The Cross in Galatians
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
In the religious world the "cross" is taken as a symbol of Christianity. It is an expression that gathers up and contains the great fact and the significance of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. To Paul, it is a symbol of shame and folly, 1 Cor. 1. 18; of liberty, Gal. 5. 1; of unity, Eph. 2. 15-16; of humility, Phil 2. 8; of harmony, Col. 1. 21; and of glory, 1 Thess. 4. 14. In Hebrews 13. 12-13, it is a symbol of loyalty, and it is used by Peter of suffering, 1 Pet. 2. 21-24. In Galatians there are many references to the cross-work of the Lord Jesus. It is a means of rescue, 1. 4; of removal, 2. 20; of restoration, 3. 1; of redemption, 3. 13; of relationship, 4. 5-7; of reproach, 5. 11; of reproduction, 5. 25; and of rejoicing, 6. 14. Let us glory in the cross.
(1) A New Deliverance from the World, 1. 4-5. Spiritual Emancipation. Verse 4 gives us the gospel in a nutshell. Christ was both the Priest who offered the sacrifice and the Sacrifice that was offered. This is the trespass offering aspect.
His Amazing Sacrifice, "himself, His greatest conceivable gift, this inestimable treasure voluntarily given. It was vicarious-on behalf of our sins, 1 Cor. 15. 3.
An Almighty Saviour, to rescue us from this evil age, Acts 7: 34; 12. 11; 23. 27. The gospel is a rescue operation. We were held captive by the entrenched powers of evil. Delivered from the curse, character and condemnation that belong to the present age, 1 John 2. 15-16.
An Appointed Plan, "the will of God". The work is effectual. The death of Christ is the historical outworking of the eternal purpose of God, 1 Pet. 1. 19-20.
An Ascription of Praise, v. 5. Paul's heart overflows readily with praise. We join in the adoration, the final Amens. His death is an exhibition of divine power.
(2) A New Discovery of Divine Love, 2. 20. Spiritual Identification. Paul crucified with Christ was his charter of freedom. He knew deliverance from the bondage of law, sin, and a self-centred life.
Identification. Paul could say, "I have shared with Christ the results of His death on the cross". The Lord is my Substitute, but also my Representative. He not only died for me, He died as me. He went as me to the death to which my sin condemned me. The old life, the old friends, the old habits, are forever and completely behind me, Rom. 6. 6.
Transformation. "Christ liveth in me". His own personality is transformed by Christ, so that he no longer recognizes his former sinful self. It does not spell the end of truly human personality as God designed it. He lives on earth in human flesh a life not earthly but heavenly, not carnal but spiritual. Faith is the real element in which we live, faith in the Son of God.
Appreciation. He gave Himself up for me. All things are seen in the light and love of Calvary. Abandonment to the Lord becomes a spontaneous, unconscious attitude of the soul, John 20. 28. Meditate on the eleven personal pronouns in verses 19-21.
A New Display of Grace, 3. 1-3. Spiritual Restoration. Paul begins this section with a personal argument from the Galatians' own experience. The Grief he had, v. 1. In giving heed to false teachers, they were senseless, not using their minds as they ought to. The Grip they were in. They were bewitched; some sorcerer had brought them under his influence, not by means of his evil eye, but rather by evil teaching. "A Christ supplemented is a Christ supplanted", Wm. Hendrikson. The Gospel they heard. "Christ evidently set forth crucified". How could they reject this message of life so clearly and vividly presented? The Gift they received. They received the Spirit by believing the gospel. Sanctification, no less than regeneration, is the work of the Holy Spirit.
A New Dynamic in the Life, 3. 13-14. Spiritual Introduction. The cost of deliverance, v. 13; the consequent blessing of the Spirit, v. 14. These two verses beautifully summarize Paul's teaching in this section. The law cannot be the way of salvation, it brings only a curse, Deut. 27. 26. Christ's death here is both representative and penal; He acted in our place and took the penalty due to us, 2 Cor. 5. 21. We have a new standing before God and a new indwelling life-principle, Gal. 3. 14. Our Lord is both Redeemer and Benefactor, Eph. 1. 13.
A New Dignity before God, 4. 5-7. Spiritual Inheritance. From religious bondage to Christian liberty. The fulness of time was also the fittest time in the world's history, Mark 1. 15. The world was providentially ready for the birth of the Saviour. Note His dual nature; He is both God and Man, v. 4. He "came forth", John 16. 28. Note the Trinitarian reference, v. 6, the historical event, v. 4, and the spiritual experience, v. 6. Our Lord fulfilled all the precepts of the law of God, and exhausted its penalty as our Substitute, 3. 13. God sent His Son to give us the Status of sonship. He sent His Spirit to give us the Experience of sonship. "Sons" is expressive of the rights and privileges of those who have entered their majority. Redeemed, related, and made rich.
A New Duty to Myself, 5. 24-25. Spiritual Separation. Identification with Christ should prove a stimulant to holy living. A definite break with the flesh and its sinful desires, v. 24. A deliberate preference for the pathway and power of the Spirit. Yield to Him today.
A New Dedication to the Lord, 6. 14. Spiritual Estimation, Adoration. Paul looks at the legalists, w. 12-13, and sees them as compromisers, v. 12b, and hypocrites, v. 13. He is a loyalist making his confession of allegiance to Christ, v. 14. His ground of boasting and the central fact of his gospel-the cross of Christ. He embraced the Person of the cross, and made Him Lord of his life. He experienced the power of the cross which revolutionized his life. He enjoyed the preaching of the cross which brought men to God. He was crucified-the world had become dead to him, and he became dead to the world. His Cross:
- C-cancels sins, 1. 4.
- R-reveals His love, 2. 20.
- O-offers divine blessing, 3. 14.
- S-satisfies the heart, 4. 6-7.
- S-separates from the world, 6. 14.