PARTAKERS OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS
"You are partakers of Christ's sufferings." 1 Peter 4:13
This also is an amazing privilege. The sufferings of Christ were his voluntary offering of himself for human sin. He assumed the guilt and the penalty of his people. He passed a life of earthly sorrows. He endured a series of spiritual conflicts. He was subject to a penal and dreadful death, in the fulfillment of his work. All that his people would have been compelled to bear, as the punishment of their own guilt, he endured in their stead, as the ransom for them. He became their surety, their substitute, their representative. Accordingly, they were considered as doing for themselves, all that he did for them. If one died in the stead of all, then all died in him. It was the same as if they had suffered the penalty for their own sins. Thus they stand before God. They are partakers of Christ's sufferings--in all the merit and worth of them--in all the results of glory from them--in all the line of imitation and example too, which they set before them. In all these senses it is true--"If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." Am I a partaker of Christ's sufferings? If I truly believe in him, have chosen him, and do follow him, I surely am. What then?
1. Then Christ ought to be extremely precious to me. All the blessings I enjoy proceed from him. His sufferings have secured my very right to live. Every comfort of my present life arises out of them. I see his sun, and breathe his air, and feed upon the bread which he gives me, because he has first given himself for me. Every hope I have comes from them. All my ability to obey and serve him springs from his own redeeming love. I have nothing of my own. Oh, when I think from what these sufferings have redeemed me--to what they have brought me--what they have laid open before me--by what sorrows to him it has all been done--surely I cannot over-estimate their worth to me. I have no friend like him. He ought to be very dear to me; most precious in my sight. I can never love him as I ought to do. Oh, let me try to love him daily more!
2. Then I ought to carry out the purposes of these sufferings in myself. He has bought me with a price, that I should be holy and without blame before him in love. He would have my whole heart and character productive of fruits to his glory. My following of him must be real, uniform, entire, persevering; my whole character must show forth his praise. For this I must constantly labor, that in my whole life I may be holy--that Christ may not have died for me in vain. How exceeding sinful sin becomes when it is committed against such love as this! I crucify him thus afresh, and put him to an open same. Oh let me strive to be like him in all things, everywhere to show the power of his love, and the honor of his truth; to follow him with fidelity even unto death. If I am myself to be conformed to the image of his sufferings, be it so--He can bear me through. Better die with him than deny him. Better be crucified with him than crucify him again. Better suffer all things as his elect, than join in any sin with those who oppose and neglect him.
3. Then I ought to carry out the purposes of his sufferings in the salvation of others. He has purchased for himself a flock, a church, from the midst of this evil world. They are brought to him by being made to know his love. They are made to love him by seeing how he has first loved them. All his converted people are to become messengers of his love to others. In my measure and degree, and in my appointed place, I must proclaim it. For this end I should always labor, according to the grace of God which works with me. Whom then can I save? To whom can I tell the love of Christ? How can I spread abroad his truth? I would bring others to partake of what I enjoy. Oh that all the world might know him! They would, if all his people were zealous and combined in spreading the knowledge of him. How earnestly ought I to labor to teach the unsearchable riches of Christ! For this would I spend and be spent, that I may by all means save some. Let me feel it to be the great business of my life to publish the glad tidings of his sufferings for sinners, and to invite men to become partakers of these sufferings.
4. Then all my hope must rest upon this glorious work of a Savior suffering for me. I must hope. This is the characteristic and privilege of a Christian. I am begotten again for this purpose--to the enjoyment of a lively hope. But hope cannot rest upon any imperfect or unfinished foundation, not upon any works or progress of my own--not upon any facts which are merely contingent and possible. My whole foundation is in the perfect and finished work of Christ. My all is there--there alone. As I look forward, he is my righteousness and strength. As I look back, he is my atonement and reconciliation. In eternity he is to have all the glory. There I must rest alone. I cannot join any of my own works with him. I cannot join any other being with him. I cannot have many mediators. To which of the saints can I turn? They are all as dependent upon him as I am. To call upon them for mercy is fearful idolatry. Christ is alone, and there is none other. I may be a partaker with him in all that he has. All things are mine, if I am his. No one else can give me anything; nor do I need anything from any other. I am full and complete in Christ.
5. Thus every partaker of Christ's sufferings should feel and act. Finding him unspeakably precious, maintaining the purpose of his death, extending his dominion, hoping in him only. How happy is this spirit! How blessed is this relationship! How improving is this use of it! Oh thus let me be, and feel, and live in Christ.
Henceforth may no profane delight
Divide this consecrated soul;
Possess it, you who have the right,
As Lord and Master of the whole.
Nothing on earth I so desire
As your pure love within my breast;
This, only this, will I require,
And freely give up all the rest.