Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery
trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing
happened unto you. But rejoice inasmuch as ye are
partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory
shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy."
While we understand from Scripture that present evil in general shall ultimately be overruled of God and made to minister good, yet we are far from thinking that "all is for the best," or that everything which occurs in the world was foreordained of God and brought about by Him. No; we must remember that since Adam’s disobedience, the Paradise whose perfection and blessings were suited to the perfect man has been done away with; and that the sin-cursed race has been condemned to the as yet unfinished and imperfect earth. The Garden of Eden was merely a little spot finished beforehand, in order to provide a perfect trial for the perfect man Adam.
By the time that man has been restored to manhood as represented in Adam, the earth also shall have reached the perfection as represented in Eden. Meantime, the turbulence of nature—cyclones, earthquakes, etc., incident to the unfinished work—continues, and constitutes part of the evil to which the entire race of Adam became subject through the sin of their father, and from which they will shortly be released as a result of the work accomplished by our Redeemer.
But in all this confusion of nature the Scriptures teach us that there is a class under special Divine supervision, and that to these nothing out of God’s order can happen. This is the consecrated class, the members of the Anointed Body—The Christ.
things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
WHY CHASTISEMENTS ARE NECESSARY
While it should be a cause of sorrow to us that we should need special chastisements to recall us to duty, yet we must not forget that these are evidences that we are still reckoned of God as amongst His sons; and that such chastisements are thus a demonstration of His love for us and of His desire that we make our calling and election sure to the grand prize for which the consecrated class is running. In view of this fact any consecrated follower of the Master who receives such corrections in righteousness should not think it STRANGE.
But while such trials should not be thought strange, St. Peter in our text evidently meant more than this; for he says, "Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings." Our Lord did not suffer because of disloyalty or failure to keep His contract, His Covenant of Sacrifice. He did not suffer because of spiritual drowsiness and conformity to the world. Nor did He suffer because of
leading Him to ignore the Father’s will and word, nor because some plan of His own must be dashed to pieces. The sufferings of Christ were from no such cause as any of these. Hence to the extent that we share His sufferings it must not be as chastisement for evil nor in the renouncing of evil, but a suffering wrongfully—undeservedly. His was a suffering for
and for the Truth’s sake; and to be sharers or partakers of His suffering, on account of which we may rejoice and anticipate coming glory, we must take heed to the cause of the suffering. We only deceive ourselves if we count sufferings for sin as part of our suffering for Christ, and on that account expect the glory to be revealed.—
We are well aware that "this is a hard saying," and that many will not permit themselves to believe it. The terms "sufferings of Christ" and "sacrifice" have long
been misused. Many reckon themselves as
with Christ because they have abandoned some practice which they consider evil—such as profanity, the use of stimulants, extravagant dressing, dancing, etc. If these things are wrong, then no one ever had a right to them.
Hence it cannot be a "sacrifice" with Christ to discontinue anything which is wrong in and of itself.
WHAT THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST INCLUDE
What, then, are the sufferings of Christ which we may endure for His sake? some one may ask. We reply, the word Christ signifies anointed; and hence those sufferings could not have commenced with Jesus until after He had been anointed of the Holy Spirit at the time of His water immersion at Jordan—after John the Baptist had immersed Him in water as a symbol of His consecration unto death. So, too, it is with all of the followers of Jesus in the narrow way of sacrifice. Not one of us could share in the sufferings of the Anointed unless first we had consecrated ourselves to God, and had been accepted in the Beloved and begotten of the Holy Spirit, thus becoming members of the Anointed Company.
The sacrifice and sufferings of Christ Jesus included every item of mental and physical pain and of self-denial experienced as a RESULT of His consecration, until it was completed in death. Therefore it included the denial of all laudable and proper human ambitions which our Lord as a perfect man must have experienced more than could imperfect men. It also included the reproach which He bore from His fellow men for the sake of the Truth, especially from the teachers of the nominal church of His day. It also included His weariness and exhaustion caused not only by preaching, but through the giving out of His own vital energy for the good of others in healing the sick, etc.—
Similar to these are the sufferings of Christ which His footstep followers may well rejoice to have shared, when the time shall come for the glory to be revealed.
They begin with the hour of our consecration; and if we are faithful, they will end only with our death. With us as with our Head and Pattern the
consists in denying ourselves things which are lawful and proper, in our endeavors to honor God, to promote Truth and to help in any way those in need, especially them of the Household of Faith. Apparently, most of the Body of the Anointed Company will, like their Head, spend more of their sacrificed time and substance in supplying spiritual wants of men than in providing for physical needs, although the latter should not be neglected.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF SUCH SACRIFICES
Perhaps before your consecration you were ambitious in the exercise of legitimate business talent. But your consecration demanded time and thought for the careful study of God’s Word, that you might acquaint yourself with Him and with His will concerning you, and that you might communicate this knowledge to others. To obtain the necessary leisure to accomplish this work, you had to curb your business ambition. Both your time and your talent were yours no longer; for you had consecrated them to the Lord. Hence, although business was still needful, it became secondary; and your Father’s business was first. Therefore your former ambitions were restricted to necessity and to the promotion of the Heavenly Father’s business.
Perhaps you had taken great pleasure in making home elegant, in dressing yourself and your family in elegance; and you had said that this was right because you had earned your money righteously, and you felt sure that God loves beautiful things and that His Heavenly Home and family are elegant. But now with time and money fully consecrated, you realize something of the pleasure of sacrificing with Christ by denying yourself such luxuries, and by restricting your outlay of the Lord’s time and money to the providing of things needful and decent in the sight of all men.
It may be that you were fond of company, and passed many a pleasant hour in music, social chat, harmless dancing and innocent amusements and games. Now, while not condemning these innocent recreations in the world, your Covenant of Sacrifice with Christ demands that your time, money and influence formerly thus used shall, except so much as may come within the range of necessities or emergencies, be faithfully accounted for to God; that your rights and privileges in these things shall be sacrificed; and that the time, money and influence be used in the service of God.
Possibly you once were interested in politics, in the temperance question, in the prevention of cruelty to animals, in the subject of international peace, in the prison reform movement, in a labor union, etc., etc. Many an hour, many a dollar, and the full weight of your influence you give to these worthy objects, which you still believe to have been well spent in an endeavor to do good.
But now you find that your consecration vow compels you to pursue a different course, and that these plans which were your own will and way for doing good must be sacrificed to God’s plans; and you must follow your Leader.
Furthermore, as you mark carefully our Lord’s course, you will perceive that although He was in sympathy with every moral reform, yet He used His time and influence wholly in preaching the Gospel—the Glad Tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. And as you came more fully to appreciate the Lord’s ways, you realized that these moral reforms, which would be carried forward by the kind and benevolent of the world just as well without you, could never reach perfection until Messiah’s Kingdom shall obtain control. Then you realized, as you had not done at first, the necessity of the work in which you should be engaged—that the preaching of the "Good Tidings of good" things to come was God’s method of developing you, as well as other consecrated followers of our Lord, for a share in that great
and successful Moral Reform which shall obtain throughout the world when the King of Glory and His Bride are enthroned in power.
OPPOSITION FROM FORMER FRIENDS
Formerly you not only delighted to do generously, giving to everything and speaking favorably of all, but you also appreciated highly the good will and favor of all toward you. This showed a good spirit and a broad heart which none could help admiring; and such admiration is always sweet. We may be sure that the perfect man Jesus would have enjoyed doing these very things.
But under His Covenant of Sacrifice He must and did deny Himself this enjoyment. He must and did rebuke sin, error and hypocrisy; and thus He forfeited (sacrificed) the good opinion and the admiration of the nominal church of His day. Instead of quietly letting the Scribes and the Pharisees alone, He must and did sacrifice His inclination for peace in order to advance the Truth, honor God and bless the people.
So have you found it, also. You could no longer give to everything; for by your Covenant of Sacrifice with Christ you had already given to God ALL THAT YOU HAD.
Now you are merely God’s agent or steward; and you can give nothing without consulting His directions and ascertaining whether it will go to advance truth or error.
You no longer have option or choice; and of course some who once thought you whole-hearted and generous will now consider you narrow-minded, bigoted.
This will be true also in regard to doctrinal matters.
Once you carelessly and ignorantly—though benevolently—supposed that all denominations of Christians believed alike, and merely took so many different routes to Heaven, appointed by God, in order that each person might have a choice of form of worship. Then your friends called you a broad-minded Christian. But after your consecration had led you to a study of God’s Plan as recorded in His Word, you perceived your mistake.
You saw that you never had been a Christian in the full sense before, and that many of the doctrines taught by all the denominations are contrary to God’s purposes as revealed in His Word. Thus you began to be what the world calls "narrow-minded", and were obliged to oppose certain systems as well as doctrines. Finally, with a further search of your Heavenly Father’s plans and purposes, you found that the various systems calling themselves churches and laying down rules and doctrines for faith and practise are ALL OF THEM mere human arrangements, and that their doctrines are self-arranged and self-binding, a mixture of truth and falsehood blinding and confusing to both saint and sinner.
When you found that the Church mentioned by our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles is not one of the man-made systems, nor yet all of them together, but that it is composed of the class who, having consecrated their all to God, were accepted through the Redeemer and had their names written in Heaven, then an additional trial came upon you. Would you or would you not
your honor, your social standing, "your good name" and your "broad-minded" reputation for THE TRUTH?
That was one of the severest of your SUFFERINGS; yet with the Master you said, "Father, glorify Thy name." And as you saw the counterpart of this in our Redeemer’s sacrifice, you heard Him say, "It is sufficient that the disciple be as his Lord. It has occurred to you as I forewarned you: When they shall say all manner of evil against you falsely (and often ignorantly) for My sake, rejoice and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in Heaven." In your rejoicing you no longer think strange of the fiery trials that encompass you.
Hereafter let us more and more rejoice in such sufferings—rejoicing that we are counted WORTHY to suffer for Christ’s sake now; for whoever thus suffers faithfully unto death shall also be counted worthy to reign with Him in the life to come.