Author: Ron Graham
Sharing in Christ’s Sufferings
In this lesson, we think about Paul’s profound prayer in Philippians 3:10. In this verse, Paul states the very purpose of his life as a Christian.
Sharing With Christ
¶“10That I may know Christ and the power of his rising from the dead, sharing in his pains and changing [my life] into the form of his death” (Philippians 3:10).
1 Sharing the Power of his Sufferings
Some people might view the death of Jesus as a pointless act. He seemed determined to be led to the Place of the Skull and die there. Some people think he was deluded. Paul however grasps the power of Christ’s sufferings demonstrated by the rising of Jesus from the dead.
The power of Christ’s death is also seen in the sacrifice he made. That's why he died. His flesh and blood were given, so our sins could be forgiven. Christ is empowered by his suffering and death to save us completely from God’s condemnation and wrath. (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 5:9).
Just as the devil persecuted Job, a man of God in ancient times, so the devil can persecute us with all kinds of suffering. He tries to break our spirit. But we share in Christ’s suffering and we endure by its power. That's why Peter says, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God in that name" (1 Peter 4:16).
2 Sharing the Pain of his Sufferings
When Jesus was killed, what seemed like defeat for the weak, turned out to be victory for the strong. Christ confounded the powers who were against him. He wants us to share that strength. However, if we wish to share in the power of Jesus, we must also share in his pain.
This doesn't mean that God requires everyone to be crucified or to die an agonising death. Some Christians in early centuries, wanted to become martyrs, to be eaten by lions or burnt at the stake in front of hundreds of spectators.
That may never happen to us. However, whatever pain the Devil is allowed to send us, mental or physical —terrible as it may be, we must bear that pain in the power of Christ. We all suffer pain in body and in spirit. This is our share in Christ’s suffering.
We are able to do this by "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).
So Peter urges, ¶ "Beloved, do not think it strange that a fiery trial will test you. It is not strange at all. Rejoice whatever you suffer —because you are sharing in the suffering of Christ. When his glory is seen you will be glad with utmost joy" (1Peter 3:12-13).
Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
3 Sharing the Preaching of his Sufferings
We have a duty to teach others the story and meaning of the cross. Just as Paul wrote to the Philippians about sharing in Christ’s pain, so he mentions "your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now —and I'm very confident that he who has begun a good work in you will keep it going to the full, until the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:5-6).
Jesus himself issued the great commission to his followers: ¶ "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Anyone who believes and is immersed shall be saved. Anyone who does not so believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).
Jesus is calling on us to share his work and take the message of the cross everywhere that people might believe and enter into his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).
Note:— The Greek word for sharing is κοινονια koinonia. This word is variously translated as sharing, fellowship, communion, participation, etc. Some Bible versions will, for example, use the expressions "fellowship of his sufferings" and "fellowship in the gospel". In this lesson I have used the word "sharing" rather than "fellowship".