True Ministers of the Gospel Have Holy Scars
No human being who walked this earth had a more powerful ministry than Paul. Yet Paul did not strut or boast when speaking of his ministry or addressing his critics. To the contrary, he pointed to his scars, writing, “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)
Paul was speaking of the literal scars he carried on his body, the scars of being beaten and whipped and stoned for the gospel. As his Lord, Jesus was scarred, so also was he scarred. He bore on his body the very “marks of Jesus.”
But it is not just physical scars Paul bore. He also carried the spiritual scars that came along with his walk with the Lord. That’s because, as a servant of the Lord, he was identified with Jesus in both His life and His death.
Yet this spiritual identification was not just for Paul. It is for all true servants of the Lord.
Let Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), the life-long missionary to India, teach us what this means.
Her words challenge all of us as the Lord’s servants, especially those of us who are known as ministers of the gospel.
Can He Who Has No Scar Have Followed Jesus Very Far?
Have we become famous? Prominent? Highly praised? Let these words from Amy Carmichael, speaking on behalf of Jesus, pierce your heart today:
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that
compassed Me, I swooned;
Hast thou no wound?
No wound, no scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the Servant be,
And, pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?
Pause for a moment and let lines of words sink in. Read them again slowly. Then ask yourself: Am I marked? Am I scarred? Am I branded? Have I taken up my cross? Have I done it daily (Luke 9:23)? Can I say with Paul — in any sense of the word — “I bear on my body [or, my life] the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal 6:17)?
The deeper the death we die, the more glorious will be the resurrection we enjoy. The more we know the cross, the more life we can offer to the world.
Can We Relate to This Today?
This was the cry of Paul’s heart, as he wrote, “I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11)
Many of us today want to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, especially as it works itself out in our ministry to others. That is wonderful and commendable. But do we also want to participate in the Lord’s sufferings, the sufferings of rejection and hatred and persecution and even physical attack or death? Do we?
Paul also wrote this. “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (2 Cor 4:10-12)
Can we relate to this today, especially as ministers of the gospel in a country like America? And how, exactly, does this work itself out today in our lives? How do we carry about the death of Jesus in our mortal bodies when we are not being physically persecuted for the faith?
We do it through spiritual identification. We do it by taking up the Lord’s cause, by being known as His followers, by suffering His reproach, and by carrying His burden.
When We Cease to Bleed, We Cease to Bless
Consider these words from J. H. Jowett (1864-1923). Or are they too strong for us?
The ministers of Calvary must supplicate in bloody sweat, and their intercession must often touch the point of agony. If we pray in cold blood we are no longer the ministers of the Cross. True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice, a perpetuation of Calvary, a “filling up” of the sufferings of Christ.
My brethren, this is the ministry which the Master owns, the agonized yearnings which perfect the sufferings of His own intercession. Are we in the succession? Do our prayers bleed? Have we felt the painful fellowship of the pierced hand? I am so often ashamed of my prayers. They so frequently cost me nothing; they shed no blood. I am amazed at the grace and condescension of my Lord that He confers any fruitfulness upon my superficial pains.
As soon as we cease to bleed, we cease to bless.
What about you, my fellow-minister of the gospel? What about me? Are we scarred? Are we in the holy succession of cross-bearing, burden-carrying servants of the Lord? Do our prayers bleed?
The fact is that we cannot give what we do not have, and while we can teach many, we will only reproduce who we are.
That means that to the extent we have been impacted by the Lord, to that extent we can impact others.
To the extent we carry the burden of the Lord, to that extent we will be able to share it with others.
To the extent we identify with the sufferings and death of the Lord, to that extent we will minister in His resurrection power.
May God break our hearts with the things that break His heart. May He shatter our indifference and superficiality. May He make us like His Son, scars and all.
(Some of the material in this chapter was adapted from Michael L. Brown, From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival, first published in 1995.)
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Why So Many Christians Have Left the Faith. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.