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. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
The false brethren wanted to glory in others, forcing them to follow their line of thinking and practice. In contradistinction Paul says what he glories in. Although an apostle, a founder of many assemblies and father of many in the faith (I Cor. 4:15), he refused to glory in any of them or of his achievements, rather his glorying was in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. This, the fruit of a man walking in the Spirit, one who is dead to himself and his self promotion.
D9.1 The Glory
The false brethren boasted in their followers, Paul in the cross. The insistence on circumcision was clearly an attempt at ‘DIY’ salvation, it rejected the Cross as God’s only way of salvation. It was trying to do something to help God out, if we may be allowed to put it like that. Such a notion, if permitted, would mean that the flesh would have a right to glory in this vital matter of salvation. Yet the whole message of Galatians is that this is definitely not the case. Salvation is all of God, without any input from man.
So Paul’s glorying is in the Cross – God’s way of salvation, and the only way. Boasting in the cross means an end to all the flesh and and self effort. Read Paul’s very own testimony.
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Of all the people who could boast and have confidence in the flesh it was Paul, but he counted it all but loss. It was of no value, all it did was to make him a proud Jew and a persecutor of God’s people, thinking he was doing God’s service. Paul’s own righteousness was of the law. But now having come into the life of God he has the righteousness of God through the faith of Christ. Nothing of self and all of the Saviour! There is no room for anyone or anything else.
D9.2 The World
The Cross was an instrument of death, and, here Paul testifies that by being in Christ he is dead to the world and it to him. As we read in Romans this is achieved by being baptised into Christ by Spirit baptism, so that on new birth we are identified with Him. (Rom.6:3; I Cor. 12:13). This is God’s way of dealing with the human heart: death to the old and resurrection life into the new. This cannot be achieved by external observation of rules and regulations but by true faith in God. The cross brings us into the death of Christ to self, sin (Rom.6), the law (Rom.7) and, as we have here, the world.
In scripture we have a definition of what is in the world given to us by the apostle John, and we can apply this to the context of Galatians.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
I Jn. 2:15-17
We are told not to love the world, in other words we are to put any affections we have for the world to the cross. There are three qualities that John associates with the world.
D9.2a The lust of the flesh.
In the wilderness of temptation Jesus was tempted on this ground, Mtt.4:3-4. The devil wanted Him to satisfy His fleshly desires and by doing so make His flesh master. Instead Jesus resisted, stating that He only moved by His Father’s word and not that of the devil or His bodily desires. In other words Jesus was not prepared to give in to the desires of the flesh, not matter how much He suffered, if it meant disobeying His Father’s command.
These false teachers, on the other hand, would do anything to avoid suffering for the sake of the Gospel. In this case by going back, if they were ever in it in the first place, from the gospel of grace to the works of the law. Seeing what it costs to belong to Jesus, they devised cunningly devised fables to look righteous but avoid the truth, and the persecution that follows. This is one aspect of loving the world.
D9.2b The lust of the eyes.
The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offered them to Him on one condition. Mtt.4:8-10, that He would worship him. The desire to have what can be seen, unlike those of true faith who look for a kingdom that can not be seen. Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. He wasn’t looking at the temporal, but eternal. Heb.12:2
These false teachers look for a kingdom now, they want to have a following after them and offer many things to those who would go with them. They are in effect taking the place of God in people’s lives, just as Satan tried that with Jesus. What a dreadful thing it is for anyone to dare take God’s place in anyone’s life. By laying down rules, regulations and demands on how people should live is precisely what one does. It is trying to having a kingdom for oneself in the immediate and temporal, at the cost of the eternal.
D9.2c The pride of life.
By tempting Jesus to cast Himself off from the Temple and having angels to catch Him, the devil was tempting the Lord to do the spectacular. Mtt.4:5-7. Just imagine what an impact on the crowds it would have had! Just as the same cry came from the crowds when He was being crucified. Mtt.27:39-40. Jesus would, by self effort, be showing to the world who He really was, this the pride of the life. But it wasn’t His Father’s way. He resisted and was quite content to rest in His Father’s will and way.
Not so the false teachers, they gloried in the spectacular. They prided themselves in the people that they made follow them. Their boasting was in those whom they constrained to be circumcised, those whom they managed to follow their particular way of thinking. By having such crowds and seeing their outward show they persuade more to follow them, and so were enlarged in their boasting of their ‘achievements’.
D9.2d The world is crucified to me
To all this Paul was dead, he had been crucified to the world and the world to him. None of the claims of the the lusts of the eyes, flesh or pride of life meant anything. He was following the one true Master – Jesus, who resisted all the attempts of Satan to tempt Him to sin. Jesus laid down any claim and trusted His Father. Likewise Paul was crucified to all these siren voices.
We too are called to this. In order to walk by faith, and in the Spirit we have to be dead to the world and all its toys. Having being born anew in the first place the work of God has begun in us, and we are to continue and resist the temptations of the world. We have to decide whether to yield to the temptations of the lusts of the eyes, flesh and the pride of life, or be crucified to them. Jesus is our example par excellence, do we want to be identified with Him? To be like Him means to follow Him, what choice will we make?
D9.3 The new creation
The false teachers insisted that outward ritual was the way to be effective in spiritual things. However the Bible is emphatic on this point: these outward rituals are not effectual in spiritual matters, it is the new birth that avails. Circumcision, which was the false teachers’ thing, was but a symbol of this new birth Col.2:11-14. These false brethren were obsessed with the symbols and outward show, rather than the inward reality of new life and true righteousness.
How true this is of the human heart, wanting the outward show and not face the inward reality. Our discussion above can be applied to much of what goes for Christianity in these days. However the important thing is, not to point the finger but, to first search our own hearts and see that we are right with God on these matters, and to ensure that we do not fall into the same error.
D9.4 The marks
Paul says that he bore in his body the Marks of the Lord Jesus. What were these marks? It is the context of the passage that reveals to us the true meaning. Previous to this the apostle was saying that the false brethren did what they could to avoid persecution. Paul himself gloried in the cross of Jesus and on being identified with Him.
We have to conclude then that Paul is referring to him being persecuted for the sake of the gospel. This [brand] marking has nothing to do with the superstitious ‘stigmata’ of certain religions, albeit that the word ‘stigmata’ comes from the Greek word used here. Paul is plainly telling us that the sufferings he endued as one of Christ’s apostles are the marks that he has for following Christ, rather than the marks the false brethren boasted of in the flesh of others.
In other passages of the NT we read of Paul being stoned, flogged, shipwrecked etc. II Cor. 11:21-27. The false brethren were trying to place their mark in other people’s flesh, rather than they having the sign of the cross in theirs. Jesus said that if the world hated Him then His followers too would be hated by the world. Jn.18:16-20. Hence the use of Paul’s word ‘[brand] marks’.
The brand mark of the true believer is being identified with Jesus and with all that it may entail. It can be no other way for we are crucified to it, and it to us. The world and its system no longer has any sway of us, we are in a different realm altogether.
Jesus identified Himself with us by His incarnation, life and death. Are we willing to be identified with Him or the world?