The Cross Shatters All Norms

Beautiful quote from John Barclay’s new book.

Faith Improvised

I am thoroughly enjoying John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift. He has developed a unique vocabulary and grammar to articulate the shape of Paul’s theology.

Barclay, Paul and the Gift

It’s simply beautiful to read and I find myself re-reading and savoring many of his paragraphs. In his discussion of Galatians 6:11-16, he powerfully captures Paul’s argument regarding the power of the cross:

The cross of Christ shatters every ordered system of norms, however embedded in the seemingly “natural” order of “the world” (cf. 4:3). In form (as unconditioned gift), in content (as death), and in mode (the shame of crucifixion), the cross of Christ breaks believers’ allegiance to pre-constituted notions of the honorable, the superior, and the right. Whereas Philo took “the world” (ὁ κόσμος) to be the properly ordered gift of God, whose stable values were reinforced by gifts to worthy beneficiaries, Paul parades the cross as the standard by which every norm…

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Spirit-led cruciform leadership (insights from Gordon Fee)  

I am reading Gordon Fee’s commentary on Galatians (Deo Publishing: Blandford Forum, 2007). In his reflection on Gal 6:11–18, Fee says the following (page 255).

Whatever “authority” we might have in the church — and I doubt whether it is very much at all — it is totally derived, and it has nothing to do with position and everything to do with what has been earned by one’s character, as that is in process of being shaped into Christ’s own character by the indwelling Spirit.

And . . . my experience with those keen on their own authority in the church is that to a person they are not very keen on being shaped by the cross. That is, they may preach the cross well as the means of salvation; but that is only part of Paul’s concern in this passage [Gal 6:11–18]. His greater concern has to do with living cruciform, to have his life “shaped” by, and in the likeness of, Christ’s own crucifixion. (Emphasis added)

I like Gordon Fee as an “older” scholar, who is passionate about the Scripture and is a devout follower of Jesus. Here I feel that he is speaking as a father in the faith to encourage us to practise Spirit-led cross-shaped leadership.

But of course we should, most of all, hear from Paul himself.

But as for me, may it never be that I boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal 6:14; Lexham English Bible)

John Barclay on the social practice of the Christ-community in Galatians

The following quotes are from the concluding remarks of an article written by John Barclay, “Grace and the Countercultural Reckoning of Worth,” in Galatians and Christian Theology, edited by Mark W. Elliott, Scott J. Hafemann, N. T. Wright, and John Frederick (Grand Rapids: baker, 2014), 306–17. It is about the social practice of the Christ-community according to Galatians.

The gift of God in Christ is articulated as an unconditioned gift in the creation of a community that neither mirrors nor endorses the regnant systems of value . . . By its strategic indifference to preconstituted evaluations of worth—ethnic, social, sexual, or other—the community declares and enacts its freedom. By its “crucifixion of the flesh” (5:24)—it demonstrates an alternative allegiance derived from an alternative source of “life.” In resisting the tendencies to intracommunal rivalry, it affirms its special identity as a community beholden to “the law of Christ” (6:2). (Page 316; emphasis added)

In theological terms, the new creation presses toward the formation and flourishing of a community in which the truth of God’s self-giving in Christ is expressed in love, strongly resistant to the normal contest for honor . . . it is the Christ-event that gives meaning and shape to communal practice, while it is in social practice that the nature of the Christ-event is realized, or is not realized. (Page 317; emphasis added)

Here is the best part, I think.

The truth of Paul’s gospel must be both recognized and enacted—in fact, recognized in its enactment. It is only as communities are remolded in exclusive allegiance to “the law of Christ” that they may be said to affirm the baptismal confession “Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10:9). Social practice is not, for Paul, and addition to belief, a sequel to a status realizable in other terms: It is the expression of belief in Christ, the enactment of a “life” that otherwise can make no claim to be “alive.” (Page 317; emphasis added)

Cruciformity in Galatians 2:20

Michael Bird mentioned Todd Wilson’s new book in his recent blog post (3rd August 2013). The book is called Galatians: Gospel-rooted Living (PTW; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

Here is Bird’s citation of Wilson’s book on about Galatians 2:20:

If we truly wrap our life around the life of Christ, if Jesus truly lives within us, then the Christ who is in us will do what Christ did in his earthly life: he loved others and gave himself for others. So, too, this life in us will cause us to do the same. Cruciformity is, then, conformity to the self-giving action of the Son of God. What shape did Jesus’ own loving and giving take? It took on the shape of the cross. That’s where he demonstrated his love for us and gave himself for us.

This is good, isn’t it?

Here are two translations of Galatians 2:20.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. (CEB)

For more information about this book, see Michael Bird’s blog post here.