Study 8 THE WORKER’S MARKS
THE KING’S WORKERS
by Francis Dixon
Key-verse: “… for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)
The Apostle Paul wore a badge which marked him out as being a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ: He bore on his body “the marks of Jesus”. Is there anything about us which marks us out as belonging to Christ and which identifies us with Him? In this verse the word ‘I’ is emphatic in the Greek. Does it mean that Paul was boasting? No! In this letter he was vindicating his ministry, because many of the Jewish teachers had led the Galatian Christians to believe that he was not truly an apostle as he had not known the Lord when He was on the earth. Here Paul is comparing himself with these judaising teachers, who were subverting the Galatians, 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? Yes, but there should be other distinctive marks about our lives which identify us as Christians.
1. THE LITERAL EXPLANATION OF THE APOSTLE’S STATEMENT
When speaking about bearing in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, he was thinking of an old custom of branding certain people with a hot searing iron. Slaves were branded as a mark of ownership or of shame; soldiers were branded as a mark of allegiance to their generals; religious devotees would be branded by the priests in heathen temples as a mark of devotion and loyalty. The brand-marks of the Lord on Paul’s body consisted of each of these. They identified him as a slave of Christ (Philippians 1:1); they were the marks of shame and reproach in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 9:22); they were brand-marks of the soldier (2 Timothy 4:7); they were marks of devotion and loyalty (2 Corinthians 5:14). Paul’s marks were the bodily scars and blemishes that he bore as a result of persecution through his faithfulness to Christ. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for a description of the fearful physical sufferings he endured, and notice five kinds of suffering mentioned:-
- (1) “In prison more frequently …” Compare Acts 16:23 with Ephesians 3:1.
- (2) ”Exposed to death again and again…” It seems that on one occasion he was actually killed, and God mercifully raised him up (Acts 14:19-20) and compare 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.
- (3) “Five times I received… the forty lashes minus one …” – inflicted with a long leather strap divided into thongs, and to each was attached stones or pieces of metal, so the back would be lacerated with deep, jagged wounds.
- (4) ”Three times I was beaten with rods…” This method of punishment was inflicted upon Paul and Silas at Philippi - look up Acts 16:22-23.
- (5) ”Once I was stoned…” Large boulders would be hurled at the victim until his body was reduced to a pulp.
Do these scars put us to shame? Most of us want to be easy-going Christians and we know little of suffering for Christ’s sake. We should be praying fervently for Christians in many countries who are suffering mercilessly for the gospel’s sake. We may be called to do so at any future time and we need to be given grace to be faithful to death - look up Acts 5:40-42; Revelation 2:10.
2. THE SPIRITUAL APPLICATION OF THE APOSTLE’S STATEMENT
There is a spiritual application which applies to all who are Christ’s true disciples. Just as those physical marks branded Paul as one of Christ’s slaves, His property, His soldier and His follower, so we should bear those spiritual marks. What are the marks of the Lord Jesus which should characterise us?
- (1) A cluster of fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the marks of the Lord Jesus, for He personified them all; and as we are united with Him by faith, the marks which so completely characterised His life will characterise ours.
- (2) A spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1). It is such an important characteristic of the Christian that we give it special emphasis. The opposite of this spirit of meekness is in Galatians 5:26 - and compare Matthew 11:28-30.
- (3) A willingness to share the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2). If we follow in His steps we shall be like our Lord Jesus in bearing one another’s burdens.
- (4) A willingness to support those who minister (Galatians 6:6). Compare 1 Corinthians 9:7-15.
- (5) A life made up of doing good (Galatians 6:9-10) - look up Acts 10:38.
- (6) A complete separation from the world (Galatians 6:14). If the marks of the Lord Jesus are upon us we shall recognise that while we are in the world we are not to live like it, and we shall see to it that His prayer for us is fulfilled (John 17:15-16).
- (7) A glorifying of the Cross (Galatians 6:14). We shall give glory in the preaching of the cross, the story of the cross, and above all in the victory of the cross – for it is through the cross that we are saved and sanctified. But in what sense did the Lord Jesus glory in the cross? It was to Him a token of God’s will for Him, and He gloried in doing the will of His Father. This is the supreme mark of the Lord Jesus which should be upon His followers. The will of God was the consuming passion of His life, and it should be the consuming passion of each one of His followers (Luke 22:42).
Let us ask the Lord that He will honour us by placing upon us ”the marks of the Lord Jesus”, so that others may readily see who we belong to and whom we serve, until the time comes when we are able to say with the apostle Paul - 2 Timothy 4:6-8!