“For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 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 6:13,14)
Paul knew what it was like to glory in the superiority of his religious beliefs. He was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee.” (Phil. 3:5) No sect among the Jews thought they had it more right than the Pharisees. They were the “gold standard” in knowing and keeping the Word. Or, so they thought.
Glorying in ourselves implies a smug self-satisfaction in who we are and what we know and do. It inevitably leads to comparison with others. Jesus took aim at the deep streak of religious pride in so many who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” (Luke 18:9) Christ was not opposed to the law or a zealous commitment to uphold and keep the Word of God. His issue was with the failure of men to know their true state and be broken before God. “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” (Gal. 6:3)
The cross is where the One who truly was Everything became nothing. On the cross, He who could do anything, did nothing, being “crucified through weakness.” (2 Cor. 13:4) Hanging, accursed upon a tree, there was “no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isa. 53:2) Displayed before the eyes of a religious nation, the Nazarene was the epitome of religious failure – a transgressor, a blasphemer, a Sabbath breaker, a proud, lifted up would-be Messiah, who was dying the death those who violate the law deserve. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53:5)
When Paul’s eyes were opened, he came to see this despised and rejected figure in a whole new light. The cross which before had been the proof of pathetic failure was now seen as the pinnacle of Christ’s success. There Jesus crushed all man’s pride in Himself. If the most beautiful Person in all of God’s universe was willing to be viewed as “a worm, and no man,” how much more should we shun the honor of men? If the most anointed, powerful Person walking the earth was willing to wear the stigma of a weak failure who “saved others” but couldn’t save himself, how much more should we despise being seen as a powerhouse for God?
Religion will always be about glorying in the flesh. Paul once did it, but after he received the pride shattering revelation of the cross, he could do it no more. From then on, he would only glory in the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” True resurrection power does not belong to those who glory in their superior doctrine and their fine keeping of it; it belongs to those who know Jesus and conformity to His cross.