Galatians 6:11-18 Divine glory and authority are vested in those who bear the marks of Jesus
Galatians 6:11-18 Divine glory and authority are vested in those who bear the marks of Jesus
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
Paul encourages those who are persecuted, those who refuse to boast in humanistic achievements and ideologies. For in due time, they will inherit eternal life of the kingdom. Indeed, divine glory and authority are vested in those who serve in the manner that Christ served. Today’s devotion teaches us: Divine glory and authority are vested in those who bear the marks of Jesus.
Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised.
The “large letters” are bold letters written to capture the heart of the matter as Paul came to the final statements of his letter.
What motivated the Judaizers?
Here, Paul exposed the motives of the Judaizers in bringing the Galatians into the orbit of the “the party of circumcision”. The Judaizers were to a great extent forced to conform to the ideologies of the Jews who once persecuted Jesus. Should they succeed in bringing the Gentile Christians into conformance to the law, the Judaizers would have relieved themselves of persecution from these non-believing Jews.
What motivated the Jews?
How were these non-believing Jews motivated? By their love for supremacy and dominance. They saw themselves as the elite, the future rulers of the world according to the Abrahamic covenant. Their penchant for world domination is played out in their crusade to get the Gentiles circumcised.
Why were the Jews averse to the cross of Christ?
The cross stands in direct opposition to Jewish ideologies of that time. While the Jews seek to dominate and to oppress, Christ serves at the cost of His own life. The Jews of those days saw the cross as Jesus’s failure to fulfil the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel. According to Isaiah, the Messiah is expected to restore the Jews to their promised land, to rebuild the Temple, to reign as King and to usher in an age of peace. For these Jewish zealots believe they will one day dominate the world through the Messiah. However, the cross of Christ has become a stumbling block to their agenda.
The deception and hypocrisy of the Jews and Judaizers
Paul asserted that the Judaizers’ call for the Gentiles to be circumcised does not arise from a noble desire to fulfil the law. For they did not intend to keep the law for themselves: those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves. But ostensibly to bless the Gentiles, they were seeking to boast in the expansion of their establishment (the party of circumcision) in order to dominate: but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to boast in the cross?
While the Jews and Judaizers boast in racial/religious supremacy, and dominance, the cross of Jesus Christ boast of universal love, righteousness and servitude. In boasting in the cross, Paul is in fact taking pride in living out Christ’s virtues and ideals. The cross reveals the heavenly ideologies of love and forgiveness in the face of evil and injustice. To boast in the cross is to glory in the heavenly ideals by establishing God’s kingdom on earth. On the other hand, to boast in the flesh is to glory in humanistic ideals through oppression.
Paul boasts in the cross by doing what Jesus did.
Paul in boasting in the cross had resolved to be crucified for the salvation of world: through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. In speaking about being crucified, Paul is by no means saying that he would take the punishment on behalf of sinners. Here, Paul made known his mission to bring salvation into all the world. And Paul’s mission is symbolised by the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross, which epitomises divine love and servitude towards humanity stands in stark contrast with the Jews’ mission to dominate them.
For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
What should a man be defined by?
Paul is referring to how one’s identity is being defined: by one’a cultural affiliation or party: “party of circumcision” (the Jewish church) or the “party of uncircumcision” (the Gentile church). For one’s heavenly identity should not be defined by his culture or party but by his spirit: “a new creation”. One who has the Spirit of Christ is a new creation, a citizen of heaven whether he is circumcised or uncircumcised. For it is God’s ultimate purpose to establish in heaven one united kingdom, not factions of humanistic societies. If believers understand the will of God, to harbour this attitude (walk by this rule), we will experience abundant living as citizens of “The Israel of God”. “The Israel of God” is a collective of believing Jews and Gentiles.
From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.
By “brand-marks of Jesus”, Paul refers to the scars and disfigurements on his body as a result of the ministry. Paul took these scars as the identifying marks of an apostle. In saying “From now on let no one cause trouble for me”, Paul warned the Judaizers against perpetuating their ideologies among the Galatian churches which he founded. Paul pointed the Judaizers/non-believing Jews to his divine authority and stature as Christ’s apostle. And those who attempt to harass him or his church will certainly come under Christ’s judgment and retribution.
Divine glory and authority are vested in those who bear the marks of Jesus.
The Jews boast in humanistic grandeur, in their earthly heritage and establishment. For whatever the Jews did, they did for themselves on the pretext of bringing good to the Gentiles. But as for Paul, he boasts in the heavenly culture, in perfect servitude symbolised by the cross and the marks of Jesus. As it appeared, the bloodied and dying Christ crucified was defeated by the Jews who held sway over the Roman court. None, including the disciples could perceive the cross as symbolising heaven’s ideals. Who could imagine that the Jewish establishment were in fact the devil’s devices, the very seat of hell!
What are the marks of Jesus? What do they stand for?
God’s highest glory if made visible comprises Jesus’s scars that communicate unspeakable suffering and sorrow. For it is absolutely necessary that Jesus be tormented and sacrificed to bring about salvation. The apostle John who was banished to the island of Patmos saw the vision of the Lamb that appeared slain:
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain… Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing.” – Revelation 5:6,11-12.
The Lamb which stands in the centre of the throne is the Christ who gave Himself to serve humanity. At the appearance of the Lamb, all the heavenly inhabitants respond with supreme praises. The Lamb’s slain marks while they are despised on earth are received with supreme praise in heaven. These slain marks were the result of physical and emotional abuses laid upon Him during His ministry on earth… for He was betrayed by those whom He once served and was abandoned by His disciples at the time of need. Added to His scars were tears when He saw Jerusalem laid waste by their rejection of the Messiah (see Luke 19:41). And when it is time for men to receive retribution for murdering God’s Son, Jesus took the full blunt of it on behalf of humanity. Indeed, those who serve inevitably incur the marks of sorrow and suffering. Unless, believers incur the marks of Jesus by serving like He served, we will never partake of Christ’s glory and authority to rule creation.
In John 13:8, Jesus in response to Peter who refused to let Him wash his feet answered, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Jesus meant that unless Peter humbles himself and serves in the manner as Jesus does, he will not rule with Him in the kingdom (you have no part with Me). By allowing Jesus to wash his feet, Peter obligates himself to wash the feet of men.
While shepherds incur the marks of sorrow and hurt, herders do not
That said, most ministers are preoccupied with running church programmes to keep the crowd coming and to increase the membership. Regrettably, many of such are not shepherds, but are herders who do not go to great lengths to understand the spiritual/mental health of the flock, and to protect them from harm. A herder merely gathers the flock and move them in the direction he wants. He cares not for the sheep, but for quantitative results. Inevitably, shepherds incur the marks of sorrow and hurt while taking care of the flock, but herders do not. And it goes without saying that only true shepherds possess the heavenly anointing to serve and sanctify the flock.
The powers of heaven are vested in those who serve the way Jesus did.
Paul, while bearing the marks of Jesus warned of severe repercussions should he or his church be harassed. For Paul was well aware of the authority vested in him as he claimed, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” – 2 Corinthians 12:12.
Prophet Jeremiah was appointed by God and given divine powers to tear down and to build up nations and kingdoms (see Jeremiah 1:10). Prophet Samuel was similarly vested with this authority by God who did not allow his words to go unfulfilled (see 1 Samuel 3:19).
And to the disciples who left everything to follow Him, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel… But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” – Matthew 19:28.
The faithful may appear weak, lowly, and frequently acquainted with grief. But God is raising up the faithfuls, giving them authority over their communities and cities to rule with justice and mercy. If we serve in the manner that Jesus served, God will anoint us as He did with Paul, Jeremiah, Isaiah, king David, Jesus and His disciples. He will entrust us with divine authority so that we may serve the community and rule with justice and mercy.
Are you constantly acquainted with grief while you invest your time and resources into the lives of others? You may still be recovering from a wound inflicted by someone you cared about. And you are familiar with the wounds of betrayal, of abandonment, and of unwarranted attacks by spiteful people. Be willing to forgive as Jesus forgave those who hurt Him. Be ready to receive divine authority to rule and to serve with the expectation of carrying the sorrows of the community.
Dear Lord, give me the grace to forgive those who hurt me and to boast in my scars of humble service. Increase my capacity to care and at the same time cause me to learn wisdom. Anoint me continually with greater authority so that I may help establish mercy and righteousness in the community and nation. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.