Sermon on Galatians 6:12-16
Text: Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 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. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule — to the Israel of God.
Think back to your days on the school playground. How many times didn’t you hear one child tell another that they were better than them in something? “I can run faster than you.” “I can throw farther than you.” “I can make more baskets than you.” This would often be followed by the child, who was challenged, denying that it was true. We may smile at those childhood boasts, but the fact of the matter is, we still feel those competitive juices flowing throughout our lives. We may even boast, at least a little, about how we are that much better than someone else. These may all be harmless enough boasts, but there is one area in which we can never boast. That is in regard to our salvation. This morning, we want to look at BOASTING 1. Never In Ourselves, but 2. Always In The Cross Of Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to a group of Christians in the region of Galatia, which is in the central part of modern-day Turkey. They were being troubled by a group known as the Judaizers. They were Jews who had been brought to faith in Jesus. However, they did not want to lose their Jewish heritage. They still held the Law of Moses in high regard. So, they taught that, in addition to believing in Jesus as your Savior, you still had to adhere to the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Not only did they follow this teaching, but they also insisted that any Gentile that was brought to faith had to follow all of the Old Testament ceremonial laws, as well. The entirety of this letter by Paul is dedicated to combatting this false teaching. You can see this in the opening verses of this epistle: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6&7)
Our text for this morning comes from the closing verses of this letter. However, the tone is the same. Pauli highlights the fact that these Judaizers were being dishonest in their reasons for insisting that the Old Testament Laws be followed. “Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” (Verse 12) When these Jewish Christians were confronted by their Jewish countrymen for turning Christian and leading others to Christianity, they were able to defend themselves by saying, “No, we don’t let these Gentile converts bypass Judaism. They are adherents to the Laws of Moses, as you can tell from their accepting circumcision.” They didn’t want be persecuted by their fellow countrymen. Paul shows that these Judaizers were being morally dishonest.
What’s more, Paul says, they are hypocrites. “Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.” (Verse 13) Paul is indignant that these people, who don’t strictly keep the ceremonies themselves, should demand that the Gentiles do so. They told the Gentiles that they still had to follow all of the Old Testament laws. However, they weren’t practicing what they preached. The Judaizers not only wanted to insulate themselves from persecution, but they also wanted to look good in the process. They wanted to be able to boast about their accomplishments when it came to their salvation.
This is a very tempting thing for us to do, as well. We may think of our heritage. Our family has been in this church for many years. Look at all of the things I do for the congregation. We compare our lives to those around us. When we hear people talking in an inappropriate way, we think to ourselves that we would never talk that way. We see someone doing something that is wrong and we pat ourselves on the back, because we would never dream of doing the same. There is that part of us that tells us that God got someone special in us. It even hints that, perhaps, in some way or another, God owes us something.
However, as we are reminded in Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Even the best things that we might do on our own are all tainted with sin. That is because all of us are born sinful. There is absolutely nothing good about us on our own. Not only are we born sinful, but we sin every single day. There is no way that we could ever come before God with the good things that we do and claim that God owes an eternity in heaven. When it comes to our salvation, we have absolutely nothing in ourselves and in our actions to boast of. If anything, we should hang our heads in shame.
There is only one place that we can boast. Paul tell us in verse 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.” It is only in the cross of Christ that we can boast; for it was there that our salvation was brought about. On the cross, Jesus sacrificed his perfect life to pay the debt of sin that we owed to our God. Just think what took place on that cross. God’s own perfect Son was there on that cross. He never sinned. Never once did he say or do or even think one thing that was contrary to his Father’s will. He was perfect. He did not deserve what took place on that cross. Beyond the physical suffering that he endured, which was more than we probably will ever experience, there was the spiritual suffering. Jesus was suffering the torments of hell. His own Father turned his back on him. We hear the anguish in his voice as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 26:46) We know the reason for this abandonment. It was because of our sins. Our just God said that sins had to be paid for. Rather than exacting the price from us, who deserved it, God punished his Son in our place. All of our sins were forgiven because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Our filthy rags have been exchanged for the glorious garment of Christ’s righteousness. Clothed in this, sinners are forgiven, at peace with God and assured of an eternity of bliss with God in heaven. While we are not able to boast about our works, when it comes to our salvation, we have every reason to boast about what Christ has done for us. Well might we all resolve with Paul, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” May we never boast in anything else; but also may we always boast in the cross and boast in it alone. We boast in what Christ has done for our salvation.
The day that we were brought to faith, we received the benefits of what Christ did for us. Also, on that day, we were changed. Paul speaks of the fact that we are a “new creation.” (Verse 15) What was does this new creation look like? What does it mean? In speaking of the cross of Christ, Paul notes “through which (Christ’s cross) the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Verse 14) I am a new creation that wants to live in a way that gives honor and glory to God in thanksgiving for all that he has done for me. As a result, I no longer want to follow the temptations that the world places in front of me. I see these temptations for what they are: a life of slavery. The day that we were brought to faith, a part of us was put to death. That part of us was the sinful nature that wants us to disobey God. Now, I am a new creation. I want to live in a way that thanks God for all that he has done for me. This is a Paul wrote in Galatians 5:6, “faith expressing itself through love.” In this regard, we can also boast. It is not, “Look at what I am doing.” Rather, it is “Look at what God has done for me. I get this opportunity to thank him.” We want our entire lives to point to Christ and we thank him for all that he has done for us.
Going back to those childhood boasts, they were all fine and good, until someone took us up on our boast. A race was run and we didn’t win. Our challenger threw the ball father than we could. When push came to shove, our boasting didn’t hold up. We weren’t as good as we thought we were. This is even truer when it comes to spiritual matters. Though our sinful nature likes to point out how good we are, God’s law shows us that we aren’t as good as we think. We have failed when it comes to obtaining God’s heaven on our own. However, God’s gospel points us to the one who was good to his word. Jesus Christ came to be the world’s Savior he did what he said he would do. We praise him for his wondrous love that he showed to us on the cross and in his resurrection. Because of what Christ has done for us, we join our voices with Paul in saying, “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.” Amen.
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