This article was first published as Meditation in the March 15, 1954 issue of the Standard Bearer, and was penned by then Rev. Homer C. Hoeksema.
The Cross and Boasting
"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Galatians 6:14
The concision, who desire to make a fair show in the flesh; and the spiritual circumcision, who glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Those who strive to be pleasing in the eyes of the carnal world, especially the carnal Jews; and those who, covered by the blood, glorying in the cross, desire to be pleasing before God! Those who fear, lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ; and those who, boasting in the accursed tree on which the Lord of glory was nailed, count ail things,—even life itself,—but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord! Those who themselves the mutilated, would boast in the flesh of the Gentile Christians, pressing upon them the whole unbearable burden of the law, so that they could say, "We are their teachers; we even teach the Gentile world to keep the law!" And those in whom the mutual fellowship of life between them and the world has ceased, and who ascribe this fact of grace exclusively to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Emphatic contrast! God forbid! Let it be far from me, that I should boast, that I should be proud of anything, rejoice in anything, but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Personal confession! Confession of Paul, the converted persecutor, the apostle to the Gentiles; confession of the Christians then; confession of every child of God in principle! For do not overlook that note. The apostle does not make a mere cold dogmatical statement of what is a fact in the case of every Christian, every elect. Such a statement could indeed be made. Every true child of God glories in nothing else than the cross of Jesus Christ. By our Lord Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, the world is crucified unto every child of God; and they are crucified unto the world. Nor does the apostle pen an emphatic admonition. That also is possible and necessary. Never must you arid I boast in anything else, save in His cross. Always must we take care to glory only in Golgotha's cross. Always the world must be crucified to us, and we to the world. And always the power of that crucifixion must be the power of the cross. Ample room there is in the lives of us all for such admonitions.
But here you find a personal expression arising out of the life and experience of the apostle. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world!
Shall we repeat it? Can we? Do we?
The world is crucified to me . . . and I to the world! Of that fact of salvation the apostle boasts here. And the power of that mutual crucifixion is our Lord Jesus Christ, and that too, as the crucified one. The result is that when the apostle boasts, he boasts not of himself but he glories in the cross of Christ.
Marvelous wonder! Radical change!
The world is crucified to me, and I am crucified unto the world! That means that I and the world are dead to each other. It means that we have died to each other in a very peculiar and distinctive way: we have died to each other by crucifixion. And it implies, therefore, that outside of the cross there was at one time a very definite fellowship, a communion of life, between me and the world. That relationship existed once, but it is no more. The world and I are mutually crucified!
You will understand readily that the apostle refers to the world from a certain definite viewpoint. For the apostle speaks of a mutual fellowship that is broken by crucifixion: he has broken through that crucifixion with something evil. That world has become accursed to him, and he to that world. It is the world of which the apostle John writes: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
The world is the organic whole of all things that result from the striving and acting of sinful men, totally depraved men,—men that are incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all evil,—using all created things as their means. Man is the heart and the head of creation. Thus he came from the hand of the creator. All earthly things must serve that man, in order that with all things man may serve his God. But now when that man, who was created in the image of God, capable of serving God in the three-fold office of prophet, priest, and king, becomes God's enemy, turns his back on the living God refuses to serve and glorify Him, serves the devil, loves the lie, becomes submerged in horrible darkness, unrighteousness, unholiness,—when that man, still using all things, still having dominion over the earthly creation even though he is a rebel, still acting upon all things, still operating in every relationship of life, with that whole of created things serves sin and the devil, then you have what the apostle here calls "the world".
To that world he is crucified. And that world is crucified to him. It is the world that contains the lust of the eyes, and all it produces: the sinful satisfaction of the senses. It is the world that contains the lust of the flesh: sinful pleasures, treasures, and their accompanying greed and corruption. It is the world that is filled with the pride of life: it glories in man and his works; it is filled with self-righteousness; it dethrones God, and enthrones man. It is the world that passeth away, and the lust thereof, while he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
With that world I am one by birth. I am not only in the world, but I am of the world by nature. As that world is, so am I: in guilt, in sin and trespasses, in death, living from the same principle, the principle of enmity against the living God. There is fellowship between us. That world lives to me, pleases me, gratifies my carnal desires, offers me the satisfaction of the flesh. That world caters to me as I am by nature. And I live to the world. I seek it, I honor it, I please it, I strive for it. Its thoughts are my thoughts. Its aim is my aim. Its pleasures are my pleasures. It treasures are my treasures. Its sinful ambition is my sinful ambition. In and with all my existence, all my powers of body and soul, I go hand in hand with the world. And that world goes hand in hand with me.
But now, hear the gospel of the cross! The world is crucified to me, and I unto the world! That implies that all the ties of fellowship that there ever existed between me and that world mutually are broken. And they are broken not only on the part of the world, but also on my part. All that was true when I was in my fallen estate, my natural estate, is no more true! I am dead to the world, and it is dead to me.
And mark you well, this death takes place in a very peculiar way! The physical death of my body is not that which accomplishes the break. Nor is it a natural process of development and evolution, of growth and reform, that gives rise to this breach between me and the world. But the apostle speaks of a spiritual, ethical schism. Spiritually there comes a great gulf between me and the world! Ethically an unbridgeable chasm comes to separate us! For it is the death of crucifixion, the accursed death, of which the apostle speaks. And the death of the cross implies hatred and contempt. It means that the victim is despised and cast out. And when the world, therefore, is crucified to me, and I to the world, it means that in place of a natural fellowship there comes a mutual enmity. I and that world, which formerly were in complete harmony, are now at complete odds!
The result is that I am still in, the world, yet not of the world! That world and all its sinful life and lusts, its corruption, its pleasures and treasures is dead to the in the sense that it is become the object of my contempt. And I am dead to the world and its sinful ambition in the sense that I am become the object of its contempt and hatred!
Mutual enmity instead of mutual fellowship!
Such is the power of the cross of Christ!
And remember: the enmity of the world is the fellowship of God!
Glorying of that wonderful fact of salvation, of deliverance from the dominion of sin and death, I glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in naught else!
God forbid that I should glory in ought else! For it isby, or through, that cross that this mutual fellowship between me and the world is killed.
Very little difference does it make whether you read the text "by which", referring to the cross, or "by whom," referring to the Crucified One. The meaning remains the same. The death by crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ has the power, is the efficient cause of the cessation of the fellowship of life between me, and the world.
Mark you well, the crucified Lord Jesus Christ has that power. Not His teaching is that power, so that the breach between me and the world is a matter of moral persuasion. Not His example brings about the break, so that it is a matter of habit and attraction. Not His reformatory work, so that this change is a matter of changed environment. But as always, the cross of Christ stands at the center of it all. It is His crucifixion. And that cross, the cross of Calvary, means that there is a victorious power, a power that is able to cut the tie between the world and me. In the cross of Christ I glory!
In it I glory to the exclusion of all else! God forbid that I should glory save in it!
According to the flesh, indeed, I may put my confidence in many other things,—countless things. But in my deepest heart I hate that very inclination, and I say, "Far be it from me." Also that proceeds from the fact that I am crucified to the world, and the world to me. And I attribute all to the cross of Jesus. In it only I trust. On it I rely in life and death, with body and soul, for time and eternity. It is the death of my death, the power of my power, the life of my life! Only in it do I boast!
You ask why? The reason is simple, but wonderful. For the death of Jesus is the killing of the power of sin.
The power of sin, that which binds me to the power and dominion of sin and death, is guilt, a mountain of it. Guilt is liability to the punishment of death. And the death of Jesus Christ is the satisfaction for, the removal and blotting out of guilt, the restoration of that state of righteousness in which I have a right to life. Still more: His death on the cross was vicarious. It is the death of Jesus Christ, our Lord. It is for that reason the removal of our guilt, the death of ourdeath. In His cross is the righteousness and life of all that are His. They were all crucified to the world of sin and death when He was crucified. The power of sin and death were forever put to naught by His cross for all the elect. For at Golgotha all the guilt of all His own, past, present, and future, was completely blotted out.
Would you boast? Boast, then, not in your own work, not in your own righteousness. But, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!
And then even your glorying is from Him. For only in Him, that is, being one plant with Him, having a living bond of fellowship with the crucified redeemer, can you even boast. That cross is the sphere in which you must stand when you boast. And that means faith. And faith is the gift of God!
For Christ Jesus, the anointed Savior, is our Lord. To Him we belong. For us He is responsible. His will is our delight. And this is all because He is the crucified one that is risen! His power raises me from the dead, regenerating me. His power, the power of the risen Lord, unites me to Himself, placing me in living fellowship with Him, the crucified Redeemer, causing me to confide in Him, appropriate His righteousness as my own, desire it, seek it, receive it by His grace.
In the cross of Christ I glory . . . . . And in it only.
Homer C. Hoeksema was born in Grand Rapids, MI on January 30, 1923. He was the second son of Herman Hoeksema and born during the turmoil of the Common Grace controversy which led to the formation of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
He graduated from Calvin College and then the Protestant Reformed Seminary. He served the Protestant Reformed congregation at Doon, Iowa from 1949 to 1955 and later the Protestant Reformed congregation at South Holland, Illinois from 1955 to 1959.
In 1959 he was called to serve as professor in the Protestant Reformed Seminary, a position he held until his emeritation in 1989. He taught the departments of Dogmatics and New Testament studies. He served for many years as the editor of The Standard Bearer and wrote various significant books--the main one, a study of the Canons of Dordt titled: The Voice of the Fathers.
He was taken to glory on July 17, 1989.