"That I may know him
and... the fellowship of his sufferings" (Phil. 3:10).
"I rejoice in my
sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is
lacking of the afflictions of Christ... for his body's sake,
which is the church." (Col. 1:24).
"...to make the author of
their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Heb. 2:10).
"...he himself hath
suffered being tempted." (Heb. 2:18).
"...if when ye do well,
and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable
(grace) with God." "For hereunto were ye called:
because Christ also suffered... leaving you an example..."
"When he suffered he threatened not." (1 Pet. 2:20,21,23).
"Forasmuch then as Christ
suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same
mind." "...insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's
sufferings..." (1 Pet. 4:1,12,13).
The phrase - "the
sufferings of Christ" is a comprehensive one, and goes far
beyond anything of which we know. It embraces a whole realm of
suffering in which we have no share. We are not called to be
partners in the atoning suffering of Christ. This we should
recognise and settle once for all. So often the adversary seeks
to relate in our minds our sufferings and our sins, and thereby
to undermine the work of Christ in our hearts. In a very
dangerous and evil book which is being circulated in various
languages the writer makes the statement with emphasis that we
must all atone for our sin, even after we have become Christians.
This is a lie of Satan. There is all the difference between the
chastening (child-training) of the Father in love, and judgment
under condemnation for sin. Let it be realised that "a full
atonement He hath made", and we have no place or share in
the sufferings which were endured in that work.
But there is another realm of
His sufferings in which we may participate, not for our
salvation, but in our vocation. These sufferings have numerous
forms and aspects, and we can only touch upon a very few here. We
will divide them into two, the inward and the outward.
Inward and Hidden Sufferings of Christ
In the passage quoted above
(Heb. 2:18) we are told that - "he himself... suffered being
tempted." So that we are given to understand that being
tempted was one line along which Christ suffered.
Some of those temptations are
patent, but the suffering was deeper than we can know because
there was so much more involved for Him than can ever be for us.
And yet we may know something of this.
For example, how persistently
was our Lord tempted to order His conduct in self-interest. From
the ordeal in the wilderness to the last moments on the Cross it
was "save thyself". The quick road, the easy road, the
popular road; this was the way into which He was ever being
pressed. The way of the Father's will was other than this. It was
the way of patience, of difficulty, of loneliness. The very
nature of the purpose which governed Him ran entirely counter to
Adam's quick and cheap-success way with its snare of a lost
Divine destiny. He had come to reverse in man that way
and that propensity. There was a terrific atmosphere against that
Divine way, and the antagonism, loneliness, and universal
insensibility to the heavenly nature of things pressed in upon
Him so terribly that no merely passive attitude was possible. He
had to fight through the pressure of suggestion and coercion.
"He suffered... being tempted."
He was tempted to avoid
personal inconvenience; to disarm misunderstanding and offence;
to compromise so that unnecessary (?) alienation of sympathy
would be eliminated. It was no moral suffering to Him to meet
this kind of temptation, but the temptation so often came through
channels that made it very painful for Him. One of the inner
company, a most intimate disciple and friend, would in these
things misunderstand Him so utterly and "mind the things
which be of men, and not the things which are of God", thus
serving Satan to turn Him subtly and "lovingly" from
the path of suffering set before Him.
It is suffering when
the nearest on earth, failing to understand the demands of
devotion to the Father, uses the persuasion of human love and
solicitude to effect an alternative course!
He was tempted to further His
cause by world means and methods. A descent from a high eminence
into the midst of the crowd would make a great impression. It
would draw attention. It would be a sensation. It would be like
coming out of heaven. The people would be captured and His
position would be established. That such suggestions - which
doubtless returned at other times of possible success - should
have been made to one who was here for God's pleasure was in
itself pain. There was no need for there to be anything in Him
which responded to such suggestions. The suggestions themselves
were things of moral and spiritual pain, and to be in an
atmosphere where they abounded was to Him horrible.
He was tempted to make policy a
governing factor; what the religious world would think and say.
What was the accepted thing; the thing that was done? This was
impressed upon Him by His own brethren (see John 7).
Well, He came into our
temptations; "tempted in all points like as we", and in
some way which we do not understand, it was suffering to Him.
There are sufferings which are
peculiarly and most deeply the lot of those who have paid a great
price in their abandonment to a Divinely given vision and
purpose. The pain of this kind of trial was, and is, suffered
most in secret.
We turn to a more outward
Sufferings of Christ
As God's Son and the heavenly
seed, Christ was a marked man. There was, therefore, an
antagonism to Him in the very air, where the "prince of the
power of the air" has his seat. Men became involved and were
influenced in spite of themselves.
So far as they were concerned
it was so often unreasonable and undeserved. As someone has put
it, they were just the Devil's catapults. He just could not be
right, whatever He said or did. At one time He was too humble,
only the carpenter's son. At another time He was too great and
superior. His good was misunderstood and distorted. It would seem
that He was not going to be given a chance of being right. If at
any time one who had taken on the popular prejudice did really
make some honest inquiry the whole thing was exploded and
revealed to be fake. "He was reviled", "He
Many more ways are recognisable
as parts of this hostility. Let us remember that all who are
Christ's will suffer in this way. They are marked people because
they are of "the seed royal" and back of all reason and
human good sense there is that which makes the best amongst men
almost irresponsible for their words and deeds. It is "the
fellowship of his sufferings".
But let us remember that
"he was made perfect through sufferings." He was
perfect in nature, but that nature was brought out to perfect
fulness through sufferings. We, through suffering with Him, will
be perfected into His likeness, conformed to His image.
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony"
magazine, Jul-Aug 1938, Vol 16-4