What are the “marks” referenced in Galatians 6:17?


by Shawn Brasseaux

We will search the Scriptures in order to see what the Holy Spirit would have us to believe about the “marks” of Galatians 6:17.

In closing his epistle to the Galatian believers, the Apostle Paul wrote: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). No one could deny his apostleship was of Jesus Christ, for Paul bore “in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” What were these “marks?” Interestingly, the Greek word here translated “marks” is stigmata, which in English means “signs of disgrace or shame.” Understand that these stigmata which Paul suffered were Scriptural, and they involved shame and hatred, not awe and pride like the “stigmata” of religious tradition (wounds on one’s hands and feet superstitiously believed to be Christ’s scars, which leads to nothing more than pagan idolatry).

Notice what an apostle endured in Bible times: “[9] For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. [10] We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. [11] Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; [12] And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: [13] Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

How many of today’s (self-proclaimed) “apostles” could write what Paul did in the above verses? Today, Christendom uses the title “apostle,” not to refer to those who have been directly commissioned and sent by Jesus Christ to travel abroad preaching the Gospel (which is the Biblical definition), but to those who have deceived themselves into believing they have a special “anointing” of God. In Paul’s day, “apostle” was a term of scorn and hatred; today, it is one of great fame and wealth. Surely, the “apostles” of today and the apostles in Bible days are two different groups of people serving two different “higher powers!”

Read 2 Corinthians 11:22-30, and notice the beatings, stonings, imprisonments, 195 (!) lashes, and other pains Paul suffered for the Gospel’s sake. How many are willing to endure these stigmata for Christ? “[22] Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. [23] Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. [24] Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. [25] Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; [26] In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; [27] In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. [28] Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. [29] Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? [30] If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.”

The internal chronology of Paul’s epistles compared with the book of Acts indicates that Paul wrote 2 Corinthians (the above passage) sometime before he wrote Galatians. Paul’s earliest writing was his epistle to Thessalonica or his epistle to Galatia. Thus, the scars to which Paul would be referring in Galatians would probably be those injuries he sustained back in Acts chapter 14 (the approximate time-frame of Galatians), which was before 2 Corinthians (he visited Corinth in Acts chapter 18).

When Paul and Barnabas were ministering in Lystra (present-day central Turkey, in the vicinity of Galatia), on Paul’s first apostolic journey, the unbelieving Jews caused great trouble for God’s servants. Luke writes in Acts chapter 14: “[19] And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. [20] Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” Personally, I believe Paul died here—after being stoned to death, after being literally pummeled with rocks, his soul left his body and went to the third heaven (that is how I view 2 Corinthians 12:1-7). The Bible says that Jesus Christ saw fit to send Paul back to Earth, where the Apostle returned to Lystra and went onward to other cities, his earthly ministry continuing another 25 years or so.

To be stoned to death, to have your physical body pulverized with rocks, would certainly leave some scars, some dislocated or broken bones, and other severe bodily injuries. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, especially mentioning those “marks” in chapter 6 and verse 17, it is highly likely that he had this stoning incident in Lystra in mind. In fact, Galatians 6:17 may explain the “infirmity of the flesh” Paul mentioned elsewhere in that epistle to Galatia: “[13] Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. [14] And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Galatians 4:13-14). Some physical injury or illness kept Paul detained in Galatia, which gave him opportunity to share the Gospel with these pagans in Galatia, and they were saved unto eternal life!

Beloved, may we always remember that we have never been promised an easy life as Christians. Like the Apostle Paul, his companions, and all the saints down through the ages, we too will be persecuted for serving the Lord Jesus Christ. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). May we never shun away from God’s precious Word for the sake of pleasing men or saving ourselves from heartache and pain. We have a wonderful home in heaven waiting for us, and its existence causes us to continue onward, no matter how dire this world becomes or hostile it becomes toward us. God’s grace was truly sufficient for Paul, and it is truly sufficient for us!

“[7] And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. [8] For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. [9] And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Also see:
» Does God promise us “good health and wealth” when we become Christians? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Why do the wicked prosper? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» How does Satan operate today?