Boasting in the Cross

Boasting in the Cross

Lesson 14: September 23–29, 2017

LISTEN:

Drs. Carl Cosaert and Paul Dybdahl provide the commentary for this week’s lesson. Listen to the audio file below.

Lesson14-BoastingInTheCross.mp3

Leading Question:

"How central is the cross of Christ to Christianity? And how does it relate to your life?"

Key Passages:

Galatians 6:11-18 – More than outward conformity to a set of rules, God desires a heart open to Him.

2 Corinthians 4:10 – Accepting the call to follow Christ involves God making us a new person.

Key Points and Questions:

1. Boasting in the Flesh: Although Paul has hinted at it already, in the final verses of Galatians, Paul specifically says that the problem in Galatia was that some within the church were insisting that Gentile believers submit to circumcision. Paul says their motivation was to avoid persecution and to make a "good showing" in the flesh. Here refers to this a little later has "boasting" in the flesh.

A. How would the circumcision of Gentiles enable the Jewish believers to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ? (Gal. 1:13, 5:11, 6:12).

B. How would getting the Galatians to submit to circumcision provide a "good showing" for Jewish believers who were insisting on their circumcision?

C. Since circumcision is certainly not an issue in the church today, what modern day analogies might we see in this situation?

2. Boasting in the Cross: In contrast to his opponents' insistence on circumcision, Paul places the cross of Christ at the center of the Christian faith.

A. We can assume from Paul's repeated references to the centrality of the cross of Christ that his opponents likely characterized him as being too fanatical about the cross. Sure it had its place, they said, but it was not everything. How central is the cross of Christ to Christianity?

B. Paul refuses to boast in anything but the cross? How does someone actually boast in the cross? What does that look like? Conversely, what does it mean to boast in the flesh?

3. What Matters Most: To keep the Galatians from concluding that being uncircumcised is in some way more pleasing to God than being circumcised, Paul says that what really matters is being born again—the divine act by which God makes a spiritually dead person alive.

A. How can a person know if they have been born again? And how does new birth occur?

B. What are some of the external forms of religion that people often mistake for Christianity?

C. It is easy to get so caught up with external forms of religion. What practical steps can a church or an individual take to help them remember that the heart is what really matters?

This Sabbath School lesson & commentary originally appeared on Good Word and is shared here with permission.

Carl Cosaert is professor of biblical studies at Walla Walla University.

Image Credit: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8263

Paul is making the point that the Cross is the main thing. The life of God for one of His creations. Something that Lucifer claimed would never happen. now we are faced with pressure on all sides that the Cross alone is insufficient. The Cross is merely to kick start a moral life to match that of Jesue.

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Tom,

The bible, and experience of the prophets and apostles are the biggest argument that the cross alone is insufficient. Just posting this until I have time to elaborate.

This “cross alone” heresy is just another spin promoting antinomianism.

The Bereans would have no problem countering it.

Just 2 verses alone blow it away…
1 JN 1:7&9

If it were true, the old testament sanctuary service would have been a lot more simple.

To any other readers…

What is Paul’s main thrust found in Galatians?

149 verses…lesson presented in 2011 and 2017 and what is the chief/#1 take away before the study of Romans is started?

Who really even read Galatians in 2011 or this year? Do a survey and see.
How much bible apathy is in the “people of the book” , Laodicean SDA denomination?

You see , the fall back is usually focused on the “earn” word.

These “Jesus is enough”, “it’s all about Jesus”, “it’s all done at the cross”, “the cross is the central point” are obscure, ambiguous religious clichés which promote fanaticism, ignorance and simplistic churchianity.

This trend is an approach which voids exposure, its interpretation, and application of scripture.

The SDA denomination has warped things so badly in its effort to counter the “legalist/cult” stigma of accusing voices in Christianity.

Mainstream Christianity has false concepts of gospel, grace & salvation and also are victims of secularism & antinomianism.
They have this convenient, live after the world and be secure with a lip service profession of Jesus.

What about…???

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” 1 Cor 9:27

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt 7:14

I thought it would be appropriate to relate a summary of Galatians:

‘The problem that arose in Galatia was a familiar one in the first-century church, and it remains a problem in the church today. Is a person saved by faith alone, or by a combination of faith plus works? Paul’s letter to the Galatians proclaims that salvation is through faith alone. It also emphasizes freedom in Christ to live by the Spirit, knowing that our relationship with God is not based on our performance but on the finished work of Jesus Christ’ (from the NLT). Paul uses the words grace or gracious some seven times in this letter.
(It’s also worth noting that in this letter Paul says that in Christ there are no separate classes of people; when all is accomplished, there will be no second class citizens in the kingdom. To me this is a remarkable statement in an ancient document.)

But then we have this quote from Ellen White in Friday’s lesson: 'Those who in the strength of Christ overcome the great enemy of God and man, will occupy a position in the heavenly courts above angels who have never fallen.'
Is she saying that we must achieve something to be saved? Are we back to righteousness by faith and works? Would Paul say this a different gospel (1:6)?, a distorted gospel (1:7)? I believe so if she’s talking about salvation. If she’s not then I would agree with her. I will try to explain what I mean below.

Galatians sets out that salvation is by faith alone. We acknowledge this spiritual reality at the beginning of our Christian journey by our profession of faith and/or baptism. Baptism signifies the death and burial of our old selves. Our old, Adamic lives, alienated from God must die to make way for new creation life. In God’s plan the cross is central and essential to this. As Paul says, we have been crucified with Christ, therefore we no longer live; Jesus Christ now lives in us. The gospel, or good news, asserts that Christ has legally ended our fallen, sinful lives on the cross and by His resurrection opened the way for this new, sinless life from God which has then been begotten in each of us by the Holy Spirit (see 1Cor 4:15; 1Peter 1:23; 1John 3:9). Faith is taking God at His word and believing in what He has done for us in Christ and what He is doing within us now. Our part, after being saved, is to nourish this ‘seed of Christ’ growing within by learning and obeying Christ’s commandments and laws i.e., journeying through the process of sanctification. (Even our desire and means to do this is from God: ‘For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.’ (Phil 2:13).) We undergo this, our ‘work of salvation’ or training in God’s ways for several reasons.

One is out of gratitude and love to Christ for what He has done for us. We are under an obligation to do as Jesus commands us not to get saved, but because we have been saved. If you understand the OT concept of the kinsman-redeemer, you realize that because He is a near relative and enabled our sin debt to be paid we are now, as Paul said, His bond servants. Sin is no longer our master - Christ is and as such we are to follow Him.

We are also to be His ambassadors and truthfully represent Him to others. We are to live lives which demonstrate the love of God and to love and give of ourselves to help others in need as He did.

But here is another important reason I have learned which I believe modern Christianity has largely missed. We are also in training for service in the future kingdom. God created us and knows we need work to be fulfilled. (Even before sin Adam & Eve were given dominion over the earth and were to rule over it and ‘subdue and replenish’ it.) The Bible speaks of several professions in the coming kingdom, among them priests, judges and government officials (see, for example, Matt 19:28; Luke 19:12-19; Rev 5:10; 20:4,6). This is why Peter exhorted us to make our ‘calling and election sure’ (2Peter 1:10). (A calling is a profession and an election is needed to choose someone to serve others in a leadership position.)
I think Paul was thinking along the same lines when he said he was striving toward something he had not yet attained. He called it ‘the upward call of God.’ (Phil 3:11-14). He also uses the metaphor of an athlete and says he is in training for a race in which the prize is rewarded to a few, not all who participate (1Cor 9:24-27). Surely he is not talking of salvation here (given to us by faith, not our own efforts). I believe he is thinking ahead and striving to be chosen for a position of authority in the future kingdom (a crown laid up for him).

So, perhaps a way to understand Mrs. White’s statements about the importance of works or sanctification while still maintaining the Biblical truth that salvation is by faith alone is to see that she is looking beyond this life and into the kingdom. Our sanctification now is not salvific (that is the role of faith) but is rather a qualification or prerequisite for a potential leadership role in the coming kingdom age.

Frank, you are correct in that it’s about community. Christianity is about caring for others, even those rejected by most of society - the so-called ‘sinners’ Christ lived among. To me, that is what a large part of having ‘the mind of Christ’ means.

Sirje, I think Gideon is rightly upset by what some call ‘cheap grace’, i.e., if Christ did it all, I don’t have to do anything - I can just stay the way I have always been. That’s why I brought up the OT concept of the kinsman-redeemer and that sin is no longer our master, Christ is. That makes us, the redeemed, His servants who are obligated to do as He commands. But my response to Gideon is that this change is the result, not the cause of my salvation.
Also, you are correct in saying we can’t ‘earn salvation’, as Galatians makes clear, it is a gift. The confusion arises because people only think in terms of salvation. We can’t do something to somehow ‘qualify for salvation’; rather, we are to learn God’s ways to qualify for entry into the kingdom. These are two very different things. The confusion clears when one realizes that the timing of our entry and our future roles in the kingdom depend on how far we have come in this lifetime - that, not our salvation, is the purpose of the upcoming judgment based on our works at the end of this age.

I believe God’s plan for all humanity means that as the next age unfolds, and the first of God’s children (whom the Bible calls the overcomers, the elect or the firstfruits) are glorified and adopted as full sons & daughters of God (Rom 8:18-25 and the ones entering by the narrow gate whom Gideon refers to in Matt 7:13-14), their job, as kinsmen-redeemers appointed under Christ, will be to fully employ their ‘minds of Christ’ to help those who are not yet ready for ‘life in the age’ or immortality.

How do i get to the cross ?
Dropped in via parachute ?
Just wake up miraculously by chance at the cross ?

Salvation message, what is it ? There where 2 others on the cross with jesus ?
Belief and unbelief

This gets me thinking that if we want to find the answer to this question, we would be better off sticking with the Galatians text, and what Paul was saying within its real life context, rather than the confusing morass of theological musings that have arisen from within the landscape of Adventism on righteousness by faith, the law, sin, perfection, etc. Most of these seem like blind alleys, having nothing to do with what Paul was talking about.

Paul’s emphasis on righteousness in this letter was not primarily about the interior state of the individual, nor his or her legal standing with God, nor the combining or demarcating of personal justification and sanctification…all modern Adventist preoccupations that reflect a western hyper-individualistic outlook. His letter was written to a community. A largely Gentile community of Christ followers that was caving into pressure to revert to life under Jewish Torah, as exemplified by the initiation rite of circumcision. False teachers had come into their midst, telling them that the only way to be part of YHWH’s covenant community, to complete what Christ had begun among them, and to be fully set right with God, was to undergo circumcision as the sign that they would become Torah/law observant proselytes.

To this, Paul answered a resounding no! And, it is in this context that he articulated what it means to be justified/ set into right covenant relationship with God, fully welcomed into his community. It was not by deeds of Law/Torah observance, with its outward ritual markers, but by the faithful, liberating work of the Messiah Jesus, his faithfulness that elicited their faith in him, that they were counted as God’s people…set right/justified. It is this alone that Paul says was sufficient to make them into God’s newly united creation, and was also sufficient to sustain them as his new creation… where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one, in Christ Jesus. It was this alone that brought the Spirit into their midst, working miracles, most notably the miracle of former enemies sitting in fellowship at the same table in Christ… a faith in him that issued forth in this type of inclusive love.

To try to add Law/Torah observance to this as the requirement for full membership was to rebuild walls of religious and social bigotry and division that the gospel, Paul, and even the Galatians themselves, had already torn down. It was, in short, to revert to the old life and order of the flesh. The Law, in this sense, with its multiple commands, rituals, and regulations to be observed, and its divisive power to mark who was in and who was out, was on the side of the flesh and the entire old age. It could never be added though the back door as an addendum to the faithful act of God in Christ, to his liberating power from the flesh, and to faith in him alone. The Law, in this sense, could only enslave its adherents, and pronounce a curse, on the non observant and observant alike.

However, the Law, in the hands of Christ is transformed into a different order of things. It is to simply bear one another’s burdens, a solidarity of the broken yet redeemed, in genuine neighbor love, as Christ himself displayed and brought it to its completion through his own faithful, self giving love. This is the authentication of the power of the new age, and the mark of the inclusive and egalitarian new creation inaugurated by Christ and his Spirit, totally separate from the Torah/Law.

This is what the cross meant to Paul, and why he saw it as everything. It is why he constantly seemed to bring it to bear on every issue that his churches faced. The highest ethic and revelation of God was no longer Law with its rules and regulations, it was the cross. The entire Christian life and community was to take this shape, the shape of the cross.

Thus, Paul’s gospel truly rendered the Law/Torah as unnecessary, not only for Gentiles, but even for Jews as well who had come to faith in Christ, and to his New Covenant community. No wonder why he was vilified, misunderstood, hunted, and persecuted. This was a seismic shift under a millennium of religious world view and practice! The Messiah, the crucified and risen one, had come, the banquet was on, get out of the kitchen and quibbling in there over the cookbook!

In our own contemporary way, it seems that we’re still good at pointing people to quibbling back in the kitchen, as well. We argue over theological terms, especially the role of Law in the life of believers, not even realizing that we come closer in spirit to Paul’s opponents, while claiming to uphold his gospel. We cherry pick food laws and holy time from the Torah Covenant, as well as doctrinal esoterica as the signs of belonging, setting ourselves apart from all other Christians, and bitterly dividing amongst ourselves on these bases. We seem to not get that because of this, Adventism ends up sounding like the very ones Paul was fighting in Antioch and Galatia.

For Adventism and its self identity, Paul’s gospel and what it implies, especially in Galatians, would also represent a seismic shift if it were embraced. Judging by this quarterly and the way the letter to the Galatians continues to be approached, it seems we’d rather hold it at arms length.

Thanks…

Frank

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What is particularly disheartening is that after this study of Paul’s letter, SDA would come out of Sabbath School saying they had been refreshed, that they had learnt so much this quarter. And then they would study their favourite topic, The Three Angels’ Messages, and fall right back into the pit of self-righteous condemnations. They seem incapable of seeing and applying the message of Galatians (6:12-15) to and in the Book of Revelation.

It’s quite laughable, really: kind of like seeing a drunkard wobble and fall on his way down the sidewalk, all the while loudly protesting that he can walk perfectly well.

///

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gideonjrn,

You make good points. Both sides of the issue you bring up conflate the problems of other side. So, instead of “earn salvation” let’s say “qualify for salvation”. Is that better… and it is a matter of qualifying, but could be described as earning salvation as well.

It is ambiguous to keep repeating “fall on the rock - leaning on the cross - saved by grace - etc.”, phrases that have become hackneyed and almost meaningless unless backed up by some depth of spiritual experience. But, the same could be said for expressions like “narrow is the way - keeping my body under subjection - through tribulation enter into the kingdom” - the latter arising out of asceticism, or leading to it.

It’s all pretty simple, actually. Anyone tuned into their own private motivations and behaviours, when comparing them to Jesus’ life and teachings, find themselves “wanting” (another cliche). When your own character becomes sensitive enough to God’s - and you understand what the cross means to God and humanity, you will want to live up to its proclamations to the best of your understanding. Remember, we’re dealing here with the Jewish mindset - “keep the commandments meticulously and God will bless you with health and wealth; break those commandments, and you will suffer God’s punishments”. Jesus pushed those superficial requirements the Jews were living by into the depths of the human heart, revealing our deep-seated selfishness (our Darwinian legacy?)

But, it’s not enough to simply train our behaviour to respond to our fears. Sometimes, breaking the rules on behalf of love toward the other is preferable to correct behaviour for the purposes of salvation. It is all a matter of the heart - and we don’t come by it naturally - it comes like the “wind we do not know where it comes from or where it’s going” (Jn 3).

This was meant as response to gideonjr.

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I have alway believed that Paul is responsible of the 1 and 2nd century Christians disregard of unclean foods, the Mosaic law and in general the Sabbath. If circumcision, so central and inseparable, in OT instruction has no value due to the cross–neither does the Sabbath. This is an easy step to move further away from Jewish customs so disliked by Paul.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Sabbath. I worship on the Sabbath. However I base my theology of the Sabbath on the example of Jesus. I know from church history that the chance to Sunday came very early. The RC church has nothing to do with ordering Sunday worship. They did not have the necessary power and authority to force change on the Christian world till at least 500 years later. Its past time to theological honesty.

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