Summary: We don’t have a visible brand, but do people know you belong to Jesus?
Years ago, when people used to buy and sell horses, a man arrived at a ranch to check out a horse he was considering buying. The owner said, “Now, this is a religious horse. He doesn’t respond to ‘giddyup’ or ‘whoa.’ To get him to go you have to say, ‘Praise the Lord.’ To get him to stop you have to say, ‘Amen.’ So the guy jumped on the horse for a test ride. He said, “Let’s go. Giddyup,” but the horse refused to move. So, the owner yelled, “Praise the Lord!” At that, the horse took off galloping across the field. The rider was enjoying it for a while, and he wanted the horse to stop, but he couldn’t remember what to say. They were approaching a cliff, so the rider stared saying, “Whoa! Stop!” But the religious horse didn’t slow down. The man was so frightened he might die that he started praying the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven …” he made it all the way to the end and said, “For Thine is the kingdom and the power forever and ever, amen!” When he said, “Amen” the horse screeched to a stop right at the edge of the cliff. The rider was so relieved that he said, “Whew! Praise the Lord!” And over they went!
As we come to the end of our series on Galatians, we’re going to read the final “amen” and I can say a hearty “Praise the Lord” for how I’ve been blessed from the riches of God’s grace found in Galatians.
Paul started the letter with God’s grace and he concluded it with God’s grace. After the salutation he wrote: “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:3) And the final sentence of the letter says the same thing, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Galatians 6:18) My definition of grace is God giving us what we need (forgiveness) instead of what we deserve (punishment).
Paul had preached that salvation is by grace through faith alone. His grace formula was JESUS + NOTHING = SALVATION. He wrote this letter because false teachers had infiltrated the church and were teaching a false gospel. Their false formula was JESUS + KEEPING THE JEWISH LAW = SALVATION. That’s not grace, that’s legalism.
Paul wrote this letter to plead with the believers to reject this false teaching. His main message was “Don’t Stray from the Grace-Way!” These false teachers, called Judaizers, were boasting of their accomplishments like keeping the Sabbath, observing the Jewish festivals like Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. But one of their main demands was that all the men had to undergo religious surgery, circumcision. That’s probably what upset Paul the most. So, as he finished the letter he reminds them he has physical marks on his body that are a stronger testimony than circumcision. He had scars all over his body from the many times he had been beaten and stoned. And for Paul, every scar told a story of his love for Jesus.
Galatians 6:14-18. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, 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.”
Paul’s final appeal was, “From this moment on, I don’t want any more trouble with these Jewish teachers. They brag about their mark of circumcision, but I have visible marks on my body that settle the argument.” I want us to focus on those powerful words of Paul where he wrote, “I bear on my body the marks (stigmata) of Jesus.”
Since Paul wrote this letter, the word stigmata has taken on a different meaning. If you Google stigmata you’ll learn that in the Roman Catholic tradition there have been some Christians who claimed that the wounds of Christ have miraculously appeared on their hands and feet, and these have been called stigmata. St. Francis of Assisi was the first to have this reported condition. But originally, the word stigmata didn’t have a religious meaning. It was a word used to describe what we would call an identifying brand on a cow or horse, or even a tattoo—a permanent badge of identity. What can learn about Paul’s scars?
I. SCARS TELL THE STORIES OF OUR PAIN
Unless you’ve lived a very sheltered, careful life, you probably have some scars on your body. They may be scars from accidents, or a scar from some surgery. And every scar on your body has a story. There are two different kinds of scars.