The Marks of the Lord Jesus
The Marks of the Lord Jesus in Paul
My text, today, is found in Gal. 6:17. “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” There are a few observations that I want to make concerning this verse, and I believe that there is much Exhortation that can be gleaned from examining this verse.
If you examine the context around this verse, you will find that Paul is addressing a problem that confronted many of the early Christians – the problem of Jewish Influence and the desire of the Jews to conform the Christians to the Law of Moses. Consider vv. 12-16 of this same chapter. “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” It is upon the heels of these verses that we read, once again, our text verse: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (v. 17.)
It appears that the Apostle Paul is writing to Churches in Galatia that have been influenced (and perhaps even intimidated) by the Jewish Christians, or even by the unsaved Jews. It seems that they are being told that they must be circumcised, and conform themselves to the Mosaic Law and the Traditions of men. The truth is, we who are saved by God’s Grace do not need the marks or results of religion that so enamored the Jews – and every other religion – and which were the visible proofs that they aspired unto, in order to prove their goodness or their salvation. Indeed, the marks or proofs that we must bear and display to the world, are the marks and proofs of the evidence of Jesus Christ in our lives – and the salvation that is of God, through God, and given by God. Paul told the Churches of Galatia, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many tings in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:1-5.)
So, what does Paul mean when he speaks of the Marks of the Lord Jesus? Let’s think about this for a few minutes.
We are Saved by Faith
The most immediate implication of these words (the Marks of the Lord Jesus), given the context of the preceding chapters, is that Salvation is by Faith in God, and not through the works of the Law. Paul told the Galatians that the Jews who were truly saved understood this. We read in Gal. 2:15-16, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” In other words, those that were truly saved could not have trusted in the works of the law or else they would not have been saved. So, any Jewish Christian, or any person at all, that would declare to the Galatians the necessity of the Works of the Law unto Salvation, were manifesting that they were not really saved at all. Paul said previously, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8.) It was very important in Paul’s time, and it is very important in our time, that we live as Proof that Salvation is by Faith, and not of works.
Let’s read the words that Paul had for the Galatians in Gal. 3:24-26, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” So, the Law was effective for what it was intended, but it was never intended to save anyone. Faith is the means of Salvation – Faith (which is the Gift of God) in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It seems that the Jews at the most meant to eliminate Faith and Grace from Salvation, and at the least they meant to mix the Law (or Works of the Law) with Faith and Grace in order to accomplish Salvation. Paul told the Galatians, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Gal. 2:21.) It was not as if the Galatians, or any of the Jews for that matter, could eliminate or make of no effect the grace of God, but they could, by their actions, make it appear as if they did not receive of the Grace of God. They could, by their actions, make it seem as if they were saved (if they were truly saved) by the works of the Law rather than by the Grace of God and Faith in Him. Far be it from us to seek to diminish the Grace of God and the Faith that He has given us! We should rather, seek to show forth the Goodness and the Graciousness of our God, and the fact that we have Faith in Him as our Saviour, and do not trust in the works that we perform – whether those works are legitimate works performed in obedience to the Law, or whether those works are pretentious works based upon the traditions of men.
So, I suppose that we could say that one of the Marks of the Lord Jesus is that of Faith in Him. The Faith of God must be made manifest in our lives, and it will be an identifying Mark in our Service to Him.
I suppose that the most obvious meaning that I usually connect with our text verse, is that of visible persecutions. What I am saying is that when I think of the marks of the Lord Jesus that the Apostle Paul bore in his body, I think of all the Persecutions, Trials, and Troubles that he endured. I think that we would be hard-pressed to identify any man this side of Jesus Christ, who endured more in the cause of Christ, than did the Apostle Paul. I am sure that there were many marks upon his flesh that were a result of his Persecutions.
Remember that on his first missionary journey, Paul was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. We read in Acts 14:19-20, “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” Now, I know that it is entirely within the Power and Ability of God to have healed Paul from any of the effects of this stoning, but I would tend to believe that even unto the end of his days, Paul bore some Marks in his flesh as a result of this stoning in Derbe.
And this is not all. We read also that during Paul’s second missionary journey, he was taken in the city of Philippi, and he was beaten with many stripes and cast into prison. “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.” (Acts 16:22-24.) We often come to this Sixteenth Chapter of Acts to read the account of the Salvation of the Philippian jailer. However, we don’t often remind ourselves of the Pain and the Suffering that Paul and Silas had just undergone. They had been beaten with many stripes; they had been cast into the inner prison; they had had their feet made fast in the stocks. To me, this sounds like a time of much suffering. Can you imagine the pain they felt from their bloody backs and the discomfort that they felt in that inner prison with their feet locked in the stocks? I am sure, that to their dying days, Paul and Silas carried some Marks from this trying time. And yet, even in their bloodied and miserable condition, they still sought to Praise God, Preach the Gospel, and to see Souls saved. That is why we read in the next verse, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25.) No matter what condition they were in, and no matter what circumstances they were subjected to, Paul and Silas sought to serve the Lord and Praise His Name.
And then, finally, as we think about the Persecutions that Paul endured, hear his own words (or rather, the Words of God speaking through Paul), as he spoke to the Church at Corinth: “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2Cor. 11:23-28.) I think that it would be safe to assume that the Persecutions that the Apostle Paul had endured could be seen in his body, and these would be counted as Marks of the Lord Jesus.
You know, the Jews sought to coerce the Galatian Christians into observance of the things of the Mosaic Law, and they sought to use as their reasoning a chance to eliminate persecution. In a verse that we have already read, we read these words: “And as many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” (Gal. 6:12.) It appears that the primary source of persecution in the time of the Apostle Paul was found within the ranks of the Jews. Paul tells the Galatians about Hagar and Sarah, and Ishmael and Isaac. In those days, it was clear that one was the child of Promise (Isaac), and one was the child of the flesh (Ishmael). We read in Gal. 4:28-29, “Now we, brethren, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” The Jews in the time of the Apostle Paul, I suppose, thought to persecute the Gentile and Jewish Christians to the extent that they would acknowledge the Rule of the Mosaic Law and observe those things that the Jews themselves observed. It is a primary purpose of this Epistle to the Galatians, to convince the Galatians that the Law did not save them, but Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ did save them. Therefore, persecutions after the flesh, very often indicated a Christian who refused to succumb to the attempts of the Jews or Pagans to enforce upon them their ungodly beliefs.
The same is true for Christians today. If others would use persecutions or coercion or any other means to prevent us from serving God and following after Jesus Christ; then, the persecutions themselves, and the marks that may be left upon our bodies, will be marks of our desire to please Jesus Christ – Marks of the Lord Jesus. We read in 2Tim. 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” So, we can say, that another Mark of the Lord Jesus is that of Persecution.
Crucifixion of the Flesh
There is something else that I want to think about. There are three places in the Book of Galatians where the Apostle Paul mentions the Crucifixion of his own body and his own desires. We read in Gal. 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” And then we read in Gal. 5:24, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” And lastly, we read, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14.) The thought that I would like to get across here, is that the Apostle Paul bore in his body the marks of this crucifixion. Now, I don’t want anyone to confuse my words and think that I am teaching a visible representation of a physical crucifixion in the body of Paul, but I would like you to consider something. Remember that the Lord Jesus Christ came unto the disciples after His Resurrection, and He said to Thomas (who had doubted the words of the other Apostles), “…Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (Jn. 20:27.) You see, the Marks of the Lord Jesus were obvious in the Marks of the Crucifixion. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if the Marks of the Lord Jesus that we bore in our body would be of such a nature that we could say, “Behold the Marks of the Lord Jesus!” I am not speaking, necessarily, of Physical and Literal Marks, but perhaps the Marks of our lives – our testimony and our witness and our faithfulness – would be such that we could say, “Behold the Marks of the Lord Jesus!”
The Apostle Paul had literal, physical marks in his body that identified him as one that had been crucified with Christ. The Marks of the Lord Jesus that he bore, showed forth that he had crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. You could tell, when looking at Paul and at his life that he lived, that he was unto whom the world is crucified and he was crucified unto the world.
This is why, here in the Book of Galatians, Paul also gives us a list of the works of the flesh. We read in Gal. 5:18-24, “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” So, those that produce the fruit of the Spirit are showing forth that they are Crucified with Christ, and are led of the Spirit. Those that do the works of the flesh, are manifesting that they are not led of the Spirit, but are rather inclined to the things of man and of the flesh.
So, we can say, that another Mark of the Lord Jesus, is the Evidence of the Crucifixion of ourselves with Christ, and the Separation of ourselves from the Affections and Lusts of the World.
The Obvious Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ
The last Mark that I want to look at is perhaps the most important Mark for us to show in our flesh. We read in Gal. 1:15-16, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:” I know that these verses are speaking primarily of the fact that the Father in Heaven, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, revealed His Son in the Apostle Paul, unto Salvation. In other words, quite simply, the Son of God was revealed to him as his Saviour.
However, I think that it is important for us today, just as it was for the Apostle Paul in his day, to manifest the Presence of the Son of God within us. It should be my (and your) utmost priority to reveal his Son in me. All of the world around us, both unsaved and saved, should see the Lord Jesus Christ in us.
To me, this is the Mark of the Lord Jesus that we should always carry about in our bodies – The Mark of the Revelation of the Son of God. If the world is to see Christ, it must see Him in His Churches and in His people.