Study 34: Gal. 5:7-12
Throughout this epistle we have laid emphasis on the basic message: the flesh or Spirit? The Galatians were upbraided for falling back into the flesh, for following the false brethren, after having made a good start in the Spirit. Paul has shown that the flesh and Spirit are mutually exclusive, and now he mentions the cross, he calls it an offence, or in the literal translation a scandal. Why? Because the Cross is God's way, it cuts off all works of the flesh, it leaves no room for any to boast.
When Moses was commissioned by God he objected to the call by saying that his people wouldn't believe him, so God gave him a series of signs to prove himself in front of the nation of Israel. Moses was to take a rod throw it down and take it up once it had changed into a snake after which it became a rod once more; then he was to put his hand into his bosom, it then became leprous and then changed back to normal; and finally to pour river water onto the ground, which then changed into blood Ex. 4:1-9. To us in the NC these are highly symbolic speaking of Christ's redemptive work, but to Israel it was sign that God was with them.
In Jesus' day they were looking for a Messiah that would deliver them from the oppression of the Romans, just as God delivered them from Pharaoh. So surely it would not be unreasonable to expect miraculous signs? Jesus performed miracles, but it seems they took no account of them. Jesus called them an adulterous generation, their hearts were after the wrong things; they were wanting deliverance from Rome, that is things of the flesh, whereas Jesus came to deliver from a greater bondage- sin. Everything in scripture had been pointing to that end: God sending His dear Son to die for the sins of the world.
The signs to Israel in Exodus were of the rod and serpent, symbolising the cross defeating Satan; the hand becoming leprous and then restored, signifying the making whole of the sinner from the curse of sin; and finally the water becoming blood, showing the poured out life of Jesus and the shedding of His precious blood for the whole world.
The Jews in looking for signs missed the whole point of them, they pointed to the one who would come and die for the sins of the world. What we do have is John telling us that the miracles Jesus actually performed were signs that people should believe on Him as the Son of God in order to receive eternal life. Jn. 20:31
Jesus said, in response to the Pharisee's request is that no sign would be given expect the sign of Jonah. Here He was referring to the typology of Jonah in that he was in the whale's belly three days and nights. This symbolising the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. ( for further consideration of this see Jesus greater than..) Once more we see that all these signs were pointing to the great redeeming work of the Cross. What the Jews apparently did was to concentrate on the signs and miss what they were pointing to:- Jesus and His great work of salvation. They were concentrating on the outward, that is the flesh, and not the Spirit.
scandal. Originally it was the name given to part of a snare to which the bait was attached, and eventually became the name for the trap itself. The word is translated stumbling block in Rom.11:9 ( quoting Ps.69:22); Rev.2:14 & Mtt.16:23. These scriptures show that the word scandal is used metaphorically as something that stumbles or traps people causing causing them to fall by the way.
In this case the application is to the Jews and the Cross. The Jews wanted signs, and the most important sign to them was circumcision, so much that they were willing to do it on a Sabbath day! (see Jn.7:22-24). As we have already discussed circumcision was the sign by which one was seen to be in the OC. By circumcision the Jews thought they were saved, and this is the teaching that the false teachers tried bringing into the early church; but God's way is the way of the cross. Salvation is only by the Cross of Jesus Christ, without the Cross no one can be saved. All this is contrary to the Jewish thinking. They insisted on circumcision for salvation, thus missing the substance because of their worship of the symbol. And this is true of all legalisms, the outward forms eventually become objects of worship. Circumcision only symbolised the work of the cross in a person's heart, as we saw in a previous study.
So when God replaced the shadow with the reality that which the Jews held dear had to go. By insisting on circumcision being necessary for salvation people deny the Cross, and by accepting the Cross as God's method is to deny circumcision. The Cross is of the Spirit, circumcision is of the flesh. The cross means denying all the ways of the flesh, so unless once renounces them one can not be saved. No wonder the Cross of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews; it means they have to give up all their carnal religion, and trust exclusively on the work of the Lord at Calvary. The cross cuts right across the works of the flesh, it means an end of all methods of pleasing God, and to trust only on His way - the way of the Cross.
Eph. 2:1. So when a person is born again they are crucified with Christ, that is they are brought into His death and are cut off from sin, and everything associated with it. The cross is God's power, it is His means by which salvation is applied.
Here are some scriptures on the subject, made without further comment. The order is of no particular significance, and the list by no means exhaustive.
3.1 By the cross He paid the penalty for sin
3.2 By the Cross He destroyed the powers of darkness
3.3 By the Cross He destroyed the devil
3.4 By the Cross He brings death to the old man
|Wherefore, my brethren, ye
also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ;
that ye should
be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we
should bring forth fruit unto God.
|And they that are
Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the
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.