1. THE MEANING OF AN ABLE MINISTRY
a. What is notable about the ministry of Paul? 2 Corinthians 3:2, 6–9.
“Though in this age there are many preachers, there is a great scarcity of able, holy ministers—men filled with the love that dwelt in the heart of Christ. Pride, self-confidence, love of the world, faultfinding, bitterness, envy, are the fruit borne by many who profess the religion of Christ. Their lives, in sharp contrast to the life of the Saviour, often bear sad testimony to the character of the ministerial labor under which they were converted.
“A man can have no greater honor than to be accepted by God as an able minister of the gospel. But those whom the Lord blesses with power and success in His work do not boast. They acknowledge their entire dependence on Him, realizing that of themselves they have no power.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 328.
b. What happened in Galatia that revealed a lack of understanding of true ministry on the part of the false teachers? Galatians 6:12, 13.
2. PRESENTING THE CRUCIFIXION
a. Explain what happens as we set our minds and hearts in contemplation of the sacrifice of Christ in our behalf. John 1:29.
“If sinners can be led to give one earnest look at the cross, if they can obtain a full view of the crucified Saviour, they will realize the depth of God’s compassion and the sinfulness of sin.
“Christ’s death proves God’s great love for man. It is our pledge of salvation. To remove the cross from the Christian would be like blotting the sun from the sky. The cross brings us near to God, reconciling us to Him. With the relenting compassion of a father’s love, Jehovah looks upon the suffering that His Son endured in order to save the race from eternal death, and accepts us in the Beloved.
“Without the cross, man could have no union with the Father. On it depends our every hope. From it shines the light of the Saviour’s love, and when at the foot of the cross the sinner looks up to the One who died to save him, he may rejoice with fullness of joy, for his sins are pardoned. Kneeling in faith at the cross, he has reached the highest place to which man can attain.
“Through the cross we learn that the heavenly Father loves us with a love that is infinite.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 209, 210.
b. Yet what did Paul face in presenting the cross? 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23.
“To the minds of multitudes living at the present time, the cross of Calvary is surrounded by sacred memories. Hallowed associations are connected with the scenes of the crucifixion. But in Paul’s day the cross was regarded with feelings of repulsion and horror. To uphold as the Saviour of mankind one who had met death on the cross, would naturally call forth ridicule and opposition.
“Paul well knew how his message would be regarded by both the Jews and the Greeks of Corinth. ‘We preach Christ crucified,’ he admitted, ‘unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.’ 1 Corinthians 1:23. Among his Jewish hearers there were many who would be angered by the message he was about to proclaim. In the estimation of the Greeks his words would be absurd folly. He would be looked upon as weak-minded for attempting to show how the cross could have any connection with the elevation of the race or the salvation of mankind.”—Ibid., p. 245.
3. MORE POWERFUL THAN WE REALIZE
a. In the face of opposition, what did Paul not only preach—but actually extol in the highest? Galatians 6:14. Why?
“To Paul the cross was the one object of supreme interest. Ever since he had been arrested in his career of persecution against the followers of the crucified Nazarene he had never ceased to glory in the cross. At that time there had been given him a revelation of the infinite love of God, as revealed in the death of Christ; and a marvelous transformation had been wrought in his life, bringing all his plans and purposes into harmony with heaven. From that hour he had been a new man in Christ. He knew by personal experience that when a sinner once beholds the love of the Father, as seen in the sacrifice of His Son, and yields to the divine influence, a change of heart takes place, and henceforth Christ is all and in all.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 245.
“The cross, the cross; lift it . . . and in the act of raising it you will be astonished to find that it raises you, it supports you. In adversity, privation, and sorrow it will be a strength and a staff to you. You will find it all hung with mercy, compassion, sympathy, and inexpressible love. It will prove to you a pledge of immortality.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 47.
b. How does the psalmist explain the achievement of the cross? Psalm 85:10.
“As the sinner sees Jesus as He is, an all-compassionate Saviour, hope and assurance take possession of his soul. The helpless soul is cast without any reservation upon Jesus. None can bear away from the vision of Christ Jesus crucified a lingering doubt. Unbelief is gone. . . .
“This sacrifice was offered for the purpose of restoring man to his original perfection. Yea, more, it was offered to give him an entire transformation of character, making him more than a conqueror. . . .
“Christ declares, ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ If the cross does not find an influence in its favor, it creates an influence. Through generation succeeding generation, the truth for this time is revealed as present truth. Christ on the cross was the medium whereby mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. This is the means that is to move the world.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1113.
4. A PERSPECTIVE LIKE NONE OTHER
a. How does contemplation of the cross change our lives? John 12:32.
“When the mind is drawn to the cross of Calvary, Christ by imperfect sight is discerned on the shameful cross. Why did He die? In consequence of sin. What is sin? The transgression of the law. Then the eyes are open to see the character of sin. The law is broken but cannot pardon the transgressor. It is our schoolmaster, condemning to punishment. Where is the remedy? The law drives us to Christ, who was hanged upon the cross that He might be able to impart His righteousness to fallen, sinful man and thus present men to His Father in His righteous character.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 341.
“Jesus sees the guilt of the past, and speaks pardon, and we must not dishonor Him by doubting His love. This feeling of guiltiness must be laid at the foot of the cross of Calvary. The sense of sinfulness has poisoned the springs of life and of true happiness. Now Jesus says, ‘Lay it all on Me. I will take your sins; I will give you peace. Banish no longer your self-respect, for I have bought you with the price of My own blood. You are Mine. Your weakened will I will strengthen; your remorse for sin I will remove.’ Then turn your grateful heart, trembling with uncertainty, to Him and lay hold on the hope set before you. God accepts your broken, contrite heart, and extends to you free pardon. He offers to adopt you into His family, with His grace to help your weakness, and the dear Saviour will lead you on step by step, you placing your hand in His and letting Him guide you.”—That I May Know Him, p. 241.
b. How does this affect our attitudes and uplift us spiritually? Job 23:16.
“Look, O look upon the cross of Calvary; behold the royal victim suffering on your account. . . .
“The Son of God was rejected and despised for our sakes. Can you, in full view of the cross, beholding by the eye of faith the sufferings of Christ, tell your tale of woe, your trials? Can you nurse revenge of your enemies in your heart while the prayer of Christ comes from His pale and quivering lips for His revilers, His murderers—’Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34)?”—Ibid., p. 65.
5. A NEW CREATURE
a. How does Paul conclude his epistle to the Galatians? Galatians 6:15–18. What effect did it have on them?
“When Paul received the gospel of Jesus Christ, it made him a new creature. He was transformed; the truth planted in his soul gave him such faith and courage as a follower of Christ that no opposition could move him, no suffering daunt him.”—Faith and Works, p. 33.
“The apostle’s earnest words of entreaty were not fruitless. The Holy Spirit wrought with mighty power, and many whose feet had wandered into strange paths, returned to their former faith in the gospel. Henceforth they were steadfast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. In their lives were revealed the fruits of the Spirit—‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.’ The name of God was glorified, and many were added to the number of believers throughout that region.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 388.
b. What is this epistle to impress upon our hearts today? Matthew 16:24–26.
“Can we wonder that Paul exclaimed, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’? Galatians 6:14. It is our privilege also to glory in the cross, our privilege to give ourselves wholly to Him who gave Himself for us. Then, with the light that streams from Calvary shining in our faces, we may go forth to reveal this light to those in darkness.”—Ibid., p. 210.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Contrast the ministry of Paul with that of the false teachers in Galatia.
2. How should the scenes of Calvary impact me in a mighty way?
3. Why is it a blessing to keep the cross constantly before the mind’s eye?
4. In viewing the cross, what happens to my problems and annoyances?
5. How can this message revive me as it did the Galatians?