By Pastor Ay Nee Ng
Do you remember the days when we took our marker pens and marked everything that belonged to us? Remember the TV ad the guy named George marking everything that belonged to him with the Sharpie permanent marker? Why did he do that? Why do we place our mark on things? Do you realise that you are a marked person? Well, we have habits, don’t we? The way we say things or certain phrases becomes our pet phrases!
We can identify who says what and why when we belong in the family and see each other every day. We even know each other’s quirks and eating and sleeping habits. Some of us are marked by the way we walk, certain gestures, or our clothing style. Before he plays a tennis game in a competition, Nadal has to touch his nose and face, and then he can proceed with his serve. What about Hussain Bolt before his run? He does the sign of the cross and kisses his locket.
Countries are marked by certain icons that can be easily identified. Gondolas remind us of Italy; the Opera House, Australia; the Golden Gate Bridge, United States; berets, France. Cattle are also branded, criminals in prison are marked by their striped uniform, and soldiers have uniforms with their insignia.
The New Testament speaks of branding or marks. A.S.V. “I bear branded on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).
“Peace and mercy to all who walk by this rule, even to the Israel of God. From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (Gal. 6:16-18).
“This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’S’; and that one will call on the name of Jacob; and another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to the LORD,’ and will name Israel’s name with honor” (Isa. 44:5).
What do I mean by “bear His marks, the marks of the Lord Jesus”? It is anything that marks us as belonging to Christ and identifies us with Him.
The Setting the Scene in Galatians 6:17
The apostle Paul wore a badge that marked him out as being a true servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Paul laid the foundation for his belief and ministry. In this letter, Paul was vindicating his ministry as many of the Jewish teachers had subverted and destabilized these Galatian Christians into believing that he was not truly an apostle because he had not known the Lord Jesus when He was alive. Do you have such people in your lives? When you say something, they say something else to counter your words or your authority. So Paul asked: “Have they the marks of the Lord Jesus upon them? No – but I have!” It’s amazing for Paul to be so emphatic for his faith when challenged gives reason for us to challenge ourselves in asking.
What is the proof of our attachment to Christ? Is it our words or actions? No, not primarily. There should be some distinctive marks about our lives that identify us as Christians.
To follow Christ, Paul had suffered much for the cause of Christ: hunger, thirst, cold, poor clothing, beatings, and homelessness (1 Cor. 4:11). The marks on his body were the scars of wounds inflicted on him by persecutors (Acts 14:19; 2 Cor. 11:23-25) which show his loyalty to Jesus in contrast to what the Jews demanded as the physical mark of circumcision required as proof of obedience to the law. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
What does he mean when he speaks about marks? Paul had in mind a common custom of those days, namely, that of branding certain people with a hot searing iron. Slaves were branded as a mark of ownership and as a mark of shame, for if a man ran away and was recaptured his master would brand him as a mark of shame and ignominy. Soldiers were branded as a mark of allegiance to their generals. At one time, soldiers would have the crest of their favourite general tattooed upon their arm. Moreover, religious devotees would frequently be branded by the priests in some heathen temple as a mark of devotion and fidelity. Thank God there is a spiritual connotation to us as slaves of Christ; we are pardoned when we confess our sins.
The marks of the Lord Jesus upon the body of Paul, which were also found in the disciples of Jesus Christ, were the following.
- The marks of a slave of Christ (Phil. 1:1);
- the marks of shame and reproach in the eyes of the world (1 Cor. 9:22);
- the marks of a soldier (2 Tim. 4:7);
- the marks of devotion and fidelity (2 Cor. 5:14).
But what were the actual marks? They were the bodily scars and blemishes which he had received as the result of the persecution; he had suffered because of his faithfulness to the Lord Jesus. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 for a description of the fearful physical suffering he endured, and particularly notice the five kinds of suffering mentioned.
He did abundant labour in prison. Five times he received 39 stripes. He was beaten with rods three times and stoned once. He was shipwrecked, a night and day in the deep, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of the city, in the wilderness, in the sea, and among false brethren. He was weary, in toil, in sleeplessness, in hunger and thirst, fasting, cold, and naked. He truly had the marks of Jesus in his life.
More details of his sufferings are found in the following verses.
- “…in prison more frequently…” See Acts 16:23 and Ephesians 3:1.
- “…exposed to death again and again…” Paul was frequently exposed to death, and it seems certain that on one occasion he was actually killed, though God mercifully raised him up. See Acts 14:19-20, and compare 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.
- “…five times I received…thirty- nine…” These were inflicted with a long leather strap divided into thongs, on each of which was attached stones and pieces of metal. Thus, the back would soon be lacerated and torn.
- “…three times…beaten with rods…” This method of punishment was inflicted on Paul and Silas at Philippi. See Acts 16:22.
- “…once I was stoned…” Large boulders, as heavy as a man could lift, would be hurled at the victim until his body was reduced to a pulp.
This descriptive passage of scripture explains the marks on Paul’s body—the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus. Boy, hearing this it sure puts us to shame and we keep complaining, picking on and criticising our fellow believers as if we are better than them? We need to staop that.
Most of us want to be popular Christians, and we know little of suffering for Christ’s sake. Let us remember those in many lands today who are suffering much at the hands of men and who are, for their Lord’s sake, bearing in their body the marks of the Lord Jesus. And let us pray that should we ever be called upon to suffer shame for His name we may be given grace to be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
We Bear the Marks of Whatever or Whoever Enslaves Us
Let’s read John 8:31-47 (NLT) – The truth will set you free – Jesus and Abraham
31-32 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
34-38 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”
39-41 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. No, you are imitating your real father.” They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”
42-47 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
Church, the slave is always branded by his master: a man with a bloated face and red eyes is a slave to strong drink; a man’s restless spirit and hard face tell us he is a slave to sensuality; or a man’s unprincipled business tactics tell us he is dominated by greed and covetousness. Not all the slaves of sin are staggering down back alleys, for some of them wear elegant clothes and live in mansions wearing masks, while they hate themselves for the sins that brand them.
The true servant of Christ bears the marks of the master. These are marks of ownership and devotion.
When we sing, “Jesus, is the chief cornerstone and I belong to Him…”, we are telling the truth. We all bear the imprint of our owner. If you want to know who or what is a man’s master, listen to his conversation, and unconsciously, he will give you a clue and tell-tale signs.
Do we really understand what it means to be a Christian? A Christian is not his own. We have been bought with a price of unfailing sacrificial love; Christ has established His claims upon us. His chains are chains of love; they are not abusive but infinitely stronger than links of steel or rod iron. Just try to get away from Him. You will find it is not easy. Thank God for that, for it is easy for us to falter and fall away with the attractions of the world. Church, guess what? You don’t need to advertise or announce you are a Christian. The world will know whether or not you have been with Jesus. They knew all about Peter (Matt. 26:69). If the world cannot pick you out, something is wrong and something needs to change in your life.