The Power of the Cross: 170th Edition, February 28, 2021

Mike Cleveland

The Power of the Cross: 170th Edition, February 28, 2021

Greetings friends,


Welcome, new subscribers! This weekly newsletter shares short gospel teachings and testimonies from Setting Captives Free students. We hope you will find it helpful and encouraging.


Spanish version of newsletter: El Poder de la Cruz: Edición 169



We can search worldwide, read every book ever written, listen to gurus, and watch self-help videos until our eyes cross, and at the end of all that, find ourselves still enslaved to sin, in bondage to our flesh, trapped by our appetites. 

So what exactly is the solution? Is there even a way to be free from sinful bondage, free from the appetites of my flesh that take me captive, free from constant striving, free from me

Welcome to our next Galatians study, and this week we are looking at chapter 2 verses 1-5. 

As a reminder, Paul is confronting a serious issue in the Galatian church. It’s so severe that if the Galatians don’t get this right, the church itself will be destroyed. What’s the problem? Galatians 1: 6-7 says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Previously, Paul had preached the gospel to the Galatians, and they received it and believed it. And as a result, they were living in freedom - freedom from the Old Covenant Law, freedom from slavery to sin, freedom from the appetites of their flesh, freedom to walk by the Spirit, and freedom to live as a new creation. That’s the message of the cross and the power of the gospel; it frees!

But then some false believers infiltrated their freedom ranks and began teaching a false gospel. This false gospel, we’ll see in chapter three, got their eyes off of the cross, and put it on what they were to do. The false teachers said something like this: “Don’t you realize that your life is to measure up to God’s standard, that you are to keep the Law and be circumcised so that you can be a worthy son of God?”

So, there’s the problem at hand. False teaching is any teaching that adds works and merits to the message of the cross; that gets your eyes off of what Jesus did, and focuses you on your performance, and that’s “no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:7). It’s never good news to look at our own performance.

But this problem was not a new one to Paul. Paul recounts to the Galatians in chapter 2:1-5 what he did when false teachers opposed him in the past. He went to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the church (Acts 11: 27-30), and in verse 2 he says: “I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.” 

When there is a problem, Paul presents the gospel. Paul uplifted the cross. Paul pointed to the blood Jesus shed to forgive and free us. He pointed to the cross that breaks the power of canceled sin and sets the prisoners free.

This issue that Paul is dealing with in the churches in Galatia can be illustrated like this: 

Someone says to you, “Hey, here’s how to get a million dollars: sit at this tree, and the money floats right down to you. You just receive it.” So you sit down, and you look up, and the money just floats right into your hands. It’s a money tree. 

But then someone comes along and says, “No, no, no, that doesn’t even make sense, you don’t get something for nothing. Here’s how to get a million dollars. You climb the tree, and when you make it to the top, you’ll get the money.” 

So, you start climbing, and for a while, you’re feeling great about yourself as you look down on those who are below you until suddenly, you fall and break your arm, and you’re humiliated as you look up and see those above you who seem to be climbing so well. 

So, you set out to climb the tree again, but again you slip and fall. And pretty soon, you’re discouraged because you see how weak you are. And you can never seem to make it to the top. 

Paul, in essence, said to the Galatians, “Sit back down, look back up at the tree, and collect your millions of dollars of righteousness as a gift! This gift is given to you by Jesus, who climbed to the top of the tree and hung in victory for you.”

Paul’s correction to the Galatians was to make sure he was not running his race in vain. If the Galatians turned back to the Law, to their own “tree-climbing” performance, to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and ceremonial cleansing, then Paul would have “preached the cross in vain.” 

Do you see what Paul is saying here? He is saying that at the cross Jesus did it all for us. Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not live. When Jesus died, a great exchange happened: He took your sins and failures and made you righteous. At Jesus’ death, you were circumcised, you became a true Sabbath keeper by faith, and by that same faith in Jesus’ finished work you are washed and cleansed from all sin. Through His death and victorious resurrection, Jesus freed you from bondage, liberated you from your self-efforts and your continual trying to find freedom. Jesus eternally released you from your “tree climbing” efforts.

Paul presented the gospel to these Galatians, for he knew that the gospel that saves also sanctifies. No matter the problem, the gospel is the solution.

So the question for you this week is: can you see how presenting the gospel is the solution for every problem that arises? 

Setting Captives Free has free, interactive Marco Polo studies that correspond to the teachings in this newsletter. If you’d like to join the discussion, click one of the following links on your smartphone: 


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Clare writes,In the Purity Bootcamp course, I’ve learned to stop looking at my sin and failures and myself.


Before this study, I always felt condemned because my eyes were in the wrong place. Now my eyes are on the perfect One, Jesus. I’m focused on who He is and what He has done for me through His death on the cross for my sins and His glorious resurrection and the new person He has made me. I died and rose with Him. The focus is Jesus, not Clare. I have been crucified; it is no longer I who lives, but it’s Christ who lives in me.


If you want to have your life transformed, take this course. The inner change in my life was huge because it’s gospel-centered.

Keith writes, "The A United Front course has revealed areas in my life that with much prayer, God can help me to become more humble, compassionate, patient and forgiving and to put my complete trust in Jesus. Remembering what Jesus has done for me at the cross helps me know that I am loved, forgiven, and saved.


I am no longer fearful and worrying about my wife and our marriage, but instead loving and living for Jesus. I pray that Jesus will use me and my circumstances to increase my faith as I serve Him for His glory. The road to repair my marriage is long, but I will not fear, for I am not alone.


I recommend this course to others as it is gospel-centered, focusing on the indescribable gift that God has given to you and me - Jesus, our Lord, and Saviour. I have discovered so much more at the foot of the cross, and my prayer is that it will impact my life as I apply the lessons in my daily walk with God and my marriage."


Friend, if you find you agree with the mission of Setting Captives Free, to see the gospel of Jesus Christ change hearts and lives, would you please consider helping us to continue reaching people with the gospel? Please pray for us, and consider setting up a monthly tax-deductible donation of any amount. Thank you in advance. 


Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free