“From now on let no one 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” (Galatians 6:17-18).
The penultimate verse of Galatians chapter six features a disquieting remark from the Apostle Paul: “From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus” (NLT). We can paraphrase this emotional appeal and consolidate the message of these final verses in the following manner…
“Please don’t cause me any further trouble by following the doctrines of these false teachers. They want to secure your allegiance but they only wish to do so to make themselves look good. They seek to inflict you with a physical wound through the act of circumcision but I carry far greater wounds as a result of my commitment to Christ- and I never pressured you to engage in this practice. If you continue to entertain these heretical teachers, you will only add to the pain I have already endured.”
In commenting on these verses, one expositor notes that the scars Paul received in his service to Christ “… spoke more eloquently than the mark of circumcision that the Judaizers sought to impose.” (1) Another source underscores the human element present within Paul’s heartfelt request…
“Paul’s last words alert us to the toll such battles take on an apostle. The constant harassment concerning his apostolic credentials and the problem of legalism as an excuse for Jewish prejudice toward Gentiles are exhausting him. His authenticity is really not a matter of speculation; it is a matter of evidence, the evidence of a man scarred (Gk. stigmata; lit. a brand mark on an animal or slave) by a world that has persecuted him as it did his Lord.” (2)
This passage also reminds us that Paul’s message to the churches of Galatia was more than just a theological exercise. At the time of Paul’s letter, the Galatians were making real choices that would eventually lead to real consequences under the influence of these false teachers. Since our beliefs are certain to lead to actions that follow from those beliefs, the Epistle to the Galatians underscores the need to consider what others want us to believe and why.
But more importantly, the Biblical letter to the Galatians should prompt us to examine our spiritual beliefs and reject those that do not align with sound Biblical doctrine.
(1) Ryrie, Charles Caldwell Ryrie Study Notes [Galatians 6:17] © 1986, 1995 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp.
(2) McClelland, S. E. (1995). Galatians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1019). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.