What to say when you have the last word
What to say when you have the last word
Paul had bee dealing with a very difficult situation. He had been attacked personally. His motives had been challenged. He had been accused of peddling the scriptures. He been accused of being weak, having no authority to preach his message. His message had been scrutinized and found wanting by those who propagated their false teaching. He has an opportunity to really nail the believers at Galatia to the wall for their treatment of him. But what does he do? He could have left them with angry words and stormed out of the relationship. But he doesn’t do that. Instead he ends on a positive note. With his final words we have a lesson in dealing with difficult people. These words are a great example of Eph. 4:29. He wants them to respond correctly to his instructions. He wants them to return to the Lord and the teaching of grace. So he ends his letter leaving the door open and making it easier for them to come back to the teaching of salvation by grace and not works.
I. Offer the opportunity for peace,
“Let no one trouble me further”
He is not surrendering or compromising his teaching for sake of peace between them. That would give the hint that he was at least partially wrong and the false teachers partially right. NO! What he is doing here is telling them to stop bickering about this and devouring one another. False teaching has a way of causing division and spats between people. Paul is calling for that to stop.
Whenever there is a conflict, at some point one of the parties has to say ‘no more!’ It takes two to tangle.
Paul isn’t saying that the truth is not worth fighting for either. Rather, there comes a point when all that needs to be said or can be said about a situation has been said. And it comes down to decisions. That is where he is coming from.
Now, he gives us an explanation for this statement.
II. Character says it all,
“I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”
He basically says, “I have proven the validity of my ministry for Christ by my brand.”
Paul's use of the word stigmata carries with it a couple of statements about himself.
1. It meant a brand, or mark, a tattoo of sorts that identifed ownership. it was used on cattle or slaves to identify ownership. So with Paul he is identifying himself as a slave of Christ's. He belongs to the Lord.
For example, we find Paul following the OT practice of a slave who wished to remain attached to his owner by having his ear pierced by an awl at the door-post, Ex. 21:6. The use of the word doulos in Rom. 1:1 indicates this when he writes “Paul a slave/doulos of Jesus Christ.”
2. it meant also stigma- or a badge of shame, in that it was placed on military deserters, conquered prisoners of war, thieves who were caught, etc. But for Paul it wasn't a badge of shame but of one whose spirit was conquered by the Lord. Cf. his account of surrender in Acts 9.
3. It was also a statement against the Judaizers whose mark was circumcision. Paul's marks were evidence of his willingness to suffer for the Lord.
Paul proves his suffering, Romans 8:17, He always bears about in his body the dying of Jesus, 2 Cor. 4:10. he recjoices in his sufferings for Christ in Col. 1:24. He declares he wants to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings . . ." Phil 3:10.
These marks were results of his persecutions and beatings, his stripes, and scars that prove he not only belongs to Christ but is and has been willing to suffer for him.
They are an evidence of the validity and authority of his message as opposed to that of the Judaizers.
Thus, paul was making a statement sort of like, "look you want proof that what I teach is true, look at my marks. what are the marks of the Judaizers? Your circumcision and the law they can't keep. Don't follow them, follow me."
That is what we need to do if we hope to gain those opposing us to our side. We must not give them ammunition to accuse us justly of being hypocrites or people with false motives or self gain. But rather, we must live in such a way as to remove that possibility from them. In other words, like Paul our character must match our claims.
We must not be the instigator of trouble, but also we must not shy away from standing for the truth.
III. Treat them with dignity, v.18
In the final words of this letter we also see that Paul still considers the believers there as friends and family.
A. Extend grace to them.
He has already mentioned peace. Now he mentions grace. He usually closed his letters with grace and peace be to you or some fashiong of these words. In fact, here the idea of grace has been the central theme of this letter. He was calling them back to the grace of God in saving them. THey had turned away from the grace of the gospel, to the law. He now wishes the grace of the Lord on them. Notice he uses the pronoun our including them.
Paul recognized that Jesus was not just his Lord, but theirs also. The differences between them did not change anything. He wanted them to experience the grace of God in their lives. In Eph. 1 Paul prays that grace and peace from God would be upon them. In CH. 3 He prays that the fullness of God would fill the Ephesian believers. This is what he is after here too.
Here it is a similar thing. Paul blesses them in the end.
This is a good lesson for us in how to deal with those who oppose us. That we would have the love of God flowing out of us as Paul does here towards them and wish God's grace upon them. He would be remiss if he was calling them back to grace and teaching them about the grace of God and refused to extend grace to them himself. We must be careful to extend grace to others too.
B. Remember we are family
But in these words there is a second item of interest. He, despite their attacks on his character, his ministry, his love for the Lord, still calls them brethren. Despite the fact that they treated him as an enemy, he did not treat them nor view them as enemies. He viewed them in a close familial relationship of brothers. He held no ill will toward them. He only wished them good and that they would come back to the grace of the Lord and turn away from the false teaching that was slowly destroying them.
What a way to end an otherwise difficult and confrontational letter, but to end with Peace, Grace and calling each other brother.
As much as possible live at peace with one another Paul wrote in Rom. 12. He practices here what he preaches. It left to the recipients of this letter the responsibility to respond how they will.
So when you have the last word in a conflict make sure it is an offer of peace, covered with integrity, and treats them with dignity. Remember, ‘You catch more flies with Honey.’