Have you ever had your words twisted by someone? They accuse you of saying something that you never meant to say. It’s not a new thing. The Apostle Paul had to deal with it as well.
In the early church there were a group of people preaching that to be a good Christian, you needed to obey the Law of Moses. In order to give themselves some credibility, they said that Paul was preaching the same message.
Look at what the Apostle has to say about them.
Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
The fact is that Paul was being persecuted for preaching about our freedom in Christ. The Judaizers followed him from city to city, stirring up riots and dissension. That in itself should have proven that his message was different than theirs.
He says that if he was preaching the Law, then the offense or scandal of the cross would have been rendered null or idle. What does he mean by that?
In simple terms, it’s the cross that gives us our freedom. It may not sound like that on the surface. I’m convinced that we’ve missed the full impact of the cross. We’re taught misconceptions and partial truths.
I’ve heard those who try to make it so hard to serve Christ. They explain how Jesus said that in order to follow Him, we need to carry our cross (Luke 9:23-24, 14:27). What they fail to mention is that He said this before He went to the cross.
So we were to pick up our cross, follow Christ to His cross, then to the grave, and then to the resurrection. We are to identify with Him from death to life. The cross was simply the doorway to the resurrection!
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
I don’t know what this sounds like to you; but it sounds like life, victory, and freedom in Christ to me. The Law does not reign over me. I need to submit to the Holy Spirit, not a written code of behavior.
That’s the offense of the cross. It offends the self-righteous to be told, “No matter what you do, you’re not good enough.” They like to think that their “holy” lifestyle is winning God’s approval.
The Apostle Paul has very little tolerance for these people. I believe that the NKJV does a better job of translating Galatians 5:12 than the NIV.
I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
Galatians 5:12 (NKJV)
This is kind of a play on words in the Greek. The word, trouble, literally means to force out or remove from home. So Paul is saying that he wished the ones who were removing you from your place of rest in Christ would actually remove themselves.
Knowing the full message of the cross brings freedom in knowing who we are in Christ. You can’t cling to both the cross and the Law. They’re mutually exclusive. As for me, I choose the freedom of the cross of Christ!
Question: How have you found freedom in the message of the cross?
© Nick Zaccardi 2017