Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 6. Experiencing the power of the cross . No 19:- Dead to the world (Part 1)

. No 19:- Dead to the world (Part 1)




Galatians 6:11-16 (ESV) 11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”


We continue our sermons in this critical series entitled ‘experiencing the power of the cross’ and we are seeking to understand the issues that were critical and central in Paul’s teaching namely the power of the cross of Christ in our lives and what it has accomplished.

We are really trying to make sense of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (ESV) where he says: 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

The words that stand out for us is the part of the statement that says: “we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.” Over the months we have unpacked this statement and noticed that our death because of Christ’s death is taught by Paul over and over again. He for example says that we are dead to sin, we are dead to Satan as he was conquered on the cross and therefore we are no longer in the Kingdom of darkness, we are dead to the flesh, and today we want to fill in the blanks again based on our text for this sermon by arriving with Paul at the conclusion that ‘that one has died for all, therefore all have died; TO THE WORLD’, and then he adds an interesting statement and ‘THE WORLD TO US’.

Now, what does Paul mean by this? What is the world that we are dead to and how is it possible that the world is dead to us?

When you do a plain reading of the context out of its context, you can draw a few conclusions. You can think of the world as ‘the earth’, this ball of dirt which you and I walk on which is the third planet from the sun, containing land separated by 71% salt water, that divides this earth into continents.  Is this the world that we are dead to? Surely not, you will be one day though. This is your present home and your present destiny and on this ball you will live till your last day, unless you get a free ticket to visit the International Space Station and die there.

You can think of the world as commonly defined in most dictionaries as the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, human history and human condition. I know I have the tendency when I want to mock somebody even in a joking way to ask them the following question: ‘as an outsider, what do you think of the human race?’ Besides the dumb stares and the occasional witty answers, we all know that the question is irrelevant because whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, you are part of this civilization. So, you are not dead to civilizations, and how can we be salt and light to this world if we are dead to it?

The dictionaries will even try and help you out spiritually. Wikipedia for example defines the world in a spiritual sense as ‘the material or the profane sphere, as opposed to the celestial, spiritual, transcendent or sacred’. Well even this is very simplistically stated. Can I really simply say that I am dead to material stuff or materialism and that which is blasphemous, irreligious, disrespectful and wicked, which is the real meaning of profane? If I am dead to that, does it therefore imply that I am alive to that which is celestial, spiritual, transcendent and sacred? You can be part of any religion and be that. So I am sure Paul does not have that in mind.

Now, most sermons that you read will somehow be based on these three particular views of the world, the first group will say to you that you are a citizen of the heavens, so this body called earth we live on actually means very little to you, and therefore you must be more heavenly minded and of less earthly use. Some Christians will actually refuse to participate in things like nature conservation, because who cares, this world is not our home and we are just passing through. The second group will tell you to cut yourself off from the world, to only have Christian friends and not to in any way associate with people who are not Christians, or that you simply do not do what they do. The third group will tell you to act religious and to align yourself with some group where you can live out your distinctive of your faith. You need to look spiritual, unlike the world that is unspiritual.

We must remember the context in which Paul is writing. He is writing to a congregation who started well but then got tripped up by legalists who were actually preaching a new gospel. It has always been true and it was certainly true in the Apostle Paul's ministry that there was a conflict between the two religions in the world. And there are only two. There is the religion of human achievement and there is the religion of divine accomplishment. There is salvation by works and there is salvation without works. There is salvation by human effort and salvation by divine grace. One is earned and the other is a gift. One depends on what man does, the other depends on what God does. So ultimately these realities have an impact on what Paul is sharing here.

Now to discover what Paul really means we need to look at the text in context. Our key verse for this sermon is verse 14 that says: “but far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Now this verse fits spot on in our theme ‘experiencing the power of the cross’, and in this case over the title for today namely ‘experiencing the power of the cross over the world’. But, verse 14 is written in a broader context which actually starts at chapter 1:1 and ends at chapter 6:18, but in particular now it is surrounded by verses 11-16 which forms a narrower context.

So to do justice to this sermon we need to take two weeks and look at these verses in the context of verses 11-16.

I am not going to break it into specific points, as there are no reasonable points in the text, rather we need to just take this a verse at a time.

Verse 11:

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”

This might on the surface seem to be a strange statement that Paul is making here, but it is significant. It is common knowledge based on other texts that Paul used a secretary to write on his behalf. So he must have spoken as led by the Holy Spirit, and somebody else penned it down. The reason for this seems to be that Paul had an eye problem, which was probably his thorn in the flesh, which he regarded as a work of Satan, and remember he did not live in the day of ophthalmologists or opticians, so he had to live with his bad eyesight. Paul would however authenticate his letters by signing the letter with his own hand. We have evidence of this for example in 1 Corinthians 16:21 (ESV) “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.”

However when it came to the epistle to the Galatians, Paul penned it down himself, in big letters that he could read, now why would he do that. I believe it had to do with the seriousness of this letter, and by that we are not saying that the other epistles were not serious. But somehow, there is a critical urgency here, or maybe his secretary was just not available, or Paul just believed that he had to put pen to paper personally, because the issues that the church in Galatia were facing was so urgent. I actually do believe that the urgency of the matter was why he wrote the letter himself, and this I believe due to the placing of this statement. Why did he not state it in the beginning, or at the end, why here just before he makes one of the most critical statements in his letter? Look again from verse 12: 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Now notice two statements that are standing out, and we will deal with them later. The two statements are “in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” and then the contrasting statement: “but far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now we all know that the Galatian church were hoodwinked into legalism. But that is not where their problem ended. The motive of those who hoodwinked them was even a greater problem as they were willing to do anything as long as they prevented persecution for the cross. Paul however was not ashamed of the cross, he boasted in the cross.

So, let’s unpack it from verse 12.

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

A modern translation of this verse would be. ‘Stay away from people who are simply spiritual show offs who are too afraid to die for their faith, do not let them manipulate you for their own purposes’.

Now, we are not working through Galatians, which would have been ideal to make sense of this section. So you will have to believe me in a few comments I make. If we studied chapter 4 & 5 in detail we would see that Paul destroyed the doctrine of legalism and law which the Galatians succumbed to. The Galatians fell for the trap that it is what they looked like, how people viewed them that was at the heart of the matter. They fell for issues like ‘circumcision’ for one simple reason, and that is to join those who want to make a good showing in the flesh.

Is this not the show off Christianity that many of us grew up with? All kinds of legalism, in what we do, how we act, how we are viewed, how we dress when we come together – you needed to look like a Christian, act like a Christian, dress like a Christian, and our Christian lawmakers would figure out what that is, and anything else than that would be classified as worldly. We will see this later, but Paul turns this on its head and calls that worldly, because all it is – is more manmade systems and manmade worldviews. Christian, if Christianity is nothing more for us than a show, then we suffer of pride and are conceited thinking that in our own efforts we will attain the grace of God.

Now why would people do that?  Why will people want to put the focus on outward impression, and in particular the outward impression that the Galatians fell for?

Now there can be many reasons. Sometimes showing off masks who we really are, it can even mask our sins, but we become like the Pharisees who were like coffee mugs which were clean on the outside while dirty on the inside, or white plastered graves, beautiful to observe on the outside, but full of dead bones on the inside. Another reason can be that we are insecure in what Christ has attained for us and we therefore believe we need to help God in establishing our righteousness, and by adding we feel more secure because now I stand complete in the righteousness of God and a little bit of my own. By the way, this is what all false religions that parade as Christianity look like. It is always Christ plus something else.  Any religion which is unwilling to accept Jesus Christ as the only and all-sufficient Saviour is an indulgence of the flesh built on pride. It's as if man wants to achieve virtue on his own in order that he might gain a reputation, or gain respect, sadly from the wrong people. That's how it was for the legalists. They wanted to show off. Legalists always do. Self-righteous people always do. They want to flaunt their religion. They want someone to commend them, pat them on the back honouring the level of religion they have achieved. I think we all know people who even share in the doctrines that we believe in, but it is never enough, there always has to be more, and so we add laws, laws and more laws, and the root of that is pride.

But there is a deeper issue for us here, that now cuts right back to our sermon series on experiencing the power of the cross. This theme is so central in Paul’s thinking, but it was so shallow in the thinking of the Galatians. So not only was it about show, but their legalism was about fear. Paul says that the reason they followed this way was “only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ”. They would rather be IN with the crowd than being persecuted. To put it in another way, they would rather follow law, than the freedom brought by the cross, simply to avoid persecution.

Now something we must remember is that the cross of Jesus Christ was an offence to the Jews. Cursed was anybody who hung on a cross. If Jesus was their Messiah, why would He die at the hands of Roman oppression, and why would He die on across.  Nobody in a false religion wants pain, that's why persecution always destroys false religion because nobody is going to join a false religion if you have to pay for it with your life. They don't want to be persecuted. Literally what he's talking about here is they do not want to be identified with the cross of Christ. That cross where Jesus dies was an offense to the Jews. The idea that their Messiah was crucified by Roman soldiers, was utterly and absolutely unthinkable to them. The cross was very offensive. The doctrine of saving grace in the cross created resentment, hostility and persecution.

So to stay in good faith with the legalists, with the Judaisers, they chose not to be identified with the cross.  Legalists hardly ever put emphasis on the cross. For them it is law, more law, and more law and simple conformity. Legalists only want that which will exalt them, the exaltation of Christ is normally secondary. If you are in a religion of human achievement, then the religion of divine accomplishment means very little to you.

Verse 13.

Let’s march on and look at one more truth for today and this truth we find in verse 13: Galatians 6:13 (ESV) “For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.”

What we see in verse 13 is that those who placed the Galatian believers under bondage and law, did it for one simple reason and that is to glory in their flesh instead of the cross. Paul says: “that they may boast in your flesh.” We have all seen this. Watch when the legalists come into town. Instead of ministering to you in love and grace and teaching you a love for Christ and the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, they manipulate you through spiritual blackmail into a position where you start adhering to rules and regulations created by them, and they end up micromanaging your life through petty rules and regulations. Through selective application and manipulation of Scripture they will make you believe that it is what God wants. The Judaizers emphasized the importance of circumcision which fitted with Jewish culture and religion. Others today will tell you if you do not home-school, or if a mother does not stay at home, or you do not honour their teachers or believe exactly as they do, or you do not worship as they do, or have a quiet time like they do or claim they do, and live the lifestyle they do, and share in their preferences they uphold, then you are not the Christian you ought to be. Legalism is in their fibre, it is in their DNA, they don’t even always realise that they are doing this to you. If you dig deep you will discover that they themselves apply their own laws selectively. Their glory is to get you to compromise and to conform, so that they can boast in what they have achieved in and through you.

Paul says these people are circumcised but they do not keep the law, yet they want you to. It is matter of do not do what I do, but do what I say. One thing you will always notice with legalists is that they are super zealous to make converts that will hold to their law. It brings for them a kind of comfort in numbers. But my friend, break one of their laws, and you will not receive grace because where people operate by law there is no grace, because law and grace do not go together. They might be experts with the doctrines of grace, but they know zippo of the grace of the doctrine. Jesus had this very problem with the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew 23:15 (ESV) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” In order to cover up their wretchedness, they are outwardly good and aggressive in their effort to make converts. They keep the pretence up and they scour land and sea, Jesus said of the Jews, to make one proselyte. They glory in their converts.

Church family, the cross is just the opposite of all of this. The cross tells the truth about us. The cross devastates pride and the very essence of the cross is that we are hopelessly lost and fallen and damned and doomed to eternal hell and the fact is we can't do anything about it, we can't do anything to save ourselves, and we can't achieve anything that will ultimately cause God to change His mind about destroying us. The cross is devastatingly humbling. The cross inevitably brings persecution because as soon as we identify with the cross, we immediately condemn all the religions of works, whatever their name might be, all over the world. False religions cannot tolerate that and since Satan runs that world system, he sets out to persecute those who know the truth. Furthermore, it is really a terrible thing to try to face the reality that somebody could actually be holy when you're a fake and you're a pretender. That is very convicting. That is devastating. Nothing cuts across man and chops him down at the very root like the cross. Nothing bursts the inflated balloon of his own ego like the cross. Nothing shrinks him to his true shrivelled size like the cross.

So Paul looks at these big untidy large letters that he's writing and they remind him of those people who care only for the letters and not the spirit, only for the show and not the reality. He faced that in Corinth when people condemned him not for what he said but the way he said it. The religion of human achievement is always concerned about how you look on the outside, can't do anything for the inside. And the world is full of these self-righteous people who are self-righteous out of pride, self-righteous because they will not pay the cost involved in confronting their own sin and feeling the persecution of an evil system. Self-righteous because they want to cover up the reality of what they really are. Such is the religion of human achievement. But for us our power is in the cross, and while message of the cross of Jesus is foolishness for others, for us it is the power, the glory, and the essence of our daily life in Christ.

Next week we will see how Paul glories in the cross and what it means to be dead to the world and the world being dead to us.


Logos Community Church: 18 August 2013