From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the marks that show I belong to Jesus.Gal 6:17
We continue the investigation into Galatians 6:17 as I respond to the question: What does it mean in Gal 6:17 “The Marks of Jesus”? What are the marks of Jesus? Several readers have written and asked, “What has happened to the Nuggets and Gems?” “Are there more Marks in the series Ian? The Nuggets and Gems have suddenly stopped, why?” Essentially for Christmas and New Year. With holiday season upon us I figured many like us would be tied up with family and holiday breaks. So I would take a break and give you some time off too. In the case of the Gems, some time to do your own review as I did mine. Two of you rightly pointed out to me that I had said there were seven Marks of Jesus we had to consider and thus far we have only covered six:
Some what’s the seventh Ian? Where is the seventh Nugget in this series?
In the previous Nugget we looked at the mark of “Love” What did you conclude? Could Paul have been referring to the ‘mark of love’?
- Was this a Mark of Jesus?
- Was this a Mark that Paul bore on or in his body?
- Could this be what Paul is referring to?
- What’s your conclusion?
- Is this a Mark which characterises you?
So could the Mark of Love have been what Paul was referring to?
- Yes, it was a Mark of God and Jesus in that Jesus Himself told us “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” After all God is Love and Jesus certainly loves as God Himself loves. “He that does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
- Yes, this was certainly a mark which Paul had on his life. However, Paul did not bear on his body love marks, neither did Jesus, although either of us: you, me and Paul could argue that Crucifixion per se could be considered as a mark of love. i.e. “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”
- Yes, it could well be.
- Apart from the mark we will look at today, there is normally no mark on the body which shows forth the sign of love, with the exception of having “Love” tattooed on our body. But that defeats the purpose if we have to make the mark on our body ourselves. If that is the case, is it really genuine? After all people will know us by the way we love, not by the fact that the word “Love” is tattooed on our body.
- What about you? Do you have the mark of love on your life? Can people look at you and know you are a Christian by your love? Is there evidence of all five levels of love we talked about in the last Nugget on your life?
The Marks of Crucifixion
Now we have reached the seventh and final mark of Jesus or in fact of being a Christian: The mark of crucifixion. There is one obvious verse which stands out to me which carries the suggestion that all true Christians ought to have the mark of crucifixion on their lives.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20
Have you died to self? Have you crucified the old man or woman? It is clear that Jesus talked about this principle many times when he referred to taking up our cross daily.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.Luke 9:23
I am not going to give you all of the verses in the Gospels where Jesus referred to this principle. You can research that for yourself. However, it is clear that Jesus stated this principle over and over. This concept must also lie behind Paul’s statement in Romans 12:1 where he refers to us “presenting our bodies as living sacrifices”. A living sacrifice has the option of getting down off the altar. Is there a mark on you life, not necessarily your body, indicating that you live a crucified life?
Interestingly, in Catholicism, the term stigmata, the original word found in the text of Galatians 6:17 in Greek, is the word used for the supernatural marks supposedly which appeared on saints to mark them as such. It is said such stigmata took the form of the marks of crucifixion, nail holes in the hands and feet. Whether that was true or not, and there is much debate about such marks with very little proof, it is still a principle related to living the Christian life.
A number of the original twelve disciples were martyred. Thaddeus (one of Jesus’ brothers, also called Jude) was shot to death with arrows. Does that equate with crucifixion? Matthew was crucified in Alexandria. Nathanael (also called Bartholomew) was flayed alive and beheaded in Albanapolis, Armenia. Peter is said to have been crucified upside down at his own request. The earliest mention that we have of Peter’s death is in a letter from Clement, Bishop of Rome (AD 88-97) to the Corinthians. He only mentions the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome in passing. Dionysius, a bishop of Corinth, bears the following testimony (about AD 180) referring to Peter and Paul: “Both of these having planted the church at Corinth, likewise instructed us; and having in like manner taught in Italy, they suffered martyrdom about the same time.” Tertullian, wrote around AD 200 about the deaths of Peter and Paul as occurring in Rome under Nero. Caius wrote similarly in the 3rd Century. Eusebius in his book Ecclesiastical History (written AD 325) says: “Thus Nero publicly announcing himself as the chief enemy of God, was led on in his fury to slaughter the apostles. Paul is therefore said to have been beheaded at Rome, and Peter to have been crucified under him. And this account is confirmed by the fact, that the names of Peter and Paul still remain in the cemeteries of that city even to this day” (Ecclesiastical History 2:25). The same idea is first mentioned in (Ecclesiastical History 3:1) where Eusebius wrote “who also, [referring to Peter] finally coming to Rome, was crucified with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way” .
Martyrdom has been a favourite way of persecutors of Christians to put believers to death given the symbolism involved and the knowledge that the Bible records Jesus as commanding his followers to take up their cross and follow Him. What a challenging way to test Christians in their willingness to follow in the footsteps of Christ. The most painful death imaginable is that of crucifixion. Crucifixion, beheading and burning believers alive are the most practised ways of sending Christians to be with Jesus in this day and age. Yes you read that correctly, there are Christian martyrs in this 21st Century. It is said by the groups which monitor martyrdom worldwide that 1 million Christians were martyred in the first ten years of this century at an average of around 100,000 per year. Christianity Today, in an article by Megan Fowler in February 2020, claimed the statistics for martyrdom in the 2000s was 1.6 million, whereas in the 2010s that figure had declined to c. 800,000. But you need to bear in mind that the countries (40) where Christians are martyred regularly don’t publish the statistics. Suffice to say it is still happening today but not always by crucifixion.
Apply the standard Questions to this Mark of Jesus.
Before the next Nugget spend some time thinking about the Mark of Crucifixion and work your way through the above FIVE QUESTIONS for this option to Paul’s use of stigmata. You could also pray for fellow believers around the world who are facing persecution and martyrdom. You can easily search for the 40 countries where this is happening. The most recent of which is Afghanistan, where Christians are being systematically exterminated by the Taliban.
Reflect on the possibility of persecution breaking out in the country where you currently live. Would there be enough evidence about your life to convict you of being a Christian and therefore subject to martyrdom? Or are you a secret disciple like Nicodemus?
In the following Nugget I will conclude by investigating which of these seven alternatives Paul most likely meant by his comment, “I bear on my body the marks that show I belong to Jesus.”