SCARS FOR THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-28-56 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Marks of the Lord Jesus. We have been preaching for the last several months through the Book of Galatians in our preaching through the Word of God. And the message this morning and tonight will conclude our preaching from this book to the churches of Galatia. The message is in the benediction:
As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus be with your spirit. Amen.
Now, that concludes the book, the letter.
The text is the seventeenth verse: "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17]. The word translated there "marks," in the Greek, it is stigmata – ta stigmata. "For I bear in my body the stigmata of the Lord Jesus." It would be a more accurate translation to read it like this: "For I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus."
Anyone who has been in Texas would be familiar with that word – a "brand mark." In the days before the great ranges were fenced and each cattleman and his herds had access to all the open range of this western country, a man’s herd was set aside by his brand. In these great ranches today, they still have these famous cattle brands. Back in that day, it was a vital necessity. When they had their roundups in the spring, in the fall, each cattleman would cut out the herd that belonged to him, and on the calf, they would place the brand of the mother cow. The brand mark established the ownership of the herd.
When I was in Africa, outside of a little handful of second generation Christians, even the first generation Christians and all the vast mass of the population – every African that I saw had a brand mark, a tribal mark: some of them very livid, some of them most profuse. You could look at a Nigerian: "This one is an Ebo. That’s a Uriba." All those many, many different tribes, each one has its brand mark. Now that brand mark is cut into the flesh of a member of the clan or the tribe.
In the days of the Roman Empire – and if I could describe the Empire as any one thing above anything else, I would describe it as an engine of slavery. In the days of the Roman Empire, had you walked down the streets of Athens or of Corinth or of Antioch or of Rome, when the Apostle Paul visited those cities, three men out of every five you met would be bondsmen, slaves, chattel property.
And in the days of the Roman Empire, the slave owner cut his mark into the flesh of his slave. That was in order if the slave ran away, he could be immediately identified by the brand mark of the owner cut in the flesh of the slave.
The Greeks had a word for those marks. They called the mark a stigma or the plural stigmata – "brand marks." We bodily took the word into the English language. The exact Greek word, stigma, is a word in the English language: "stigma." It is a mark of, in our modern day, some inferiority or some background that is not happy and felicitous. There is a stigma on the child or a stigma upon the family.
Well, in the Greek language and in the days of the Apostle Paul, stigma was the Greek word that referred to the brand marks cut in the flesh of the slave. That’s the word the apostle Paul uses referring to his own body: "I bear in my body the stigmata – the scars, the brand marks – of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17].
The translation of the Bible out of which I preach is the King James Version. There’s no exception to that. I always preach out of the King James Version, the Authorized Version. It’s the most beautiful piece of literature in the world, and it is a magnificent translation of the Word of God. But it is a beautiful translation, and sometimes the beauty of its passage obscures the sharp-edged word of the Apostle.
For example, in Romans 1:1, in Philippians 1:1, in Titus 1:1, it’ll be: ho Paulos doulos tou Christou. And you have it translated, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ," Iēsous Christou. Now, that word, doulos – ho Paulos doulos – that word doulos is the Greek word for a "slave." Really Paul writes, "Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ." And in this passage here, he refers to the brand marks, the stigmata, the scars of that slavery: "For I bear in my body the marks – the scars of the slavery, of the servitude – of Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:17].
I wish I could have seen the body of the apostle Paul, look upon his face – great, livid scars on his face. "Paul, where did you get those scars on your face? Where did they come from?" And he could have replied, "Once was I stoned and dragged out for dead, buffeted and beat [Acts 14:19]. They are the brand marks of the Lord Jesus. They are scars of the Lord."
I wish I could have seen his back, crossed and crisscrossed with livid scars. "Paul, where’d those great scars come from on your back?" And he could have replied, "Five times received I forty stripes save one, and thrice was I beaten with Roman rods [2 Corinthians 11:24-25]. They are the brand marks of the Lord Jesus. They are scars for the Lord."
I wish I could have seen his wrists and his ankles: great callouses around his wrists and his ankles. "Paul, where’d they come from?" And he could have replied, "In stocks and in chains and in prisons above measure [from 2 Corinthians 11:23]. They are the brand marks of the Lord Jesus. They are scars for the Lord."
"Well, Paul, why do you boast? Why do you speak?" Was not personal. He was not gloating or boasting or glorying in himself. In the fourteenth verse of this benediction he writes, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" [Galatians 6:14].
His reference to his scars, the brand marks of his servitude, was not personal glory, was not boasting in the sacrifice and devotions of his own life. But why he wrote it was this: those enemies who hounded his every step, who followed him in his great missionary journeys [Galatians 2:4], who went to every church that he established [Acts 17:13], sought to dissuade people from the truth of the gospel [Acts 15:1-2; Galatians 1:6-9] – those people said, "This man, Paul, is not a real apostle. He’s a pseudo-apostle, and he works for himself. He has his own private interests at heart. And what he does, he does for his own glory and for his own advancement" [Galatians 1:10].
And Paul, in answering that charge, said that he was indeed a true apostle of Christ [Galatians 2:7-10], that the message he preached he had received by revelation from Jesus Himself [Galatians 1:11-12], and that he bore in his body the marks of that call, of that apostleship, of that servitude: "For I bear in my body the scars of the Lord, the stigmata of Christ Jesus" [Galatians 6:17].
I suppose the most dramatic and the most effective of all the arguments for a man’s truth and sincerity and dedication in all this world is a mark of sacrifice, of suffering, of devotion. "I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17].
In the University of Glasgow [Glasgow, Scotland], a student body that’s utterly uninhibited one time did not even allow a Prime Minister of England to speak but hissed and booed and, in English fashion, stamped on the floor. And many, many others brought there heckled, hooted, jeered at by the university students in Glasgow.
There came to visit the university campus – and the entire student group there to listen to him – there came the great missionary from Africa, David Livingstone [1813-1873]. And when David Livingstone stood up in front of the university group in Glasgow, the students looked upon him, his hair crisp and burned under the equatorial sun, his skin like parchment, burned by that terrible heat, his frame, thin and gaunt from the years wasted away in that awful climate, and his right arm hanging limp at his side, torn by the ravaged attack of a ferocious African lion.
When David Livingstone stood up to speak in front of that great group of university students, instead of laughing or mocking or jeering or stamping with their feet, the book says that the entire student body arose as one man in reverence, in awe, in respect before the presence of the great missionary from Africa.
It is that that makes the Christian message pertinent. And without it, it is almost an impertinence. It is the blood of the cross. It is the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. It is the Gethsemane [Matthew 26:36-46] and the crown of thorns [Mark 15:17] and the wounds [John 19:1] and the agony and the suffering [Luke 23:33] and the death [John 19:30] that comprises the heart of the Christian faith and the Christian message [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. Without it, there’s not any gospel and there’s not any remission of sins [Hebrews 9:22] and there’s not any hope in this life or in the life to come. Faith in Christ is a faith in His scars and in His wounds and in His cross and in His blood and in His atoning death.
When Thomas said, "Except I see the prints of the nails in His hands and thrust my finger into the prints, and except I see the scar in His side and thrust my hand into His side, I’ll not believe" [John 20:25], and the next eight days later in the even when the doors were shut and the disciples were within, Thomas, that Sunday night, was present [John 20:26]. And suddenly Jesus appeared in the midst and turning to Thomas, His languishing and unbelieving disciple, He said to Thomas, "Thomas, come hither. Stand by Me. Put your fingers into the prints of the nails in My hand and thrust your hand into the great open wound in My side. And be not faithless, but believing" [John 20:27]. And Thomas, looking up on the scars of the Lord, Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God!" [John 20:28]
When I was a boy in Sunday School, we used to sing a song that I’ve never heard since those early long ago days.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him
When redeemed by His side I shall stand;
I shall know Him, I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hands.
["My Savior First Of All," Fanny Crosby, 1894]
That is the gospel of the Son of God. That is the devotion. That is the measure of the love. That is the criterion of the ministry. That is the place and the message of the church of God in the world today. Where it is bloodless and unburdened, it has no message, no gospel, no ministry. But where the church is bathed in the blood and in the love and in the tears and in the devotion and in the loyalty and in the faithfulness and in the sacrifice of its people, there you will find the church with great power and unction from above.
That is true with regard to our message, a message that is delivered, God helping us no matter what to deliver that message. Little things do not interfere. Inconsequentials do not matter. The great call of God is for the preached Word of Christ mediated to the people, and our challenge and our call is to deliver that message, God helping us [Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 10:13-15].
Wednesday noon I ate lunch with two young men from Quebec, Canada. I sat there between the two and listened to them talk. They had recently been in prison. They had been in prison for what? They had been in prison for trying to bring Bibles to the people.
I sat in a convention this week, and I listened to those Baptist preachers, one after another, as they took part in that evangelical conference. And their executive secretary who sat by my side said to me, "Do you see these men?" – one after another as they took part in the convention. He said, "Add together how long those men have been in prison, and these men that you’re now looking at, these men have been in prison for a total of more than fifteen years."
And I said, "Why?"
And he replied, "For preaching the gospel of the Son of God. That’s all." That’s all.
When I look at us today, so pampered and petted, when I look at us today so accustomed to the luxuries, so accustomed to the compliments and the felicitations of life, I wonder if we are worthy to walk in the train of the men of God who have mediated the truth of God to the world whether on our own continent, or over there in the Communist Oriental world, or the men who die and die even now along the Iron Curtain of Eastern Europe. "I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17].
I repeat: what gives power and unction in a church is the ableness, the willingness, of the people to pour into it life and blood and toil and tears and prayer and concern, to open our hearts to the burden of God and let the Lord speak to us that we might do His will in the world. When you sing that beautiful old hymn, what do you think about? The first stanza:
I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.
The second stanza:
I love Thy church, O God.
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And graven on Thy hand.
And the third stanza:
For her my tears shall fall;
For her my prayers ascend;
To her my toil and cares be given,
Till toils and cares shall end.
["I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord" altered by Timothy Dwight, 1800 – first published 1165]
What do you think about when you sing that song? Every time I sing it, I call to mind the little tiny white church that’s gone so many years ago, the little white church in which I was converted, where I found the Lord, where I was baptized. And I think of the church that I now pastor: its worldwide ministry with so many who watch it and look upon it.
I think of those two churches, and I think of that third stanza: "For her my tears shall fall." I wonder how many people ever wept because of a great burden that the church might rise to deliver its true and full message so full of care and concern that words and language could not contain the inexpressible intercession of our hearts but burst forth into fountains of tears.
"For her my tears shall fall; for her my prayers ascend" – a daily intercession, a bombardment of importunity at the throne of God.
"To her my toils and cares be given" – a matter, a concern, a burden.
"Till toils and cares shall end" – till I live my last day.
And do you think, when you think of the church of that final hour, it is there that somebody will stand and say a last word of memory and then lay this poor body in the heart of the earth awaiting God’s resurrection day?
I preach God’s truth to you when I say it is that spirit of love and burden and care and concern that make God’s house warm and full in which sons and daughters can be born into the kingdom of God.
A cold church, sterile and barren, without the spirit of devotion and sacrifice, chills the heart, chills the marrow of the bone. You can tell the difference when you walk in the door. You can feel it. Here are a great company of praying people. Here are people who love the Lord. Here are a people devoted to their church. Here is a great aggregate of men and women and children who have given themselves to God and to the ministry of their church.
I haven’t time to speak of this other thing that I had on my heart. Where are our scars for the Lord, the delivery of our message, the building up of our church?
And this last one: I wonder how many of us could stand up in the choir, seated here in this pulpit, out there in this great congregation, and listening over this radio – I wonder how many could stand up and say, "Pastor, it is a burden to me, somebody I know who is lost. It is a care to me. It is a matter of prayer and intercession." These old-time Christian people used to pray, "O God, burden my heart for the lost. Burden my heart for the lost. Lord, put a burden on my heart for lost men."
That is a thing that has almost fled away from us! We are interested in too many other things – the stock market, the football season, our personal interests in life. Oh and how many all-consuming things are our hearts pulled away! But it’s a rare thing that I see anyone bowed down in tears and in prayer because of a great burden over someone who is lost.
A young man stopped me at my study this morning as I came over to the service. And I went back and sat down by his side and listened to him and prayed with him. His wife, who is a mother of a six-months old baby – his wife, stricken with polio, out in Parkland, an operation cut into her throat hoping that she might breathe long enough maybe to find life. The young man, hardly able to talk to me, just a fountain of tears: "O Pastor, pray with me that God will spare the mother of that little baby." I could understand and could sympathize and did pray in the spirit of his broken heart.
But the thing that flees from us, the thing that escapes us, is this: I can see and sense the eternal weight of the loss of someone whom you greatly, greatly, greatly love. I can see that. But, O Lord, how is it that it always escapes us and we’re hardly able to enter into it that the loss of the body is but a resurrection in the more glorious world that is to come, but the loss of the soul is a loss now and through all the eternal ages that are yet to come?
The burden of our prayer and of our intercession ought always to be: "Lord, if I can live and have strength and health – O God, thank Thee for an unmerited blessing. Thank Thee for being good to me. But Lord, most of all that I might be saved, that my name might be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And what I pray for myself, that I might be saved, O God, that my people might be saved, that the children of Adam in the earth might be saved."
The burden, the prayer of intercession: "In my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17] – our scars for the Lord.
Stir me, oh, stir me, Lord.
Stir my heart in passion for the world,
Stir me to give, to go, to pray;
Stir till Thy blood-red banner be unfurled
O’er hearts that still in deepest darkness lie,
O’er homes where no cross is lifted high.
Stir me, oh, stir me, Lord.
Thy heart was stirred by love’s intensest fire
Till Thou didst give Thine only Son,
Thy best beloved One,
Even to the dreadful cross, that I might live.
Stir me, Lord.
O, stir me to give myself so back to Thee
That Thou canst give Thyself again through me.
["Stir Me, O Lord," Mrs. Albert Head]
May we pray?
Our Lord in heaven by whose wounds and scars our hope to enter in some day, through whose blood and sacrifice we hope to have remission of sins, O God, as we read in this Book, can it hardly be that we’re speaking of the same people, of the same church, of the same message? When we read of the ultimate devotion and sacrifice of these Christians whom God called his martyrs, His witnesses, and when we look upon us today, Lord are we worthy to follow in such a train? Will God own us? Will the Lord have us? O, O, O, dear God, by the wounds and by the crown of thorns and by the cross and the blood, by the tears and the love of Thy Son Christ Jesus, O God put into our souls a like devotion, a like willingness, to spend and be spent for God.
Lord, help our Sunday school to be not just another organization but the great purpose lying back of all our teaching and visitation that we might win people to God, that they might be ready to see God’s face and live, that they might go to heaven when they die, that in Christ they might have sins forgiven.
And, our Lord, all of the other groups of our church – the Training Union, the Brotherhood, the missionary society – all of the activities of this vast program, that back of it, ultimately, always that burdened and intercessory prayer: "Lord, use us and our efforts somehow to get people to God."
And our Master, most of all and above all, would we pray and beseech Thee that the use and the purpose of this pulpit and the reading and the preaching of God’s Word might have as its ultimate hope and purpose that one thing – that people might come to God.
Our Lord, in the Spirit of Jesus, by His cross, by His wounds, by His love and sacrifice, seal this appeal this morning with somebody coming to Thee and to us. And may their coming be a strength and a help. Thank Thee for answered prayer, in Jesus’ saving name, amen.
While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you give his heart to the Lord: "Pastor, today, the best I know how, my humble best, I surrender the whole issue of my life to Christ and here I come. I give you my hand. My heart I give to God." Is there somebody you to put your life with us in the church? Is there a family like came at this 8:15 service – a sweet, blessed family? This is God’s work, not mine. I am just a voice, an echo. That’s all. If God bids you, come. If the Spirit of Jesus calls for you to come, would you today? Would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?
SCARS FOR THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Stigmata – "brand marks"
1. Cattle brands
2. Nigerian tribes
3. Slaves of the Roman Empire
4. Exact Greek word in English language is "stigma" – mark of inferiority
B. The doulos, slave, recognized by his scars(Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1)
C. Not a boasting, but a defense(Galatians 6:14, 17)
II. It is difficult to belittle, ridicule, or mock true sacrifice
A. David Livingston at University of Glasgow
III. It is the appeal of Christ
A. The gospel message
1. It is Gethsemane, the cross, the blood that makes the Christian message pertinent
B. Faith in Christ is a faith in His scars
1. Doubting Thomas(John 20:25-28)
IV. It is the strength of our witness, the measure of our devotion
A. Our message
1. This week in Canada – two young preachers in prison for preaching
B. The church
1. Hymn, "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord"
C. The lost
1. Hymn, "Stir me, Oh, Stir Me, Lord, I Care Not How"