What Counts Is A New Creation
Key Verse 6:14
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
This is the final message in our study of the book of Galatians. In the last lesson Paul warns us like us this: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (6:7-8) And he encourages us like this: “Let us now become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (9) There were two kinds of Christians then, the false Christians who were promoting circumcision and the law of Moses to complement faith in Christ, and the True Christians who held on to faith in Christ Jesus as the only way of righteousness, salvation and sanctification. Paul warns the Galatian churches that if they listen to the teachings of the false Christians and add the works of the flesh to their faith in Christ, they will reap destruction. But if they continue in the Spirit, and sow to please the Spirit, they will reap eternal life.
Paul’s war against the false Christians [Judaizers] continues to the very end of the letter. In fact he exposes their true motives in these last few verses. Their motives in preaching a false gospel of works— as we will see— is not noble in any sense of the word but rather worldly and self serving. In other words they were not preaching a false gospel because they believed from their hearts that it would serve the church and the spiritual growth of the believers, but they were preaching this false gospel to serve themselves.
Paul then gives the Galatian Christians whom he had fathered and shepherded with his whole heart a rule to follow and to live by— a rule to identify what is false and what is true when it comes to the gospel. And the rule he gives here at the end of his letter serves as a bright light for us, a light that shines the way for us to live our Christians lives in the peace and mercy of God. What is the rule we should follow as we live the Christian life God set before us? We find this rule in verses 14 & 15. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor un-circumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” This is a glorious teaching that can turn you life around and empower you to live and walk by the Spirit. Let us see then how Paul ends his letter.
Verse 11 is heart breaking. “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” Paul takes the pen from his secretary and writes this final words in his own handwriting. It may be possible that Paul’s eyesight was bad, the thorn he talks about in his letter. At least, some of his writings suggest that he suffered from bad vision or eye disease. He could not see what he was writing, so he often entrusted the writing of his letters to those who travelled and worked with him. But this old man is heart broken over his Christians family in the churches of Galatia, knowing that some wolves have come to ravage the flock with a false teaching. If they accepted the false teaching, which in every way seemed reasonable to the sinful mind— because false teachings often sound appealing to the sinful nature of man— then they would no longer be walking the path of freedom in Christ, nor the path of life eternal, but they would be walking the path of slavery and death and destruction. Paul suffered for them because they were spiritually young and impressionable. As soon as he found out about their doubts of the gospel he earlier preached to them, his heart went out to them and he quickly began to dictate to them this amazing and inspiring letter. He was not almost at the end of his letter, so he takes the pen from the writer and begins to struggle to write these last few verses. His love for them compelled him to write a few last words that would keep their hearts free from deceit of false teachers and their false teachings, and convince them that it was he who labors to write to them. This fact shows us that Paul suffered with them. He would write them the last few words himself even if the words seem unusually large to a letter. He tells them: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”
Read verses 12-13. “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.” This then is how Paul exposes their true motives in bringing a false gospel to these Galatians. They want to make a good impression on you outwardly. They were superficial caring much about how to make good impressions. They speak well, and they bring some convincing arguments about why you should be circumcised. But that is not a good reason to believe them. They care only for outward impressions, how things appear outwardly to the sinful nature. Paul also says that they do this because they want to boast about your flesh. Here is the word “boast” which we will talk about a lot in this message. But these people want to boast about your flesh. It is pride in the works of the flesh that makes them preach a false gospel. They take pride in the flesh. They talk about obedience to the law but they are hypocrites because they themselves do not keep the law. They were like those who judge another person for a transgression, but in their hearts they lust and lie and cheat and break the law all the time.
But most of all, here is what Paul tells us about them and why they serve another gospel. They do not want to be persecuted for the cross of Christ. The cross of Jesus offends people because it tells them that they are in desperate need of the Lord’s mercy. The cross of Jesus offends people because it demands that a man put aside his pride in himself, and in the things that he can do for God, and acknowledge that he is depraved— that he has no righteousness of himself at all. The cross of Christ offends people because it humbles their pride, calls them to repent, and to fully trust Jesus for what he has done on the cross for them. When Paul preached the cross, he was persecuted by those who put much value in their own works of righteousness and of obedience to the law. When Paul preached the cross, he was persecuted by those whose pride was hurt by his preaching. But Paul gladly preached the cross, regardless of persecution because he fully understood that apart from the cross, people and all their righteousness and good works and all were as nothing. He preached the cross in spite of persecution because apart from the cross there can be no hope and no life for anyone. So he preached the cross and was persecuted and insulted for doing so. But these false Christians do what they do— they teach circumcision and other works of the flesh, like good works and such— in order to earn the recognition and praise of others. This way they avoid persecution for the cross. Today there are many like them, who avoid talking about the cross in order to make a good outward impression on others. They are not persecuted because what they teach does not offend the pride of men. They talk about the love of God in the cross, but they never talk about man’s depravity and the need for repentance before the cross. Paul still exposes them and their motives in preaching what is not the cross. They can avoid the offense of the cross.
Then Paul brings us back to the word “boasting” and tells us the only things that Christians ought to boast about. Read verses 14-15. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” The word “boast” also is to “exult” and “rejoice in”. If you boast, Paul says, you should boast in the cross of Jesus and only in the cross of Jesus. This is not the first time that Paul uses the word “boast” in his letters. He uses it in Romans 5:2,3 and 11. He uses it to mean “rejoice”, as in rejoice in hope or in suffering or in God. He also uses it in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when he says that he boasts in his weaknesses. To boast is to exult and to rejoice in and to glory in and to be glad for as well. What does it mean that Paul would not boast in anything except in the cross of our Lord Jesus? He means that for the Christian, all boasting should be boasting in the cross. And in nothing else! If I suffer, if you suffer my boasting, your boasting should be a boasting in the cross. If you are joyful about something, anything in your life, your boasting should be in the cross. If you rejoice in your strength or in your weakness, you should be boasting in the cross of Jesus and in nothing else.
Why is this? Because for the redeemed sinners like you and me, every good thing, and yes, even every bad thing that God turns to good for you in your life, it was all obtained for you by the cross of Jesus. Apart from the cross of Jesus sinners like you and me get nothing from God but his judgment. Apart from the cross of Jesus, there is nothing for you but condemnation. Therefore, everything every thing that you enjoy in Christ, everything you boast in, everything you rejoice in, is owing to the death of Christ. All your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of Christ’s life. Every blessing in life that we have, is meant to magnify the cross of Jesus. Think of anything that is given to you by God, your son your daughter, your job, the good times and the difficult times that were designed by God to strengthen your faith, your work, the church you belong to, all of them— when you exult in them, or rejoice in them, you are in fact boasting in the cross of Jesus, because apart from the cross of Jesus you have nothing. Woe to those who boast in a blessing or a strength or a gift or a talent or anything without boasting in the cross of Jesus through which these were secured for you. All and every blessing and its boasting must magnify and honor and glorify the cross of Christ.
This means that the cross is not just one of the many things you have in God. Nor is the one of the many things that we have obtained from God. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Does it not tell us so that we must boast in nothing else but the cross. Never in anything but the cross! Because whatever we have and whatever we aspire to or desire in Christ, and all is centered around the cross. It is purchased at the cross by the life of our Savior Jesus. If we boast in anything we have and do in him, it is done by the cross. Everything we can think of in our Christians lives is in the cross.
Why is this? Because God wants to honor Christ— for he alone deserves it all and never us! The cross therefore, is the glory of Christ in all things and every boast is a boast in Christ. This is God’s aim always, to glorify and honor Jesus his Son. And how do we promote this in our lives and in the lives of others who are following Christ? They must be educated in the cross of Christ until they too can boast in the cross of Christ. That is our duty and privilege to teach the cross to all people beginning right here in the church and in the home.
We ought to teach about the cross. Or we ought to teach “on thee cross” because cross education on the cross will lead to boasting in the cross. What am I talking about? verse 14 says: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Boasting in the cross happens when you are on the cross. Is this not what verse 14 is telling us? The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. The world is dead to me and I am dead to the world. And we learn to boast in the cross when we are on the cross. What does this mean? When did this happen to me? When was I, you crucified? The answer is in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I have been crucified with him. When Christ died we died. The meaning of the death of Jesus Christ is that when he died, all those who belong to him died with him. And that death— that he died for me— takes effect as my death when I am united with him. And I am united with him by faith.
We look at ourselves and say that we are still alive and that we feel alive. So we need to understand what happened to us. We need to be taught these things. That is why Galatians 2:20 and 6:14 are there in the Bible so that we might study them and learn and make them our own. Through them God is teaching us what happened to us so that we can know ourselves and know his way of working with us. And when we have learned that, to also exult, boast in him, rejoice in him, and in his Son and in the cross of Jesus as we should.
Gal.2:20 tells us that we are dead and that we are alive. “I have been crucified with Christ” … so I am dead. Then he says: “I no longer live but Christ lives in me”… Why? Because I died. That is my old rebellious, wicked and unbelieving self…. died. And the “Life I live” … which I now live in the body… yes, therefore I am alive. But it isn’t the same “I” as the “I” who died. Now I live by faith in Him who loved me and gave himself for me. This “I” who live by faith, is the “I” who lives in the new “I” of faith. The new creation lives. The believer lives. The old self died on the cross with Jesus.
How can this be mine? The answer is simple. The life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God. That is how God links us to his Son. And when he links us (unites us) with his Son, there is a union with the Son of God so that his death becomes your death and his Life becomes your life.
Let us go back to verse 14. Don’t boast in anything except in the cross. But how can I become so radically cross centered so that all my boasting is traced back the to the cross? You need to realize and to accept the truth of God that when Christ died on the cross, you died as well, and when you trusted him, that death took effect in your life. Paul says: “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” He says, it is your death to the world, and the world’s death to you. And this is what this means! When you put your trust in Christ, your bondage to the world is broken, and all the terrible attraction and lure of the world was broken as well. You are no more than a corpse to the world, and the world is a corpse to you. That is what verse 15 is all about. You are a new creation. And you owe it all to Christ and his cross. There is a new you alive, the you of faith. And faith boasts in nothing except in Christ and in the cross of Jesus. That is how you become cross-centered and declare with Paul that you will never boast of anything but the cross. You have no need of anything else. The world is no longer a treasure to me. I have no need of it anymore. It no longer gives me satisfaction nor bring pleasure to me nor do I desire to revel in it. I have nothing in it that I am proud to boast in and boast of. Actually I am ashamed of how I lived before I was crucified with Christ on his cross. My boast is only in Christ. And to me, even if there is some good that I enjoy in this world, (and there are many things that are God given in this world…. my spouse, my job, my church family, etc.) I know that I have got them all at the cost of my Lord’s life.
Verse 15 says. “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. What counts is a new creation.” This is so true. Nothing counts, nothing has meaning. Neither my good works, nor my righteousness, nor is any work done in the flesh. It is all meaningless. The only thing that counts is the work of God in you. What counts is that you are a new creation by the work of Jesus on the cross. That is what really counts. What counts is if you are joined with Christ in his death on the cross, and have been reborn a new creation. That counts. Nothing else counts. People may boast about anything they wish to boast in, it is meaningless. You and I should boast only in the cross. That is the rule that Paul was talking about in verse 16. “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.” The rule is simple. I boast in nothing but the cross of Jesus because through the cross of Jesus, I have died and was reborn as a new creation of God. That is the aim, the goal, the rule of my life and your life. And we must teach it to our children and to our church congregation and to all who would join us in faith, that we may all boast in the cross of Jesus and honor and magnify his holy name because he purchased it all for us with his life.
Look at verses 17-18. “Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.” Paul suffered to bring us a gospel of grace. He was persecuted to ensure that we have freedom in Christ. Paul bore the marks of Jesus on his body when he died to the flesh and lived by the Spirit. As he did so, he grew more and more in the image and likeness of our Lord Jesus. May you also bare the marks of Christ on your body when you walk by the Spirit, and continue to grow in his likeness as the Spirit sanctifies you, and boast daily in nothing but the cross of Jesus to which you owe your life and everything else. That would be a prayer to embrace in conclusion to the study of this book,
* A note regarding this sermon. The bulk of this sermon was taken from the sermon of John Piper on this section (11-18) My heartfelt thanks for the inspiration received through his message, and for the privilege to use and rework some of the material for the edification of our church and its members.