Study 5 THE CROSS IN GALATIANS
(Scripture Portion: 1 Corinthians 1: 17-25)
What is meant by the expression “the cross”? – look up and compare 1 Corinthians 1:18; Philippians 2:8; 3:18 and Colossians 1:20. It does not refer to a silver ornament, nor to an emblem which is often seen on a church tower, nor to a crucifix; neither does it refer to the burdens and troubles which we have to bear and which are sometimes referred to as “our cross”. “The Cross” is an expression that gathers up and contains the great fact and significance of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ upon Calvary. Another Bible term is “the blood” – look up Ephesians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7 and Revelation 12:11; and this expression refers to the unique nature of the sacrifice that Christ Jesus made for us upon the cross. The “cross” and the “blood” are interchangeable terms. Both refer to His death and to the great purpose and significance of that death.
It is historically true that the Lord Jesus died upon the cross, but why did He die? What does His death mean to the believer? The following seven key-words, with the references, will answer that question.
1. SUBSTITUTION: On the cross the Lord Jesus died for us, bearing away our sin in His own Body.
We are told this in Galatians 1:4 – and the words to underline are, “who gave Himself for our sins…” Our sins have incurred the penalty of sin which is death – look up Ezekiel 18:4 and Romans 6:23; but in order that we might not die the Lord Jesus took our place and died for us – look up and compare Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24.
2. IDENTIFICATION: On the cross, not only did the Lord Jesus die for us, but we died with Him.
This truth is contained in Galatians 2:20. The death of Christ upon the cross was God’s judgment upon the old creation. The Lord Jesus died as our Representative, and thus we, who formed a part of that old creation and who now believe in Him, died with Him. This is what the apostle meant when, looking back to the cross, he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ…My old sinful self was nailed to the cross”. Turn to Romans, chapter 6, and notice how clearly this truth is brought out; in verse 2: “We died to sin…”; verse 3: “baptised into his death“; verse 4: “buried into death…”; verse 5: “united with him like this in his death…”; verse 6: “For we know that our old self was crucified…”; and then in verse 11 we are exhorted, “count yourselves dead to sin…” In other words, we are to believe God’s testimony that when the Lord Jesus died, we died – and we are to reckon upon that fact. We can never put our old nature to death, but we do not have to. What we have to do is to reckon upon His death, for when He died we died.
3. REDEMPTION: On the cross the Lord Jesus died to redeem us from the curse of the Law.
Compare Galatians 3:13 and 4:4-5. What does this mean – “redeemed from the curse of the Law”? Why the curse of the Law? For this reason, that the Law makes a demand upon us which we cannot meet. The Law says to us, “Do this, and you shall live, and if you do not do it you will die” – see Galatians 3:10. Because we have broken the Law we are under the curse of the Law, and so the Lord Jesus died for us in order to deliver us from this curse. Suppose the way of salvation were by Law-keeping; in the first place we never could be saved, for not one of us can ever keep the Law of God; and in the second place, we would never have any assurance of salvation because however much we tried we would be conscious of failure. Even if we thought the Lord would balance up our good deeds against our bad deeds, (which He does not do!), we would all the time be wondering if we had enough good deeds to outweigh the bad ones.
4. PERSECUTION: On the cross the Lord Jesus died a shameful death, and all who follow Him will suffer persecution.
Read Galatians 5:11 and 6:12. Because the Cross is an offence to the natural man, all who love it and preach it will suffer persecution. When the apostle Paul went to Corinth he tells us that he found there that the preaching of the cross was “a stumbling block to the Jews” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Death by crucifixion was the most degrading form of punishment – see what Galatians 3:13 says! It is therefore obvious that those of us who are identified with the cross must be willing to share the offence of the cross and to suffer persecution.
5. SEPARATION: On the cross the Lord Jesus died for us that we might have deliverance from the sinful nature.
This is brought before us in Galatians 5:24, and it links up with Galatians 2:20, though there is a significant emphasis which we must not fail to notice. In 2:20 we are told of an accomplished fact – that when the Lord Jesus died we died, and in the purpose of God nothing can alter this. But in 5:24 we are told that we have to assent to this fact; we have to act upon it, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” – look up Colossians 3:5. Have you ever held a funeral service for yourself? Have you reckoned yourself dead, buried with Christ and raised with Him too – Romans 6:3-4?
6. EMANCIPATION: On the cross the Lord Jesus died to deliver us from this present evil world.
Here we bring together Galatians 1:4 and 6:14. The Lord Jesus died to deliver us from this present evil world in order that we might be a separated people. This being the case, can we adopt the world’s standards, wear the world’s dress, go to the world’s pleasures and make bosom friends of worldly people when the Lord Jesus died to deliver us from the world? You see, “the world” is society with God left out, the society which crucified the Lord Jesus and which has no place for Him. We are living in the world, but we are not to be of the world, and the power which can separate us and emancipate us from the world is the cross of Christ – look up 1 John 2:15-18.
7. Finally: EXULTATION: Let us glory in the cross!
God forbid that we should do otherwise – Galatians 6:14.