Chapter 1 The Glory Of The Cross

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified/ I unto me, and I unto the world (Galatians 6:14).

It is not in human nature to glory in itself or in its own achievements without some measure of vainglory. Some glory in their physical strength; some in their mental proclivities; some in their learning; others glory in honors attained, or wealth gained, or scientific discoveries made.

Saul of Tarsus, afterward the Apostle Paul, made a categorical list in Philippians 3, of all those things in which he could glory after the flesh. Religiously, intellectually, and morally he stood higher than most of his contemporaries. But after his conversion on the Damascus road by direct revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, his chief employment and the design of all his ministry was not to set forth his own praises, but to glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus.

The Title Given Our Lord

This glorying of Paul was most remarkable, for in his day the cross was regarded as a symbol of shame and ignominy, associated only with the most degraded of men. The death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, however, turned the cross into a symbol of life and blessing. In this verse Paul reminds us who He is. Over against the ignominy of the cross he sets forth our Lord in His full title—the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything is in that title to magnify Him in His personal glory and to make Him most desirable to the fallen sons of men.

He is “The Lord,” which states His Godhood. This assures us that what He did on the cross was fully efficacious and answers the purpose for which He hung suspended there, that the work He had come to do was not too heavy for Him, that His righteousness would surely justify us from all sin, that His blood would most certainly procure the pardon of sinners, and that He would be able to keep what men commit unto Him. This title sets Him forth as God.

Next, Paul gives Him His human name—Jesus, which means “Jehovah the Saviour.” It is Heaven’s chosen name for Him because He would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Such was the design of His coming into the world—that by means of the cross He would obtain eternal redemption for us. This is a very sweet name, especially to those who have seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin and themselves as lost and undone.

Then He is spoken of as “The Christ,” which is a translation of the Hebrew “Messiah” and encloses within its meaning the three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. How precious that name was to those who waited for Him in ancient times! Andrew, after spending most of a day with Him, came forth in the evening to witness to his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” For him the quest of life was over, and the agony of seeking ended. He had found the secret of life.

The Cross as the Power of God

“The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The cross is the first fact of the Christian gospel and God’s means of saving sinners. It has in it the doctrine of atonement—that the Lord Jesus laid down His life for us, gave Himself a ransom for us, offered Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and shed His precious blood to purge away our sins. Upon that cross the blessed Son of God was “made…sin for us…that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The cross is the greatest display of the whole character of God. All attributes of the Godhead are in exercise there. All are united or compounded together to make the sacrifice efficacious, to meet every demand of the law, and to silence every accusation of Satan. How great and glorious, how astonishing and unparalleled, how matchless and boundless, how unchanging and everlasting is His love in the work of the cross! It is there, and there alone, that a full atonement has been made and the utmost ransom paid.

But it is a necessary part of the doctrine that man must receive it and exercise faith in it. It will bring us little comfort and do us little service unless we can, in some measure, appropriate it to ourselves, saying with the apostle: “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” It will bring no joy to our hearts that He has loved others if we do not believe that He loves us. It is faith’s look at the cross, as having a peculiar interest in His love, which makes it work effectually in us, to heal our wounds, relieve our terrors, remove our sins, and reconstitute us into a new creation.

The Glorying in the Cross

But why did Paul glory in the cross? One atheistic philosopher acknowledged that Paul was among the six greatest minds who ever lived. He was the master of logic—a master mind. He was no fanatic—not a man overcome by sudden emotion without a basis in reason. But he swept aside all else and tells us that he glories only in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross.”

There are some who would conceal it, some who are ashamed of it, some who regard it even as a shambles, so that in these days of spiritual declension you may hear many a sermon without mention of the cross, and sing many a hymn without a single reference to it. But not Paul! He glories in it because it vindicates God’s justice, honors His holiness, exhibits His wisdom, satisfies His righteousness, displays His love, and purges away all sin and guilt. It swings open a door of hope where no hope was, and a door through which any man can pass and be saved.

Glory, glory everlasting,
Be to him who bore the cross,
Who redeemed our souls by tasting
Death, the death deserved by us!
Spread His glory, spread His glory,
Who redeemed His people thus.
His is love, ’tis love unbounded,
Without measure, without end;
Human thought is here confounded,
’Tis too vast to comprehend:
Praise the Saviour! praise the Saviour!
Magnify the sinner’s Friend.

While we hear the wondrous story
Of the Saviour’s cross and shame,
Sing we, “Everlasting glory
Be to God and to the Lamb.”
Hallelujah, hallelujah!
Give ye glory to His Name!

Thomas Kelly