Summary: Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians with an emphasis on the central theme of the Gospel: The Cross. Relating the Cross to the False Teachers, Himself, and all Believers.
The government of Polish Prime Minister Jaruzelski had ordered crucifixes removed from classroom walls, just as they had been banned in factories, hospitals, and other public institutions. Catholic bishops attacked the ban that had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms.
But one zealous Communist school administrator in Garwolin decided that the law was the law. So one evening he had seven large crucifixes removed from lecture halls where they had hung since the school’s founding in the twenties. Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well.
The next day two-thirds of the school’s six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest. Soldiers surrounded the church. But the pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. "There is no Poland without a cross." (Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict, pp. 202-3.)
This morning we reach the conclusion of our series of sermons from the book of Galatians. As Paul comes to the end of his letter he takes the pen into his own hand and restates what has been the central focus of the entire letter. He doesn’t conclude with a list of twelve important things to remember nor 5 nor even three, but just one thing that matters: The Cross of Jesus Christ
Interrogative: The quick witted and critical among you are already asking, "If Paul only emphasizes one thing, Why does your outline have three points?"
Transition: The answer is that in these last few verses paul shows how the centrality of the cross relates to three different things--first to the false teachers that he has written this letter to oppose, then to himself, and finally to all those who trust in Christ. Let’s look frist at how the cross relates to those false teachers. For them the cross is...
I. One Reason to be Ashamed
v. 12-13 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.
Remember, these false teachers are called Judaizers, they want the Galatian believers to follow the external requirements of the law to somehow enhance their salvation. Paul has repeatedly emphasized that the work of Christ upon the Cross and the Grace of God is sufficient for salvation, circumcision and diet and dress codes don’t have the power to transform lives. Paul has also at least twice earlier in the letter made the point that the reason these teachers are seeking the circumcision of the Gentiles is because of their own pride. Paul makes the point again here and adds that they are doing this to avoid being persecuted for the Cross of Christ.
The cross is a real problem for those who want to indulge their pride. It’s a problem for those who have a desire for others to see them as successful. Because the cross is pretty embarrasing. It wasn’t the religious symbol it is today--at that time it still carried the full implication of what it really was--and instrument of torture and execution.
I believe that the Judaizers were still concerned what the Jews in their old synagogue thought of them, hanging out with unwashed gentiles. If they could only say to them "see these Gentile Christians are living as good Jews because of Jesus," they could’ve been spared some embarassment. They were unwilling to proclaim, "the cross of Christ and not the law of Moses makes men acceptable to God."
And so the Cross was still a stumbling block to them. They wanted to play a part in the salvation process, their own and that of others.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that "The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard." The Judaizers wanted success stories, and the cross was for them a reason to be ashamed.
Next Paul relates the centrality of the Cross to himself. For him the cross is his...
II. One Reason to Boast
v. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.