Monday, March 30, 2015

Loving the Stigma of Christ

From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” – Galatians 6:17

The word mark in its original Greek is ‘stigma’.  Stigma (Strongs G4742) means “a mark pricked in or branded upon the body. To ancient oriental usage, slaves and soldiers bore the name or the stamp of their master or commander branded or pricked (cut) into their bodies to indicate what master or general they belonged to, and there were even some devotee's who stamped themselves in this way with the token of their gods”.  While in slavery the mark is made ON the body, Paul says he bears the marks of the Lord Jesus “IN my body”.  So the mark was not an external scar received during his ministry, or a tattoo he received to a Greek god before he was converted, but something much different. 

In 2 Corinthians 1:22 Paul speaks to the Church at Corinth and says that God “has SEALED us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee”.  The word seal originates from the Greek sphragizo (Strongs G4972).  It is defined as “to set a seal upon, mark with a seal, to seal for security from Satan, in order to mark a person or a thing, in order to prove, confirm or attest a thing”. 

A seal is also a mark, a legal and binding one.  Such seals in Paul’s day were made with signet rings pressed into wax to create the sealed signature of a King or person of power.  Today we see seals embossed on paper, such as those made by a notary, and sometimes made on gold or silver foil paper.

But the seal Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 1:22 is the seal of “the Spirit”.  When capitalized, the word Spirit is a noun, signifying the Holy Spirit, which is not a seal on us but IN us.  In Romans 1 Paul again refers to himself as in slavery to Christ, as “a bondservant of Jesus Christ” by the power of the Spirit.  There is a slight difference in slavery and bondservant though that bears explanation.  A slave has no choice but to be a slave.  But a bondservant (Strongs G1401) originates from the word doulos, which also means a slave, but “one who gives himself up to another’s will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing the cause of men, devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interest”. 

Paul exemplifies the role of bondservant.  Once converted, we never read of him having down time or a time wherein he, like Jonah, turned against God’s will.  Paul pursued the ministry of Jesus Christ will a heart filled with love for Christ and for those that he ministered to.  He became a slave to Christ of his own free will.  He proudly spoke of the ‘mark’ within, the Holy Spirit, who had sealed him.

Bob George, in his book Grace Stories, tells of the Country Dog and the City Dog.  The City Dog stays penned up, and feels the restriction of the fence or walls in which he lives.  When the door is opened, the City Dog runs with all he can to break free from the boundaries he lives in.  The master then has to post posters of the missing dog, and find him to bring him back to the safety of his quarters. 

But the Country Dog has freedom to roam the country side, to go off into the woods, get muddy, and still come home.  Yet all the Country Dog wants to do is lay on the doorstep and wait for his master to come outside so he can follow him. 

Though both dogs have masters, only the Country Dog has made himself a bondservant from the love he has for his master.

I think Paul was most like the Country Dog.  He committed his life to Christ, and waited anxiously to follow Him anywhere He would lead.  As the Country Dog, his motivation was love.

Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” – Jesus, John 8:34-36


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