But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.
In Galatia, the Christians were finding themselves misled by those who wanted to impose the Jewish law on them. These religious teachers told the Galatians that they had to surrender to certain religious rituals in order to truly be forgiven by God, to be saved, to be children of God.
Paul’s response to these men was one of great heat. The moment something is added to the cross of Christ, the truth of the cross of Christ is lost, denied. Every religion in the world believes that those who are made right with their deity are made so by their performance of right actions or duties. Christianity is the only religion in the world where the justice of God is preserved while not allowing for a person to earn their way to God by performing right actions or rituals.
Paul said, and this is what has my attention this morning, that to add works to the cross removes the “offense of the cross.” For some reason, our world is offended by the cross of Jesus. I don’t think this is about the blood or the ugliness of the cross, though many are offended by that. The cross is offensive to the world because it both declares that we are guilty and under the wrath of God while declaring that there is nothing we can do on our own to make ourselves right with God. The cross calls us sinful, guilty, damnable. The cross tells us that the only way for us to be right with God is to totally surrender to God and place our trust in Jesus alone. The cross tells us that, though we often want to fix ourselves and do things our way, the only way for us to be right with God is to let go of all our hopes for being good enough to get to God, and to fall on the mercy of God in Christ.
No religion would naturally think of the cross. No religious teacher would say, “OK, here’s the thing. You cannot do anything to please your deity. Just trust that your deity has done it all for you. If you trust, you’re in. If you refuse to trust him, you’re out. You don’t have to pay me for this. You don’t have to become a slave to me for this. You just have to trust.” But, such a message is God’s message. He has chosen to do things in a way beyond our comprehension. God has saved his children by himself, for himself, to himself, and from himself.
When you present your faith to another, do you include the offense of the cross? Think that through. If your faith offers no offense to the world, you are probably missing the cross. If you make your faith about success in this life and not about Christ, you are missing the cross. If you make your faith all about the love of God with no wrath, you are missing the cross. If you make your faith about doing good deeds, obeying rules, refraining from certain things while performing certain actions, you are missing the cross. Our goal is not to offend, but the offense of the cross is the gospel.