2 Corinthians 1:5
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ.
It is correct to say that Christ suffered in order that we may not suffer, died that we may never die. "Christ suffered for us." But it is also correct to say that Christ suffered in order that we may suffer with him, and, following him in the path of self denial and patience, may be with him in his kingdom and glory. The apostles Paul and Peter regarded sufferings for Christ as continuations of the sufferings of Christ, and always looked, and taught their brethren to look, along a vista of trial and affliction toward the happy issue of being glorified together with Christ at his appearing. As members of the body of Christ we suffer. As the natural body of Christ suffered in the days of his flesh, so now the mystical body, the Church, suffers in these days of the Spirit. It must have its agony and bloody sweat before the end comes; blows of contempt, scourging, buffeting; and must have its "bones sore vexed," as were those of his body on the cross; sore vexed, but not broken: "A bone of him shall not be broken." As witnesses for the Name of Christ we suffer. While walking and witnessing in the acceptance and power of his resurrection, we must be identified with him as the despised and rejected One. We are in collision with the spirit of the world, and the more firmly we lift our testimony against it the more the sufferings of Christ abound in us. In primitive times men suffered as Christians, for no other offence than the confession of the Saviour's Name. The council of the Jews arrested the apostles Peter and John, and put the deacon Stephen to death, on this charge. The cultivated Pliny, when Proconsul of Bithynia, about forty years after the death of St. Paul, is shown, by his correspondence with the Emperor Trajan, to have regarded the very fact of being a Christian as a crime worthy of instant punishment. Christian faith was in his eyes nothing but an absurd and excessive superstition, and the noble constancy of the Christians under threats and torture "a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy." So the witnesses for our Lord suffered in Bithynia under the illustrious Trajan, as well as in Italy under the infamous Nero, and throughout the empire under the cruel Domitian and Diocletian. But it sustained them to know that they were fulfilling the sufferings of Christ. His grace was sufficient for them. On them rested the Spirit of glory and of God. Such discipline continues, though without actual peril of life. Faithful Christians suffer many things, at many points, and from many quarters. And when they suffer for the Church it is a continuation of our Lord's unselfish suffering. So St. Paul endured all things for the Lord's sake and the sake of the elect. He used the expression, "I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ" (Colossians 1:24), in reference to his inward anxiety and "agony" for those at Colosse and Laodicea, who had not seen his face in the flesh. His anxiety for their confirmation in the mystery of God was a sort of supplement to the deep struggle of the Saviour in behalf of multitudes, Paul included, who had not seen and could not see his face in the flesh. The apostle had no thought of adding to the sufferings of Christ in respect of their expiatory virtue, but rejoiced that he was permitted to follow his Master in this same path of affliction and solicitude for the Church. All sowers of "the incorruptible seed" have to sow with tears. And hearers of the Word are most profited when they receive it "in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." Three views may be taken of those afflictions which are distinctively Christian.
1. They are for the Lord, incurred and endured for his Name. So were the afflictions of Christ for the Name and glory of the Father. The world hated both him and his Father.
2. They are for the good of the Christian sufferer - tribulations that work patience, chastisements for his profit. So were the afflictions of Christ for his own good. "Though he were a Son, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered."
3. For the sake of his brethren, or for the good of the Church, which is edified through the self-denial and godly patience of individual believers in successive generations. So were the afflictions of Christ for the Church which he redeemed, and in which he now succours them that are tempted. The present time, then, is one of communion with our Lord in suffering. Let four advices be given to those who suffer with a good conscience - for well doing and not for evil doing.
I. HAVE A CARE ONE FOR ANOTHER. Trouble may make men sullen and self engrossed. Correct this tendency by remembering that you are not isolated persons, but parts of the body of Christ, and so members of one another. If you suffer, bear yourselves so that others may be confirmed by your faith and patience. If they suffer, suffer with them, help to bear their burdens, condole in their sorrow, minister to their necessity. "Weep with them that weep."
II. LEARN PATIENCE FROM "THE MAN OF SORROWS." It ought to cure peevishness and wilfulness to read the story of our Lord's passion, and consider the meekness of him "who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself." See how St. Peter sets before suffering saints the example of their Master (1 Peter 2:20-23).
III. LOOK FOR STRENGTH TO THE SYMPATHIZING SAVIOUR. In the present connection between Christ and Christians the Scripture marks a distinction. The saints suffer with Christ; Christ sympathizes with the saints. The word for the former is συμπασχεῖν: the word for the latter is συμπαθεῖν. The Head is raised above suffering, but sympathizes with the distressed and bruised members, and loves to supply consolation and relief. "Our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." He makes us strong, even in the hour when our hearts are jaded and our spirits faint. The crook in the lot, the thorn in the flesh, the buffeting in the world, the disappointment in the Church, - he knows it all, and he can bear us through it all.
IV. REJOICE IN THE HOPE OF HIS COMING. There is a deep wisdom of God in the long drawn affliction of Christ and the Church. Glory comes out of the dark womb of trouble. How long the travail must be God only knows. Jesus Christ suffered till he was perfected, and then God exalted him. The Church must suffer and struggle till she is perfected and God exalts her too. And the glory that awaits her is that of her Beloved. As the Church enters into his sufferings, so is she to enter into his glory. This is the day for faithful service and saintly patience. The coming day is that of honour and reward, "that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.