“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.” – Galatians 6:14
BOASTING IN THE CROSS
by Brandon Patten
What comes to mind when you hear the word “boast?” I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word, it has a bit of a negative connotation and I tend to think of it as it relates to others and not to myself. To be honest, I think about athletes boasting in their performance, or politicians bragging about their achievements, or a company touting their latest product or sales figures. I never think of myself doing it, but the truth is we all boast.
In the closing chapter of his letter to the Galatian church, the apostle Paul addresses boasting in an interesting way. He implies that there is both appropriate and inappropriate boasting: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul says very clearly that we should boast, but that our boasting should be singular in focus – namely, in the cross of Jesus Christ.
So, what does it mean to boast in the cross? To understand what Paul is saying in this passage, we first need to unpack the word “boast,” since it is central to the meaning of this verse. In English, the word essentially means to talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities. But the Greek word that Paul uses is kauchasthai, which does not have a precise equivalent in English, but essentially means to glory in, trust in, rejoice in, revel in, live for, or exult. Theologian John Stott further explains, “The object of our boast or ‘glory’ fills our horizons, engrosses our attention, and absorbs our time and energy. In a word, our ‘glory’ is our obsession.” So, now we can see that boasting isn’t only a negative term relating to others, but also a positive, passionate, and personal verb!
Our boasting, as Paul explains, should be oriented properly – to the cross of Jesus Christ. It is important to remember that the cross, in first century culture, was the absolute epitome of public shame, humiliation, and suffering. This is the same cross that we are called to exult and rejoice in. How exactly do we do this?
In order to truly glory in the cross, we need to understand what happened on the cross. We know that Jesus died on the cross, but the second half of Galatians 6:14 goes further and says “…by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” In a sense, there are three crucifixions. By dying on the cross, Jesus purchased redemption for those who believe and trust in him. But Paul is also saying that we as believers are united to Christ in his death on the cross, and as a result, we are crucified to the world and the world is crucified to us. What a beautiful and encouraging truth!
Biblical boasting is gospel-exalting boasting, and it begins with the clear understanding of our sinful nature and complete inability to live up to God’s standard on our own merit. It is grounded in the work of Christ on the cross where he paid the penalty for our sin. But it doesn’t end there in the past. It continues in our daily living a crucified life – a life freed from the desires of this world by faith in Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“O cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground, there blossoms red,
Life that shall endless be.”
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go – George Matheson
FAMILY LENT ACTIVITY
Spend time as a family focused on Jesus and the cross. Do all of these activities at one time or mix and match throughout the week.
• Write down on paper some things you boast about or that consume your time and attention. Talk about how these things can become an idol, taking a more important role in your life than Jesus.
• Discuss: What does it mean for you to be crucified to the world? What steps should you take to boast in Jesus rather than your own interests or talents?
• Pray as a family.
Take time to be still before God and pray, using these starter prayers to guide your time.
• Forgive me for boasting in things other than your cross.
• Thank you for the incredible grace you extend through the cross of Jesus Christ. Kindle in me a holy fire of adoration for you and the uniting work you accomplished on the cross.
• By the Spirit, help me live a crucified life that reflects the all-surpassing truth and glory of being united to Christ through his work on the cross.
Brandon serves on the elder team at Cornerstone Church. He lives in Ames with his wife, Corrie, and their three children.