That phrase “marks of Jesus” in 6:17 is designed to remind us of the wounds Jesus endured on our behalf. Paul’s point is that all faithful ministry will follow that same path; enduing suffering on behalf of God’s people instead of dishing it out. Bearing the marks of Jesus that others might be spared. Preserving their freedom rather than bending people to our will.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians might not be the first place we turn for a model of pastoral ministry. It might even be the last place we’d think to go, given its dense theological arguments and Paul’s exasperated tone. And yet in many ways it is a shining example and defence of authentic ministry.
You can see that best in the final passage – Gal 6:11-18. In those climactic verses, much of the letter’s argument is brought to bear on the question of how true gospel ministry can be distinguished from false and fleshly ministry.
Two things in particular characterise Paul’s ministry: he boasts in the cross of Jesus and he bears the marks of Jesus.
Boasting in the Cross of Jesus
So much of the letter is designed to celebrate the work of Jesus so that the Galatian church will put its hope there. In Gal 1:4 Paul speaks of Jesus “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” The rest of the letter develops that theme, showing how Christ’s coming is the definitive intervention, the great turning point in human history, where slavery turns to freedom and curse to blessing. God has sent his Son and his Spirit into the world and that changes everything.
Boasting in the cross bears many fruits but Paul draws our attention to two in particular.