“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.” (Ga.6:14)
The cross and its enemies
In the New Testament the cross is the instrument of crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This word is also a symbol of death, used to denote any severe affliction or trial. Paul, the apostle, was asserting that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words (that is with human reflections, ideas or speculations), lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect (1Co.1:17). Paul knew that God’s central message is the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul was weeping as he was seeing that certain people were walking in a way that rendered them enemies of the cross (Php.3:18). Enemies of the cross? Yes, enemies of the cross because their God was their belly, and whose glory was in their shame, and minded earthly things … (v.19). The various religions: Islam, Buddhism etc. are, indeed, enemies of the cross! The worse enemies of the cross are, nevertheless, those that profess to be Christians who are afraid and ashamed to take an open position in favor of Christ; those that give their vote in favor of Barabbas and deliver Christ to be crucified…; those that for political reasons (to fish some votes), or for an economic or social profit put on equal footing the teaching and the mission of our great God and our Savior Jesus Christ (Tit.2 :13) with the teaching of Mohamed or Buddha etc.; those that remove the Bible from the Christian hotels in order not to … offend Islamist customers; those that prevent the distribution of the New Testament in secondary schools, universities etc., etc. In the same way, enemies of the cross are the workers of the gospel who remove from their «gospel» the Christ’s cross, the Christ’s blood, the «rights» of God from their own life and the life of other believers! Yes, those whose religion is just a pure and simple ritual mixed with false traditions; those who use only part of Christ’s words and avoid to speak about repentance and condemn sin; and those who mix philosophy, psychology, sociology and give false security and comfort, to make people feel pleasantly… because they have itching ears (2Ti.4:3). May the Lord prevent us from this in due time before it is too late.
Paul knew very well that every doctrine that was not embedded in the cross of Jesus would lead people astray.
The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world
Jesus Christ’s death was not a haphazard event of a common man. On the contrary, it was the death of a certain man in a certain period of history, decided in advance, before the world was created for the salvation of the world. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Php.2:8). He was “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Re.13:8) for our salvation. The glory of such a salvation belongs “to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Re.1:5). Everything was accomplished according to the Holy Scriptures! Thus, it was proved, at the same time, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2Ti.3:16). On the cross, the severity, the justice and the love of God were manifested.
When the Lord said, “It is finished” (Joh.19:30), He had finished the work of redemption. It was complete! The sin’s penalty was fully paid and man could be accepted by God. How regrettable it is to see men trying to “save themselves” by their good works! They try to accomplish what is already accomplished, while their salvation depends on what Jesus has done! They try to open an open door!
Mercy and truth have met together
On the cross “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed” (Ps.85:10). Jesus Christ’s cross became the place of meeting and reconciliation of man with God: “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col.1:20). Jesus came because of our sin; He died to pay our moral debt, because we could not pay it ourselves; arose from the dead to justify us and keep us saved eternally. The only way to understand how God sees sin is to “go” to Golgotha. There, we will see that we were a person condemned to death and we will also understand the “degree” of our wickedness but also of our value in God’s eyes. We will understand that we deserved a cross… Then and only then, we will be able to be led to a true humility before God and before men. It is then that we will stop boasting about ourselves and against our fellow man. There, we will also understand the unfathomable and unconditional love of God. If God’s justice was applied …we would have been consumed, but His compassions did not fail (La.3:22). Let us pay attention to a great truth: it is never said that God was reconciled with man but that man was reconciled with God! God always loved man and wanted to be his friend.
The Word of God says that we Christians can boast in the cross of Christ. Right from the beginning, I want to give an explanation so that there might be no misunderstanding. Christians do not boast in the cross itself, which is an instrument of execution and death. Instead, they boast in the blood of Jesus, which was shed on the cross for the remission of their sins. Let us read three verses in support of the above statement:
Ø Ro.3:25 says: “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed”;
Ø Ro.5:9 says: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”, and
Ø Eph.1:7 says: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”.
This is the central message of Christianity. Many are those who consider unacceptable that at the centre of Christian faith is a crucified man. It is an offence to the natural man. Those, however, who have spiritual insight, understand that it was necessary that evil be punished as it was decided in the Garden of Eden. It was Jesus who took on himself the punishment that we deserved so that God could give mercy and grace to sinners. Jesus Christ’s death was and is the proof of God’s compassion and mercy for sinners. This is the most pleasant and encouraging message for all those who have despaired from themselves.
Our “boasting” is, therefore, bound with the cross of Jesus Christ. For the worldly people this is a paradox, I should rather say “foolishness” but for the Christian all the meaning of his “religion” and of his life is contained in the cross. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1Co.1:18). This paradox is the most precious thing that the believer has in his life, but he cannot understand its value unless he examines carefully and deeply what is the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ and the salvation that was procured through the cross. The cross of Christ and His resurrection are a solid foundation for his joy and peace.
The apostle Paul, who was given a profound spiritual insight into the meaning and the results of our Lord’s cross, wanted to boast but in the cross of Christ, though he had many social and cultural reasons for which he could boast:
Ø He had genuine Hebrew origin! A Hebrew of the Hebrews;
Ø He was educated in the most pious denomination, that of orthodox Pharisees;
Ø He was, concerning the righteousness, which is in the law, blameless;
Ø He was also, concerning his civil rights, a Roman citizen by birth, something that procured him a special position in society as well as protection and authority; and
Ø He was extremely well educated.
The things, however, that were a gain to him, these he had counted loss for Christ. He forgets and rejects all of them for something far more precious. He accepted to lose all the previous worldly prerogatives, things that he counted as rubbish for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord and that he may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having his own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Php.3:8-9). Why? That he may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, to the end of attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Php.3:10). He sold every thing he had in order to buy that precious “pearl”, which was Jesus Christ. Let us examine now more closely:
1. Why the apostle Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ
- · Why the apostle Paul was boldly proclaiming that God forbid that he should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ?
- · Why Paul, when he understood that truth, would not accept to forget it?
- · What was the meaning of the cross for him?
We have already mentioned them in a general way but let us examine them in detail:
Paul knew that Jesus Christ had suffered and substituted him on the cross.
That instrument of condemnation, execution, agony and death became a sacred symbol and an emblem for Christians, because on the cross “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit.2:13) had accomplished the work of redemption for mankind. On the cross, Jesus Christ took the place of the sinner and guilty man — of you and me! He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. We all like sheep had gone astray and had turned, every one of us to his own way. But the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa.53:4-6). No man can get rid of his own guilt. Jesus Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes we were healed (1Pe.2:24). How would it ever be possible for Paul, as well as for us, not to boast in the cross where Jesus has substituted the guilty sinner, a fact that will constitute the object – the most marveled throughout eternity? True believers will be able to say and to repeat like David: “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy…” (Ps.5:7). He was boasting in Christ in all humility! Can you apply these words to yourself?
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because he had been redeemed.
Paul knew that he had been purchased from the slavery of sin; he had been set free; he had got rid of the debt of his sins; he was enjoying the remission of his sins; he had received his new spiritual birth; and he was now walking in a new life. He had become a new creature! A new man! Not a repaired man but a new man! This is why he exclaimed that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Ro.8:1). Certain people, not having understood what Paul was talking about, arrived at the point to accuse him falsely that he was teaching that, on account of the abundance of God’s grace, man could continue in sin so that grace might abound…
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because he was reconciled with God.
He knew that from God’s enemy he had become, by God’s mercy and grace, God’s friend. Let me repeat that it is never said that God was reconciled with man but that man was reconciled with God! God loved man always and wanted to be his friend. The Bible says:
Ø “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Ro.5:10)
Ø “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2Co 5:18-19; Col.1:20-21; Heb 2:17). Jesus had become his peace (Ro.5:1; Eph.2:14). Does this divine peace and friendship apply to you?
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because he could contemplate God’s love.
Through Jesus Christ’s death for him, he was able to comprehend what is the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passes knowledge… (Eph.3:18-19), because even at the time he was still God’s enemy and was even persecuting His Church, Jesus died on the cross for him! Not only for him but also for you and me! “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Ro.5:6-10). Someone said: “The Cross of Jesus is the supreme evidence of the love of God.” So we see that He died for weak, ungodly, sinners and even his enemies like you and me! Do you believe it?
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because he was co-crucified with Him.
In reality and by faith, he was crucified with Christ; through his co-crucifixion he was not only forgiven of his sins and that there was no guilt anymore but also because his “ego”, in the sense of flesh, his old man, was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be annulled, that he should no longer be slave of sin (Ro.6:6). That source of sin was crucified with Christ and the power of sin in his life was abolished. The proof that his old man was co-crucified was the ease with which he was obeying his sweet but severe voice of God! This is the reason why he was declaring “I have been crucified with Christ; 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” (Ga.2:20). This is a statement that is valid for all Christians provided they walk in the Spirit. As sure and certain it is that Jesus was crucified, it is equally sure and certain that JURIDICALLY we were all crucified, by faith, with Him and that now we can exclaim as Paul – whether we are weak or strong, provided we are sincere – that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me! ”
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because he could live a holy life.
He had now the power to resist sin and stand against the wiles of Satan. This is why he was NOT anymore telling: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Ro.7:19), but was exclaiming with joy and boldness: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Ro.8:2). He stopped saying: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Ro.7:24), but he could say: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Php.4:13). Paul could never dare say, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1Co.11:1) if he was falling into sin or repeated the same sin often or every day. He did not complain saying, “I am a feeble human being! I want and I try but I cannot do God’s will. Unfortunately, my life is a life of ups and downs”! No, not anymore. He knew for sure that his sins were forgiven. He was equally sure that he was also set free from the power of sin and of his passions as well as of his bad habits! Even his conscience was cleansed from dead works to serve the living God (Heb.9:14). This is why he was exclaiming: “For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.” (1Co.4:4). This is why he was commending himself to Timothy, saying: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance…”. (2Ti.3:10). All that was due to Christ’s death on the cross! He was not whining but he was praising God!!!!!!! Was that spiritual provision/enabling only for Paul and not for us? God forbid!
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because Satan was defeated and judged.
Through the apparent defeat of Jesus Christ on the cross, Satan and the world were defeated and judged. Now he was able through the blood of the cross of Christ to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing could by any means hurt him (Lu.10:19). Paul knew that Jesus was manifested to take away our sins because in Jesus there was no sin…. And that for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil (1Jo.3:8). Consequently, the entire devil’s works in his life – and in our lives also – even in the context of our families and within the Church are already destroyed. It suffices to believe it and it will be done according to our faith. If not, it will be done according to our unbelief… The believer knows and enjoys the fact that he was transferred from Satan’s dominion, from darkness, to the wonderful light of Christ and under the sweet dominion of Christ’s grace! Satan’s power is just lies and wiles. He has no true power because Christ, having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Col.2:15). Do you see Satan as a true terrible foe or as a defeated enemy?
Paul was glorying in the cross because the Law of Moses did not exist anymore.
It was revealed to him that the Law of Moses with all its ordinances was no more valid because “…Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Ro.10:4). The law had killed him; and the dead is no more under the Law… And where there is no law there is no transgression and consequently no condemnation. This does not mean, however, that the moral law of God included in the Ten Commandments is no more valid because it has to do with the moral character and attributes of God. He was aware also that God in His mercy and grace had written this law in his heart… “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them…” (Heb.10:16 and 8:10). Also, that it was written that “… the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (De.30:6). Yes, He has “…wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col.2:14). Are you still under the Law of Moses or under the Law of Grace?
Paul was glorying in the cross because he knew that he had everlasting life.
Yes, because “… God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Joh.3:16). How is it ever possible that someone or the Devil “…bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” In addition, God had revealed to him that He could … supply all his needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Php.4:19). Yes, Christ was also the author and finisher of his faith (Heb.12:2). How regrettable is, however, the fact that this verse Joh.3:16 is used only for showing the love of God and to comfort the people. There are preachers who do not preach abnegation of the old life and of self. They do not behave as prophets… This is not “The Full Gospel” because nothing is mentioned about eternal perdition and, in general, the consequences of unbelief!!! Do you know that “…he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” ? (Joh.3:35-36). You, what have you chosen? The love or the wrath of God?
Paul was glorying in the cross because his name was written in the Book of the Lamb.
On the basis of this offered right, he would become an heir of all the heavenly blessings through Christ’s grace even here on this earth. He was glorying because he knew that one day, when Christ is revealed, he should be like Him, for he shall see Him as He is (1Jo.3:2). Unbelievable but true! He had become a citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom. His name was written in the Book of the Lamb! Do you believe it for yourself?
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because it is the only weapon against Satan.
We read: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Re.12:11). He had learned to appropriate Christ’s victory. He knew that, in spite of Satan’s hatred and severe persecutions, the victory was his. He knew that, thanks to the Christ’s blood shed on the cross, the devil could not snatch him from the hands of his Father and kill his soul and that the devil was a defeated enemy. His works were already destroyed by Christ. The blood of Christ has a forgiving and redemptive power! He knew that his faithful testimony to the truth constituted a powerful weapon against Satan. As he confessed Christ’s sacrifice, Christ would confess him before the angels. In that way, he could also snatch Satan’s prisoners and save them from Hell. He knew that if he was faithful until death, if he adhered to the truth in his sufferings, he would be given the crown of life and that he would live and reign with Christ. He did not count his life dear to himself so that he might finish his race with joy and the ministry which he had received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Even if he was put to death as a martyr, he would obtain some day his resurrection. The world was not worthy for him. What is the truth about you? Do you believe in the power of the blood of Jesus? Do you give your testimony in season and out of season? Have you offered your body as a living sacrifice to God? Do you fear men more than God?
Paul was glorying in the cross of Christ because he would reign with Him.
Since he had died with Christ and was raised with Christ and was suffering for Christ’s sake, he would also reign with Him one day. He had become, from an exile enemy, a child of the Heavenly King, heir and co-heir of Christ’s blessings!
Well, well! Man must learn to know how to see the Cross as God sees it. Nothing is more precious than to live for Christ who died and was raised from the dead!
2. Who and when one can boast in the cross of Christ?
One cannot boast in a thing that does not possess! “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift [is like] clouds and wind without rain” (Pr.25:14 AV). If one wants to glory in the cross of Christ or in Christ:
First, he must receive Christ as his personal Savior as well as his Lord!
He must have recognized him as the only One able to forgive his sins, to justify him freely by His grace and bring him before the Father as just and reconciled. He must have understood and believed that he is now a child of God by regeneration and adoption. Also, as the Lord of his life! If these things have not been believed, accepted and lived by man then all his glorying in Christ is in vain. What about you? Have you received the cross of Christ as foolishness or as the wise way of God to save you?
Second, he must believe that he was set free from the dominion of sin!
There are many Christians who believe, without any difficulty, that their sins were forgiven but they have great difficulty to believe that they have been set free from the power or slavery of sin in their lives. They live the experience of chapters 6 and 7 of Romans but not of chapter 8 as overcomers. They do not believe that …the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made them free from the law of sin and death (Ro.8:2). It is written: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jo.1:9) So, God does not only forgive our sins but also purifies us and delivers us from our bad habits and passions, which have become our second nature!!! God can save to the uttermost! An “up and down” life is not a normal Christian life! Let it be according to our faith…
Third, he must accept Christ as his PRIEST, PROPHET, LORD and KING.
Yes, as PRIEST, offering propitiation for him through His precious blood; as his PROPHET, teaching him through his Word; and as his LORD and KING to whom he must obey unreservedly and in whose hands he has entrusted wholeheartedly the government of his life. The true meaning of obedience is: repentance and continuous conversion, faith in God’s words and trust in His character!!!
Fourth, he must decide to suffer with Christ and for Christ’sake.
He must live patiently, suffering the consequences of his relation with Christ and the confession of His name before men. He knows that he is now, in a hostile territory and that he will undergo persecutions, mockeries, other sufferings and torments that will come not only from the world and the Devil but also from carnal Christians of the Church who walk, not according to the Spirit but according to the flesh, their religious traditions and on account of their manipulations. In addition, they will remove from him the possibility to speak/preach and will prohibit him even from any kind of dialogue! They will even throw him out of their ‘synagogues’ (Joh.16:2). In conclusion, if he wants to walk uprightly, piously and telling the truth in love he will suffer persecutions! Those of the flesh in the Church will persecute those of the Spirit in the Church. In other words, he must be ready to “… go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb.13:13). What about us? Do we hesitate to give our testimony and tell the truth, the whole truth in love, irrespective of the consequences?
Fifth, he must deny himself and lift up his cross and follow Him!
Do you know that if you do not deny yourself, bear your cross daily and follow Him you are not worthy of him and that you cannot be his disciple? (Mt.10:38; Mrk.10:21; Luc 14:26-27, 33). Do not fool yourself! Do not be deceived with good and vain words… You must keep on denying yourself constantly and not sporadically and not only your goods…
Sixth, he must understand that in Christ is the only solution of his problems.
Then and only then the cross of Christ becomes his boasting. He has understood that the only way to face his problems and afflictions is to commit his way to the LORD, trust also in Him and wait for God to bring things to pass (Ps.37:5). Only the man that is constantly looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith (Heb.12:2) may boast in Christ’s cross and blood that was shed for him! Only he who loves the Lord his God … with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and one’s neighbor as oneself, can see the whole salvation of God in his life. Only he who has stopped living for himself and lives for Christ can glory in Christ’s cross and can see all his problems solved in advance by faith. Only he who overcomes Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of his testimony, and does not love his life to the death can rightly boast and can endure life’s pressure. For a believer that does not enjoy from now his salvation and his reconciliation with God and has not the certainty of eternal life, it is impossible to boast in the cross of Christ and be happy. A sorrowful, discontent and complaining way of living of a certain number of Christians is completely incompatible with the boasting in Christ and constitutes a great obstacle in the progress of the Gospel and the revival of the Church!
Who is the man that is going to inherit very soon a great inheritance, a great fortune that does not rejoice beforehand because he sees all his problems and financial difficulties already solved? The cross of Christ, the blood of Christ, is the believer’s compass, the believer’s support in case he slips and falls! That is the Gospel of Christ!
Seventh, he must above all have the unction of the Holy Spirit.
When man is converted and saved, his heart is full of joy because he has been alleviated from the unbearable burden of sin and guilt and because he has the Holy Spirit. When he is reconciled with the Father through Jesus Christ and has entered through the narrow gate, then a new stage of life and action opens during which he comes across difficulties, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mt.7:14). But, it is a life full of dangers: He may go astray, driven away and be led to dangerous paths. It is then that he feels the need of a good guide and a powerful protector… And that guide and protector is the Holy Spirit that dwells in him and leads him to all truth, helps him in his weaknesses and endows him with power for service. “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Ro.8:26-27). The Holy Spirit interprets the Word of God and gives him His unction so that he may not be in need to be taught (1Ιωάν.2:27). He gives him power against sin and leads him in the right way. He bestows on him gifts to make him able for the service.
However, he should never forget that God gives the Holy Spirit and fills the heart of those who obey Him (Ac.5:32). God pours out His Spirit on man and makes His words known to him when man turns at His rebukes (Pr.1:23), that is, when he accepts and obeys His reproofs (AV).
Conclusion: “Study the Bible to be wise; believe it to be safe; practice it to be holy.”
What about us? Can we boast in Jesus Christ’s cross? What do we boast in? Has Jesus Christ become for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption? (1Co.1:30). Let us examine ourselves and obey the light received today! Let us obey by repentance, faith in God’s words and trust in God’s character… And let us not forget that “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2Co.5:10). AMEN!