Galatians 6v14: “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.”
People normally boast about something about themselves or something they’re associated with that they think is impressive. So sticking with the theme that Paul’s talking about (namely, what people in the church might boast about), in his context, there were people boasting about circumcision, and not just their own circumcision, but they wanted to be able to boast about the Galatians being circumcised. Today people might boast about themselves (what books they’ve read, how much time they spend praying each day, how many people they’ve shared the gospel with), or they might boast about the church that they’re proud to be associated with (how big it is, how orthodox it is, or how trendy it is, how many programs they run). Paul doesn’t think any of those things are worth boasting about. “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the key moment in the history of the world where the depth of God’s love was displayed so graphically as he was willing to suffer in that way. And we don’t just observe it as spectators from a distance; we experience his love ourselves because his suffering was for us. When we see the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ the way Paul saw it – how glorious God showed himself to be when he made that sacrifice for us sinners – we won’t be boasting in what good Christians we are, or how good our church is. That would be ridiculous. All we will want to boast in is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul says “by (the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ) the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. To understand what he’s getting at here, I think we need to consider the previous verses that we just looked at.
Paul is contrasting himself with the people he was talking about in v12&13 who wanted to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ. They wanted to make a good showing in the flesh to impress people, to earn their approval.
Because the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ was everything to him, the world was dead to him. He doesn’t need anyone else’s approval anymore. This is similar to Philippians 3v7-8: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”. Since Paul has seen and experienced the glorious love of God in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, anything in the world that might take his attention away from Christ is useless to him. The world is crucified to him. The world can even persecute him for the sake of the cross of Christ if it wants; he’s not bothered. Christ is worth it.
Paul is also contrasting himself, boasting in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the people he was talking about in v12&13 who were boasting in the flesh, in circumcision. So when he says he has been crucified to the world, I think he’s referring back to chapter 2 where he said he’d been “crucified with Christ” (v20), and he “died to the law” (v19). The world boasts in the flesh. Even in the church, people boast in their works, not in circumcision anymore, but hoping they’ve put enough effort into living as a Christian should in order to earn God’s approval. Paul has been crucified to that by the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we’re united to Christ by faith in him, we’re dead to the law, dead to trying to earn God’s approval. God has already declared his approval of us; he’s declared us righteous; he’s justified us. We’re justified not by works of the law, but through faith in Christ.