Christ’s suffering and Christian suffering

by Mike Ratliff

3 ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις, ἐπιθυμίαις, οἰνοφλυγίαις, κώμοις, πότοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις. 4 ἐν ᾧ ξενίζονται μὴ συντρεχόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς ἀσωτίας ἀνάχυσιν βλασφημοῦντες, (1 Peter 4:3-4 NA28)

3 For we have wasted enough time participating in the desires of the Gentiles, having proceeded in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and unlawful idolatry. 4 Wherein they think it strange you are not running with them into the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (1 Peter 4:3-4 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The Loneliness of the Christian

“The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

“The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

“It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.”

AW Tozer

I know of what Tozer was talking about. I was amazed when this happened to me at a Deacon’s meeting one Saturday morning when I wanted to share that my walk with Christ had a great deal more to do with my time in the Word, in prayer, in worship, than it did in being a Deacon or “doing church.” I did indeed long for some of those men, perhaps just a few of them, would be in that same spiritual place. However, I remember the cold stares and from that day forward, I became an outsider looking in even through I was one of the senior deacons and was a Bible teacher at that church. It was only about 6 months or so later that all that Purpose Driven stuff started. I fought it, but it became apparent that those who made the decisions there were not going to listen to anyone that did not agree with them so my wife and I left.

However, what we must remember is that this sort of thing is very much a part of our suffering as Christians. I do not let this get me down at all because when the fiery trials come, I look at what Christ did for me and for all who are in him by faith.

18 ὅτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἅπαξ περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἔπαθεν,
δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων,
ἵνα ὑμᾶς προσαγάγῃ τῷ θεῷ
θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ
ζῳοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι·
19 ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν,
20 ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ εἰς ἣν ὀλίγοι, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί, διεσώθησαν διʼ ὕδατος. 21 ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 22 ὅς ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ [τοῦ] θεοῦ πορευθεὶς εἰς οὐρανὸν ὑποταγέντων αὐτῷ ἀγγέλων καὶ ἐξουσιῶν καὶ δυνάμεων. (1 Peter 3:18-22 NA28)

18 For Christ suffered once for sins, a righteous man on behalf of unrighteous men, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh yet being made alive in the Spirit,
19 by whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
20 who disobeyed when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not from the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into Heaven, Angels, Authorities and Powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Christ is no longer on the cross. His atoning work there is finished. He suffered once and there will be no more. His atoning sacrifice for our sins was sufficient. Those who teach, and have always taught, that salvation by grace through faith is indeed free, but we must still earn our way to heaven through good works cannot be taking those doctrines from the Word of God. No, those come from the traditions of men or man-made religious systems. Christ’s one sacrifice for sins was of such perpetual validity that it was sufficient for all and would never need to be repeated. Why was it sufficient? The answer is found in v18, He was righteous and suffered on behalf of the unrighteous. This sacrifice was acceptable in the eyes of the righteous judge, God the Father; hence, our Lord Jesus Christ became our propitiation.

The saving of Noah and his family in the ark was an antitype, that is, it corresponds to the baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit in our salvation. His resurrection is what seals our salvation as being true. In response to what Christ has done for us, how then should we respond to this wicked age and so much apostasy in the visible church?

1 Χριστοῦ οὖν παθόντος σαρκὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς τὴν αὐτὴν ἔννοιαν ὁπλίσασθε, ὅτι ὁ παθὼν σαρκὶ πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας 2 εἰς τὸ μηκέτι ἀνθρώπων ἐπιθυμίαις ἀλλὰ θελήματι θεοῦ τὸν ἐπίλοιπον ἐν σαρκὶ βιῶσαι χρόνον. 3 ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις, ἐπιθυμίαις, οἰνοφλυγίαις, κώμοις, πότοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις. 4 ἐν ᾧ ξενίζονται μὴ συντρεχόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς ἀσωτίας ἀνάχυσιν βλασφημοῦντες, 5 οἳ ἀποδώσουσιν λόγον τῷ ἑτοίμως ἔχοντι κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς. 6 εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη, ἵνα κριθῶσιν μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ ζῶσιν δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι. (1 Peter 4:1-6 NA28)

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, because the one having suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but in the will of God. 3 For we have wasted enough time participating in the desires of the Gentiles, having proceeded in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and unlawful idolatry. 4 Wherein they think it strange you are not running with them into the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will given an account to the one ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 To this end indeed was the Good News preached to the dead that they might be judged as men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit. (1 Peter 4:1-6 translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

Because of our Lord’s triumph at the Cross in his suffering and death and resurrection on our behalf, we should also be willing to suffer in the flesh knowing that it potentially produces the greatest triumph. We put ourselves in this position only by following our Lord’s command to “take up our own crosses and follow him…” All else is wasting time in the flesh living for the lusts of men. Instead, we must be after the pursuit of the will of God and we find that only as we abide in Christ. I do not find that in simply being religious or “doing church.” I do not find that in pietism or pragmatic Churchianity. I find it in seriously living in the Word of God, that is, studying it, and applying it, and walking in repentance as I confess my sins daily before the throne of grace. I pray as I walk through this life and I live this life in light of my walk with Christ.

Do I fail at this? Sadly, yes I do. I confess to you just as I confess to God, that I fail at this and I must deny my flesh just like everyone else. The lust of the eyes, the pride of life, all of that pulls on me just as it does you. None of us are immune to that. However, we can do some things to live in the will of God rather than in the pursuit of the flesh. That is, we do all we can not to expose our flesh to what it wants. For example, I hardly ever watch television. When I do, it is excruciating for me because of all the digs into my flesh it makes. I can barely make it through the local news let alone the national news because I get so angry about some things. In any case, Whatever it is that gets our lusts going, we must mortify. That is our part. How can we mortify our sins if we are continually exposing our flesh to what it wants? No, we have to eliminate what it wants as much as possible as we pursue our Lord and obedience to all of his commands.

What’s going to happen? God will test our faith. Yes, that is right. He will allow Satan to tempt us and/or our flesh to be tempted and we will be given a test that will have only one way out. What was Jesus’ way of escape when he was tempted in the wilderness by Satan? He used the Word and that is why we must live in the Word as well. We must learn it, become as familiar with it as we can be so that when the tempter comes, we can turn to the truth of God’s Word, and say no.

Never forget my brethren that we always have 1 John 1:9, “ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος, ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας.” Or, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, that he may forgive us our sins and may cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “Christ’s suffering and Christian suffering

  1. Thank you for your honest sharing. My prayer has been that “zeal for His house” would consume me also. But as you know, the Spirit must guide our footsteps in the path the Lord has chosen for us.

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  2. The words of Tozer you have quoted here describe exactly how I feel. It’s left me speechless to know he could so accurately describe how I feel. I’m encouraged to know there are others out there who can relate to what you have shared in this post. Thank You!

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