Summary: Let us never become so mature in Christ that we forget the foundation of the Cross upon which our salvation rests.
Gazing at the Cross, Galatians 6:12-18
On the anvil of the Cross, human sin is crushed and God’s love displayed. On the anvil of the Cross new lives are forged as we are reborn in Christ. On the anvil of the Cross Satan’s power is destroyed.
It is told of a famous smith of medieval times that, having been taken prisoner and immured in a dungeon, he began to examine the chain that bound him with a view to discovering some flaw that might make it easier to break it. His hope was in vain, for he found from some marks upon it that it was his own workmanship. It had been his boast that none could break a chain that he had forged. Thus it is with the sinner. His own hands have forged the chain that binds him, a chain that no human hand can break.
On the anvil of the Cross the chains that we have made through our constant comprise and entanglement with the world. Unbelievers are bound in chains of which they are blissfully unaware. Not knowing the power of Satan he lulls them into the worship of a thousand false gods, most of which reside on the altar of self. Sadly, many believers are not in an entirely different state.
Though having received Christ we make constant concessions with the world; internally denying the power of the Cross and outwardly making peace with a world system that we are supposed to be at war with.
In Philippians 3:18-21 the Apostle writes: “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (NIV84)
CIT/CIS: Turn away from pleasing the world and look only to the Cross.
A. Historical Context
a. Jewish Synagogues coexisted in safety with little proselytizing.
b. Jewish Converts wished to retain neutrality by downplaying the Cross and easing the conscience of the world. (v.12-13)
c. The Cross was seen as a vile and shameful death in the ancient world.
d. Paul knew this and boasted in the Cross nonetheless. (v.14)
B. The Church today, when it makes of itself merely a benevolent institution with little proselytizing, avoids persecution.
C. When we downplay the Cross and remain neutral in the eyes of the world we make of the Cross a shameful thing and dishonor Christ.
D. The Cross is the most “revoltingly beautiful” object in history.
a. Gazing at it we see the ugliness of our sin: this is what it took to save.
b. Gazing at it we see the depth of love God has for us.
c. Gazing at it we see the seriousness of our need for change.
d. Gazing at it we see that we are free from sin and shame: Christ did it all for us.
E. Boast in the Cross. Lift it high. It is our greatest treasure and deepest joy!
A. Beginning at verse 12 the Apostle Paul highlights a very interesting historical dynamic that gives a great deal more meaning to this passage. The ancient heathen and Roman world was largely latitudinarian. That is they welcomed all gods to be worshipped alongside other gods.
Though the Roman pantheon of gods had a sort of hierarchy they saw little difference between the worship of this god from that city or that god from a far off land. The only catch was that if called upon for some reason to worship a different god that you were willing to do it; say upon entering a city with a certain patriarchal god. In this way they were similar to modern Universalists.
The only catch was that they didn’t accept any exclusive claims on the part of any of these gods and if a king or emperor demanded worship you had to be willing to do that too. There was one exception to these religious rules: Judaism.
Jews had been allowed to worship only Yahweh so long as they did not actively promote their faith to non-Jews. They lived in relative peace alongside pagans.
When the Christians came along they were perceived by many pagans to be little more than an offshoot of Judaism. You and I know that to be a radical distortion of the case but that was the early perception.
“The Jewish teachers thought that, if they made all Christian converts Jewish proselytes, they would secure Christianity from persecution. They did not want to be persecuted for the cross. They wanted to avail themselves of the toleration of Judaism and merge Christianity in it. An emasculated Christianity might escape the persecution which, in its naked simplicity, it was fitted to secure. It was a policy of compromise, begotten of cowardice and fear. Pride went along with it. It would be a grand thing to count up so many converts to Judaism and glory in the growth of circumcision. It was a selfish stroke under the guise of philanthropy.”