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.
In both old and new testaments we’re reminded: Don’t boast. The good of knowing God has nothing to do with our goodness. It’s all of God, all of grace. The anti-boast warning is clear in the verse quoted above, with Paul using himself as the example.
But what about the second part of this verse? How is the world crucified?
The cross of Christ is central to Christianity. Jesus died, in accord with the Father’s will, to free a people from sin. No wonder the cross is Christianity’s prime symbol.
Even from the earliest days, the cross was never only about Jesus. The gospel narratives mention the men crucified with Jesus (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32, John 19:32). This crucified with description is also applied to believers (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:19). So it’s not out of the blue to read of Paul being ‘crucified to the world’.
But I am surprised to notice that the world is crucified to Paul. How could the world be crucified? It’s mutual (both crucified to each other), so I think Paul says that the whole relationship between world and believer is revolutionised.
In relation to a believer, the world is shamed, disgraced, and broken.
The world is shamed because crucifixion is disgusting. A cross was always public humiliation. Though Jesus submitted to the cross, it’s the world that is shamed because of Jesus’ innocence and glory.
‘The world did that to the Son of the promise! What a shameful place.’
The world is disgraced because the cross proves worldly salvation foolish. Galatian Christians were tempted to follow worldly ways of salvation (in 6:15, circumcision laws are lumped in with the crucified world). In other words, followers of Christ were considering following the patterns of the world that hated Christ.
‘The world promises me life by its laws, but this world gave death to my Lord. I’m keeping well away.’
The world is broken by Christ’s cross. Before knowing life, we were enslaved by the world’s principles (Galatians 4:3). The cross sets us free – the world’s power over us is snapped.
‘Every day I lived under the world was oppression. But I love being part of the new creation.’
The practical question this leaves us with is this: where do we yet cling to the world, instead of casting it away as dead?