Faithlife Sermons

THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE CROSS

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Over the past several weeks we have taken a break from our series in Galatians, to focus our attention on the cross of Christ. This morning we return to our study of have titled this message The Commencement of the Cross, not because the cross is mentioned in this passage, but because it has been the focal point of Paul’s argument to the bewitched believers in Galatia.
The first time I ever encountered the word “commencement” was when I was a freshmen in high school (to the best of my knowledge). Because I was involved in both the band and the choir throughout my years in high school I was always involved in the commencement exercises. And that tradition continued on through my three years at the Moody Bible Institute. At first I had thought that commencement was the mark of the end of something, the end of high school, etc. But then I came to learn that the word actually means the beginning — the beginning of the rest of one’s life.
The message of the cross and the empty tomb is the message of the gospel. I find the following to be a helpful reminder of the content of the gospel message:
The Content Reminder:
Ruler
I find the following to be e helpful reminder of the content of the gospel message:
Rebel
Redeemer
Reception
Though the cross of Christ marked the end of Christ’s work on earth, for the believer it marks the beginning of our new life in Christ. How then is the believer to live in regards to this new life they have been given through their union with Christ’s death and resurrection? That is what the Apostle Paul begins to deal with in our text for this morning, . Up to this point in this epistle, Paul has been defending his apostleship, and laying the doctrinal foundation for the message of the cross and the empty tomb. Now, as is his normal practice, he turns to the ethical considerations in regards to the cross of Christ — THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE CROSS.
Paul presents three focuses of the believer in this passage, which will be unpacked through the remainder of this epistle. Believers are to focus on freedom, service, and forbearance in light of the cross of Christ.
Let’s read our passage together.
FOCUS ON FREEDOM
The first focus for the believer that Paul mentions in this text is a focus on freedom or liberty. In verse 13 he wrote: “For you were called to freedom, brethren.” The concept of freedom or liberty is very important to our nation, with such statements as: “Give me liberty or give me death;” or “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
But freedom is a very vague and even elusive idea. Though modern man would like to think that in their personal freedom they are not accountable to anyone or anything, that simply is not true. We have laws which govern society to which we are accountable. We have employers who do not run their companies with a democratic style of representation to which the employee is accountable. And we have God, who is the Creator of all, to whom every person that has ever lived is accountable.
So what did Paul mean when he said we were called to freedom? Here are a few of the things the N.T. teaches that The believer is free from:
believer is free from:
Freed from sin and its curse
Freed from the demands of the ceremonial law
Freed from self
Not only is the believer freed from certain things, but we are also freed unto certain things as well:
Freed unto love
Freed unto others
Freed unto God
The problem with freedom is that it often creates opportunities for sin. And so Paul warned the Galatians by writing: “Only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.”
The term that is translated “opportunity” was used in Greek literature regarding the starting point or base for a military operation or expedition. Though Satan lost the war with God at the cross of Christ and the empty tomb that followed, he still wants to win some battles and skirmishes. He is not willing to gracefully surrender! And when the believer uses his or her freedom in Christ to excuse fleshly activity, then Satan gets a foothold within that persons life. He gets a “beach head” for spiritual warfare.
We will get to this passage in a week or two, but quickly look at . Lest you think that “the flesh” refers merely to sexual types of sin, Paul actually lists more things that have to do with divisiveness than anything else. “Enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envying, are all things that cause divisiveness with the church (or the home). Obviously the Corinthian church was not the only N.T. church that struggled with factions.
We will get to this passage in a week or two, but quickly look at . Lest you think that “the flesh” refers merely to sexual types of sin, Paul actually lists more things that have to do with divisiveness than anything else. “Enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envying, are all things that cause divisiveness with the church (or the home). Obviously the Corinthian church was not the only N.T. church that struggled with factions.
Rather than allowing our focus on freedom to become an opportunity for sin, the believer is to focus on service instead.
FOCUS ON SERVICE
Notice how Paul ends verse 13: “But through love serve one another.” The term that is translated “serve” literally means “be a slave.” How’s that for a definition of freedom? If you want to be free, be a slave! Douglas Moo, in his commentary on this passage offered this literal translation: “Rather, in love act as slaves toward one another.”
Notice a few things:
This service is voluntary
This service is motivated by love
This kind of love fulfills the Law
How can we serve one another in love?
Pray for one another ()
James 5:16 NASB95PARA
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Bear with one another ()
Ephesians 4:1–2 NASB95PARA
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
Encourage one another with edifying words ()
Ephesians 4:29 NASB95PARA
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Esteem spiritual leaders ()
1 Thessalonians 5:12–13 NASB95PARA
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
Consider others as more significant than yourself ()
Philippians 2:1–5 NASB95PARA
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
So far we have looked at the focus on freedom and service. Let’s turn our attention now to the believer’s focus on forbearance.
FOCUS ON FORBEARANCE
Look with me at verse 15.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during the time of the Nazi’s rise to power in his beloved native land. He was eventually imprisoned in a concentration camp for speaking out against Adolph Hitler and his regime. In a worked titled Life Together he wrote:
“It must be a decisive rule of all Christian community life that each individual is prohibited from talking about another Christian in secret … Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be verbalized. Where this discipline of the tongue is practiced right from the start, individuals will make an amazing discovery. They will be able to stop constantly keeping an eye on others, judging them, condemning them, and putting them in their places and thus doing violence to them. They can now allow other Christians to live freely, just as God has brought them face to face with each other.”
What a thought provoking statement! What a convicting statement.
How do we keep from consuming one another within the local and or universal body of Christ?
Walk by the Spirit ()
Let’s pray:
Sovereign Lord, we humbly bow before You and acknowledge that You alone are God, You alone are the rightful ruler of Your blood-bought Church. We confess to You our shortcomings as well as our acts of rebellion. We thank You for the forgiveness that we have found in Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross. Father, enable us, by the power of Your Holy Spirit who indwells us, to walk in freedom. Further, help us to keep our personal freedom from becoming a foothold for Satan or our own sinful nature to take control of our lives and Your church. May Your Spirit constantly direct us to show the self-sacrificing love of Jesus to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and may this love be seen and desired by the world around us as we glorify You in our words and our actions. In Jesus name, Amen!
CLOSING SONG: MAY THE MIND (OVERHEAD)
May the mind of Christ, my Savior, Live in me from day to day, By His love and pow’r controlling All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly In my heart from hour to hour, So that all may see I triumph Only through His pow’r.
May the love of Jesus fill me As the waters fill the sea; Him exalting, self abasing, This is victory.
May the peace of God my Father Rule my life in everything, That I may be calm to comfort Sick and sorrowing.
May I run the race before me, Strong and brave to face the foe, Looking only unto Jesus As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me, As I seek the lost to win, And may they forget the channel, Seeing only Him.
May the mind of Christ, my Savior, Live in me from day to day, By His love and pow’r controlling All I do and say; All I do and say.
Live in me from day to day, By His love and pow’r controlling All I do and say.
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