Summary: 1) Power: to free people from the world’s bondage, 2) Power: do what the flesh cannot do, & 3)Power: to bring salvation.
I had an interesting event happen this week that perhaps you can relate to. In performing a martial arts drill I was instructed to hit a pad while an opponent was instructed to push me off balance. All went well until one of the pushes caused me to spin around and at the exact same time another individual bumped into me sending me spinning and twisting backwards. Unfortunately the result is a marked up and sprained ankle.
Besides being a literal pain to move, it continues to change color. In some twisted way (pardon the pun), I was proud of this new marked up ankle for a few minutes. The fascination and boasting quickly ended, because the end result is an ankle that cannot support weight. Should I try to put undue weight on it, it collapses.
The Judaizers of Galatia likewise put all their weight in their works. Their works, like all human effort, cannot bear the weight of divine perfection required for standing before God. Their boast in the flesh (Gal. 6:13) is such a dangerous practice that Paul exposes the folly:
Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (ESV)
But far be it from me /May it never be translates mē genoito, a strong negative that carries the idea of virtual impossibility. He uses it here to tell the Galatians that it was inconceivable for him even to think of boasting in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The common anthropological assumptions of Greek philosophy and Hellenistic culture, not unlike those of the modern cult of self-esteem, greatly valued all forms of human assertiveness as badges of excellence, strength, and virtue (from the Latin virtus, meaning “manliness” or “worth”). Physical prowess (cf. Augustine’s recollection of how his pagan father Patricius used to take pride in showing off his well-formed adolescent son in the public baths), military feats, oratorical abilities, intellectual acumen, political power, monetary success, social status—all these were things to be proud of and to glory in.
Paul, however, chose something utterly despicable, contemptible, and valueless as the basis of his own boasting—the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For two thousand years the cross has been so variously and beautifully represented in Christian iconography and symbolism that it is almost impossible for us to appreciate the sense of horror and shock that must have greeted the apostolic proclamation of a crucified Redeemer.
Quote: Clarence Jordan helps a little when he paraphrases this verse: “God forbid that I should ever take pride in anything, except in the lynching of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Cotton Patch).
Actually the Latin word crux was regarded as an expression so crude no polite Roman would utter it in public.
In order to get around this difficulty, the Romans devised a euphemistic circumlocution, “Hang him on the unlucky tree” (arbori infelici suspendito) (Bruce, Galatians, 271, quoting Cicero, Pro Rabirio, 13.) The Greeks also found the cross disgusting. While they revered the human body as a thing of utmost beauty, the cross mangled and shamed it. The Jews, as noted in Gal 3:13, considered the cross a curse. (Boles, Kenneth L.: Galatians & Ephesians. Joplin, Mo. : College Press, 1993 (The College Press NIV Commentary), S. Ga 6:14)