The Tabernacle Scroll

Issue 126

“Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished” [Gal 5: 11, emphasis mine].

In his letter to the Galatians (who were not Jews but Gentiles) Paul admonishes his Christian converts for allowing themselves to come under the bondage of legalism. The gospel he had preached to them and which they had accepted was based upon freedom in Christ. But now certain Jewish Christians were insisting that these converts needed to observe OT ceremonial practices, the chief among these being circumcision. These ‘Judaizers' were perverting the gospel of grace. Paul rebukes the Galatians sharply for turning away from the truth upon which they had first believed - that man is justified by faith in Jesus Christ, nothing more and nothing less. “You were running a good race” he says. “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? (Verse 7). But he then goes on to say (in effect) “If I wasn’t being persecuted, it would mean that the offense of the cross is no longer a reality. But it is! The reason I am being persecuted is because there are people who are offended with what it means to be associated with its saving work”.

Paul’s intent was to declare that the offense of the cross has never ceased and never will cease. We have to deal with it in our hearts.

How does this offense of the cross come about? Firstly, its doctrine of atonement offends man’s pride, because it leaves him helpless to save himself. Secondly, its utter simplicity offends his wisdom for how could something so obviously ‘foolish’ achieve anything? He does not consider that ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength’ (1 Cor. 1:25). Thirdly, the fact that the cross is for all people, regardless of race, culture or position certainly offends his dignity. He argues like the Pharisee “How could I possibly be included among all those ‘sinners’ - those horrible murders, adulterers, and the like”? But the Bible says quite clearly ‘all have sinned’ (Rom.3:23). It is a great folly to be offended at the cross because its efficacy is ordained by God Himself.

Even as a Christian, you may harbour some secret offence at the cross which prevents your powerful witness. Do you prefer a Christless, bloodless gospel? Are you uncomfortable with ‘old fashioned’ gospel preachers, abandoning their orthodox teaching for more ‘culturally relevant’ stuff’? Do you water down the demands of the gospel for fear of losing friends? Do you allow the truth of Christ to be mixed with errors? You can make the list as long as you like. Just get started!

            Devotional                                                                                                                            Preach The Word The Word with Pastor Joseph Rodrigues