“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).
Are we heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if we suffer as a condition of heir-ship? No, we suffer because we are heirs of God; because we are children; for we have “… received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15b). That is, we have been born of the Spirit, which means we are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. Therefore we will be hated as Christ was hated (John 15:16-20) and we will be “…partakers of Christ’s sufferings…” (1 Peter 4:13).
What kind of suffering did Christ undergo? Christ first suffered reproach of men because He claimed to be God in the Flesh. They mocked Him, reviled Him, cursed Him, and cast Him out of the religious crowd of the day as a blasphemer of God.
Then secondly, according to the Purpose of God, He was crucified by wicked hands (Acts 2:23); which was a terrible physical suffering. Thirdly, He suffered on the cross not only physically from the crucifixion process, but spiritually, from the sixth hour (12 noon) to the ninth hour (3 pm) (see Matthew 27:45), as our Substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:24-25; 1 Peter 1:18-20; 2:23; Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 3:13; Isaiah 53:1-12). Here He was separated from the Father (Matthew 27:46). Here He paid the penalty for our sin debt and made atonement for us (Romans 3:24-25); wherein we were Redeemed, Reconciled, and Justified (or declared, or made, Righteous in His Righteousness).
How are we partakers of His Sufferings?
- We also bear the reproach of His Name as His Children, walking as He walked. (1 Peter 4:14a) “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye…” (verse 16a) “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian…”
- Many Christians have suffered physically, even to the giving of their life for the Name of Christ (Revelation 2:10, 13; 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 4:8-18; 11:23-27, 28).
- All of His Seed were in His loins on Calvary’s cross, where all were co-crucified, co-buried, and co-raised with Him (Romans 5:1-21; 6:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Isaiah 53:10-11). But we were only in Him and are beneficiaries of His Atonement in Him, as our Substitute; for we felt not the wrath of God.
However, Paul said in Philippians 3:10:
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
What does Paul mean by “the fellowship of his sufferings”?
It is to be in communion with Christ’s spiritual suffering in His Atonement for our sin. That is to know (ginōsko), to experience daily to be one mind with Jesus as our Substitute, Sacrifice, and Savior. That is to come to be consumed with the perception that we are the purchased possession as His Body, the Church. That we are the children of God, blood-bought and blood-washed, called saints, Holy people, set apart in His Holiness. That is to abide in His Atonement (or in His spiritual suffering for our sin) as He was eternally separated from the Father (a mystery of all mysteries, yet a fact) on our behalf, so that the power of death (spiritual death, spiritual separation) was destroyed (Hebrews 2:14).
When this level of knowledge is in us, we are living His life in our life. We are one in Him; we are perfect in Him; and we perform in His power daily as overcomers of sin. We stand in His Presence, beholding His Glory. Remember what Paul said in Romans 8:17c, “that we may be also glorified together.” (See John 17:21-24.)
Paul desired to win Christ, to know him (not to get saved, he was saved in Acts 9:1-17). But he wanted to win the Prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:8, 10, 14) “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ… (10) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death… (14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
This is Glorification (which starts in this life). Paul wanted to be in “that place prepared by Christ” and so to be where Christ is (John 14:3; 17:21-24). When you are brought to this level of knowledge of God; then your entire being is totally dedicated to Christ, and you walk even as He walked (1 John 2:4-6). The Love of God is perfected in you. You act, talk, and walk like Christ; therefore, you can wear the name “Christian.” You have knowledge of the Inheritance in Christ; even an understanding of your position in the Church, the Body of Christ, His Wife.
With this understanding of the suffering of Christ and the understanding that you were and are included in His suffering; then you have a special intimacy with Christ as your Head, your Lord and Master, and your All in All. Then you are in the place to behold the Riches of His Glory; and in your daily walk, it is clearly seen by others that you are a child of the King Jesus. You exhibit a Peace and a Power that others covet; and you walk in the Valley of Baca (tears) as a giant with no fear of the enemy, for the Love of God is perfected in your life.
All suffer, but are you rejoicing in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, knowing that His Atonement included you?
Yes, all human beings suffer physically at one point or another. All humans suffer spiritually as well. But, do all saved people walk and fellowship in Christ’s suffering? Are all saved people partakers of His suffering, which is an understanding of our position in His Atonement for our sin? It is in Christ’s suffering where we find the Joy of the Resurrection and the Victory over spiritual death, whereby we have been made free from the law of sin and death (spiritual) by the Spirit of Life in the Regeneration process (Romans 8:2).
The saved man needs to walk daily in this understanding of Victory in Christ. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Then he will have the fellowship of Christ’s Suffering (or of His Atonement for sin). Then he will daily walk in Joy and Praise of this Victory in Christ.
This book is not speaking of the woes of physical or spiritual suffering; but of the Joy of being in Christ’s Suffering for the saved of God. This section is to show the saved man that he must come out of the wilderness and cross over Jordan; to encourage him to walk in the Victory of the Inheritance in Canaan Land. He will fellowship in Christ’s Suffering, bask in it, love it, rejoice in it, walk in the power of it, and perform His Command of Love as He directed us to do; even as He did. (Read John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11-24; 4:7-21; etc.)
Then we can “Live in Victory.” We can live the “Abundant Life in Christ”; even if we are in a valley of physical or mental or spiritual suffering. We can live His Life of Love and Power and Peace in our life.
So don’t look at your surroundings as to complain; but live in your circumstances (no matter what they are) in the Fellowship of Christ’s Suffering. Amen and Amen.
This is the second step in successful and pleasing service of God and for God.