Aloha Friday Message – July 1, 2016 – On The Marks

1627AFC070116 – On the Marks

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Galatians 6:17 (AJKV) – 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

E pili mau na pomaika‘i ia ‘oe a me ke akua ho’omaika‘i ‘oe, ʻŌmea! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Beloved!) Today we will take a closer look at this verse to see why it had a powerful impact on those who were contemporaries of the Apostle Paul. We begin by looking at the word marks.

When we look at the Greek for this verse, we see a word that is fairly familiar to us. That word is στίγματα (stigmata) {stig’-mah-tah}. This is also related to the word stigma. When we use that word we usually mean a mark of disgrace; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation or dignity; an association with scandal and ill repute. The Greek root means “to stick” or pierce. When we talk about “The Stigmata,” we are usually referring to the wounds of the crucified Christ which may appear supernaturally on the bodies of various persons so that the hands, feet, head, and/or thorax appears to have wounds that may actually bleed. PioHandsIn modern times, this kind of wound was a characteristic of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, known to the world throughout his ministry as Padre Pio, and he is often shown with his hands covered because of the large, bloody wounds in both palms. There are reports that he had similar wounds on his feet and side; I have never seen photographs of those. Many people also recall that St. Francis of Assisi had the stigmata during most of his ministry. Some people believe that is what Paul means when he says he bears the marks of the Lord Jesus. But there are a couple of other interesting things about Paul’s assertion.

First, let’s go back and look at how Paul viewed himself as a servant of the Lord. When he talks about that kind of servanthood, he uses the word δοῦλος (doulos) {doo’-los} which means SLAVE. Other times he uses the term bondman. A slave or bondman was a man who was bound to service without wages, man of servile condition. He had no rights, and his life literally depended on the whims of his owner, his master. A slave is one who gives up his will to that of another, and is devoted to that other to the disregard of his own interests. The master could do whatever he wished with, to, or for the slave, and the slave had only to endure it. Sometimes it took incredible strength to endure the harms associated with slavery – for instance, there were the stigmata for slaves. All that is atrocious and blasphemous when it is applied to the relations between man and man, but it is a blessed and magnificent truth when it is applied to the relations between a man and Christ, for this Lord has absolute authority over us, and He can do what He likes with everything that belongs to us.

In ancient times, and that includes up to the time of Paul and in certain areas of the world even today, slaves, prisoners, soldiers, and others placed under the authority of a master were/are cut to form scars, or even branded like cattle. They bear the mark of their master, their owner, the person that owns the will and fate of stigmatized. This stigma, then, is the mark of ownership – an unchangeable mark even more permanent than a tattoo. Some worshippers of pagan gods also were scarred or branded to show their devotion to their “master.” To the contemporaries of Paul, his declaration that he bore the marks of the Lord on his body was a flat out declaration that he was a slave of the Lord.

How were slaves perceived at the time of Jesus and Paul? Let’s look at a handful of scripture passages. In all of these passages the word translated as servant or slave is δοῦλος (doulos) {doo’-los}.

Luke 17:10 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Romans 1:1 1 Paul, a servant [slave] of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God

Galatians 1:10 10 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant [slave] of Christ.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants [slaves] of Christ Jesus – To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons

1 Corinthians 7:22 22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ.

Paul’s utter, absolute, irrevocable commitment to Christ was only possible because he saw himself as a slave belonging to Christ. As his Master, Paul accorded Jesus complete power over the Apostle’s will. Whatever happened to Paul happened because Jesus required it, period. As “a slave of God,” Paul submitted to extraordinary abuse, privation, and humiliation all for the Gospel. He was stripped and beaten with rods (Acts 16:22). Five times he was flogged 39 lashes. His hand was pierced by a lethal viper (Acts 28:3). Take a moment and read this short passage from 2 Corinthians 11:24-29. That is the life of a slave! At peril every moment because it is what the Master requires. This leads us to another possible insight into what Paul means by the marks of the Lord Jesus.

That phrase could also point to the scars left by all of those beatings! In the context of his message to the Galatians, that view also makes sense. Throughout the letter, Paul is responding to certain citizens of Galatia who cast aspersions on Paul’s claim to be an Apostle. “He wasn’t with Jesus, didn’t walk The Way with him, and he even persecuted those who took The Name. Paul is no Apostle!” Paul makes some very effective arguments against this position and vigorously asserts the genuineness of his calling and the purpose of his mission to the gentiles. Some of these know-it-alls in Galatia were insisting that in order to be a Christian, one had to fulfill the Mosaic laws – particularly circumcision. Not a great way to win converts!

Others had apparently decided that being “in the spirit” meant somebody, usually a man, who indulges in pleasures that are considered immoral and who has sexual relationships with many people – what today we call a libertine. This kind of thinking was strongly influenced by the decidedly pagan point of view of the people of Galatia many of whom may have been descendants of Celts who had invaded Greece around 290 BC. To them, being a “marked man” showed Paul’s allegiance to his God, his Master, even if the marks he bore were from the traces left there by the imprisonments, beatings, and scourgings, all endured by him in the service as a slave of Christ.  These stigmata brand him as Christ’s faithful and approved devotee, slave, and indefatigable soldier. He is, in effect, saying, “No one can doubt my designation as a loyal Apostle of Jesus, the Christ of God. I wear his brands on my body as proof of his mastery over me.” For the Galatians, that was a very convincing argument for his Apostolic Authority. It is the authority of Christ that he has been given so that he can liberate those who are presently slaves to sin. (See 1 Corinthians 7:22 again.) Paul was convinced that his status as a slave of the Lord set him free from sin, free from the law, and free from all other obligations except being a slave of Christ. His only purpose was to serve the Lord.

The absolute control over the life and will of another is appalling and sacrilegious when it occurs between earthlings; but when applied to the relationship between God and earthlings, it is a marvelous miracle of masterful Truth. Surely our Lord has the right to absolute authority over us in all things. He can do as he wishes with everything we have and are. But there is a glaring exception to the exercise of that authority. We must consent to being his slave. Paul did that from the moment of his conversion to the moment of his entrance into Glory. How well do we fare in making that commitment?

Let us first ask how slaves are acquired. They are usually bought. Someone pays for the authority to rule another person’s life. Are we bought? Yes! And our account is stamped “PAID IN FULL.” And what was the price? Love. Love sets us free. It was Love that held Christ to the Cross. It was Love that gained us our salvation. It is Love that binds us to Christ as his slaves because – as he said – “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (See John 14:15-31) Jesus paid the highest-possible price – his life for ours. All that he requires is that we give our lives for him. It doesn’t matter to him what our live look like. He’ll take us just the way we are. That’s what Paul was telling the Galatians. When we “know better than God,” we err in favor of our personal pleasures. We’ll go up the page a bit from today’s reference and look at what Paul said to the Galatians about that in Galatians 6:8-10If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Let us work as the slaves of Christ for, because of him, God has made us coheirs with him by making us his children. That is why Paul said in Galatians 4:6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  And because of that … Blesséd be God forever!

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE LINKS INCLUDE EXAMPLES FROM THE LIVING BIBLE. USE THE LINKS! Living Bible (TLB) The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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