Galatians 6:14-17 (NLT), “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.”
Galatians 6:14-17 (MSG), “For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them! Quite frankly, I don’t want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.”
Fair warning! If you are not a believer, you're not going to be impressed to become one after this message. Before I became a Christian, I said, "Christians are wimps, and weaklings, just they need someone to lean on, I don't need anyone!" Then Christ found me, called me to ministry. Now I say, "If God calls you to ministry, don't stoop to be a king." I found out the strong are the true believers.
Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers said, “I get into the pulpit and make a b-line for the cross.”
Without the cross, the Bible is just another story book. Without the cross, Christianity is no more than a self-help seminar.
It was in the cross that God displayed God’s wisdom and power.
•Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation.”
•1 Corinthians 1:18, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Christ's work on the cross is the only way of salvation. If you ever hope to get to heaven it will be because of the cross of Christ.
When Sir John Bowring, the Governor of Hong Kong visited Macao in 1825, he saw a huge bronze cross on a wall where a cathedral had once stood. He was so impressed with the scene that he wrote: “
In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o'er the wrecks of time,
all the light of sacred story gathers 'round its head sublime.”
•releases us from the bondage of evil.
•cleanses us from all sin.
•accepts us as we are.
•gives us life, light, energy, power, confidence and grace.
•takes away our fear of death.
The cross is the searchlight of God, it reveals:
•God's love and man's sin.
•God's power and man's helplessness.
•God's holiness and man's pollution.
The cross is the meeting place of holy God and sinful man.
Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” The old religious rites do not count for righteousness. The only thing that counts is new a life in Christ which we receive at the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Galatians 6:17: “Let no man trouble me…” This epistle is full of trouble. It was written to combat the Judaizers, those who were teaching that you had to become a Jew before you could become a Christian. Paul warns about those who would pervert the Gospel. Galatians 1:8,9: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel than what we have preached to you, let him be cursed.”
Galatians 2:11-13: Paul has a conflict with Peter…”When Peter had come to Antioch I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed.” (for the Judaizers). Even good, solid Barnabus was caught up in this heresy.
Paul confronts the Galatian church. 3:1-3: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you…are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” Then he speaks of having labor pains for them. 4:19: “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” In 4:16, he asks, “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
As you can see Paul had troubles in Galatia! If these false teachers had any integrity at all they would have stopped this attack on Paul's sincerity, seeing he had suffered for the message of the cross! Paul is saying, “If I am wrong in my teaching and preaching why do I have these scars?” He has received enough scars to prove his loyalty to Christ and His death on the cross.
What were the marks? The Greek word is stigmata. We get our English words stigma, and stigmatism from this Greek word. A better translation is, “I bear branded on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Brands are flesh markings, tattoos. These were well-known to his Galatian readers.
There were five classes of persons who were branded:
1. Slaves, as a mark of ownership. Exodus 21:5,5: “But if the servant plainly says. 'I love my master, my wife and children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall bring him…to the door or to the doorpost, and the master shall pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.”
2. Soldiers, as a mark of allegiance. Soldiers would tattoo their arm or hand with the name of their favorite general. The soldiers of Alexander the Great wore his alpha on their flesh. Vegetius, writing 300 years after Paul's time, tells us that in the Roman army, recruits had to be proved for service by trial before they were allowed to be tattooed.
3. Religious devotees, as a mark of consecration. Herodius writes that if a slave ran to a certain temple for sanctuary, he would be sealed with a secret stigmata, indicating he was given to a god, no one could touch him. There may be an illusion to this practice in Isaiah 44:5: “Another shall inscribe on his hand, I am Jehovah's.”
4. Dangerous criminals were branded as a mark of exposure. Their identity was immediately obvious. The word, "stigma" came to us from this practice.
5. Brands were a mark of reproach. Brands were inflicted on people to show distain or extreme hatred. During the time of the Maccabees the hated Jews were branded to inflict a public stigma on them. During the Holocaust Jews had numbers tattooed on their arms.
The Apostle Paul's brands fit all five classes:
1. Slave. Paul addressed his letters, “Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ.”
2. A mark of ownership, Jesus was his Lord.
3. Soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3: “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
4. A religious devotee. A mark of his allegiance to his General Jesus Christ. His marks declared his devotion to his Lord.
5. The hated. He was hunted and persecuted as a follower of Jesus. He bore the marks of reproach for the Lord. He was named as a criminal. He had hunted Christians to persecute them, stoning them as criminals, now he is one of them.
What were the actual marks? 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, “In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in death often. I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a day and a night I have been the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, In perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles. In perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness––besides all the other things, what comes on me daily: My deep concern for the churches.”
Paul was battered and bruised in ways that left him with permanent scars on his body. Could he have possibly withstood the stoning at Lystra, where they dragged him outside the city and left him for dead, without bearing terrible scars from his stoning? The Jews whipped him five times––That's one hundred ninety five lashes with a cat-of-nine-tails. It had to have left furrows down his back. He was flogged three times by the Romans, leaving scars that would endure for life.
I was persecuted once! Talking to a lady about Christ on her front porch, her husband came out and knocked me off the porch. Other than my brother making fun of me when I came to Christ at age twenty-five (I was the family drunk), I have never suffered much!
What does the world think of believers?
1 Corinthians 4:9-14 NLT, “I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment. I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children..”
1 Corinthians 1:26: “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty; and the base things of the world, and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
God has chosen the “weak,” Asthenes, void of strength, and power. He has chosen the “base,” Agenes, people of no birth, without any significance."
Many would agree with media mogul, Ted Turner, who once said, “Christianity is for losers.”
2 Corinthians 4:7: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 1 Corinthians 4:13: “We have been made the filth of the world, the offscoring of all things.” We believers are described as “earthen vessels,” ostrakinos, a cheap baked clay pot, unrefined, ugly, breakable, useless and valueless.
Sir Thomas More attacked William Tyndale because he had translated the Bible into the language of the common people. He also attacked him because he was a follower of Martyn Luther. He called Luther a “privy pot.” Do I need to translate that for you? But that is a good translation of earthen vessels. You and I are just cheap clay pots, privy pots!
The contrast is amazing: We have the treasure of the glorious Gospel of Christ; light for a dark world; the knowledge of the glory of God; the greatest message the world has ever heard, in cheap clay pots, privy pots, baked dirt!
Had enough? Let me take one more shot! We are the “offscouring.” perikatharma, peri, meaning, to encircle, and catharsis, to cleanse. The perikatharma is the crud that stays in the bottom of the pot.
Enough, already! Just one more shot! We are the “filth,” the “dregs,” the peripsema. The perikatharma can be removed by a thorough cleaning. The peripsema is the stuff that is baked on and has to be soaked, scraped, and scrubbed. It is the stubborn, useless food leavings that clings to the bottom of the pot. Someone gave us some Pyrex bowls once that were so encrusted with crud, that we had to scrape, use steel wool, and a lot of elbow grease to remove. (By the way, Marlena made me clean them while I was watching football on TV).
Do you want to feel really insignificant? John MacArthur tells of the most insignificant person who was ever born. His illiterate mother named him “Nosmo King.” When asked where she got the name, she said she copied it from a sign in her room…”No Smoking."”
We believers are the “Nosmo Kings” of this world. When Paul challenged us to walk worthy, (Ephesians 4:1) he writes, walk with all “lowliness.” Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” a good translation would be, “Happy are the nobodies.” That's us! God has chosen the despised, those who are considered nothing in the estimation of this world. Fundamental, evangelical Christians are about as low as you can get. We are the things which are not, literally, “non-existent ones.”
It's human to want to be “somebody.” But the Lord chose to do it differently, choosing the impotent, nonintellectuals, whom the world considers to be nobodies. Feel like hot stuff? Listen to Isaiah 51:1: “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and the hole of the pit from which you were dug.” We are a people who were steeped in sin, lost, undone, unworthy, unholy, unrighteous, hardened, and dead in our trespasses and sins, just a bunch of hell-deserving, poor, hungry, naked, blind people bound together by the grace of God and that is glorious! Alleluia what a Savior!
Now don't get the idea that God looks at us in the same way as the world. We are children of the King. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12). We are precious in His sight. We are Christ's treasure to be presented to His Father. We are joint-heirs with Christ, and a part of God's family. We have hung-up our hang-ups at the cross, we are sitting in the heavenlies, living in heaven on the way to heaven!
May we never forget that living for Christ is our highest calling! Paul didn't want cathedrals or cities in Minnesota named after him. How did he view his life in Christ? He gloried in the Lord. Did he moan and groan, gripe and complain about the way he was treated? No! Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 1 Corinthians 1:31: “He who glories let him glory in the Lord.” He was committed to suffering for Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:23: “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” We preach about an executed Jew, named Jesus, an offense to the intellectuals, and insanity to the powerful of this world. With Paul, we say, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Never be ashamed of the name of Christ, or of being called a Christian, after all, the title, “Christian” was meant to be a derogatory term from the very beginning! It was the persecution in Antioch where the disciples were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).
God's children do suffer! We American Christians may not be beaten or killed for the cause of Christ, but when we stand up for Christ, we are insulted, and sometimes made a laughing stock! It's a great honor to suffer for Jesus, after all didn't He suffer the agony of the cross for us? Talk about marks! His back was turned into ribbons of quivering flesh. He suffered a horrible execution at the hands of cruel soldiers. If you saw the film, The Passion of the Christ, it gave just a little idea of what it meant to scourged. I'm certain that Christ's scourging was far worse than man could ever depict. Our word excruciating, means “Out of the cross.”
Listen to God's word:
•2 Timothy 3:12: “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
•1 Peter 4:16: “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God.”
•Philippians 1:29: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
•1 Peter 2:21: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, you should follow in His steps.”
Better scarred than scared! We may not be called upon to bear scars of persecution on our bodies, but every one of us as believers should be willing to carry the brands, marks, or scars on our character.
“I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). When Christ was arrested, I was arrested! When Christ was tried, I was tried! When Christ was sentenced, I was sentenced! When Christ was beaten bloody with a cat-of-nine-tails, I was beaten! When Christ was crucified, I was crucified, because He became my substitute! But thank God when Christ was raised from he dead, He provided for me a new life. I've been raised from the dead by the power of God.
We are admonished by God's word to “Take up the cross daily and follow Him” (Luke 9:23). That simply means, daily identification with Christ. It is the exchanged life, His life and mine are fused together.
Our Marks: Our Stigmata:
•We are bondslaves, committed to serve Him because of His great love for us.
•We are loyal soldiers, fighting the good fight of faith.
•We are consecrated, completely devoted to our Lord.
•We are identified with Him every moment of our lives.
•We are more than willing to bear reproach for Him.
Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The story is told is about an old missionary, who had spent many years in Africa for His Lord. He had buried his wife there. His children were grown and living in other parts of the world. He was all alone, when his mission ended, and he was going home. He boarded a ship headed for New York. He didn't know that President Teddy Roosevelt was also on board, coming home from a big-game hunting expedition. As they crossed, he was deep in thought about who would be there to greet him when he arrived. When they arrived in New York Harbor, a big brass band was playing, then he found out it was for the President. He said, “I spent my life in Africa, buried my wife there, and lost my children there, Teddy Roosevelt comes home and gets a big brass band, there's no one to welcome me home.” When he arrived at his hotel, same story, no one to welcome this veteran missionary home. He boarded a train bound for his home town. Surely there will be those who will remember and give him a welcome home, but no, the station was empty of anyone looking for him. So he went to the little church where over fifty years ago he surrendered his life to the Lord, no one! He went in, his mind flooded with memories, and quite a bit of anxiety over the apparent neglect. He got down on his knees at the old fashioned altar, and cried out to God, “Oh, God, I buried my wife and lost my children serving you in far-off Africa, Teddy Roosevelt, he gets a big brass band to welcome him home, no one was there to welcome me home.” Then in the silence of that little chapel, he hears the words, “Son, you're not home yet.”
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So bravely run the race, till we see Christ.
(Esther K. Rusthoi)
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).