SCARS FOR THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-11-73 8:15 a.m.
Today brings us to the last chapter and the last message on the Book of Galatians. I have been preaching through it as you know for some time. This is the last sermon and the text is Galatians 6:17, beginning at verse 11:
You see with what large letters I write unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But 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.
The last sermon that I preached was on that text, "in the glory of the cross."
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And 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. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
And the text, "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body ta stigmata of the Lord Jesus," translated here "the marks," the stigmata of the Lord Jesus [Galatians 6:17]. If I could translate that word literally and actually, "for I bear in my body the stigmata; I bear in my body the brand marks, the scars of the Lord Jesus."
The Greeks have a word for it; that is a proverb, a saying, and the Greeks had a word for this. In the days of the Roman Empire, the slave was marked by a scar in his body. It could be on the lobe of the ear, it could be in the forehead of the face, it could be on the arm or hand; but the slave was marked. There was an incision, a deep scar cut in him. And the reason for it was so that if he ran away, he could be easily apprehended. And the Greeks called that scar a stigma. We’ve taken the word actually, bodily, letter for letter, and have placed it in the English language; a stigma, a mark of inferiority. But the original word was the scar, the cut, the incision that was made in the body of a slave, marking him out as the property of somebody else.
Out here on the western plains where I grew up, every boss man, every ranchman had his brand. And he burned that brand; he cut that brand into the flesh of the cow. In the roundup in the spring and the fall, it was the brand on the mother cow that was burned into the flesh of the calf – a brand mark.
When I went through Africa in 1950, unless he was a second generation Christian, every African that I saw had a tribal mark cut into his face. He belonged to a certain clan, a certain family, a certain tribe. That scar cut into the flesh of a slave was called a stigma; plural, stigmata. And that is the word that the apostle uses when he refers to his ministry – the Christ. "For I bear in my body," the brand marks, the stigmata, "the scars of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17].
Sometimes the beauty of the King James Version of the Bible – out of which I always preach – sometimes the beauty of the translation will hide away the sharp, jagged words the apostle will use. For example, in Romans 1:1, in Philippians 1:1, in Titus 1:1; you will read it in the Bible, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ." What he wrote was, Paulus, doulos Iēsous Christou; Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ – no will but God’s will; no purpose, no hope, no future, no vision except the Master’s. He was a slave of the Lord Jesus, and as a slave he bore in his body the stigmata, the scars of that servitude.
I wish I could have seen the body of the apostle Paul; great, livid scars in his face [Galatians 6:17]. And had I asked him, "Paul, where did those scars come from?" He would have replied, "Once was I stoned at Lystra and dragged out of the city for dead" [Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:25]. I wish I could have seen his back, crossed and criss-crossed with great, livid scars. "Paul, where did they come from?" And he would have replied, "Of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes, save one. And thrice was I beaten with Roman rods" [2 Corinthians 11:24-25]. They are the stigmata, they are the scars of the Lord Jesus. I wish I could have seen his wrists and his ankles; calluses, heavy calluses. "Paul, where did they come from?" And he would have replied, "In prisons above measure" [2 Corinthians 11:23]. Most of the ministry of the apostle Paul was spent in dungeons, fettered with manacles and stocks: they are the brand marks, they are the scars, they are the stigmata of the Lord Jesus. "Well, Paul, aren’t you boasting about your devotion to your Christ? Aren’t you proud of your sufferings and sacrifice in His name?" No, for he had written in the text that I preached on last Sunday: "God forbid that I should glory, that I should boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]. "Then Paul, why are you speaking of your sacrifice and your devotion, and why do you refer to your scars?"
Well, the reason lies in the Book of Galatians itself. As the apostle preached, the Judaizers followed him and said about him, "He is not a true apostle! He is a pseudo-apostle! He is a false apostle! The true apostles were the original twelve; Peter and James and John; but not this Paul. He is a renegade emissary of the Christian faith. And the gospel that he preaches is a perverted gospel!" [2 Corinthians 11:5-6]. And the Book of Galatians, as you know, was written in defense of his apostleship – that the message that he brought was a direct revelation from Christ Jesus [Galatians 1:11-12] – and in the defense of that apostleship, he refers to the sacrifices he’s made and the price that he’s paid in delivering that heavenly message. "I bear in my body the stigmata, the brand marks, the scars of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17]. And you know, somehow it is difficult to scorn, and to ridicule, and to belittle sacrifice unto death – the man who pours out his life for the faith.
I remember sometime ago seeing on the front page of the Dallas News, a picture of a minister in the British government as he stood before the students at the University of Glasgow. Evidently, those students had a profound dislike for the British government, and especially for that particular representative of it, because the picture I saw of the member of the British government was this: he was standing there on the dais, on platform before the students, and they had come prepared. They had covered him with rotten eggs and rotten vegetables, then, after they had pelted him with rotten eggs and rotten vegetables, they had poured flour over him, thrown flour over him. And he stood there, this minister of the British government – and Launce, you all treat them kind of rough over there! [laughing at response of Launce Burke] He says, "That’s Scotch!"
He was standing there in a ridiculous sight, covered with rotten vegetables and rotten eggs and then covered over with flour. When I looked at that picture, my mind went back to the time when somebody else had stood there before those students in the University of Glasgow. And this time the man who stood on the platform was David Livingstone. When the chancellor of the university presented him, David Livingstone stood up and came to the front of the platform to speak to the students. And the history book says that as the students looked upon God’s missionary – his body wasted away with jungle fever, his hair burned crisp under the torrid African sun and his arm hanging limp by his side, torn by the attack of a ferocious lion – the book says that as the students looked upon David Livingstone, they stood up in silent awe of God’s missionary.
Sacrifice, devotion, "For I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17], the signs of the sacrifice and devotion of a life poured out unto God. And after all, is not that the appeal of the gospel of the Son of God; the cross, the suffering, the blood, the sobs, the tears, the crown of thorns, the pouring out of His life unto death for us? [Matthew 27:29-50]. Take away the crown of thorns, take away the cross, take away the blood, take away the tears and the sobs, take away the pouring out of His life unto death, and you take away the gospel message; and we are yet in our sins [1 Corinthians 15:12-17]. The power of the gospel of Christ lies in His death for our sakes [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He died in our stead [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And that is the power of the witness of the church, and of the ministry of the church through the generations and through the years. The sacrifice in it, the blood in it, the tears in it, the pouring our of life unto death in it, the blood of the martyrs, the witness of those who were burned at the stake, the sacrifice, the pouring out of heart and soul has made the witness of the church in the earth powerful.
And the obverse is true. That is also the reason for our impotence, and our powerlessness, and our ineffectiveness, our unspoken testimonies and our unprayed prayers, our unsung songs and our unburdened hearts. For this is the power of the testimony of the church; the amount of blood and life we are willing to pour into it. Give, if there is anything left over. Come, if it is convenient. Testify, maybe never in a lifetime; it is the burden of it, the sacrifice of it, that makes it powerful for God.
I mentioned a Sunday or two ago about being in Oberammergau and looking at the famous Passion play in that little Bavarian city. While I was there, I heard of an American tourist with his ubiquitous camera. And between acts, the wife of this American tourist said to her husband, she said, "Hubby, you pick up the cross and I’ll take a picture of you carrying the cross." So it delighted him, the prospect; so he went over there to pick up the cross and he couldn’t lift it. It was too heavy. And about that time, the famous Christos, who played the part for thirty years, Anthony Lang, came by. And the American tourist turned to him and said, "Why is the cross so heavy? This is just a play, this isn’t real. Why is it so heavy?" And Anthony Lang replied, "Sir, when I carry it, if I don’t feel it, I can’t play the part."
If there is not a cost in it, if there is not a sacrifice in it, it is cheap, and impotent, and ineffective, and weak. Whether the message of Christ and whether the message of the church has any power at all lies in the measure of our devotion to it; the depth of our sacrifice, what we are willing to pour into its ministry. I am not saying this, except maybe to me how little it really costs, how little I actually sacrifice. Some people will come to me and say, "Pastor, you work at that thing twenty-four hours a day. Why don’t you allay? You’re getting older, why don’t you stop? Why don’t you quit some of these things?" The answer is very apparent, "I can’t; it’s in my soul, it’s in my heart. I can’t!"
The deacons formerly passed a resolution. "We’ve got enough programs going on. Let’s stop and digest these programs." No, we are not going to stop; not as long as God has something else for us to do. We are going to build our elementary school. Oh, that’s in my soul! And I need help to do it. We are going to build that school; we are going to build our institute. We are going to expand our teaching ministries. If God will help us, we are going to build this beautiful retirement center for me – for people like me – when I get to the end of the way. We are going to ask God to give us another building after we get through with this one here for our educational ministries. These things are a privilege under God. It is a delight to work and to give a part of what I get out of it to the Lord. It is no onerous burden; I don’t feel I’m being cheated, nor do I feel that that infidel out there is better off because he has no such responsibilities and feels no such moral obligations. I am glad God chose me to do it and laid it on my heart to do it. I wouldn’t trade places with him for the world. What I have left, having given to God, will go ten times further than what he has when he keeps it all for himself. "I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17].
Now I want to close because time is already gone. I want to close with a word, an illustration of these days of evangelism and revival in which we are engaged. Every week, there is a division in our church that is giving itself to winning people to Christ. Sometimes what happens to you when you are young has far more weight, remembrance than anything that ever happens in later years. Well, here is one that colored my life through all of the many years that have succeeded.
Through a friend I accepted an invitation as a very young man to hold a revival meeting in a country church – the pastor of which, the church itself I had never heard of – it was a two weeks revival meeting. And as I preached every morning and every night, there was no burden, there was no intercession, there was no visitation and there wasn’t anybody converted; nor was anybody concerned. And on a Friday morning of the second week, I, in my heart just died, like a Gethsemane every day. I went through the congregation that morning and I asked, "Is there anybody that you are praying for to be saved? Anybody burdened? Anybody, anybody you want to see saved? Do you have a burden on your heart for the lost?" I went through the whole congregation and there was none at all. When I went through the whole congregation and the answer was, "No, no burden on my heart for anybody." There was a little woman to my right on the end of the second pew that held up her hand and said, "Wait! Wait!" She said to me, "My husband died and I am rearing two boys. And my boys are lost. Oh," she said, "that someone would help me win my boys to Christ." And she broke down and cried; the only tears I saw in the meeting and the only burden of heart. After the service was over, we went to a Kentucky home, a beautiful Kentucky home. And there the table groaned under the delicious dishes that had been prepared by our hostess. And after the repasts – why, in the summertime being – we took our chairs outside and on the lawn, under those tall, beautiful, maple trees we all sat down and were visiting together. And my heart was heavier, and heavier, and heavier. Finally, I took my chair to the side of the pastor and I said to him, "Did you hear that little mother this morning?"
"She has two boys and she is a widow, and she wants somebody to help her win those boys to Jesus."
I said, "What are you going to do about that?"
He said, "Nothing." He said, "If God wants those boys saved, He will save them without your help or mine."
I said to him, "Sir, do you know where she lives?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Would you mind if I excuse myself from this company and somebody take me to that little woman’s house?"
He said, "Why, if you want to go, yes."
I said, "I want to go more than anything in the world."
So there was a man that put me in his car and we drove away up to a certain lane. And he said, "Right up this lane is the little woman’s house."
I said, "Well, I’ll get to church tonight someway. Thank you." And he drove away. And I walked up and knocked at the door of that little, country home. That little mother came to the door and I said, "I heard what you said this morning about your two boys, "Would somebody win them to Jesus?" I said, "Little mother, where are those boys?"
She said, "My younger son is in the barn milking the cows and my older boy has not yet come in from the field."
I said, "Little mother, get on your knees and stay on your knees! And I’m going to win these boys to Jesus if God will help me." So she coveted in prayer and knelt.
I went to the barn and there was the younger boy, milking the cows. I got me some kind of a little box and I sat down by his side while that boy was milking that cow. And I had a little New Testament and I said, "Son, I’ve come to talk to you about Jesus. You have never been saved?"
"You’re not a Christian?"
I said, "Your mother is in the house down on her knees praying. And I want to read to you out of the Book how to be saved." And I read to the lad from God’s Word how to be saved. Then I said, "Son, would you mind if I prayed?"
He said, "I’d love for you to." And he quit his milking, and I knelt with that boy on the barn floor and prayed for him and asked God to give him faith.
And I reached forth my hand and I said, "Son, here on your knees, if you will take Jesus as your Savior, will you grasp my hand?"
And he grasped my hand, "I take Him as my Savior."
In the meantime, the older boy had come in from the field, and he was unhitching the horses; taking off the harnesses and he was hanging it on pegs in the barn. I told him that his mother was inside the house down on her knees and I said, "I’ve come to tell you how to be saved." I said, "Would you like to know?"
And he said, "Yes."
So we stood there together, and I read to him out of the Book how to be saved. I said, "Son, would you kneel down here by my side?" And we knelt on the barn floor. And I prayed that God would give him the gift of faith. When I finished the prayer, I extended my hand and said, "Son, today if you will take Jesus as your Savior, will you grasp my hand?"
And he nearly crushed my hand, "I will!"
And that night, when I gave the invitation, arm in arm – the older boy who looked to be about nineteen and the younger lad who looked to be about sixteen – arm in arm those boys came forward. They were the only ones saved in that two weeks revival, for the church was afflicted with the doctrine that if God wants them saved, God will save them without your help or mine.
When the meeting was over, I went away. And from that day until this, there stayed in my soul the deep, deep resolution that I made in my heart; I believe in praying for the lost. I believe in visiting the lost. I believe in trying, with God’s help, to win the lost. I believe it is the first, primary assignment and heavenly mandate of the church. We are to win the lost to Christ. That means time, that means tears, that means prayer, that means sacrifice, that means effort; that means the offering of ourselves unto God. That means what it is to be a Christian, "For I bear in my body ta stigmata, the brand marks, the scars of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 6:17].
Heavenly Father, may God lay upon our church always the burden of souls; always expecting God to use us to save the lost, always looking for a sweet and precious harvest – the fruit of our testimony, the reward of our work. Now may God bless it again today. In a moment, we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, in the balcony round you, on the lower floor you, a family you, a couple you, or just somebody one you, while we sing the song, while we make the appeal, answer with your life. Do it now. Down one of these stairways, into the aisle, and here to the front, "Here I come, pastor, I make it now. I choose now. I decided now and here I am." On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.