Boasting in the Cross

How do we rid ourselves of our inherent drive towards that self-referential sin of boastfulness?

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he speaks of this cancer quite a bit, perhaps because it is so integral to all that is antithetical to Divine grace. In the letter, as he works to destroy all our false reliance apart from Jesus Christ, he mentions boasting several times.

First, he lambasts his countrymen for their perverse way of boasting in God (2:17-22), and then of course he goes after their self-confidence with God’s moral requirement (2:23-24). And so, as he comes to the conclusion of ‘Christ alone’ in Rom 3:21-26, he returns to the issue of boasting in verse 27 asking

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

What does that mean? It means that the way we a rid of boasting is by looking to Christ with faith. Paul had just finished his defense of the good news in the verse before saying that justification is by “faith in Jesus”. Now he comes to the sin of boasting, not wanting us to be tricked into thinking that we can use the law itself to be rid of this sin. Boasting is done away with through faith in Jesus.

So how does this work? How do you remain humble (Ps 34:2) in your reliance on God instead of becoming prideful? The law of faith, as Richard Longenecker says1, refers here of course to trust and reliance on Christ, but it is also the Gospel and thus never far from Christ’s faith and faithfulness itself.

We rid ourselves of boasting by following after, or rather in the faith of Jesus – by having His humble reliance on the Father vividly before our eyes – His fear of God, which everyone else seem to drop somewhere along the way (Rom 3:18).

There is a boasting that frightfully perverts confidence in God, but our Lord showed us a boasting that is humble and meek. His boasting looked to God saving Him from the cross and that should also be our source of boasting (compare Rom 5:2-3). Paul says it so clearly in Gal 6:14,

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.

Christ offers, no insists on a cross for us very much like His own if we are to follow him (Matt 10:38, 16:24). Yes, this cross leads to perplexity, affliction and what not (2 Cor 4:8-9), but with that comes a sobriety that keeps us from slipping into that horrid boasting we so easily pick up in this world.

1Richard N. Longenecker, The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A Hagner, New International Greek Testament Commentary (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 444.

Published by Mauritz Bezuidenhoudt


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