Introduction: Connection with the previous verses: in the Greek text this verse begins with a “but”. The false teachers boasted in ritual, but Paul boasted in Christ. Or they were seeking to avoid persecution because of the cross, but Paul gloried in the cross. “Cross of Christ” always refers to our Lord’s redemptive work, which he accomplished by dying on the cross. It refers to the historical fact plus the proper Biblical interpretation of the event (Mk 15:32; 1 Cor 1:17; Gal 6:12, 14; Ph 3:18). This is the good news or gospel! Christ did everything that was needed for our salvation and acceptance with God. We should remember what the cross meant in Paul’s day. “It is difficult, after sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked in Paul’s day. The word crux was unmentionable in polite Roman society (Cicero, Pro Rabirio 16); even when one was being condemned to death by crucifixion the sentence used an archaic formula which served as a sort of euphemism: arbori infelici suspendito, ‘hang him on the unlucky tree’ (Cicero, ibid. 13).” [Bruce, p. 271]
Exposition: How can we glory or boast in the gospel that centers on the cross of Christ? How should the cross change us?
I. This is a very strange boast in the view of people apart from God’s grace.
A. In their view the cross of Christ seems irrelevant to the needs of people.
1. “What can the death of a Jewish man do for me?”
2. The answer is, “Who exactly was the One who died? And what was the purpose of his death?” The person who died is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and his purpose was the glory of God in the salvation of sinners.
B. It is also strange to them because the cross of Christ speaks of the wrath of God.
1. The Bible interprets the cross of Christ as a propitiation, the turning aside of or satisfaction of the wrath of God. The Father was willing to show mercy, so he freely gave his Son, who was willing to make satisfaction that God’s justice might be satisfied for all who repent and believe the good news. And the Spirit joyfully makes this good news known through his word.
2. However, the person apart from God’s grace does not have room in his thoughts for the God who is angry at sinners. The best known and most hated sermon in American history is Jonathan Edwards’ message “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. But the cross tells us the way to be right with the holy God because his righteous wrath is satisfied.
C. The cross of Christ opposes human pride, and this intensifies the strangeness of the gospel to sinners.
1. All of human religions make a place for human works, for a person’s contribution to some degree.
2. The cross of Christ proclaims that a person cannot do anything to save himself or herself. “You must rely on God alone to save you because of Christ’s atoning work.”
3. It opposes human pride in another way, for it says to every generation of mankind, “You must be saved in this way.” The contemporary individual is no better than primitive man, and modern or postmodern people do not like to hear this!
II. We ought to understand why Paul gloried in the cross of Christ.
A. For Paul to glory only in the cross of Christ required a radical break with his past (2 Cor 11:2f; Ph 3:4-6f).
1. He had to break with his religious heritage.
2. He had to break with his own religious achievements.
Comment: To make such a break required a great change in his thinking. This happened when the Lord Jesus Christ saved him on the Damascus Road.
Illustration: You can’t win a war with an army that is committed to the cause of your enemy. The church is weak today because many of its apparent soldiers are in agreement with the enemy rather than the Lord Christ.
B. The significance of the cross of Christ in the plan of God. Four key terms:
1. Sacrifice – the answer to our guilt. Eph 5:2
2. Propitiation – the answer to God’s wrath. Rm 3:25
3. Redemption – the answer to our bondage to sin and Satan. Eph 1:7
4. Reconciliation – the answer to God’s alienation from us. Col 1:21-22
C. We should then realize the significance of the cross of Christ to the Christian way of worship and life.
1. We are not Christians at all, in the true meaning of the word “Christian”, if we are not glorying in the cross of Christ alone as the basis of our hope.
Apply: There are only two possible attitudes. You either despise the cross and what it means, or you glory in it. You cannot remain neutral. You must choose.
2. We cannot evangelize unless we preach the cross of Christ. In one sense it is true that people are not becoming Christians, because they do not understand the cross of Christ.
3. Every teaching that we hold must be in conformity with the cross (cf. 1 Cor 2:1-5).
III. The cross of Christ, in which Paul gloried, had a transforming effect on his relationship with the world.
A. The meaning of “world” in this verse
1. The term has various usages in the Scriptures. We must grasp the intent of a Biblical writer in his use of a particular word from the context.
a. The universe – Jn 17:5; Ac 17:24; Ph 2:15
b. The planet earth – Jn 21:25; Mt 13:38; 26:13
c. The general public – Jn 7:4; Rm 1:8
d. Wicked people – Jn 7:7; 12:31; 14:17; 15:19; 16:11
e. All people as accountable to God – Rm 3:6, 19
f. Ethical (the corrupt condition of people) – Jn 3:19; Rm 12:2; 1 Cor 7:31; Js 1:27
g. Ethnical (both Jews and Gentiles) – Jn 4:42; 12:19
2. How the term “world” is used here.
a. “It designates present sensible things, viewed as exercising a malignant influence over the minds of men—directly opposed to the influence which future and spiritual things should exert over them.” [Brown]
b. The values of mankind which are contrary to the Lord and his ways—the love of fame, wealth, and pleasure, and human pride in self-sufficiency. The world loves these things and hates holiness and grace.
B. The transformation of the believer’s relationship with the world through the cross of Christ
1. The world was crucified to Paul.
a. Before his conversion, he was very much a partisan of the world (Ph 3:4-6). But after conversion, his view became radically different.
b. The doctrine of the cross of Christ, which Paul understood and believed and which the Holy Spirit made real in his experience, caused this change of thinking about the world.
c. How this works: Since Jesus Christ gave his life on the cross as a sacrifice to rescue his people from eternal wrath and to secure for them eternal happiness, they begin to realize the importance of the world to come over this present evil world. It teaches us there are things more to be dreaded than earthly suffering, and that there things more to be desired than the pleasures of this world.
2. Paul was crucified to the world. There was a time when he was highly esteemed by the world. But now, because of his view of the cross of Christ, the world had a different attitude toward him. It saw that he no longer belonged to it as he once did. Before his conversion to Christ, he had been a valued member of Jewish society, but after in their opinion he was a fool or a madman, a destroyer of all that was precious to them.
Comment: Someone once say, “Try to become like Jesus and the world will admire you. But if you become like him, it will hate you.”
1. Why does Paul speak of this two-sided crucifixion? It is to stress the radical break between the Christian and the world. The believer now views the world as the realm of death and evil. By the gospel of Christ, he has discovered where real life and holiness is to be found.
2. The worldly person, apart from God’s grace, views true Christianity as repulsive. Why should he like something that pronounces the death sentence on all that he loves? Yet the believer in Jesus Christ loves the cross and glories in the message of the gospel, because this is our salvation!
3. Those who have experienced this two-sided crucifixion should have no concern for either the smiles or the frowns of the world. We died to that realm through the cross of Christ! Therefore, we do not need to be concerned about how they evaluate us.