Branded for Christ

Posted on August 3, 2020

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By David Ettinger

“Man of the Cloth”
A good 30-plus years ago, while working at a southern New Mexico newspaper, our photographer said to me, “While I was out on assignment I met a man who said he knew you.” When he told me the man’s name, I replied, “He’s the pastor of my church.”

The photographer – who was not saved – answered, “Ah, I could tell right away that he was a ‘man of the cloth.’”

That impressed me. You see, my pastor never told my photographer friend he was a pastor; rather, this was evident by the way he conducted himself and the bearing he possessed. I wondered if when people conversed with me they had a similar impression, that is, that I “belonged” to God.

“Branded” a Better Word
A better word for “belonged,” biblically, is “branded.” We find this in Galatians 6:17 where the apostle Paul writes: “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Paul had nearly died several times preaching the crucial truth that salvation is in Christ alone. He was persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles, and suffered for it – primarily by physical brutality committed against him (see 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; 6:5, 9; 11:24-25).

branded

Paul called the scars caused by these acts of brutality “marks.” The Greek word for “marks” is stigma, or stigmata, which can be defined as “a mark pricked or branded upon the body.” These marks were branded, or stamped, on the bodies of slaves by their masters or of soldiers by their commanders to indicate to whom the slave or soldier belonged.

There were even some slaves or soldiers who loved their masters or generals so much that they branded themselves to indicate a willing commitment of bondage to that individual. This was the ultimate display of loyalty.

For Paul, his wounds and scars on behalf of Jesus was the ultimate brand indicating he belonged to the King of kings and Lord of Lords. They were what identified Paul as being Jesus’ “possession.”

Christ Has Branded You
In the same way, if you have confessed Jesus as “Lord” and “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9) then you, too, are branded in Christ spiritually. You have the “mark,” or stigmata, of God on your soul. You belong to Him. Furthermore, you belong to him willingly. Yes, He has claimed you and put His stamp upon you, but you have submitted to His stigmata willfully, even joyfully!

new cross

With this in mind, how are you living out your “branded” life? Philippians 1:27 says: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” What impression do unbelievers have about you? Do they see you as “a man of the cloth,” so to speak? Do they see in you conduct and a bearing which separates you from most people?

I wish I could say this was the case with me, but it’s not. I’m often opinionated, a little too direct, and a bit more combative than I need to be. I’m sure there are areas in your life you can improve as well.

The Marks of Jesus
Yet, as Paul wrote in Galatians 6:17, we all, in one way or another, “bear on [our] body the marks of Jesus.” And if not our bodies, then our souls. We are His chosen ones, the ones He “called … out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

In bearing His stigmata, we are His representatives on Earth, our responsibility to declare His praises (2 Peter 1:9) and to “let [our] light shine before others, that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

So, let us rejoice in knowing that God has branded us with His unique and momentous stigmata, the blessed and assuring mark that we indeed belong to Him as His treasured possession!