Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:11-12 NIV)
Alrighty then! I think Paul had made himself quite clear, here. If anyone has trouble interpreting today’s passage, send me an e-mail and I will direct you to the appropriate resources.
Let’s spend some time with the word “offense.” Did you know the cross was offensive?
It was offensive culturally. People were crucified on crosses to punish them for crimes, but also to shame them and deter others from following their wicked ways. Some criminals were guilty of crimes against the state and it was particularly important that the government put them on public display. Family members also shared in the shame since their name was paraded for all to see.
It was offensive visually. Crucifixion was repulsive. If the blood wasn’t bad enough, all of the other sights and smells made one want to turn and run away. Only the brave, the closest of kin and those with iron stomachs could tolerate the experience.
It was offensive spiritually. Righteousness was important to the Jews, and even some pagan idol worshippers of Rome sought personal honor through a natural moral code. The cross was a moral disgrace.
So why did God choose something this offensive as the means of our salvation?
My guess is because there was nothing more offensive to God than sin. Therefore, there was no better counter for the severity of our circumstances as sinners than the price Jesus paid to make us free. This means when we turn away from Jesus’ death on the cross because it turns our stomach, we are actually being sickened by our own sin.
Just to be clear…Paul thinks the offense of the cross is a good thing. He doesn’t want it abolished, yet, when seekers of self-righteousness try to force people to endure the irrelevant rite of circumcision, they are belittling the cost, and the offensive nature of the cross.
If, hypothetically, we were to abolish the offense of the cross, then it would no longer be sufficient to cover the offense of our sin.
Here is an important statement regarding the cross: it is impossible to be redeemed if we don’t believe Jesus’ death on the cross was an offensive event designed to balance our ledger of offensive sins. I know there are those who claim to be Christian who follow Jesus’ teachings, but don’t believe in the atonement (Jesus’ payment for our sin with His blood). But this is a grave error. In fact it is illogical since Jesus Himself said He had come to lay down His life for His sheep (John 10:15). If we accept the teaching of Jesus, but don’t accept His own instruction on the meaning of the cross, we contradict ourselves.
Sometimes one has to be offensive…even if it involves that “e” word Paul used in today’s passage.
Dear God, thank You for the cross. In Jesus’ name, Amen.