The Fellowship of His Sufferings (1938)
"That I may know him and... the fellowship of his sufferings" (Phil.
"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.
"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 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
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
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
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
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
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 aspect.
The 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",
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.