no longer craved respect and honor from this world. He put it this way: “. . . The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:18-20). God has made the wisdom of the world all foolish through the cross; and Paul was crucified upon it, with Christ, to the wisdom of this world.
Paul lived a crucified life. He serves as our example. But then, we shouldn’t be surprised by this; because Jesus taught this to us long ago when He said,
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34-38).
Why does Jesus call us to take up our cross?
It’s so that we may be crucified upon it to the world.
And why does He then call us to follow Him with it?
It’s so that we may then go on to live a crucified life in the midst of this world for His sake.