hope things are well with you. In terms of your
questions, here are some thoughts.
Is there any
historical context that he is referring to?
he is referring to the suffering that he has experienced for the sake
of Christ. The best passage to study to see all that Paul went though
for the sake of Christ is in 2 Cor 11:23-27 which says:
Corinthians 11:23-27 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind
to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in
prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed
to death again and again. (24) Five times I received from the Jews the
forty lashes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once
I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day
in the open sea, (26) I have been constantly on the move. I have been
in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own
countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger
in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
(27) I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I
have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have
been cold and naked.
You can only imagine the scars that would
have been on his body through being whipped 39 times on 5 separate
occasions! And not to mention the beatings with rods and stoning!
What does he mean by that?
need to remember that where ever Paul went, there were also false
teachers. Some would doubt his message of grace (such as in this book,
with the Galatians, where false teachers came in and starting taking
these Gentile believers back under aspects of Judaic law.) Others
would say that Paul isn't sent from God and isn't a true Apostle. So
in this verse Paul was reminding the Galatians that his message wasn't
just one that he spoke. He lived it! And he suffered for it! If they
weren't sure how much he was devoted to giving forth the gospel of
grace that God had entrusted to him, they just had to look at his body
and see the scars!
J Vernon McGee has some good comments here:
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
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."
What does it mean to an
ordinary Christian like me?
Well, it means that
the Christian life isn't a bed of roses! It can mean that we too are
called upon to suffer for His namesake, whatever form that suffering
may take. There are many Christians around the world suffering
physically for their faith as you know. Some are being killed or
maimed by ISIS and other demonically inspired groups as I write
without compromising their faith. Now obviously many of us don't live
in countries where such atrocious suffering are taking place, but this
verse is still a good reminder that there is a cost to following the
Lord Jesus. Persecution could come in the form of mockery or ridicule
as we speak the Gospel or stand up for the things that God declares.
It is a good reminder that we walk a narrow path, pleasing God, not
man, which is normally in the opposite direction to which the majority
Thanks for the verse. It's been good to think about it.