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The Offense of the Cross

The Offense of the Cross

Words of Faith 6-17-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Galatians 5

     [11] Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. [12] As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!


       Apparently, some had accused Paul of preaching the "circumcision message" when it suited him and dropping it at other times.  Given the force of Paul's arguments here, it is hard to imagine, but it was probably known among the churches that Paul had Timothy circumcised as a new believer as a way to help him reach Jews.  Some may have also misunderstood Paul's advice to the Corinthian believers not to attempt to change the status of circumcision (1 Cor. 7:18).

         Whatever the case, Paul was adamant in rejecting this accusation.  He would not have been persecuted in nearly every town he entered if he had preached circumcision as part of the Christian message.  Frankly, a little religion mixed in with his message would have helped grease the rails in those towns.  Synagogue leaders would have embraced him so much more readily.  But if Paul had made this concession the loss would have been catastrophic-- the offense of the cross would be abolished.

         What is the "offense of the cross"?  The Greek word skandalon means a "trap" or "snare.”  Here Paul describes something so offensive to the natural mind that it would arouse fierce opposition. That is the way so many heard the Gospel. The redemptive power of the cross was actually a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks (1 Cor. 1:23).  This raw offensiveness of God's plan would be abolished if one could simply weave a little works righteousness into the mix.

        For Paul, any "work of the flesh" would remove the offense of the cross,  religious feasts, circumcision, religious ceremonies, legal observances, or anything symbolizing external religion.  These were all part of man's effort to attain standing before God through merit.   They softened the offense of the cross to make it easier for our flesh to accept.  Paul would have no part of it.

        The cross remains an offense to this day because it proclaims man's complete ruin in sin.  The cross declares that nothing man does or can do can ever save him.  The cross forever proclaims man's basic need for God's grace.  For that reason, the cross is an offense and will always be an offense.

         The natural man does not understand such truth.  A man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).   Natural man hates the truth because it strips away any pretense of spiritual achievement.  Religious man hates this truth because it allows no room for religious boasting (Eph 2:8-9).

         Now, Paul wanted to be very clear about this.  This was not just a theological chat for Paul.  He was not playing some philosophical word game among seminarians.  Here Paul made the most forceful... and offensive... statement he could against those who promoted a return to religious bondage among new believers. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

         Wow.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Today, Paul's pronouncement sounds coarse and reprehensible to us.  How could Paul say such a thing?  To the Galatian believers, this was even more shocking because they were familiar with pagan practices of cultic castration.  But don't misunderstand. Paul was not speaking maliciously or even in ill temper. He was making as forceful a case as he could for the sake of the gospel of grace and for God's truth.

         For Paul, grace was not an area where we can "agree to disagree.”  These were not "disputable matters" (Rom. 14:1) that could be set aside for the sake of peace.  Grace is everything, or it is nothing.  Salvation by grace through faith is either entirely true, or it is not true at all.  A little bit of works righteousness mixed in is not an acceptable option.  A portion of religion for the sake of comforting some in the group is not a compromise that can be made.

        For us, we might ask the reflective questions.  Have you been mixing in some religion with your grace?  Have you been judging your relationship with God based upon works?  Have you been judging others based upon their perceived works? 

      The truth is that there is nothing religious you can ever do that will make God love you any more than He has already loved you in Jesus, and there is nothing religious that you can fail to do that will make Him love you any less.  His love and forgiveness are simply there for you to do only one thing, receive.  That is grace.  It is offensive.  It is also amazing.


         Father God, I receive the grace of the Lord Jesus by faith.  Forgive me for my religious attitudes and my judgmental airs.  Forgive my feeble attempts at self-justification.  I claim the offensive work of the cross as my very own.  In Jesus' Name.


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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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