Christ Crucified, Our Boast
Education for Exultation: In the Cross
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
Exulting in Nothing but the Cross
Education for education — in the cross. Exultation in the cross of Christ. That is very strange. Like: exultation in the electric chair. Exultation in the gas chamber. Exultation in the lethal injection. Exultation in the lynching rope. That is very strange: exultation in the cross. But that is exactly what is being said here in verse 14: "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." And that word boast is translated elsewhere as "exult." May it never be that I would "exult" except in the cross of our Lord Jesus. Exultation in the cross.
So Paul states one utterly essential part of our vision in education for exultation, namely, we must educate for the sake of exulting in the cross.
But that's not quite right, is it? — that exulting, or boasting, in the cross is one essential part of the vision — alongside other things. Paul says, "May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." No boasting except in the cross! No exultation except in the cross. Not: the cross is one essential thing you boast in alongside others. No! No boasting except in the cross of Jesus. No boasting alongside it.
What does that mean, that here must be no boasting — no exultation — except boasting and exulting in the cross of Christ?
But Doesn't Paul Tell Us to Boast in Other Things Also?
This word for "boasting" or "exulting" was used in the last text that we wrestled with in Romans 5:2, 3, 11. Romans 5:2, "We exult in hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:3, "Not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations." Romans 5:11, "And not only this, but we also exult in God." 2 Corinthians 12:9, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses." So what does Paul mean — that he would not "boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"? No boasting except in the cross!
He means that, for the Christian, all boasting should be a boasting in the cross. All exultation should be exultation in the cross. If you exult in the hope of glory, let it be an exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in tribulation because tribulation works hope, let it be an exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in God, you are exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in your weaknesses, let it be an exulting in the cross of Christ.
Why is this the case? Because for redeemed sinners, every good thing — indeed every bad thing that God turns for good — was obtained for us by the cross of Christ. Apart from the death of Christ, sinners get nothing but judgment. Apart from the cross of Christ, there is only condemnation. Therefore, everything that you enjoy in Christ — everything you boast in, everything you exult in — is owing to the death of Christ. And all your exultation in other things is to be an exultation in the cross where all your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of Christ's life.
Every blessing in life is meant to magnify the cross of Christ. Or to say it another way, every good thing in life (and every bad thing that God turns for good) is meant to magnify Christ and him crucified. So, for example, we totaled our 1991 Dodge Spirit last week, but nobody was hurt. And in that safety I exult. I glory in that. But why was nobody hurt? That was a gift to me and my family that none of us deserves. We are sinners and, by nature, children of wrath apart from Christ. So how did we come to have such a gift for our good? Answer: Christ died for our sins on the cross and took away the wrath of God from us and secured for us, even though we don't deserve it, God's omnipotent grace that works everything together for our good. So when I exult in our safety, I am exulting in the cross of Christ.
And the insurance paid us about $2800 for the car and Noel took that money and went to Iowa and bought a '91 Chevy and drove it home in the snow yesterday. And now we have a car again. And I exult in the amazing grace of so much bounty. Just like that. You wreck your car. You come out unhurt. Insurance pays up. You get another one. And move on almost as if nothing happened. And in thanks I bow my head and exult in the untold mercies even of these little material things. Where do all these mercies come from? If you are a saved sinner, a believer in Jesus, they come through the cross. Apart from the cross, there is only judgment. Therefore, every gift is a blood-bought gift. And all boasting — all exultation — is boasting in the cross.
Woe to me if I exult in any blessing unless my exulting is an exulting in the cross of Christ.
The Glory of Christ in All Things
This means that the cross of Christ is utterly pervasive in our vision of education for exaltation. The cross is not one piece among many. No. Galatians 6:14 will not let us think of it that way. "May it never be that I would boast (glory, exult), except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Only in the cross. Only in the cross. No boasting. No exulting. No rejoicing. No thanksgiving. Except in the cross. Why? Because every dream dreamed for the future of this church, and every hope-filled meeting held, and every plan formed, and every notebook filled, and every dollar given, and every brick laid, and every student taught, is blood-bought mercy for us redeemed sinners because apart from the cross all we deserve is condemnation. And therefore, every exultation, every thanksgiving, every boast, every joy is in the cross.
Another way to say this is that the design of the cross is the glory of Christ in all things. The aim of God in the cross is that Christ would be honored in all things. When Paul says in Galatians 6:14, "May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ," he is saying that God's will is that the cross be always magnified — that Christ crucified always be our boast and exultation and our joy and our praise — that the crucified Christ get glory and thanks and honor for every good thing in our lives — and every bad thing that God causes to turn for good.
But now here's a question: if that is the aim of God in the death of Christ — namely, that "Christ crucified" be honored and glorified for all things — then how is Christ to get the glory he deserves? The answer is that children and youth and adults have to be taught that these things are so. Or to say it another way: the source of exultation in the cross of Christ is education about the cross of Christ.
That's my job: to get glory for Jesus by teaching you these things. And then your job is to get more glory for Jesus by acting on them and teaching them to more people. Education about Jesus is for exultation in Jesus. And if we want there to be no exultation except in the cross, then we must pursue education about the cross — and under the cross.
Or maybe we should say, "on the cross." Education on the cross will lead to exultation of the cross. What do I mean?
Crucified with Christ
Look at the rest of verse 14: "May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Boasting in the cross happens when you are on the cross. Is that not what verse 14 says? The world has been crucified to me, and I have been crucified to the world. The world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world. Why? Because I have been crucified. We learn to boast in the cross and exult in the cross when we are on the cross.
Now what does that mean? When did that happen? When were you crucified? The answer is in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." When Christ died, we died. The glorious meaning of the death of Christ is that when he died all his own died in him. That death, that he died for us all, takes effect as our death when we are united to Christ by faith.
But you may say, "Aren't I alive? I feel alive." Well, here is a need for education. We must learn what happened to us. We must be taught these things. That is why Galatians 2:20 and 6:14 are in the Bible. God is teaching us what happened to us, so that we can know ourselves and know his way of working with us and exult in him and in his Son and in the cross as we ought.
So we read Galatians 2:20 again to see that, yes, we are dead and, yes, we are alive. "I have been crucified with Christ [so I am dead, and he goes on]; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me [Why? Because I died, that is, my old rebellious, unbelieving self died]; and the life which I now live in the flesh [so, yes, I am alive, but it isn't the same "I" as the "I" who died] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." In other words, the "I" who lives is the new "I" of faith. The new creation lives. The believer lives. The old self died on the cross with Jesus.
And if you ask, "What's the key for linking up with this reality? How can this be mine?" the answer is implied in the words about faith in Galatians 2:20. "The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God." That is the link. God links you to his Son by faith. And when he does, there is a union with the Son of God so that his death becomes your death and his life becomes your life.
Now take all that over to Galatians 6:14, "May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Don't boast in anything except in the cross.
Dead to the World
And how can you become that radically cross-centered — so that all your exultation is traced back to the cross? Answer: realize that when Christ died on the cross, you died; and when you trusted him, that death took effect in your life. Paul says, it's your death to the world and the world's death to you.
Meaning: when you put your trust in Christ your bondage to the world is broken, and the overpowering lure of the world is broken. You are a corpse to the world, and the world is a corpse to you. Or to put it positively, according to verse 15, you are a "new creation." The old you is dead. A new you is alive. And the new you is the you of faith. And what faith exults in is not the world, but Christ, and especially, Christ crucified.
This is how you become so cross-centered that you say with Paul, "I will not boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." The world is no longer my treasure. It's not the source of my life and my satisfaction and my joy. Christ is.
But what about safety in the car accident? What about the insurance payment? Didn't you say you were happy about that? Isn't that the world? So are you dead to the world?
I could be. I hope I am. Because being dead to the world doesn't mean going out of the world. And it doesn't mean not feeling things about the world — some negative and some positive (1 John 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:3). It means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ's Calvary love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. We are dead to insurance payments when the money is not what satisfies, but Christ crucified, the Giver, satisfies. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.That is the goal of education for exultation — in the cross. O may God grant us to dream and plan and work and give and teach and live for the glory of Christ and him crucified!