GLORYING IN THE CROSS
"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." -- Galatians 6:14
What does Paul mean by the cross?
He is not talking about the historic fact that Christ died upon the cross. The knowledge of that fact, though it is necessary to salvation, is not salvation. Neither is Paul referring to the literal, wooden cross upon which Christ died. He was not an idolater, a worshipper of religious relics. He knew that there was no superstitious, spiritual value in that piece of wood. And he certainly is not suggesting that we glory in some sign, symbol, representation, or form of the cross.
When Paul speaks of the cross, he is talking about the glorious, soul saving doctrine of the cross, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is talking about blood atonement (Rom. 5:6-11), legal propitiation (Rom. 3:24-26), substitutionary redemption (2 Cor. 5:18-21), and free justification (Rom. 5:19).
As it is used here, in Galatians 6:14, and as it is commonly used in the Epistles of the New Testament, the word “cross” refers to the gospel of Christ. Pagans glory in religious relics. Idolaters glory in religious images, signs, and symbols. Ignorant people glory in religious feelings, emotions, and experiences. God’s people glory in the gospel of Christ, not in the “old rugged cross” the sentimentalists sing about, but the old, old story of redeeming blood. We glory in that which is the revelation of the glory of God.
How did Paul glory in the cross?
The word "glory" means to exalt, to boast of, and to rejoice in. Paul exalted, boasted of, and rejoiced in the sin atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cursed tree. He exalted the doctrine of the cross as the only theme of Holy Scripture and the singular subject of his preaching (1 Cor. 2:2; 9:16). He saw "Christ crucified" as the whole counsel of God, the message of all the types, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament, the basis of hope for sinners, the motive of all godliness, and the message he was sent to proclaim.
This man rejoiced in the cross, the gospel of Christ, as the only grounds of his confident hope before God. He trusted Christ alone as his Savior (Phil. 3:3; 1 Cor. 1:30). He counted all his religious works, knowledge, and experiences to be nothing but dung, that he might be found in Christ, robed in his righteousness and washed in his blood.
And he preached the cross, boasting of Christ's death as the only means of reconciliation to and acceptance with God, the only means of salvation for guilty sinners (Gal. 2:21). If righteousness cannot be gained by man's obedience to the law of God (And it cannot!), then no man can be saved by anything else he might do. Nothing can save a man's soul, nothing can bring a sinner to God, nothing can make a sinner acceptable in the sight of God but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” that makes it possible for the holy Lord God to be both “a just God and a Savior.” It is the cross of Christ that makes it possible for God to be both “just and Justifier.” Sinners have hope before God only because of “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore saved sinners rejoice to say with the Apostle, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”