Scars For the Lord
March 5th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
SCARS FOR THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-5-78 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor delivering the ninth in a series of sermons that the Sunday School Board, the Broadman Press, has asked me to deliver, which are to be published in a book entitled, With a Bible in My Hand. There are sixteen of the sermons that are favorite to me through the fifty years that I have been a pastor. They are sermons that date back to the times of my first youth and first pastorates and first preaching ministry. And this is one entitled Scars for the Lord. “For I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus” [Galatians 6:17].
On the radio and with us here in this great auditorium, turn to the Book of Galatians, the last chapter, chapter 6, and we shall read out loud together, beginning at verse 11 to the end of the chapter; Galatians, chapter 6. After the Gospels: Galatians. After the Gospels: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians; Galatians chapter 6 beginning at verse 11, now read it out loud with me and together:
Ye see how large a letter I have written 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.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
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.
Paul said in Corinthians and in Thessalonians that the sign, that the letter, was genuine, that is was written by him, that it was not a forgery, the sign of a genuine epistle would be that he would write a concluding salutation and sign it with his own hand [1 Corinthians 16:21-24; 2 Corinthians 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:25-28; 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18]. After Paul had dictated his letter through an amanuensis, and he thus did all of them, when he came to the end of the dictation, he picked up the pen and wrote a concluding salutation. And that’s what he did in this letter to the churches in Galatia. He dictated the epistle, then after he had finished the dictation, he wrote a final and concluding word [Galatians 6:11-18].
So, he begins, in the King James Version, “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” [Galatians 6:11]. A better manuscript and a better translation would go like this: “Ye see with what large letters I write unto you with mine own hand” [Galatians 6:11]. Paul wrote apparently like a schoolboy, in large block letters. Maybe there was something wrong with his eyes. There are many scholars who suppose that the thorn in the flesh that Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians is the trouble that he had with his eyes [2 Corinthians 12:7]. There is reason to believe that, but, whether or no, that’s the way that he wrote—like a schoolboy, with large block letters. “Ye see with what large letters I write unto you with mine own hand” [Galatians 6:11].
Then he speaks of the tremendous confrontation that he has in the churches of Galatia with the Judaizers [Galatians 6:12-16]. And finally concludes, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” [Galatians 6:17]. Could I here translate that word stigmata? “For I bear in my body ta stigmata,” could I translate that even more precisely? “For I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus” [Galatians 6:17]
On these Western plains where I grew up as a boy, every rancher then, as now, had a brand registered. It is his. And in the roundups, in the spring and in the fall, those cowmen burn the brand of the mother cow on the calves. It is a brand mark. These are his herds. And especially was it vital in the days before barbed wire was invented and the herds intermingled on those vast prairie lands. Every ranchman, every cowman had his brand, his brand mark.
When I went through Africa several years ago, I never saw an African, who was not a Christian; I never saw an African but who had tribal marks incised in his flesh. Somewhere on his body, usually on the cheeks, there were deep, vivid scars. They were tribal scars. They were tribal marks. This man belonged to a certain clan, a certain family, a certain tribe. They were the brand marks of that family, that clan, and that tribe.
In the days of the Roman Empire—and if I could call the Roman Empire any one thing above anything else, I would call it an engine of slavery—in the days of the Roman Empire, sixty million out of a population of a hundred million were chattel property, they were bond slaves, they had been bought. They’d been taken as prizes in war, and sold. Had you walked down the streets of Ephesus, or the streets of Antioch, or the streets of Corinth, or the streets of Rome in the days of the apostle Paul, three men out of every five you would have met were slaves, bondservants.
In the days of the Roman Empire, they had a mark that a slave owner cut in the flesh of his slave. He cut it in the flesh so that if a slave escaped and ran away, he could be apprehended, and arrested, and returned, sometimes crucified. So the Greeks had a name for that scar, that brand mark of slavery and servitude. The Greek name was singular, stigma, plural, stigmata. We have taken that word and spelled it out exactly in our English language: stigma. A stigma, to us, is a mark of inferiority, a stigma. But in the days of the Greco-Roman Empire, it referred to the scar that was cut in the flesh of a slave. It was a mark of his servitude. And that is the word that the apostle Paul uses in this concluding salutation, “For I bear in my body, ta stigmata, the brand marks” the scars “of the Lord Jesus” [Galatians 6:17].
I always preach out of the King James Version, but sometimes the beauty of this Elizabethan, Shakespearean language translation hides away the rough, jagged edges of the words that Paul is using. And here is an instance. In Romans 1:1, in Philippians 1:1, in Titus 1:1, the King James Version translates it, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” What that is that he wrote is this, “Paulos, doulos Iēsou Christou, Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ”—no mind but God’s mind, Christ’s mind, no will but God’s will, Christ’s will, no work but that assigned by the Lord. He was a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ, a doulos. And as such, he says, “I bear in my body the marks of that servitude,” scars for the Lord [Galatians 6:17].
I wish I could have seen the body of the apostle Paul. I wish I could have met him. Had I been able to, great livid scars all over his face, and I could have asked, “Paul, where did those scars come from?” And he could have replied, “Once was I stoned at Lystra and dragged out for dead” [Acts 14:19]. Scars for the Lord; the brand marks of the Lord Jesus. I wish I could have seen his back—crossed and crisscrossed with great livid scars. And I could have asked, “Paul, where did those scars come from?” And he could 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’re the scars of the Lord.” The brand marks, the stigmata of the Lord Jesus. I wish I could have seen his wrists and his ankles; great calluses around his wrists and his ankles. “Paul, where did those calluses come from?” And he could have replied, “In prison, and in dungeons above measure” [2 Corinthians 11:23]. It is hard for us to realize that most of the ministry of the apostle Paul was spent in prison and chained to a Roman soldier.
“They’re the brand marks of the Lord Jesus. They’re the scars for the Lord, the sign of my servitude, my slavery” [Galatians 6:17]. “But, Paul, aren’t you boasting? Aren’t you proud? Aren’t you referring to your sufferings and your sacrifice in order to exalt yourself above your brethren?” No. For he had just written, with his own hand, “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 writing here about your scars, about your suffering, about your brand marks? Why are you speaking of them if you’re not boasting? And the answer is apparent in the letter to the churches at Galatia. Wherever Paul went, there he was hounded by Judaizers. You see, Paul preached that a man could be saved just by trusting the Lord Jesus, apart from keeping the law of Moses [Galatians 2:16]. But the Judaizers said that Paul is a false apostle. “He’s a pseudo-apostle. He wasn’t one of the twelve, and the gospel he preaches is a false gospel” [Acts 21:20-22].
The Judaizers said, “You can’t be saved just by trusting the Lord. You have to be circumcised, and you have to keep all of the laws of Moses. And, having kept the legislation of the old covenant, then you can be saved by trusting Jesus, but not by faith alone!” [Galatians 5:3-6]. And that is the thunderbolt that you call the letter to the churches of Galatia, when Paul is defending his apostleship [Galatians 1:11-24], and he’s defending the message that he received by revelation from Jesus Himself [Galatians 1:10-12]. And as such, in defense of his gospel and of his apostleship [Galatians 1:11-24], he speaks of his scars [Galatians 6:17]—signs of his servitude, slavery to the Lord Jesus [Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1].
And somehow it is always difficult, it is hard to minimize, or to deprecate, or to ridicule, or to scorn deep devotion and consecration unto death. It is difficult to mock and to scorn consecration like that.
On the front page of the Dallas Morning News one time, I saw a picture—one of the most ridiculous pictures you could ever have looked at in your life—there, a large picture on the front page. It was a picture of a minister of the British government who was speaking before the University of Glasgow. And those students in Scotland, who looked with scorn and disdain upon the British government at that time—they had come prepared for it—and when this minister of the British government was introduced, he came to the podium, to the desk, and there prepared to deliver his message. And when he stood there, those students had brought rotten vegetables and rotten eggs and flour. And first they pelted him with rotten eggs and rotten vegetables, and then they poured flour over him. And the picture that I saw was this minister of the British government, standing there before that large student group at the University of Glasgow, covered with rotten vegetables, and rotten eggs, and then flour from his head to his foot. He looked like a ridiculous figure.
But when I saw that picture, my mind went back to another day and another time in that same university, in that same hall, and in that same platform. Only this time, the chancellor of the University introduced to the student group God’s missionary, David Livingstone. And the history book that I read said that when the chancellor had finished introducing David Livingstone, that the Scotsman stood up and came to the front of the platform to address the students at the University of Glasgow. And when they saw him, they looked at his hair burned crisp under the torrid heat of the African sun. They looked at his body emaciated with jungle fever. They looked at his right arm, hanging limp and useless at his side – destroyed by the attack of a vicious African lion.
And the book said that when the students saw him, with one accord, they stood up in awe and in silence and in reverence before God’s missionary. There is a power in consecration. There is a thrust and a march in true dedication that causes the whole world to bow in silence before it. And that is the power of the gospel of the Son of God. It’s in His sufferings. It’s in His cross [Matthew 27:26-50]. It’s in His sobs and His tears. It’s in His blood that we have a message of salvation to preach, and you take away the crown of thorns and the prayer of Gethsemane, you take away the suffering and the blood, and we are still in our sins! [Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22]. The power of the gospel of the Son of God lies in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His suffering for us, in the pouring out of the crimson of His life unto death [1 Corinthians 15:3]. That is the power of the gospel of Christ.
“God forbid,” he writes, “that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Galatians 6:14]. And that is the power and the thrust of the gospel message that we preach today. It is found in our consecration to it, our devotion to it, our commitment to it, our sacrifice for it. The strength of our message and the thrust and power of our gospel lies in the tears, and the blood, and the heart, and the toil that we are willing to dedicate to it. And if I had any observation to make of the modern Christian message, it is just this: that we are weak, and frail, and feeble, and sterile, and anemic, and unprofitable because of our unburdened hearts, and our unwept tears, and our unspoken testimonies, and our unsung songs. The thrust and the power of the message is found in our willingness to pour our lives into it; scars for the Lord [Galatians 6:17].
I remember picking up the daily paper and reading there one of these crimes that you just don’t speak of. So I briefly, summarily, casually, read what had happened here in the city of Dallas and then promptly tried to forget it. A few days after that, there came a woman to my study, and she had with her a boy, sixteen years old, and she was seated in my study with the boy. And then, looking so pitifully to me, she said, “I’m sure you know why I have come.” I said, “Mother, I have no idea. I don’t know you. I never heard of you. I’ve never seen you before. Why have you come?”
She said, “I am sure that you have heard of us.” And then I turned to the boy, and I said, “Son is your name so-and-so?” He said, “Yes.” He was the boy who committed the crime on the front page of that newspaper. So I said, “Mother, what can I do to help?” And this was her reply: she said, “Last night my boy came into my bedroom, and he fell down at the chair where I was seated, and he cried, saying, ‘Mother, where can I find God? I need God. Mother, where can I find God?’”
She said to me, “I couldn’t tell him. I didn’t know how to answer. When I was a little girl,” she said, “I went to a Methodist Sunday school, but it’s been so many years ago, I can’t remember anything that I learned.” She said to me, “I went next door, and I said to my sweet neighbor next door, I said, ‘My boy is on his face in my bedroom. He wants to know where he can find God. Would you come and tell him? And the neighbor answered, ‘I don’t know how to say it. I can’t tell him. But I listen to Brother Criswell every Sunday on the radio. You take your boy to him and he will tell your boy how to meet God, where to find God.’”
“So,” the mother said, “I have brought the boy here for you to tell him how he can find God.”
I turned to the lad first and I said, “Son, may I ask you a few simple questions first? One: how long have you lived in Dallas?” The boy replied, “I have lived in Dallas all of my life. I was born here.” I said, “Son, did you ever go to church?” He said, “No. Not one time in my life.” I said, “Son, did you ever hear a sermon?” He said, “No, sir. Not one in my life.” I said, “Son, were you ever in Sunday school?” He said, “No, never in my life.” I said, “Lad, may I ask you just one other question? Did anybody, anytime, ever invite you to Sunday school or to church?” And the boy replied, “No, sir, never.”
There are over two hundred thirty-five Southern Baptist churches in the city of Dallas. There are over one thousand churches in the city of Dallas, and this boy grows up in this city all the days of his life and not one time did anybody anywhere ever invite him to the Lord, or to Sunday school, or show any interest in his soul whatsoever. Where are our scars for the Lord? What are we doing to invite people to Jesus? Our unspoken testimony, our unburdened hearts, our unwept tears, our unsung songs; God help us!
Sometimes a thing will happen to you in your beginning days that change and color all of the after years of your life. And I want to tell you of one that changed mine. In the years of the long ago, when I was a youth, I was invited to hold a two-weeks revival meeting in a church I’d never heard of, in a country community, the pastor, the people, I’d never met. So I began preaching the best I could to those people. All the first week, every morning we’d have a service and every night, nobody saved. No burden of heart. All through the second week, every Sunday, every morning of the day, and every night, I preached and nobody with burden of heart and nobody saved.
On Friday morning of that second week, I stood in the pulpit of that church, and I asked each one “Is there anybody that you’re praying that will be saved? Is there anyone who is a burden on your heart, that they might come to know Christ? Is there anyone that you’re expecting to be saved?” And one by one, every member of the church, no burden! Nobody they were expecting to be saved. Nobody they were particularly praying for or burdened for; the whole church.
I started to have a broken-hearted and benedictory prayer, and when I did there was a little mother, a widow, seated right down there on the second row. She said, “Wait, Brother Criswell, wait. Wait.” She said, “My husband is dead and I am rearing my two boys alone on the farm. And,” she said, “my two boys are lost.” And for the first time, somebody wept before the Lord. “My two boys are lost.” And then, when she gained her composure, she said, “Oh, that somebody would help me win my two boys to Jesus!”
We had our benediction and then, as the custom is, we all went to eat dinner, a noonday dinner in a lovely country home, the table groaning under the weight of all the luscious and delicious dishes that the hostess had prepared. So after the dinner, we all went out into the yard and sat down, and they began to visit together, that family with their friends who called in to be there, as the host and hostess with the evangelist, the young preacher, and the pastor. And as the time wore on, my heart grew heavier, and heavier, and heavier.
Finally, I turned to the pastor and I said, “Pastor, did you hear that little woman at the church this morning?” He said, “Yes.”
“Her husband is dead.”
“Yes,” he said.
“And her two boys are lost.”
“Yes.” He said. “And those two boys, she’s praying somebody will help her win them to Jesus. Did you hear that?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do?” And he said, “Nothing. If the Lord is going to save them, He will save them.” I said, “Pastor, do you know where she lives?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Would you get one of these men who is here to take me to that poor widow’s home? And don’t worry about my getting to church tonight. I’ll find some way.” He said, “If you want to do that.” I said, “I want to do that more than anything in the world.”
So he asked one of the men, who put me in his car and drove down the road and the highway, and the street, and the lane, and came to a certain farmhouse. And I got out at the road, and I said, “I’ll walk up to the farmhouse, and I thank you for bringing me.”
So I walked up to the door of that farm home and I knocked at the door. And there came to the door that mother. I said, “Sweet mother, I heard what you said this morning: your two boys, and they’re lost, and ‘Oh! That someone would win them to Jesus.’” I said, “I have come to win them to Jesus. Where are your boys?” She said, “My younger son is milking in the barn, and my older son has not come in yet from the field.”
I said, “Mother, you get on your knees and you pray here in the house. And I’m going to try to win those two boys to Jesus.” I went to the barn. There was that younger son milking the cows. I got me a little bucket and sat down on that bucket by the stool on which he was seated, milking those cows. And I talked to that boy about Jesus. And I read to that boy, out of that Book, how a boy could be saved.
And I asked him if he wanted to be a Christian, and if he wanted God to forgive his sins, and to write his name in the Book of Life, and to be saved, and to be a Christian [Acts 16:30-31]. And I said, “Son, if you do, take my hand.” And I extended my hand, and he grasped my hand hard and said, “Yes. I will accept the Lord as my Savior.” And I said, “Son, let’s kneel here and pray.” And we knelt and I thanked God that the Lord had come into his heart and saved him.
By that time, the older son was unhitching—taking the harness off of the team from the field—and I walked over into the other section of the barn where he was hanging up the harness. And I said to him, I said, “Your mother is praying for you, that you will be a Christian. And I’m come to tell you how.” And I read to him out of the Book, and I witnessed to the boy what Jesus can do when He comes into a young man’s life. And I asked him if he’d take the Lord as his Savior, if he would—would he take my hand? And again he grasped my hand. Big hand, strong, he grabbed my hand. I said, “Son, let’s thank God.” And we knelt down on the barn floor, and I thanked God for saving a young man’s life.
That night, when I gave the invitation, those two boys came down the aisle together, arm in arm, with their arms around each other. And their mother was so glad she clapped her hands and praised God. They were the only two that were saved in that meeting. Nobody else was saved. And when the day was done and I turned my face to my life that lay before me, I said to myself then, and I have said it in my deepest soul ever since, “I believe in praying for the lost. I believe in witnessing to the lost. I believe in visiting the lost. I believe in knocking at the door of our people. I believe in personal evangelism, and personal soulwinning, and personal witnessing, and personal invitation to the Lord Jesus.” I think God blesses that church, and God blesses that family, and God blesses that Sunday school teacher, and God blesses that deacon, and God blesses that pastor, any where in the world who will knock at the door, who will invite people to the Lord Jesus, who will witness of the grace and love of Christ in his life—our scars for the Lord. “For I bear in my body ta stigmata for the Lord Jesus” [Galatians 6:17].
And that is our invitation to you tonight. There are some of you here tonight who have been visited in your home. There are some of you here tonight to whom our people have made prayerful and earnest appeal. There are some of you who’ve been taught the way of salvation from this holy and blessed Book of life. God has sent you here. You’re not here by accident. You’re here by the direction of the Holy Spirit of Jesus, and God has spoken to your heart. And He always says, “Now” [2 Corinthians 6:2]. He always says, “Come.”
A family, a couple, or just that one somebody you; on the first note of the first stanza, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I have decided for God, and I’m on the way.” If you’re in the balcony, there’s a stairway at the front or the back, on either side; in the throng on this lower floor, into that aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, I’m coming tonight.” May angels attend your way. May the Holy Spirit aboundingly bless you as you come. When you stand up, stand up coming down that stairway, walking down that aisle. That first step is the greatest you’ll ever make in your life. Make it now. Come now. God bless you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.