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The Blessings and Curse of the Cross (Galatians 3) March 5, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Crucifixion, Galatians, Lord's Table.
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THE CURSE AND THE BLESSINGS
Galatians 3:7-14

We saw last week that Paul was opposing those who were perverting the gospel. They were changing salvation by grace through faith in the gospel, that is, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ into a salvation by law: circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, zealousness, the Ten Commandments, or some other way in which one can make himself acceptable or at least presentable before God. Paul says, “You can’t change what God has set forth.”

Warren Wiersbe tells how “a new employee was instructed how to measure valve parts to make sure they were ready for the final assembly. But after a few hours, his foreman was receiving complaints that the parts he was approving were faulty. ‘What are you doing?’ the foreman asked. ‘I showed you how to use that micrometer. You’re sending through parts that are oversize!’ The employee replied, ‘Oh, most of the parts I was measuring were too large, so I opened up the micrometer a bit.’” The cross is God micrometer. It is by the cross that we determine our spiritual welfare.

A. The curse of the cross was on our behalf (3:7-14; 5:11; 6:12-13).

1. The curse was pronounced by God (3:7-14). Paul quotes six different Old Testament passages to make the point that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. He also says that through the law comes the curse. Actually, there are two curses here. The first, a general curse, is on anyone who breaks one law (verse 10). This is in contrast to the justification that comes through faith (verses 8-9, 11-12). Justification can simply mean that you are getting what’s coming to you. That is not the way Paul is using this word. He takes an Old Testament concept and speaks about God taking a sinner’s account and stamping it “righteous.”

There are four stamps God could use. He could stamp our account as “guilty.” That is what we deserve. Or he could stamp us “not guilty.” That means you’re not condemned, that is, the evidence does not condemn you. But, of course, that is not true. God could stamp our account “innocent.” That is better than not guilty but the evidence still is against us. God uses the stamp “righteous through faith” (see Abraham’s case in verse 6). What Paul is saying is that righteousness is put on my account by grace through faith in Christ and his death on my behalf.

One might say faith in the second curse pronounced by God, that is, the curse of the cross (verses 13-14). It is faith in the righteousness, the redemption, the payment, provided by Jesus Christ on the cross for our account that justifies us with God.

2. The offense of the cross provoked persecution and derision (5:11). Certainly the cross was despised by the Jews because of the curse pronounced by God on anyone hung from a tree. It was also a most shameful death in the eyes of the Romans who were actually carrying out the act of crucifixion. It was reserved for criminals and slaves. Jesus was neither. Robert Gundry feels that Mark’s gospel may have been written to counteract the shame of the cross by recording the power of Jesus, for no Roman would trust a crucified Savior. The Roman senator and orator Cicero said “the very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the perons of a Roman citizen but also from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears…the mere mention of them, that is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man” (In Defense of Rabirius taken from Gundry’s A Survey of the New Testament). The shame of the cross was not theoretical but real.

3. The cross is incompatible with profiteering from believers (6:12-13). It is more respectable to belong to the right group than to be associated with the cross of Christ. Heroes did not die on the cross but in battle. Those who profit from religious faith have no use for the cross unless they can turn it into some type of work. If I preach a certain type of message so that it might attract a crowd, am I any better than these? Not that we should not try to reach as many as we can and any legitimate method should be used. At times the message of the cross has been more popular than others but whether it is the “in thing” or not, it is still our only message.

B. The blessings of the cross come through Christ living in me (2:17-21; 5:24; 6:14-17).

1. Our lives are transformed by grace through faith in Christ (2:17-21). When we baptize tonight, we will being testifying that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ through His death and resurrection. Verse 21 is a sobering verse. If we have life through any other way, then the cross of Christ was a waste, a wasted life.

2. We actively war against sin (5:24). We will speak about this more at a later time but the fight against sin in our own individual lives must take place under the banner of the cross. Apart from the power of the cross to give us new life, we are helpless against the sins listed in this chapter. Our flesh will give in but we are alive now in Christ, the Crucified One.

3. Our boasting is dependent on the cross (6:14-17). Unlike the profiteers, our boasting is dependent on Jesus. My rejection of the sins of the flesh, of this world is based on my new life in Christ. Paul even notes that he has brands or marks on his body that identify him with Jesus. In those days an idol worshipper might have the brand of his idol burned into his body. Slaves were also marked with brands. Circumcision itself, though not a brand, served the same purpose. Paul said, “My brands come through my daily life with Christ.”

Let’s take our micrometer and measure ourselves.
1. Have you been saved by the grace of God? If you feel in anyway that you deserve salvation, you are too big for the micrometer of the cross.
2. Are you trying to mix law and grace? Are you trying to adjust the cross for yourself or someone else? God will not accept that mixture.
3. When we celebrate today the Lord’s Table, will you be boasting in the cross of Christ or will you be trying to impress God by your sanctified worship?
4. Are you walking in spiritual liberty? We are celebrating spiritual liberty today through the Lord’s Table. Do you live your liberty out in the world during the week?
5. Are you willing to defend the truth of the gospel of Christ? Or do you let it slide when people say, “Well, I think I’m good enough for God. I’m better than the average Joe?”
(Questions adapted from Warren Wiersbe’s Be Free).

As we partake of the Lord’s Table, let us dwell on these questions and respond to God’s call to salvation and to walking in spiritual liberty.

Next week: Righteous Indignation (Galatians 1-2)

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