BRANDED WITH THE MARKS OF JESUS
T. PIERCE BROWN
Paul said in Galatians 6:17, ” Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus.” The word Paul used is an interesting one, “stigma,” by which he may have been suggesting what apparently was a custom of the day that a slave was often branded by his master in some way, much as the cowboys branded cattle. In English, the word stigma simply means a mark of disgrace.
What did Paul mean by this expression, and what relevance does it have for us? There is little doubt that if we had been there looking at a man who had been chained in dungeons for long hours, with a face wrinkled with the care he had for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28), with the disfigured body caused by the stoning at Lystra, the scars on his back from the lashes he had received (2 Cor. 11:24-25), and the marks left on his wrists as he was chained for the hope of Israel (Acts 20:28), we would understand more clearly what he meant. Could one question the sincerity, integrity and devotion of such a one, or doubt that he belonged to Jesus?
As an interesting sidelight of my main point, let us note that these are also proofs of the reality and truthfulness of the message of the risen Lord. Paul did not merely say, “Look at what I have borne for my belief in Jesus!” He said, “I know Him in whom I have believed. I saw Him and talked with Him.” A man might die for his belief in Mohammed or Joseph Smith. There is no stronger testimony of the reality of one’s belief than the fact that one will die for it. But that proves nothing about the truthfulness of the thing believed, but only demonstrates the strength of the belief. Paul did not die merely to attest to the strength of his belief. He died attesting to the reality of his knowledge. There is no stronger testimony to the reality of a fact than this. This is significant and very important.
But my point now is slightly different. Do I bear in my body the marks of my master? The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” If I serve the Lord, there will be marks left on me. If I serve the Devil, there will be marks of my master. See a man with a bloated face from drinking alcohol, emaciated body from AIDS or some other disease which he caught from living in sin, and you will see a man who bears in his body the marks of his master. Even a look of harshness, indifference, intolerance, selfishness, frustration, worry may indicate the one you really serve. We do not mean to imply that every person with a bloated face or an emaciated body, or even one who has AIDS got it from serving the Devil. Nor do we mean that every person who serves the Devil will have those particular marks, or that one can always tell by the look on a man’s face whether or not he is serving the Devil.
But we do mean that each one of us will, in some way, by the way we look, speak, or act, show the marks of our master. I believe I heard Dr. George Benson tell of a man in China who joined brother Benson’s tour in order to find out how to rob or kill them. But in the process of living and going about with them, he obeyed the gospel, and his actual features changed so much that his uncle, who was in charge of the band of robbers, had a hard time recognizing him when he returned.
It is true that there may be wolves in sheep’s clothing, worms in apples, and trees that have pretty leaves and a healthy looking trunk, but bear no fruit and are rotten inside. But it is still a matter of observation that strong ruling emotions are revealed in the speech and actions of every individual. God wants His character so indelibly stamped on us that even those who observe our daily walk will see branded in us the marks of Jesus.
Although Paul was doubtless talking of the physical wounds that he bore as a result of serving the Lord, in the broader sense, the marks of Jesus–the things that mark us as servants of the Lord are love for God and man. Our love for man is demonstrated by the way we speak about him and act toward him. Our love for God is demonstrated the same way. This is why Jesus could aptly say, “If ye love me keep my commandments (John14:15). It is amazing beyond expression that anyone who claims to preach the gospel could ever overlook or minimize the statement in 1 John 5:3, “This is the love of God that we keep his commandments.”