Last Update: 11/2013
Paul Preaches the Cross to the Galatians
The book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to the Christian churches of Galatia who had been saved by grace through faith alone, yet new members had brought in false teachings instituting laws and customs (circumcision in this instance) in order for people to advance into a greater acceptance by God. Paul responds to these Christians in Galatia that this is not the gospel of grace that he taught and they accepted. This was perverting the gospel of grace into another gospel of grace plus laws/works in order to be more accepted by the customs and religious laws of the time by the Jews (Law of Moses). They were adding to and subtracting from the pure doctrine of grace, which is the heart and soul of the gospel. Paul desperately warns them if they try to become justified before God by believing in Christ plus obedience to laws, they “are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Paul was deeply committed and passionate about sharing what a saving faith looked like and was crystal clear in that the entire message of his ministry was the preaching of the cross.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18 “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
This is extremely important to understand as so much is revealed in this verse. Jesus did not send Paul to do anything but preach the gospel, which is the message of the cross. Without this pure doctrinal, yet highly offensive message of repentance, self-denial, dying to the flesh and sin and justification by grace through faith alone as God’s sovereign and free gift, the gospel does not exist and cannot be of effect. Paul says preaching the cross, this radically different message of salvation, is foolish to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to those who believe.
Consider some basic questions at this point. Does the doctrine taught in your church reflect the pure message of the gospel, the cross of Christ? Do you believe that simply faith alone in the shed blood of Christ for your eternal salvation is “foolish”? Does the doctrine you believe teach a completely different message of salvation which includes obedience to laws, works, moral conformity or personal righteousness to truly be saved? Does the doctrine you taught water this message down by adding to it to appeal to the masses to fill the pews? If this is the case, then I pray for you my friends because this is not preaching the pure gospel of the cross, but another gospel that Paul warns the Galatians about, which is not effective and keeps you from receiving the free and unmerited gift of grace from God.
You see, the gospel Paul preached was pure and did not tickle the ears of the religious majority of the time. He was not trying to fill the pews by teaching a more acceptable gospel message. He taught pure and unfiltered gospel truth which was very unpopular and offensive to the masses. He did not add to or subtract from what was revealed to him by Jesus Christ. This gospel message was sharp and offensive to many as it stripped everyone who heard it of their self-reliance and personal righteousness leaving them exposed before God in complete dependence on the unmerited gift of His salvation by grace alone. The Jews at the time were highly offended at a message that taught salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone without obedience to laws and works.
The Offense of the Cross
Paul’s declares in his letter that if he preaches the works of the law (circumcision in this case), then there is no more offense.
Galatians 5:11 “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.”
If the gospel message of the cross Paul preached was even slightly changed it became more appealing and less offensive to the Jews. Yet Paul was not about to pervert the message of the cross to gain approval and followers. There was no room for adding to or taking away from the message of the cross as Paul clearly declares in this letter.
The message of the cross offended the pride that filled the self-righteous hearts of the people. Pride and self-righteousness is the result of a perverted gospel message that teaches Christ plus obedience to laws, works and personal righteousness. Pride is a terrible sin, but religious pride is the most terrible sin. The message of the cross the apostle Paul preached was offensive to the Jews because “working the works of God” (John 6:28) was what they thought earned them their eternal salvation. This was done through strict obedience to the law, personal righteousness and works. Yet, the message Jesus taught (and later Paul too) shattered this idea of personal justification through obedience to the law and works that had become so familiar to the masses. You see this in Jesus’ response to the Jews who asked Jesus what “works of God” they were to work in order to earn their salvation. Jesus responds in the very next verse something that was highly offensive to them.
John 6:29 “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
Similarly, Paul responds to the church at Galatia:
Galatians 2:16 “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
Paul’s letter to the Romans was similar:
Romans 3:20-22 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe…”
This doctrine of preaching the cross and Christ crucified offended their pride and self-righteous way of meticulous adherence to the law and became a “stumbling block” and “rock of offense” for the Jews and was “foolishness” to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23, Isaiah 8:14, Romans 9:33, 1 Peter 2:8). They could not possibly see how this criminal, Jesus, who was being humiliatingly crucified, was their Messiah. The cross was offensive because they trusted in themselves and their law as the truth and not in God and what was being revealed through Jesus.
For some, it is offensive to even think they need to be saved from their sin. For many others, it is offensive to the spiritually unregenerate mind and even “religious” people that trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross alone is all we must do for our salvation. Our fleshly minds yearn to assist in our salvation by adding things such as works, obedience to laws and personal righteousness. This false teaching waters down and perverts the gospel message of the cross that Jesus and Paul taught, which only leads to spiritual death.
The Sovereign and Free Gift of God through the Cross
Jesus taught in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” If your doctrine of salvation and eternal life in heaven does not begin and end with Christ, then my dear friends, you have a different gospel, a false gospel, and a false Christ who does not have the power to save.
The gospel message of preaching the cross is the only doctrine that will reveal to you the depth of your sin, your inability to do anything about it (Ephesians 2:1,5), which strips you bare of your self-righteousness and pride humbling you before God. It reveals that salvation is the sovereign work and free gift of grace by God though faith in Christ alone apart from any obedience to laws, works and personal righteousness. When you realize this, it transforms your heart as through your belief in Christ’s finished work on the cross alone, you become dead to flesh and sin and are a new person alive in Christ as his perfect righteousness is transferred to you (2 Corinthians 5:17,21). Because Jesus' perfect robe of righteousness now covers us, when God sees us, He no longer sees all our sin and imperfections but sees Jesus and His perfect righteousness as if it were our own. Because the “inside of your cup” is now clean, good works will be an outward manifestation of the inward work that Christ has done on your heart. These good works are the "effect" because you are saved and not the "cause" to be saved.
As you study the gospel and see in the world today, Satan is highly effective at blinding many, even the “religious,” to the glory and power of the cross. God elected to save humanity through the cross, though Satan leads us to believe the message of the cross is repulsive so we may twist it or outright reject its truth. There will always be offense to those who twist and reject the cross as this was professed by Jesus to his disciples (Matthew 16:16-23). Jesus even taught that some of his disciples would be offended by the message of the cross and chose to not follow him anymore (John 6:60-61).
Salvation on Our Terms or God's Terms?
Since the beginning, people want to come to God on their terms and not on God’s terms. Both methods of salvation are foreshadowed over and over again in the Old Testament. All the way back in Genesis, when Adam and Eve realized their nakedness, they covered themselves with self-made aprons. We then see God rejecting this covering and makes an acceptable covering with coats of animal skins which required a sacrifice and blood to be shed. You see, all the way back to this account in the Bible, God was foreshadowing to us how our attempts to cover our sin through our own works will always be rejected. God was showing us that blood would need to be shed and the sacrifice of a perfect and spotless lamb was the requirement to take away sin covering us in Christ's perfect righteousness.
Many people want to come to God with what we feel God will accept in our good works and moral effort and not on the basis of what God has demonstrated over and over to us as acceptable. God does not work this way as He is no respecter of persons. He does not show favoritism to anyone based on their personal righteousness or works. He loves us all equally and reveals to us in His word that the only way to be accepted into his family is by believing on the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone for our salvation.
God wants our hearts; He wants direct fellowship and a personal relationship with us though Jesus Christ. The cross teaches us that salvation is a work and free gift of God by grace through faith in Christ alone. It shows us the amazing love that God has for us as He recognized we were dead in sin and there was nothing we could do about it because if obedience to laws could help save us, those laws would have been instituted (Galatians 3:21). But just as the Apostle Paul taught, if righteousness came through obedience to the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).
Jesus taught that many will stand before him on judgment day professing their wonderful works they did in His name (Matthew 7:22). They will be expecting their belief in Him and their wonderful works will help save them. The gospel has been revealed and the terms of God have been set. Those expecting to hear “well done thou good and faithful servant” will be shocked when they instead hear “I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity.”
Mormons, you have been raised from birth to shun the cross of Christ as an offensive image only symbolizing the death of Christ. The cross is so much more than an instrument of death as it is the very place God chose to save humanity. The cross is the entire gospel message and the power unto salvation. It is the where the justice and mercy of God intersect in a show of ultimate love for humanity. God is calling us to humbly come to the cross and see what He has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ.
Why in the world would you be foolish enough to reject this finished work of Christ for your own works instead? You believe you have something special to offer to God in your obedience to laws, personal righteousness and works. This belief is only pride and self-righteousness blinding you to your true state before God, which is a sinful person in need of the saving grace Christ offers only at the cross. Swallow your pride, read and study the gospel and come to Christ at the foot of the cross so He can give you liberty, peace and rest.
THE CROSS UNVEILED