Friday, March 7, 2014

Gospel Suffering

“Remember that Jesus Christ, made of the seed of David, was raised again from the dead according to my Gospel, wherein I suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bonds: but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I suffer all things for the elect’s sake, that they might also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10, Geneva Bible).

This suffering is not just Paul’s – he gives a command to Timothy to suffer, as well. Three times.
  • “Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, neither of me his prisoner: but be partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us through Christ Jesus before the world was, But is now made manifest by that appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality unto light through the Gospel” (1:8-10). This is a command.
  • “Thou therefore suffer affliction as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, because he would please him that hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2:3,4). This is a command.
  • “...suffer adversity (4:5). Again, this is a command.

The only other place this verb is used in the N.T. is in James, where we are given the means by which we are meant to endure suffering. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray” (James 5:13). “The grace of also increased and strengthened by the work of the Spirit through...prayer...” This is the “means appointed by God” in our Gospel suffering (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 14.1).

Growth in grace through prayer is God’s intended purpose in Gospel suffering for the elect.

The Gospel suffering of the elect is also a means of God’s effectual calling in the witness of the Church:
  • “Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of the wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the Councils, and will scourge you in their Synagogues. And ye shall be brought to the governors and kings for my sake, in witness to them, and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour, what ye shall say. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:16-20). We are to suffer for Christ’s “ witness to them.”
  • “...this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongly...and if when ye do well, ye suffer wrong and take it patiently, this is acceptable to God. For hereunto ye are called: for Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow his steps, Who did no sin, neither was there guile found in his mouth. Who when he was reviled, reviled not again: when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed it to him that judgeth righteously. Who his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live in righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:19,21-24). This is one of the places where “W.W.J.D.” actually applies.

This is not a defeatist theology. This is the God-decreed means by which we will reign with Christ, Who has “all heaven, and in earth” (Matthew 28:18).
  • “Then Peter said, ‘Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.’ And he said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the kingdom of God’s sake, Which shall not receive much more in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting’” (Luke 18:28-30).
  • “And ye are they which have continued with me in my tentations. Therefore I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me, That ye may eat, and drink at my table, in my kingdom, and sit on seats, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30).
  • “Confirming the disciples hearts, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, affirming that we must through many afflictions enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Please not that Paul’s encouragement to them in his preaching and teaching included this teaching on suffering!
  • “If we be children, we are also heirs, even the heirs of God, and heirs annexed with Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him. For I count that the afflictions of this present time are not worthy of the glory, which shall be showed unto us” (Romans 8:17,18).
  • “If we suffer, we shall also reign together with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
  • “I John even your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the Isle called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the witnessing of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).
  • “And I saw seats: and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them, and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which did not worship the beast, neither his image, neither had taken his mark upon their foreheads or on their hands: and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead men shall not live again, until the thousand years be finished: this is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he, that hath part in the first resurrection: for on such the second death hath no power: but they shall be the Priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6).

Do we believe His Word? We are to ascend to the throne through Gospel suffering.

If the Church is surprised by suffering, it will be because the Word was not faithfully preached in the pulpit. If the preachers are surprised, it will be because they preached from something other than the Word.

May we preach and hear the full message of Gospel suffering unto growth in grace, unstoppable spread of the Gospel, and Kingdom reign with Christ.

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

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