At the Foot of the Cross

Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross .

Gal. 3:1 NLT

Spent several hours yesterday studying and reflecting on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Love the Apostle Paul’s personal directness, powerful conviction, and moral clarity in proclaiming the gospel vis-a-vis the law, that is, performance orientation. The earliest heresy of the church was not Gnosticism, but moralism.

Moralism promises the approval of God and the receiving of God’s righteousness to sinners if we only behave and commit ourselves to moral improvement (i.e., doing better and trying harder). Moralism is not the gospel. We cannot fix, improve, or renovate ourselves. Only by Christ’s cross and the Spirit’s enablement can our hearts be changed and our sins forgiven, forgotten, and overcome. Only by trusting Christ’s finished work on the Cross can we be accepted by God.

I repeat, moralism is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, died for our sins and rose again. Christ was, is, and forever will be triumphant over all his and our enemies. Because of Christ’s work on the Cross, no condemnation exists for those who believe, but only everlasting joy now and forever. The Gospel shrinks us down to size, it declares to us that there is nothing in ourselves that can save ourselves.

This is the gospel Paul preached in the letter to the Galatians:

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is here, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.

John Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 179.