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Paul's Autograph

Galatians 6:11-18

 

 

12 years ago this week I was very blessed with a 40th birthday gift from my church of an autographed copy of George W. Bush's book, Decision Points.  I'm #175 of 1000 special edition recipients and I hope its $300 price only increases over the years as I expect his legacy will be vindicated by the hand of history.  To think the hand of the president touched that page!  How much better the hand of the Apostle Paul?!

 

Three handwritings are mentioned in this final section. The first is Paul's own handwriting.

 

Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand [Gal. 6:11].

 

"How large a letter" doesn't mean a long letter. This Epistle to the Galatians is only six chapters, while his Epistle to the Romans (which deals with practically the same subject) is sixteen chapters. This could not be called a long letter. But Paul is saying that he has written with large letters, which is characteristic with those who have poor vision. This, I believe, bears out the theory that Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was eye trouble (see 2 Cor. 12:7). As you recall, he had said to them earlier, "...I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me" (Gal. 4:15). I am sure that Paul had a serious visual problem.

When Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, he dictated it to a secretary. And at the conclusion of the letter, Paul said to the secretary, "Now if you want to put in your greetings, go ahead and do it." So in Romans 16:22 we have the secretary's salutation: "I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord."

 

However, when Paul wrote to the Galatians, he was angry. He had heard that they were mixing the gospel with law -- and when that is done, the gospel of the grace of God is absolutely destroyed. He couldn't wait for a secretary to arrive -- he just sat down and wrote to them himself. Because he didn't see clearly, he wrote with large letters, and since he was angry, he may have used ALL CAPS sometimes!

 

Paul's Testimony (6:12-18)

As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ [Gal. 6:12].

 

By exerting pressure and stressing circumcision among the Gentiles, the Judaizers hoped to escape the anger and wrath of Jews who were not believers. The Judaizers were the legalists of the day. Actually, you never get in trouble preaching legalism. It appeals to the logical, natural man because law is given to appease him. Most of us certainly feel that the old nature of some other guy should be curbed.  We can spot sin right away as long as it's not in our own life.

 

Most lost people are legalists too.  They see a teenager zip thru an intersection or blow by a school and they want the cops to come arrest them.  They aren't for God -- but they are for legalism. Every man wants the other man to obey the law.

 

Frankly, we also like a law we can obey. When I was in school, I and my friend did some high jumping. In those days we started off with a three and one-half foot jump. When I jumped four feet, I had some difficulty. So when I practiced jumping, I always kept the bar at the four foot level. That is the way most people are about legalism. They want to be able to clear the hurdle, but they don't want it to be too high for them. Legalism is popular. The grace of God is unpopular. The human heart finds it repulsive. It is the offense of the Cross.

 

For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh [Gal. 6:13].

 

By forcing the Gentiles to be circumcised the Judaizers would gain the credit for bringing them under the Law.

 

It is interesting that those who claim they live under the Law are not actually living by the Law. Many people who say that they live by the Sermon on the Mount or 10 Commandments are hypocrites.

 

They mean they 'try' to live by them.  But the law says nothing about trying but about keeping.  If you break any at all you are guilty of all!

 

Paul mentions that with this tremendous statement:

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 [Gal. 6:14].

 

Between Paul and the world there was a cross. That should be the position of every believer today. That will have more to do with shaping your conduct than anything else. You will not boast about the fact that you are living a good life, or that you belong to a certain church, or that you are a church officer, or a preacher, or a Sunday school teacher. You will not be able to boast of anything. You will just glory in the Cross and the One who died there.

 

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature [Gal. 6:15].

 

This brings us to the second kind of handwriting mentioned in these final verses...

 

Circumcision was the handwriting of religion and the Law. It was sort of a handwriting on the body. It served as a badge signifying that you belonged under the Abrahamic covenant. It never availed anything. Wearing a button or a pin, signifying that you belong to a lodge or a fraternity can become almost meaningless. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision" -- uncircumcision is of no value either. These things carry no value whatsoever. There are some today who like to boast of what great sinners they were before their conversion. Well, whether or not you have been circumcised -- whatever was your state -- is of no importance. The essential thing is: Has the Spirit of God come into your life and made you a new creature in Christ Jesus? This can come about only through faith in Christ.

 

You see, Paul would never have had any difficulty with the legalism of his day if he had presented the gospel as only a competitor in the field. Let me illustrate what I mean. We have an abundance of soaps on the market. Those who promote them tell us they will make you smell good or make you feel good or are kind to your skin. So let's you and me get out a new brand of soap, and we'll call it Clean, since getting you clean is the purpose of soap, and that seems to be the one thing the advertisers have forgotten. We'll start advertising it by claiming that it is the only soap that will make you clean. Our slogan will be "Buy Clean and get clean." Now that will get us in trouble immediately when we claim that it is the only soap that will get you clean. Manufacturers of other soaps will really begin to howl. But this is what Paul was claiming for the gospel. If he had said, "Judaism is good but Christianity is better," he wouldn't have been in trouble, because that's what advertisers say today -- our product is better than other soaps on the market. That's competition. No one would dare say that their soap is the only soap that would do the job.

 

Notice that Paul is not claiming that his soap is only a little better than the soap of Judaism; he is saying that Judaism is nothing, that circumcision is nothing, that whether you are circumcised or not circumcised is nothing. He is saying that only the writing of the Holy Spirit in your life, giving you a new nature, is essential. Now that is putting it on the line!

 

Now we come to the third and final handwriting presented to us in this section...

 

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 [Gal. 6:16-17].

 

Notice the word marks. Paul is saying, "I bear in my body the 'marks'" -- the Greek word is stigmata -- meaning 'scar marks.' If you want to see the handwriting of Jesus, look upon Paul's body. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 he tells us, "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."

 

The stigmata were the sufferings of Paul which he endured for the sake of the Lord Jesus.

 

In Paul's day stigmata was used in three ways. When a runaway slave was found and brought back to his master, he was branded on the forehead. Also soldiers who belonged to famous companies had the names of their commanders tattooed on their foreheads. Then, too, devotees of a pagan goddess (and there was much of this in Asia Minor and throughout the Roman Empire in Paul's day) had her name branded on their foreheads. Paul says, "I have on my body the stigmata of the Lord Jesus." He is saying this in effect, "I have written to you out of deep emotion and with great conviction. If you want to know if I truly believe what I have written and if these things are real in my own life, read my body -- look at my scars."

 

I lived as a boy in New Mexico before there were many fences, and we used to identify horses and cattle by the brand of their owner. Circumcision is only an outward sign. Paul says it is nothing, although he himself had been circumcised. But he bore the brand marks of the Lord Jesus upon his body and upon his life. I believe that in our day the Lord Jesus still stoops to write, not upon the shifting sands of the temple floor, but he writes upon the lives of those who are His own. His branding iron is on our hearts for eternity. Do we proudly wear His stigmata, willing to bear reproach for Jesus' sake?

 

There's a 4th kind of handwriting we can recognize in our text, in our world, and in our own lives.  It's the signature of Satan.  You can spot his handwriting a mile off.  He wants to steal, kill, and destroy.  We need to stop complaining about life when things go wrong and recognize the clear signature of our enemy, a roaming lion.  Then we can compare that to the handwriting on the wall...our God's hand at work in life to get us through it and bring glory to Himself.

 

Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen [Gal. 6:18].

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