Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Share in the sufferings of Christ?

In our last post we pondered the question: Do we have to suffer as Christ suffered?

Remember we ended with Paul's famous Philippians quote ...

But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then],

these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life].

But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ,

and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals,

but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.

And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]Phil 3:7 - 10

... and coming from that post, we agreed that this is exactly how we should react as heirs in the kingdom ...

... but (gulp) what was Paul saying here to the Philippians? Fellowship in Christ sufferings? Dying His death?

As much as I like this translation ... something is not right ...

And the key word here, is conformed (summorphoō)!

But let's look at some other words first.

It all has to do with joy

To understand what Paul means with sufferings, we have to go back to the beginning of the book of Philippians. In Philippians 2 Paul talks about the joy, consolation and comfort in Christ. He says:

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Phi 2:1-2

This speaks to the conformed part that we'll be looking at. But basically Paul is saying that all these assurances that we have in Christ (consolation, comfort, fellowship, mercies, etc.) comes from the joy we have in becoming like-minded with Christ.

The word used for like-minded is a combination of two words autos and phroneō. Autos is a reflexive third person pronoun meaning self, yourself, ourselves, etc. and phroneō, a compound Greek word meaning to have understanding, to be wise to own an opinion, to be of the same mind, to cherish, etc.

So, we should have a like-mindedness to Christ suffering?

Well, yes ... and no!

We cherish and appropriate and form our opinions around the finished work and love of Christ. But we do not have to endure the same sufferings!

Let's see why I say so.

It is passion ... not suffering

Interestingly,  the word used here for suffering in the Greek is from another Greek root word whence the word suffering comes from. It is the word pasch, which means passion, feel or to be likewise affected. Remember Christ endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

What joy?


His suffering, His passion ... was us!

What is our joy?

The cross! Jesus endured the cross and all sufferings on our behalf so that we may be free to relate (become like-minded) with Him ... to share in like-passion.

That is why Paul can say in Philippians 3 that he counts all other things as loss (dung) for the excellence of the knowledge (intimacy) of Christ for whom he has suffered (exercised like-passion) ....

... in whom he feels likewise affected, being dead to sin, being raised to rule. He can now go ahead and address the rubbish (verse 8) by looking at the cross and seeing the finished work of Christ, experiencing Christ in him his hope of glory. All other things are counted as nothing; the law  his own accomplishments, whatever things come against him ... all but dung!

For conformation

Conformed (summorphoō) is used in the Bible only once - here in Philippians 3:10. And it is very significant!

Conformed (summorphoō) is a compound Greek word from the root word sun (a preposition denoting union, inclusiveness, completeness) and the root word morphē (where we get metamorphism from, to be morphed, to take shape or form). Check out this post on metamorphoō and lambano!

Now Paul says in verse 10 That I may know (ginōskō, intimacy) him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death

Let me paraphrase:

That I may have intimacy with Him and the absolute power of His resurrection as a co-heir in His kingdom, knowing the sufferings and to what great lengths He went through, for me to become one (to assimilate and render myself exactly like Him) with Him, even His death, even His resurrection, even His life!

Let me make no further analysis of words.

It is abundantly clear!

This make me ready to be conformed, just like Paul says!
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