"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Galatians 6:17.
This is the most impressive statement in all of Paul's writings concerning himself and his manifold sufferings for Christ, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ." In the 14th verse of this chapter, we find one of Paul's deep expressions of his relation to Christ and the heart of his glory in Christ: "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." I glory in the cross, for there Christ died for me and set me free from my sins. In so doing, the world, with all its glory and delusions was crucified~~made a dead thing to me. Yea, I was made dead to the world. Now there is left to me only one glory~~the glory of the cross.
The marks he bears on his body, are there for proof of his suffering and relation to Christ, as indeed crucified with Him. The word here in the Greek for marks is "brand", the mark that slaves of Greek and Roman lords were given. Every slave had the brand of his master burned permanently into his flesh. It was a mark of intense suffering that could never be erased. Worse than this, it was a mark of humiliation, the mark of a slave.
Paul spoke of himself as a bond slave of Jesus Christ. Therefore the sufferings and persecutions for Christ, marked him as a slave to Christ. Do we bear the marks of our Savior? Yea, do we bear about in our body the dying of our Lord Jesus Christ? (II Corinthians 4:10).
It will be impossible, in one short sermon or article, to take up fully the marks of Christ in Paul's body, as recorded in the New Testament. However, among the first of his sufferings, was the stoning of the Jews at Lystra. "... and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead." (Acts 14:19). Doubtless the wounds the Apostle received then, followed him to the day of his death: yes, marks of Jesus were seen on his body from the stones ever after that.
In II Corinthians 11:23-33, we get a summary of the marks of the Apostle for Christ's sake. "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours 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." It would be well to read the entire chapter to fully understand the sufferings of Paul for His Lord.
When we think of the marks of Paul that are visible in the flesh, we are amazed and wonder how human flesh could undergo so much! And yet we overlook his deepest wounds and brands on the heart. This comes from the false brethren and teachers, who did all they could to alienate his converts and churches from him. This they did by denying his apostleship, and seeking to injure his name and influence. Of all these, inner pangs of the heart were the hardest of persecution, seeking to destroy Paul's influence and lead churches away from him.
Do we bear the marks of Christ in our bodies? If we do not, there is something wrong, for true discipleship of Christ is inseparable from suffering. Today, the true saint needs to bear the marks of a crucified Christ. The ways of suffering for Christ change with the age in which we live, and satan's methods of persecution change. But the fact of our having "to go forth to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" has not changed.
Let me give you one illustration. Many years ago, one night, a missionary was awakened by a horrible dream. He was in a death struggle with a man he knew far away. It was the wee hours of the morning before he fell asleep again. When the mail came the next day, he saw almost at a glance, an article in a paper, relating to himself. It was an unvarnished attempt to injure the name of himself, and the mission he was a part of, and to alienate his friends from him.
Did that man realize that this was the first strike at the heart of Christ, because it was against His servants, who were laying down their lives to save heathen souls? This was a burning brand on the hearts of these servants of the Lord, worse than a brand of burning in the outward flesh. Yes, satan's methods of persecution change, but if we are faithful to Christ and His Word, even to this day, we will be called on to bear the marks of our Lord in our bodies, yea, in our hearts.
The deepest wounds and brands of Paul were those of his heart for the brethren in Christ. Because his little ones in the Lord were in danger, and being led astray from their Savior and His truth (Matthew 18:6).
Let us never forget that there is a reward of glory for these "marks", for they are the marks of Christ. In all ages, these marks identify us with our Lord, and prove our sonship. I care not how deep the wound and marks for His sake, the glory and reward transcends it all. If we suffer for Him we shall also be glorified with HIM.
~~Maxwell N. Cornelius, D.D.