Strength to Strength 7
Study 7 THE MARKS OF THE LORD JESUS
KEY-VERSE: “For I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)
The apostle Paul wore a badge that marked him out as a true servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Is there anything about us that marks us out as belonging to Christ and identifies us with Him? The word “I” is emphatic in the Greek. Paul said, “I bear in my body the marks of Jesus.” Was he boasting? No, but in this letter Paul was vindicating his ministry. Many of the Jewish teachers had subverted these Galatian Christians into believing that he was not truly an apostle because he had not known the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh. So Paul compared himself with these judaising teachers and he asked, “Have they the marks of the Lord Jesus upon them? No – but I have!” What is the proof of our attachment to Christ? Is it the words we speak? No, not primarily. There should be some distinctive marks about our lives that identify us as Christians.
1. THE LITERAL EXPLANATION OF THE APOSTLE’S STATEMENT
What did he mean when he said – Galatians 6:17? He had in mind a common custom of those days, namely, that of branding certain people with a hot searing iron. For example, slaves were branded as a mark of ownership; they were also branded as a mark of shame, for if a man ran away and was recaptured his master would brand him as a mark of shame and ignominy; soldiers were branded as a mark of allegiance to their generals, just as, at one time, soldiers would have the crest of their favourite general tattooed upon their arm; and religious devotees would frequently be branded by the priests in some heathen temple as a mark of devotion and fidelity.
The brand-marks of the Lord Jesus upon the body of Paul consisted of each of these. They identified him as the slave of Christ (Philemon 1:1); they were the marks of shame and reproach in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 9:22); they were the brand-marks of the soldier (2 Timothy 4:7); and they were marks of devotion and fidelity (2 Corinthians 5:14).
But what were the actual marks? They were the bodily scars and blemishes which he had received as the result of the persecution he suffered because of his faithfulness to the Lord Jesus. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for a description of the fearful physical suffering he endured, and particularly notice the five kinds of suffering mentioned:
(1) “in prison more frequently…” Look up and Acts 16:23 and Ephesians 3:1.
(2) “exposed to death again and again…” Paul was frequently exposed to death, and on one occasion they left him for dead – see Acts 14:19-20.
(3) “five times I received…the forty lashes minus one…” These were inflicted with a long leather strap divided into thongs, on each of which was attached stones and pieces of metal. Thus, the back would soon be lacerated and torn.
(4) “three times…beaten with rods…” This method of punishment was inflicted on Paul and Silas at Philippi – see Acts 16:22.
(5) “once I was stoned…” Large boulders, as heavy as a man could lift, would be hurled at the victim until his body was reduced to a pulp.
This passage of scripture explains the marks on Paul’s body – the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus. Do they not put us to shame? Most of us want to be popular Christians, and we know little of suffering for Christ’s sake. Let us remember those in many lands today who are suffering at the hands of men and who are bearing in their body the marks of the Lord Jesus. And let us pray that if we are called upon to suffer shame for His name we may be given grace to be faithful even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).
2. THE SPIRITUAL APPLICATION OF THE APOSTLE’S STATEMENT
The description of Paul’s suffering does not apply to many of us, but there is a spiritual application which applies to all who name the name of Christ. Just as those physical marks branded Paul as one of Christ’s slaves, as His property, as His soldier and as His follower, so there should be upon us spiritual marks that brand us as belonging to Him. What are these marks?
(1) A cluster of fruit (Galatians 5:22 and 23). These are the marks of the Lord Jesus, for He personified them all, and as we are united with Him by faith, these marks will characterise our life also.
(2) A spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1). This is one of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned above, but it is such an important characteristic of the real Christian that we give it special and separate emphasis. The opposite of this spirit of meekness is mentioned in Galatians 5:26 – “Let us not become conceited”. The apostle says, “Don’t be proud!” and Jesus says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28-30).
(3) A willingness to share the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2). What a true mark of the Lord Jesus this is! If we follow in His steps we shall do likewise.
(4) A willingness to help support those who minister (Galatians 6:6). Compare 1 Corinthians 9:7-15 and 1 Timothy 5:18.
(5) A life made up of “doing good” (Galatians 6:9-10). Look up and compare Acts 10:38. Do we “go about” with the same object in view?
(6) A complete separation from the world (Galatians 6:14, second part). If the marks of the Lord Jesus are on us we shall recognise that we are in the world but not of it. Look up John 17:15-16.
(7) A glorying in the Cross (Galatians 6:14). What does this mean? We shall glory in the preaching of the cross, the story of the cross, and above all, in the victory and the virtue of the cross, for it is through the cross of Jesus that we are saved and sanctified. Think what the cross meant to Him. In what sense did He glory in it? The cross to Him was the token of God’s will for Him, and He gloried in doing the will of His Father. Do we? That, supremely, is the mark of the Lord Jesus which should be upon all His followers. The will of God was the consuming passion of His life (Luke 22:42), and it should be the consuming passion of your life and mine.
Let us ask the Lord that He will honour us by placing upon us the marks of the Lord Jesus, so that others may more readily see whose we are and whom we serve, until the time comes when we are able to say with the apostle – 2 Timothy 4: 6-8!
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