Sunday, 10 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (5)

The Offense of the Cross

            Preaching the free grace of Christ always causes offense[1]. “The offense of the cross is the abolition of all religion[2]. The cross proves that we can do nothing to save ourselves. The cross shows that we are cursed and condemned. The cross demonstrates the sinfulness of our sin, the cost of our corruption… It is always easier and more popular to preach about religion and self help rather than the offense of the cross and the crucified Jesus.[3] Indeed to truly preach Christ crucified alone, brings everyone into condemnation and all efforts to vanity - this is the stumbling-block to the Jews[4]. It is this very way of practicing religion that enslaves, and it is the total destruction of the self in the flesh of Christ that sets one free.

The Root of the Matter

The problem in Galatia is just as much about justification about men, as it is about justification before God… Paul identifies with Jesus, the ultimate outsider – crucified outside the camp, a reject, a traitor. Therefore the world cannot intimidate him nor has any power over him[5] - the men of the world hold no persuasion. “If you want to be justified before men, you don’t understand justification before God – you don’t need to be patted on the back by the crowds because you are justified before God.”[6]When we finally get everything out into the open, we can see that what they (the circumcisers) want is to boast in the flesh… their bragging reveals where their confidence lies (in the world)[7]. When we are free from the slavery of self[8], our only concern is to be faithful[9] - causing us to boast only in the cross of Christ[10].

[1] Gal 5:11
[2] In the sense that religion is all men’s efforts to reach or prove oneself to God
[3] Blackham, pg. 62
[4] Cf. 1 Cor 1:23
[5] S. Timmis, A Gospel Centered Community, Total Church Sermon Series
[6] Ibid.
[7] Blackham, pg. 74 – cf. Gal 6:12-14
[8] “The trouble with these seekers after glory is… All they think about is whether people will like and praise them. Theirs is a threefold sin. First, they are greedy of praise. Secondly, they are very sly and wily in suggesting that the ministry of other pastors is not what it should be. By way of contrast they hope to rise in the estimation of the people. Thirdly, once they have established a reputation for themselves they become so chesty that they stop short of nothing. When they have won the praise of men, pride leads them on to belittle the work of other men and to applaud their own. In this artful manner they hoodwink the people who rather enjoy to see their former pastors taken down a few notches by such upstarts.” – Luther commenting on Galatians 6:4
[9] Gal 6:4
[10] Gal 6:14

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