MARCH 22, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard C. Meyer

Play Audio


            This is our final message in our Wintering in Galatia sermon series. Weve been studying the book of Galatians together since the beginning of the year. Up until now, Paul has dictated the letter through a scribe, but today things change.  He takes the pen from his scribe and writes the rest of the letter himself.  Listen to what he writes. 


            See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!      


            Now lets pause here a moment and ask the obvious question: Why the large letters? Some people guess that its because of Pauls bad eyesight. Thats possible. If his eyesight was failing he needed to write large enough to see what he was writing, but its also possible that Paul is taking the pen in hand at the end of this letter and underlining and highlighting his central message. Think of it as bold print!                                          Lets continue reading.  Verse 12, and as we do note the familiar words and themes he addresses in his summarizing remarks words like circumcision, the law, the flesh.


            It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised - only those that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.  May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by with the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.  For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! As for those who follow this rule - peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.


            That last phrase, the Israel of God, well, its the only time Paul uses it and its the only time it appears in the New Testament. The Israel of God are all those who affirm Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, both those who have been circumcised and those who have not been circumcised, both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.  Its not circumcision that makes one part of the Israel of God, its faith in Jesus that makes a person a part of the Israel of God.  Lets finish up.  Verse 17


            From now on, let not one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus on my body. 


            I smile at Pauls spunkiness here.  He uses his sharp mind to take a parting shot at those pushing for circumcision.  He says, If you are going to have marks on your body, why not have some that have resulted from your battle for the gospel?  You may wish be stamped as a son of Israel, but I want to be marked as belonging to Jesus - and here are my markings. 

            I watched a lot of westerns growing up.  When a child, I called them cowboy movies.  I watched Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, John Wayne, the Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger.  I watched them all, and every now and again they had a cattle branding scene where the owner of the cattle would put his brand on his cattle.  And if you were caught with cattle with the wrong brand in your herd, well you were in deep weeds.

            Something like that was done to human beings in Biblical times. In New Testament times, slaves were marked with visible signs which indicated to whom they belonged. Historians tell us that some slaves were marked by a brand on the forehead, some by a tattoo on the wrist, and as strange as this may sound to us today, another mark of slavery was the pierced ear. In the time of the early church, slavery and the markings of slavery were common, familiar and accepted practices.

            It is in this context that Paul writes, From now on, let no one make trouble for me (that is, let no one question my apostleship); for I carry the marks of Jesus on my body.  In other words, he pointed to the physical scars on his body from all the beatings he took for the gospel, and said, Look! Cant you see? Its as plain as day I am the slave of Christ! I bear on my body the marks of Jesus! He is my Lord and Master! I belong to him heart and soul! As surely as you can look at a group of slaves and tell by their markings to whom they belong, you can look at me and see by my markings that I am the slave of Christ. I bear on my body the marks of Jesus!

            And Paul finishes his letter in the same way he began it, with an emphasis on God's grace. Verse 18


            May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters.  Amen.


            Thats the letter.  Weve worked our way through it, and with Easter and Holy Week around the corner, I want to focus our attention on one verse.  Verse 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. 

            Two thousand years ago the cross was nothing about which to boast. In fact, the cross was grossly offensive to the three major cultures of Pauls day. To the Romans the cross was so despicable that Cicero, the orator and statesman, who died in 43 B.C., wrote: Even the mere word cross must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears. To the Jews crucifixion was the same as hanging, and the Old Testament said that he who is hanged is accursed of God (Deut. 21:23). To the Greeks the cross was nonsense. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul said that the cross to the Greeks was foolishness.

            So why would anyone boast in the cross?  Three reasons come to mind.               First, we boast in the cross because of the person who died on the cross. You see, it is not the cross that makes Christ so special, it is Christ who makes the cross so special.

            Dr. Harry Rimmer was a great Christian scientist who lived many years ago. He was lecturing in a college and he encouraged the students to ask questions. It was during the season of Lent and a young Jewish man asked, What did Jesus Christ do that no one else ever did?

            Dr. Rimmer replied, Son, I understand that you are a Jew. I assume that you know the early history of your people, and you know that Titus, Pilate, and the old Roman emperors crucified some thirty thousand young Jews.

            The Jewish student said, That is correct. There were some thirty thousand young Jews put to death.

            Dr. Rimmer said, Well, Im going to name one of those Jews and you name another. I name Jesus Christ. Now, young man, you name one of the other thirty thousand whom they crucified.

             The young Jewish man said, Well, I dont know the name of another one.

            Do you know why we remember one name when we cant remember the other twenty-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine? Because Jesus Christ is the only one who died for our sins!

            You see, the Lord Jesus turned the cross from a symbol of guilt into a symbol of glory. He transformed it from a beam of execution into a balm of salvation. Oh, it is not the cross that is so wonderful, it is Christ on the cross that is so amazing.

            Second, we boast in the cross because through the cross Gods love is amplified. Many times people look at the newspaper, read the magazines, listen to their television; they see earthquakes, murders, rapes, stabbings, killings, assassinations, bombings, thievery, and the like, and they say: Where is the love of God, and where is the God of love? Do you know why they cannot find the love of God? They are looking in the wrong place.

            The cross is all we ever need to know that no matter what else happens in this world, God loves us. The Apostle John said, In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).  Paul in his letter to the Romans said said, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (5:8).

            A little girl was looking up on the communion table in her church, and she saw the cross up there. This little girl who had just started to school, said, Mommy, what is that plus sign doing up there on the table? Well, that little girl was right. The cross is Gods plus sign, telling you and me that God is for us, that God loves us, and loves us so much He sent His Son to die in order to put us right with God.

            As someone else said, It was at the cross that humankind did its worst to God, but God did his best for humankind.

            Then, finally, we boast in the cross because of the power demonstrated by the cross.

            We have three enemies as Christians: an internal foe called the flesh, an external foe called the world, and an infernal foe called the Old Redlegs, but through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ we have power over all three.  Listen to Pauls words one more time. Chapter five, verse 24 and those who belong to Christ Jesus (I trust that is just about everyone here) have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Also, note Pauls statement again in chapter six, verse 14 the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

            There was an old holiness preacher named Uncle Buddy Robinson. He went to see New York City and was shown all the sights and sounds by some friends of his. He saw the night life, he saw the jet setters, he saw the party crowd. That night he got back to his hotel room, turned on the light, went over to his bed, knelt down and said, Thank you Lord for letting me see New York City, and most of all I thank you that I didnt see anything that I wanted!

            Well, we might still want some of those things, but over time, all that will dissipate. As people didnt die the moment they were put on the cross some lasted for hours even days well, not everything of the world dies the moment we gave our lives to Christ, but it is dying.  The things of the world have been crucified to us.  Because of the cross they dont have the same power over us as they once did.

            In short, we boast in the cross because thats the only hope for us and for a hurting and often horrible world.  Amen.