Study 34: Gal. 5:7-12

The  Cross

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?  This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.  I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.  And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence  (=scandal/stumbling block) of the cross ceased  I would they were even cut off which trouble you.


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.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:  That no flesh should glory in his presence.  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

I Cor. 1:17-31

1. A sign

The Jews required a sign, as  was  the  case of the  Pharisees and scribes. And in the context of our  thoughts, Jesus' answer is revealing.

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.  But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

Mtt. 12: 38

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.

2. A  scandal

So then the signs were all  pointing to the great work at Calvary. So why did Paul call the cross  an offence?  The word in the Greek is 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.

3. The power of God

Paul in the Corinthian letter calls the Cross the power of God. It is God's method of salvation. It brings death to old way of life. In scripture death is a separation from life. When Adam and Eve fell they died spiritually, that is because of sin, they were cut off from the life of God. Paul describes it as being dead in trespasses and sin. 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

Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.


3.2  By the Cross He destroyed the powers of darkness

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:


3.3  By the Cross He destroyed the devil

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;


3.4  By the Cross He brings  death to the old man

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.


3.5  By the Cross we become dead to the Law

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.


3.6  By the Cross the flesh is crucified

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.


3.7  By the Cross  we are crucified to  the  world,  and it to us

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.

Gal. 6:14

4. Conclusion

There are two hindrances: that which  the false teachers introduce  in the path of the believer, this is of the flesh and those believers not keeping their eyes on Jesus will stumble  in the race. Then there is the  Cross, which  is God's stumbling block to all those  who  insist on living  in the flesh. The Cross cuts off  the works of the  flesh  all together, and is  the all sufficient and ONLY answer to man's need; it leaves no room for any work of the flesh, whether it be religious systems, legalisms or whatever  hence the Cross is an  offence  to any who trust in these things.  

The hindrance that the Galatians endured from these false brethren was not their fault, neither was it from God, yet Paul was confident that the Galatians would not yield them, but that the Spirit of God in them will guide them aright. If we listen to the Spirit and not to the flesh, we too will not yield to the hindrances of the false teachers.