Vol. 121, No. 09
Early Christians in the area of Galatia caused some consternation to the apostle Paul as they drifted away from the purity of the gospel that he had preached to them. He wrote to them and told them that he was amazed that they were so quickly departing from the truth that they had received.
The apostle warned them that if anyone, even an angel from heaven, taught them any other gospel than the one he had taught and that they had received, that the false teacher would be accursed. He wrote of his concern that he may have bestowed labor on them in vain and told them that those who sought justification except through the gospel of Christ would fall from grace. With all of his rebuking these wayward disciples he then asks, “Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
Paul closes the epistle to the Galatians rather abruptly telling them, “From henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
Some have preached lessons on “The Marks of Jesus” using such topics as the mark of love, the mark of sincerity, the mark of honesty, etc. This may be an interesting way to develop a topical sermon, but it stretches the meaning of the original text.
Here the Greek word for marks is “stigma,” referring to marks or brands put on slaves and sometimes on criminals in order to identify them in some special way. It is very unlikely that Paul put any tattoos or other body markings upon himself, since such were strictly forbidden by the Mosaic law under which he had grown up (Lev. 19:28).
Some commentators think that Paul is here referring to scars left by the severe persecutions that he had undergone as a preacher of the gospel of Christ. He had been scourged and abused at various places. In 2 Corinthians 11, he speaks of being imprisoned often. Five times he had been beaten with 39 stripes, and these were not mere spankings. Three times he was punished with “rods,” a device used by the Romans to inflict severe punishment. Once he was stoned and left for dead. All of these things were written about in about A.D. 58 ten years before his death in Rome in A.D. 68, and so it is reasonable to believe that he could add many other sufferings to this list before his martyrdom.
Probably Paul had scars all over his body to remind him of places like Philippi and Lystra and Jerusalem where he had been physically assaulted for his faith.
Someone has said that Christianity has come to us on rivers of blood and sweat and tears. How could those early disciples bear the crosses of persecution put upon them? What made them endure when it would have been so easy to give up?
There were two great incentives and ideals that drove people like Paul and other early Christians. One was the persistent remembering of Jesus and his magnificent sacrifice at Calvary. The other was the hope of going to haven and being with God forever. Paul wrote at about the same time he wrote Galatians, on his third missionary journey, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:11).
Some day, the faithful Christian will be privileged to trade his cross of suffering for the crown of life. “Oh, for such a faith as this, and then whate’er may come, we’ll taste e’en here the hallowed bliss of