1 September 2012Galatians 6:11-18
"May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (v. 14)
"Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
"His dying crimson, like a robe,
spreads o'er his body on the tree;
then I am dead to all the globe,
and all the globe is dead to me."
These are the second and fourth verses of the hymn "When I survey the wondrous cross". It would seem that its author, Isaac Watts, had today's passage in mind when he wrote these words. In fact the first two lines of the second verse look like a paraphrase of Galatians 6:14.
Paul is coming to the end of his letter and is using the opportunity to emphasise the points that he has been trying to make. Contrary to other letters which were dictated to a scribe, Paul is writing this with his own hand (verse 11) as if what he is saying is too important to be left to anyone else.
Here the cross and the saving work of Christ upon it take central place. All else is secondary or unimportant - circumcision, the law. And everything stems from the cross and the new life offered by it (verse 15).
Paul concludes with the words (v. 18): "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen." Grace is the freely given love of God which forgives, restores and renews all. It is the grace of God that took the initiative in salvation. It is grace that really matters.
- When I survey the wondrous cross is a popular and deeply meaningful hymn. Many people turn to it as a support when times are difficult. Which hymns and or songs mean a lot to you and sustain you when things are hard? Why?
- Read the words of "When I survey" slowly. Reflect on what they say as if you are saying it for the first time and the "I" and "me" and "my" is you.
- Listen to Neil Diamond's song "Pretty amazing grace" . In the light of this, what does God's grace mean to you?