The cross…by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Galatians 6:14


Only a person with a perfect knowledge of mankind could have dared to set forth the terms of discipleship that our Lord Jesus Christ expects of His followers.

Only the Lord of men could have risked the effect of such rigorous demands: “Let him deny himself” (Matthew 16:24).

Can the Lord lay down such severe rules at the door of His kingdom? He can—and He does!

If He is to save the man, He must save him from himself. It is the “himself” which has enslaved and corrupted the man. Deliverance comes only by denial of that self.

No man in his own strength can shed the chains with which self has bound him, but in the next breath the Lord reveals the source of the power which is to set the soul free: “Let him take up his cross.”

The cross was an instrument of death—slaying a man was its only function. “Let him take his cross,” said Jesus, and thus he will know deliverance from himself!


Dear Lord, I have much to learn about denying myself and bearing my cross daily—especially in the midst of so many mundane activities. Have Your way with me, Lord.[1]

The Power to Free Men from the World’s Bondage

through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (6:14b)

The first reason Paul gives for his glorying in the cross is its power to free him from bondage to the world system of evil. The world translates kosmos (the opposite of kaos, from which we get the English chaos) and speaks of an ordered system. Our word cosmetic (derived from kosmos) has the basic meaning of covering up disorder with something that brings order. In the New Testament, kosmos refers to the order of the evil world system ruled by Satan and his agents (see John 12:31; 14:30; 1 Cor. 2:6,

8; Eph. 2:2). The life of a person apart from Jesus Christ is the life of a victim of that system. It is a meaningless life, a life with no hopeful plan, purpose, or reason for being. It is also a life ruled by the flesh, which naturally and inevitably follows the system of evil promoted by the world, whether in gross immorality or simply in day-to-day self-gratification.

The person without Christ is often haunted by the past. He cannot free himself from the guilt of things he has done and failed to do. Yet he has no way of relieving his guilt or his anxiety. He is often enthralled with the future, continually expecting tomorrow to bring better things and more meaning; but it never does, and life becomes a pile of frustrated dreams. Or he may decide hedonistically to live just for the day, taking all he can while he can. Because physical life is all he can see or cares about, he declares with ancient Greeks who denied the resurrection, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). In one way or another, every unbeliever is in bondage to the futilities and frustrations of the world.

The person who belongs to Jesus Christ, however, is freed from the world’s evil and hopelessness. He knows that his past, present, and future sins are forgiven through Christ’s death, that his present life is in the Holy Spirit’s care and strength, and that his future life is as secure in heaven as if he were already there. Everything a believer ultimately treasures is in heaven. His heavenly Father is there, his Savior is there, his eternal home is there, and his reward is there. His greatest hopes are there and, although they are yet to be realized, they are assured and secured by the Lord. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus,” Paul declares (Phil. 1:6).

But a believer’s blessings are not all in the future. In this present life he has the awareness of God’s presence and love and peace, the consciousness that God is alive and that he himself is alive because of what Christ accomplished on the cross on his behalf. He knows that he has been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world, [to] be holy and blameless before Him,” in love “predestined … to adoption as [a son] through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” and that he has “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of [his] trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:3–8).

In light of the immeasurable blessings of the cross, Paul therefore says, the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. As noted earlier, kosmos (world) here refers to Satan’s spiritual system under which humanity is now in bondage because of sin. In a more specific aspect it refers to Satan’s vast system of false religions, all of which are grounded in human merit and works righteousness. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one,” John declares (1 John 5:19). Whether a person is religious or atheistic or agnostic, if he does not know Christ he is captive to the satanic system of the world. Reminding them of their pre-Christian lives, Paul told the Ephesians, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:1–3).

The world is corrupt (2 Pet. 1:4) and is going to be judged (1 Cor. 11:32), and everyone who is identified with that system is corrupt and will be judged with it. But the Christian is freed from the world’s corruption and judgment. The idea of the world and the believer being crucified to each other means they are dead to each other. As in the case of the flesh being crucified (5:24), it does not mean the world has no more influence over the believer, but that its dominion is broken and he is no longer in total bondage to it. The death blow has been dealt to the world system, so that soon it will not exist at all. It is still in the throes of dying, and it can still touch the believer with its corruption. In the meanwhile, the Christian’s citizenship is no longer in the evil world system but “in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20–21).

“I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world,” Jesus prayed to His Father. “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word. … And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are … I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:6, 11, 15–16).

The phrase the world has been crucified to me also relates to the believer’s spiritual position before God, to the historical fact of his trusting in Christ for salvation and his spiritual union with Christ through His death on the cross. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world,” John tells us, “and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5). When a person receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, sin becomes a dead issue, the law becomes a dead issue, and the world becomes a dead issue.

In light of the specific danger of the Judaizers, Paul was saying, in effect, “That part of the world system called Judaism is crucified to me and I to Judaism. It is dead to me and I am dead to it. We no longer have any part in each other.” Whatever the particular manifestation of the world system a person is trapped in, his only escape is through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which he becomes dead to his old life and his old life becomes dead to him. “Our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Rom. 6:6–7).

The phrase and I to the world relates to the Christian’s practical living before God. The faithful believer has no more compelling interest in the things of the world, though he still falls prey to its lusts. Just as they have become dead to him, he becomes dead to them. Obviously it makes no sense to associate with a corpse, which is the reason Paul asked the Colossians, “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)-in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? … If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 2:20–22; 3:1–3).[2]

14 Paul has just expressed what he considers to be improper or misguided boasting. Now he suggests where appropriate boasting or exultation should center: “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Ro 5:3–5, 11; 1 Co 1:18–31). It is only in the cross, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that redemption is to be found; it cannot come by circumcision as a means of law observance (cf. 2:16–21). Focusing on the cross ends all forms of legalistic observance, as Paul has maintained throughout this letter to the Galatians (1:4; 2:20; 3:1, 13; 6:12, 14). Thus, contrary to the base motivations of the Judaizers, who want only to advance their own cause among their Jewish brethren by means of “capturing” these Gentiles, Paul boasts in the very thing that brings him persecution (cf. 1:10; 5:11; 6:12), and the only thing that brings one into reconciliation with the one true and living God. Further, identification with Jesus and his cross brings one into different relationship to the world (kosmos, GK 3180). In Christ, this “mode of life which is characterized by earthly advantages, viewed as obstacles to righteousness” (Burton, 354), this world system with its claims to one’s time and energy and its supposed entitlements and position is “crucified” to the believer and the believer crucified to it. This is not to suggest that Paul means a distancing oneself from the physical world, an opting out of involvement with God’s material creation. Rather, what Paul has in mind is a disengagement from human power structures or from wealth sinfully used as a means to advance one’s own agenda at the expense of others around you (cf. Mk 10:42).[3]

6:14 the world has been crucified to me. Paul is saying that the entire world system in all its glory, but in opposition to God, is dead or destroyed in its power to attract him; it has no influence or power over Paul, no appeal to him. and I to the world. Paul is (similarly) dead to the desires and attractions of the world, for he serves Christ as his new master.[4]

6:14 world has been crucified to me Paul states that he has died to the values of the world: selfishness, ambition, and pride.[5]

6:14 boast … in the cross. For a more detailed outworking of this concept, see 1 Cor. 1:18–2:5.

the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Because Paul has been crucified with Christ (2:20), the criteria and approval of those who are outside Christ no longer define his identity and control his values.[6]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 206–209). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 637–638). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2256). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ga 6:14). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2084). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

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