Friday, 24 June 2016
From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Galatians 6:17
The words “From now on” are in the genitive case. Thus they are a temporal statement meaning “at any time in the future as distinguished from throughout the future” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Paul had obviously been troubled concerning his apostleship, possibly having been accused of not being a true apostle. Or he may have been accused of not fulfilling his duties as an apostle. For one of these reasons, or for some other, he now defends himself against this. It is a one-time statement to cover any future accusation against him.
In his defense, he says, “…for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The word for “marks” is stigmata, the plural of stigma. It refers especially to a brand or mark burned into the skin. Slaves, like animals, were branded to show who they belonged to. Further, Albert Barnes notes that it applied to “devotees to an idol god sometimes caused to be impressed on themselves the name or image of the divinity which they adored.”
These stigmata were the proof of ownership by another. Paul’s many scars and tears of his flesh proved that he was owned by Christ. His apostleship showed what he had suffered for Christ, and indeed what he was willing to suffer for Him. They were an ever-present reminder to him, and an ever-visible witness for others, to see and know what he was willing to endure for his Master.
These marks then are set in contrast to the mark of circumcision which the Judaizers and false teachers held in such high regard. They gloried in the cutting of their flesh as a sign of adherence to the Law of Moses, but Paul was filled with the afflictions of Christ as a sign of his complete allegiance to Him. As agreeable an honor it was for him to bear these marks, so it was equally disagreeable to him that those in opposition boasted in any other way.
Paul was wholly devoted to Christ and the cross was where his boast lay. What Christ did for him was sufficient to keep him enduring worldly afflictions and abasements.
It is sad that the term stigmata has been used in such a negative way since this epistle was written. St Francis of Assisi supposedly went through such spiritual anguish that the actual marks of Christ’s Passion imprinted themselves on his own body. Since then, others have claimed this as well. This is a far different thing that what Paul is speaking of. He went out and suffered for the sake of Christ, receiving his marks in the mission field. People who claim they have received a spiritual imprinting of Christ’s actual sufferings may have done nothing at all for Him in this regard. There can be no comparison between that which Paul suffered for his Master and the marks of supposedly super-spiritual people who have started to bleed in their hands and feet because of an inner mental suffering.
Life application: Paul has set a standard which many throughout the ages have been willing to follow. He was willing to physically suffer at the hands of others for his devotion to Christ. How far are we willing to go for our Lord and Master? Each of us must resolve this and be willing to stand by it should the time come.
Lord God, how willing are we to suffer for Christ our Lord? Help us to resolve this now because it sure appears that the world in general, and the liberals in our government in particular, are looking to quiet our faithful testimony of the gospel, righteousness, and holy living. Are we willing to endure whatever it takes to continue to share this message? Help us to be fixed in our resolve that we will never compromise the tenets of Your word. Help us to always stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.