Having exposed the motives that prompted some to insist on circumcision, Paul presents his gospel message to the Galatians one final time, though only in summary form. For Paul, the gospel is based on two fundamental tenets: (1) the centrality of the Cross (vs. 14) and (2) the doctrine of justification (vs. 15). In today’s lesson the focus is on the former.
Living in the twenty-first century, it is difficult to comprehend the shock that Paul’s comments about the Cross (Gal. 6:14) originally conveyed. Today the Cross of Christ is a common and cherished symbol that evokes positive feelings for most people. In Paul’s day, however, the Cross was not something to boast in but something to be despised. Jews found the idea of a crucified Messiah offensive, and Romans found crucifixion so repulsive that it was not even mentioned as a form of punishment suitable for a Roman citizen.
The contempt with which the ancient world looked upon the cross of Christ is clearly seen in the earliest drawing of the crucifixion on record. Dating back to the early second century, a piece of ancient graffiti depicts the crucifixion of a man with the head of a donkey. Below the cross and adjacent to a drawing of a man with his hands raised in worship, an inscription reads, “Alexander worships his god.” The point is clear: the cross of Christ is deemed ridiculous. It is in this context that Paul boldly declares that he can boast in nothing other than the cross of Christ!
The cross of Christ changes everything for the believer. It challenges us not only to reevaluate how we view ourselves but also how we relate to the world. The world—this present evil age and all that it entails (1 John 2:16)—stands in opposition to God. Because we have died with Christ, the world no longer has the enslaving power it once held over us, and the old life that we once lived for the world is no longer. Following Paul’s analogy, the break between the believer and the world should be as if the two died to each other.
What has the Cross done to affect your relationship to the world? What difference has it made in your life? How differently do you live now than you did before giving yourself to the Lord, who died for you?