Author: Rev. Martin Holdt
These are transcriptions of sermons preached by Rev. Martin Holdt, a series on “The cross”. This is the Part 1 of the message, “Glorying in the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Scripture reading: Galatians 6: 1 – 18
Galatians 6 verse 14: Far be it from me, said the apostle Paul, 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. I prefer the Authorised Version use of the word glory though both is acceptable : far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is he saying? Let’s be clear about that before we get into the text. He is not saying that he glories in that wooden instrument on which our Lord Jesus was crucified. It doesn’t say that. Cicero once said that the worst form of execution ever invented by the human mind was crucifixion. It was terrible, it was painful and shameful and it was ghastly. Let me remind you about it. The victim was stripped, shamefully nailed with steel nails to a wooden gibbet and that’s what they did to the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ. Now Paul thinking about it says: “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As if to say let that be my breakfast, lunch and supper. Let that be the theme of my ministry, wherever I go and whatever I do – the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Incidently, before I take you any further, let’s get one thing straight again, it is not the wooden cross. Forgive me if you disagree with me, let us remain friends, I don’t like the hymn “That old Rugged Cross”. I think there are better renderings of the truth of Jesus Christ crucified. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and he said I don’t want to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
In the 1980’s I was asked to visit three men separately who were on death row when the death penalty was still being practiced in South Africa. Can you imagine either them or me saying “hey boys what a terrific thing the gallows are”. It would have been hideous to say that and to think that. What was Paul talking about when he says that. Why does he say it? Why does he put it in this way? Glorying in the cross where Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, was nailed in a shameful way to a Roman gibbet.
Well, let me try to help you. First of all because it was God’s idea. And that’s stunning. Who would have thought that of the Holy One of Israel? It was God’s plan, His purpose. We are told in the book of Revelations 13 verse 8 that the Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world and the fall did not take God by surprise.
The cross was not, as some people suggested, plan B because plan A failed. It was emphatically not that. The fall had hardly happened and Adam and Eve had hardly made their feeble attempt to cover the shame of their nakedness, which was rejected by God. Then the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments from skin and clothed them. It was His idea. They tried it in another way, but God made this to cover them. There was the shedding of blood, followed by a covering of the skin. That was a shadow of the cross where Jesus Christ would shed his blood which spoke better things than that of Abel’s. The result of which his elect people through the centuries would be covered with His righteousness imputed to them, because there was a life and there was a death by which we are justified. More about that later.
It was God’s idea. It was given to Abraham whom God told to take Isaac whom he loved, up the mountain and to sacrifice him. He was testing His child. Then when the dagger was about to be plunged into the chest of the son he loved, the call came from heaven – stop. Now I know. Abraham then looked and he saw a ram caught in the thicket. The text puts it so powerfully. The lamb was sacrificed, instead of penal substitution, which I will be dealing with next time. Whose idea was it? God’s idea.
That’s why Jesus Christ once said Abraham saw my day and was glad. Doesn’t that tie up with what Paul says God forbid that I should glory as if to say I am glad about it all; the cross, Jesus Christ and Him crucified?
What is to be done about our sin, wretched, horrible, evil, that awful, thick barrier between you and God. God had a plan. The cross was His idea and only His. What a thought it was. Brilliant, as I hope to show you in a moment. Only God could think like that and don’t you love Him for it?
Secondly, it cancelled out all other ideas about living and dying. The verse ends with the words “by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” I will deal with that part of the verse later but enough to say now, that when rightly understood the cross separates us from the world. The world simply has no idea what it is all about. That’s why it lives the way it does; in the filth of sin and iniquity. The kind of which Jesus took upon Himself to save His people from it and the world oblivious to the significance and the glory and the magnificence of that sacrifice of Jesus Christ, simply goes on and on sinning and loving it all the way to hell and evil men wax worse and worse, because it is blind to the glory of the cross.
We who believe in Jesus cannot live like that. Why not? Because He who died on the cross was the Holy One of God and when He went voluntarily, willingly and lovingly to pay the penalty for our sin, He did not suspend His holiness. He became a sacrifice that we might be holy. When I sadly hear some of you here, about some believer or even minister of the gospel having fall into moral sin, yes, I react as probably all of you do, but for the grace of God there go I. But there is something else that needs to be asked. Did this man drink deeply of the fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, where sinners plunged beneath that flood loose all their guilty straying? Did he stop and think of Jesus on the cross? I do not think it possible for a man, who knows God and loves Christ to go willy-nilly into a dreadful evil, sinful fall, if he has taken note and thought deeply enough about Calvary. Why? 2 Corinthians 5 verse 14 and 15: “The love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this, that one has died for all and therefore all have died” The all here, by the way, clearly, if you use any amount of logic refers first to believers and believers only. And he died for all,(that is for believers), that those who live life no longer live for themselves. Here it comes. But for Him. For Him who for their sake died and was raised.
The point is this, if you have taken cognisance of the depth of meaning of Calvary, you will avoid sin like the plague. The world loves its sin, the world wants its sin. If we have been to Calvary we will hate it and in the power of the Holy Spirit will shed it and the cross therefore stands between us and the world. Which is why the apostle Paul in this verse says, after having said God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and adds “by which the world has been crucified to me as I to the world.” We don’t live the same. We don’t behave in the same way. We cannot.
Thirdly: He gloried in the cross because it was the gate to glory and the only one. Beginning with Jesus it was so for Him. We are told, following that brilliant chapter 11, of the letter to the Hebrews: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us. Looking to Jesus the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do you see the stages through which He went? Shame as He was dying and hanging naked on a cross; the path to glory and when He met the disciples on the Emmaus Road and they were completely confused about all that had happened, Jesus said to them. “Ought not the Son of God to have suffered and then he added “and then enter His glory?” We walk in His steps and follow Him. He paid for your sins that you might belong to Him, but that the way may be opened for you to enter the holy place of God and to be there with Him, with Christ forever and the world does not have that.
Bishop Philip Brooks was dying, a Godly man. He actually had one unconverted friend amongst others, his name was Robert Ingersol, who was an agnostic. The Bishop was forbidden visitors as he was in the process of passing away. When Robert Ingersol pitched and he heard it he said: “let him in”. Robert Ingersol was quite confounded. His best friends are not admitted but he lets me in, without a moment’s notice. Although the bishop was weak and dying he could not resist the question, Robert Ingersol. Why me? The Bishop said, with faltering lips, “as it happens, Robert, I have every prospect of seeing my friends again, but the way you are living and thinking I thought I would like to see you for the last time. Good-bye. “
Listen to Hebrews chapter 9 as it describes this in verse 27: “Just as it is appointed for man to die once and after that comes the judgment, the Greek word is χάσμα, it means divide, a separation, to bear the sins of many.” Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” If you don’t know it now, brother and sister in Christ, you will know it on that day, when you take your flight from this passing world and be taken up into the presence of God. And you will know then more than you ever knew at the most moving communion service, Christ crucified is the gate to glory and that’s why we boast about it and glory in it.
Fourthly: It reveal truth about God and His glorious attributes. In other words the cross tells us what God is like, more than anything else.
His wisdom! I mean it is profound. How does a holy God deal with ugly and awful sin and still remain impeccably holy and righteous, which He is immutably. How does He do it? When the apostle Paul was spelling out the meaning of the doctrine of justification and what God had done about our sin he said it so well, in verse 26 of Romans chapter 3. It was to show His righteousness at the present time so, listen to it again, “So that He might be just.” What must a just God do? Deal with us. You and I have transgressed and deserve to be in the pit of hell. But God loves and He devised a plan in His infinite wisdom whereby He might be just; and, oh blessed and, Hallelujah, the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. When I look at that I feel like just stopping here and getting us all to sing the Benediction in praise of such a God whose wisdom is displayed more than anywhere else. The cross for all its pain and shame is God’s brilliant wisdom and His love. Why would a God take the trouble to do such a thing for sinners like you and me? Why would a God like that not do what he suggested to Moses ought to be done for such wretches? Just wipe them off the face of the earth. And Moses I’ll make of you a great nation. Moses understood the mind of God. I don’t know whether I would have reacted like he did. What an appealing thought, the world filled with little Holdts. No, Moses says, no God, what about your name and what about your glory? And God is glorified in the cross. Because at great cost to Himself and because of a love which you and I will never, this side of the grave, never begin to comprehend; He did it. Romans chapter 5, verse 6 – 8. While we were still weak at the right time Christ died for thee. Ungodly. For one would scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God, glorious truth, glorious words, but God shows His love for us in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us! Oh God, we don’t understand, but we bow in humility to thank Him.