The Significance of the Sufferings of Christ

By now, no doubt, you have heard of the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” directed by Mel Gibson. The subject of the movie is, more or less, the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus. I saw the movie this past week and it accurately, vividly, and gruesomely portrays what the physical experiences of Christ were like when He was delivered up by the Jews to the Romans for crucifixion. I have heard in the media, and even from some professing Christians, some negative reactions to the consideration of the sufferings of Jesus. In this regard, one is prompted to ask the question, why should we, as Christians, consider the sufferings of the Christ?

First, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because Jesus was God in the flesh. Without the doctrine of the deity of Christ, the sufferings of Christ would be loveless. When we consider that Jesus was God Himself and took on the form of man to redeem sinful man from the clutches of Satan, we recognize the true love of God. Through sin, man became God’s enemy, but through Christ, man can be God’s friend once again. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16). Paul wrote, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It was on account of God’s love for His creation that Jesus died on the cross. The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider God’s love for us.

Second, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because Jesus was the Son of God. Without the doctrine of the sonship of Jesus, the sufferings of the Christ would be unnecessary. When we consider that Jesus was the Son of God, we think that He came from the Father Himself. And when we think that the Father sent Jesus into this world, we must understand that the sufferings of Christ were necessary to accomplish what God, the Father, wanted to accomplish for the salvation of man. We read in John 8:28, 29, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” Jesus loved His Father and so He obeyed and suffered. The sufferings cause us to consider Jesus, the obedient Son of God.

Third, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because Jesus lived a sinless life and did not deserve what He went through. Without the doctrine of the purity of Christ, the sufferings of Christ would be worthless. When we consider the sinlessness of Christ, we recognize that the sufferings of Christ had true value. Counterfactually, if Jesus had sinned, then He may have merited what He received. However, since He was indeed sinless, we know that those sufferings are worth far more than the most precious of substances on this earth. They were made valuable by His sinless life. Peter writes, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). The sinless life of Jesus makes His blood precious. The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider His innocence and worth.

Fourth, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because it was our sins for which Jesus suffered. Without the doctrine of the atonement of Christ, the sufferings of Christ would be purposeless. When we consider that Jesus died for our sins, we recognize that His death was on our behalf. We are the ones who merited, on account of our sins, that suffering and death. But Jesus took our place and atoned for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” We read further in Romans 5:10, 11 “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider our worthlessness, guilt, and need for redemption.

Fifth, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because that will lead us to His resurrection. Without the resurrection of the Christ, the sufferings of the Christ would be powerless. When we consider that Jesus, after having suffered and died, was resurrected from the tomb, we recognize that this is where God’s power truly lies. This is God’s power of salvation for man today, the message of the cross, the gospel (Romans 1:16). Paul writes in Philippians 3:10, 11 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” We also read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider the power of His gospel.

Finally, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because that will motivate us to live more faithfully to God and Christ. Without the doctrine of the perseverance of the Christ through His sufferings, then we would have no foothold upon which to place our faith. When we consider the fact that Jesus endured the cross, it motivates us to endure the pressures under which we come in this life as well. It motivates us to live a better life. It motivates us to study God’s word more. It motivates us to worship God, as God wants us to worship Him. It motivates us to help the poor. Jesus endured this life and the death that is associated with this life. Through Him, we can endure too! The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts us to look “�unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” The sufferings of Christ cause us to consider our own faithfulness to Him.

As Christians, we don’t consider the sufferings of Christ merely to gape at a tragic and gruesome spectacle. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” For the Christian, the sufferings of Christ mean so much more than merely the physical travesties that He endured. We consider the sufferings of Christ today in light of the doctrines that were taught by the Christ. Jesus himself said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). His flesh is the bread of life. That bread is His teaching. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45). Ultimately, it is the belief of Christ’s doctrine in association with His sufferings that will bring one to salvation and move those who are saved toward greater service in the kingdom of Christ today.

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Who is Precious to You?

In ladies Bible class, we have been studying the epistle of First Peter. Peter writes in this epistle to those who have been scattered abroad by persecution, particularly, those who have been born again through the redemption of the blood of Christ and struggling to be faithful to the Christ. He encourages them to stand steadfast and remain faithful even in adverse situations.

In chapter two of this great book, Peter calls attention to the fact that these Christians, through their new birth, have left behind the things of the world, malice, guile, hypocrisy, envying, and evil speaking. He then encourages these Christians to drink the honest milk of the word so that they can grow in their faith. If they continue to grow, they will be part of the spiritual house of God as living stones. Their edification, however, is based upon the foundation of Christ, and their acknowledgement of His preciousness.

When we think of the word “precious” we think of something which has inherent value, worth, is highly prized and rarely obtained. In the movie and book series, “Lord of the Rings,” those who are taken with the “one ring” often refer to it as “precious.” The devotion that these characters display to the ring reflects their servitude and misguided zeal toward it. When speaking the word “precious” (in regard to the ring) they reveal love, devotion, zeal, and jealousy in their desire for it. While the ring represents something which is evil, do we have the same love, devotion, and zeal toward that which we know is good? The Bible says that Jesus is indeed precious to us who are born again to righteousness, edification, and sanctification.

In 1 Peter 2:7 we have this statement, “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious.” Is Jesus precious to you? Do you value Him like you would value your most prized possession?

Jesus is precious to me because His blood is precious. 1 Peter 1:19 says that we were not redeemed with corruptible things “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” This is the blood that paid the price for my sins and bought me back from perdition (1 Cor.6:20). This is the blood that purchased the church (Acts 20:28). This is the blood that speaks greater things than that of Abel (Heb.12:24). The blood of Jesus ought to be precious in the sight of every Christian.

Jesus is precious to me because His faith is precious to me. 2 Peter 1:1 reads, “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” This is faith that comes from the one true faith, the gospel (Col.1:23). This is the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). This is the faith that comes by hearing the word of God (Rom.10:17). The faith of Jesus ought to be precious in the sight of every Christian.

Jesus is precious to me because His people are precious. 1 Peter 2:9 reads, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Does this not say that God considers those who are born again, who believe in His Son, and who hold Jesus as precious, are precious people themselves? The people of God are certainly precious to God. They are precious because they are His children (Gal.4:6,7). They are precious because they are His friends (John 15:15). They are precious because they are Jesus’ bride (Eph.5:25). Jesus considers his people precious and because of that every Christian ought to praise God day and night for His great love.

Is Jesus your precious?

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The Emporer’s New Clothes

This past Thursday evening, (April 1st 2004) we went to the Berryville Community Center and watched a high school choir production of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” You may be familiar with the story. An emperor is more concerned with his own vanities than he is with the affairs of his kingdom. Two flattering and seductive villains persuade the king that they can make the finest set of clothes in all the empire for him, but the clothes are so sheer that only the “wisest” will see them. They take all of the emperor’s money, dupe him with “invisible clothes,” and abscond the empire before the truth is discovered. While the emperor’s subjects all remark at how beautiful the clothes are (not wanting to be considered anything but wise), a small boy finally exposes the truth that the emperor is naked. Having had his “eye’s opened,” and learned a valuable lesson about deception the emperor is a wiser and humbler public servant.

While considering the basic plot of this story, I thought, “How so much like many in the religious world today.” There are millions who allow themselves to be deceived religiously on a regular basis due to some of the same mistakes the emperor made. Considering that, let’s notice some ways in which we may be deceived. First, we are most likely to be deceived when we value things more than truth. Second, deceptive people generally employ flattering tongues, never dealing honestly and plainly with others. Third, we may be deceived when we buy into the notion that we will not be “wise” if we don’t accept the deception.

When we value things more than we value truth, we are more likely to be deceived. The emperor deeply valued his personal attire, so, when someone came knocking that could offer him something superior in that area, he was susceptible, valuing his vanity more than truth. Today, we hear of people being deceived in things they value as well. How many widows have been cheated out of their life savings because someone came along and told them their house was going to collapse if they didn’t fix the “foundation?” How many of us have fallen victim to “free vacation” scams? How many have been deceived by real estate ventures for the “free on site offer?” Houses, vacations, property�those are all things that we ought to value less than truth, but many do not. It is no different in the religious world today. Many come selling “self-help,” “motivation,” “emotional satisfaction,” “personal relationships,” and “personal worship experiences” all in the name of religion. Millions buy into these scheme’s every year, because they love self-experience and emotionalism more than they love truth. If they would investigate the truth, then they would know the fraud immediately and who is doing what is right. Proverbs 23:23 says, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” We must value truth above all else, if we are not to be deceived.

Deceptive people generally employ flattering tongues, never dealing honestly and plainly with others. Those who desired to sell the emperor his new set of clothes told the emperor what distinguished tastes he had in clothing, what polished refinement in style, and what discerning eye in fashion. Obviously, these deceivers couldn’t have been wrong in their assessment of him, so when they promised to deliver the best clothing possible, they must have been right in that as well. If they had told the emperor that they were there to steal his money and convince him to parade around town naked, no doubt he would have rejected them immediately. In the religious world today, many use flattery and other forms of deceit to sway the multitudes in their favor. Little do you hear of people preaching on the subjects of sin, the necessity of repentance, hell or the necessity of righteous living. Most sermons are preached on “love,” tolerance (of sin), forgiveness (without repentance), and other “feel good” themes. And while there is nothing wrong in preaching on positive subjects, preaching on them to the exclusion of the other is deceptive and flattering. It assumes the hearer doesn’t need to change, doesn’t need to be warned, and can’t handle the honest truth on such “controversial” subjects. Most would rather have their ears scratched than to have to deal with hard teachings that require personal sacrifice. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5, “For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness.” Next time someone tries to butter you up, religiously, beware. The likelihood is that the person who causes you to reflect negatively on yourself is telling you the truth.

Those who are often deceived usually are so deceived because to be otherwise would mean that they were not “wise.” The emperor’s subjects deceived themselves because they thought that if they told the truth, then there would be no wisdom in them. Then, that deception grew throughout the whole empire because no one had the courage enough to stand up to the majority who thought they were wise. Who wants to be thought of that way? Today, those who have the truth are often ridiculed as not understanding God’s love, mercy, and grace. And indeed, who wants to be thought of as not understanding those things? We all want to understand God’s love, mercy, and grace. So to be accused of not understanding it, places one into the position of not being “wise” in matters of religion. And, the more people who believe that you “just don’t understand those things,” the more foolish one appears. Notice I said, “appears,” because it is not how one appears that truly demonstrates one’s understanding of something, but what one believes in comparison to the truth. Paul wrote, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20, 21). Those who preach and teach the truth are often the one’s who appear most foolish. But it is not man’s wisdom that truly judges whether something is wise or not, but God’s.

The Bible warns us that sin is deceitful (Hebrews 3:13). Will we, like the emperor, don a set of clothing that is no clothing at all? Or will we enrobe ourselves in the garments of truth and salvation? Let us always be on our guard, prizing truth above all else, preaching the plain and simply gospel, not mindful of other men’s flatteries, and seeking the wisdom that is from above. By following after these things, we will protect ourselves against the one deceiver that is opposed to all, Satan himself (John 8:44).

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