Bone of His Bone

Going Beyond the Imitation of Christ

by F. J. Huegel


Chapter Nine

CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS OUR SUFFERINGS

It is striking how over and over the idea of Participation appears in the New Testament. We are told that we are made partakers of Christ (Heb. 3:14). In Romans 6, we are given to understand that His Cross is our Cross and His tomb, our tomb. In Ephesians 2, we are made to see that in Him we were raised from the dead, and actually made to sit with Him in the heavenlies. Not only that, we are assured again and again that Christ's victory, is our victory, that we may always overcome the Wicked One, because of Calvary, and our participate in the fruits of the Cross (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

And now again we are startled by the astounding fact that we are made to be partakers of Christ's sufferings. Peter bids us rejoice over this fact. He would have us be glad because we have been called to share the tribulations of the glorified Savior. "Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings" (1 Pet. 4:13 NKJV).

Paul, the great apostle of the doctrine of the indwelling Christ, interpreted his trials and tribulations as a Christian, and an apostle, in the light of the Cross, and he saw in them a continuation of Christ's own sufferings. To the Colossians, he wrote: "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the Church" (Col. 1:24, NKJV). It was Christ suffering in and through him. The Savior's passion is not yet over. Drops of blood still fall from His brow. It could not be otherwise, this world being what it is, and Christ being who He is.

We are not, of course, to think of this suffering as having anything to do with Christ's great vicarious suffering as the sacrificial Lamb, who, there upon the Cross, bore the burden as our Sin-Bearer, when "the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all." "This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12, NKJV). "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10, NKJV). "By the one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14, NKJV). At the time of this Cosmic achievement the Savior Himself cried out with a great voice that rent the rocks, "It is finished." Nothing can be added to the work consummated on the Cross. We must take care not to permit any confusion of thought to enter here. The entire body of revealed truth, both in the Old and the New Testament, converges in one overwhelmingly sublime fact: Christ died for our sins. All the chorus of inspired voices are pitched to this major key. To be uncertain in our exegesis here would not only be fatal but infinitely damnable. With good reason Paul cries out that If any one "preach any other gospel...let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:9). The ground of all human hope - hope which reaches out to embrace the eternal ages to come - must not be trifled with.

We must not confuse the sufferings of Christ of which we are the partakers with the completed work of Calvary. I repeat, nothing can ever be added to that absolute consummation. As that old hymn Rock of Ages states: "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling." In that all-sufficient sacrifice for sin the believer had no part. He can only accept the forgiveness which issues from the Cross.

Nor are we to confuse these sufferings of Christ and His Body with the objective fact of our identification with Christ in His death, as set forth in Romans 6. That also is a completed thing. We are commanded to simply reckon on it as a consummated, historic fact, just as we count on the fact of Christ's death for us. For that "death identification" we reckon back to Calvary. When we believe what God has to say about our oneness with His Son in His death to sin, and the "old life," and then on the ground of God's Word simply refuse the "old life" as if it were an utterly powerless thing (which it really is because of our communion with Christ in His death) we are released from the bondage of "self." The old life drops off like a decayed garment. We are now alive unto God. And now in the power of this new divine life, as members of Christ's body, there comes to us as an inevitable consequence a participation in Christ's sufferings.

Because our life now issues from the throne...because, in spirit, we are virtually seated in the heavenlies...and because, as never before, we are one with Christ - we discover working within us a new spirit of love. The love of Christ constraining us inevitably issues in a great suffering. We groan with unutterable groanings of the spirit. Could the Christ, the agony of whose prayer upon one occasion turned the sweat of His brow into blood, dwell in us by His Spirit, and pray through us, unless at times our prayer, as He inspires it, becomes an unutterable groaning before God? Could the Christ who dwells within us through us seek perishing souls, unless we should upon occasion be in an agony of sorrow over those who reject the Savior's love? Could the Christ, who because of this world's injustice and greed and hate died of a broken heart, dwell within us unless we should feel the pain of the world's sorrow and shame? Let no one imagine that because of our oneness with Christ in the heavenlies we are therefore brought to some fool's paradise which exempts us from further suffering. The truth of the matter is that it simply increases our capacity for suffering ten thousand-fold. It simply increases our power for the bearing of pain in an infinite manner. We begin "to bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10)."

When "praying Hyde of India" finally succumbed and took his flight to the celestial abode, doctors performed an autopsy and found that the heart had been completely changed from its natural position. Hyde's prayer life had been so intense - he spent whole nights groaning before the Lord, burdened for dying souls - that he literally died of a broken heart.

Witness the suffering of the early Christians, the travail of the Martyrs, the birth pangs of missionaries who were called upon to bring forth from the bowels of their compassion whole races sunken in debauchery. There can be no rebirth of souls without travail on the part of Christians. Witness the trials and afflictions of some saints:

In 1649, Jean de Bredeuf, a missionary to the North American Indians, was literally burned to death (slowly by red-hot coals, so as to increase his agony). So marvelous a spirit of tranquility and compassion did he manifest that in the final hour of death that the Indians tore open the missionary's breast and drank his blood, and then ate his heart. "We would be like him," they said, "he is a god." The Galilean had won after all. It was His Face they had seen as they watched the suffering saint, and He broke their hearts. It was Calvary being reenacted. We are to rejoice inasmuch as we are made partakers of Christ's sufferings.

I have been rereading the story of St. Francis' bloody stigmata - the sacred marks (replicating Christ's wounds) on the body of the lowly and beloved Francis. Somehow it has never been hard for me to believe in Francis' wounds, which according to Catholic historians were imprinted upon this devout companion of lepers by a flaming seraph. Francis, they say, was would frequently bleed from his hands and his feet. An exact replica of Christ's wounds appeared in the body of the great preacher from Assisi, Italy. Somehow, I have never doubted these mysterious wounds of Francis, and I am not Roman Catholic. Paul said that he bore in his body "the marks of the Lord Jesus." Frances Underhill, the greatest living authority on mysticism, seems to think that Paul had experienced the holy stigmata - that the Savior's wounds appeared in him. We do not know. Be that all as it may, wounds or no wounds, Paul was conformed to Christ's death. Holy stigmata or no, Francis bore the image of the Crucified. "The flesh profits nothing." The great fact is that we are all to bear the Savior's image; we are to be conformed to His death. In the power of His resurrection we are to have the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death (Phil. 3:10).

And, praise God, this suffering is not without its precious fruit. Christ turns it all to our account. He uses it all to prune the branches of the Vine that they may bear more fruit (John 15:2). Nothing touches us without first passing through His hands and being made to serve our highest eternal interests. "We bear about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus." Why? "That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:10). How are these "rivers of living water" to flow from our innermost being except the "outer self" be broken? The grape does not yield its precious juice without the breaking of the outer wall. The walls of "selfhood" must be leveled, if we are to yield life for Jesus. That is why the Holy Spirit turns us over to death - "For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be made manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you" (2 Cor. 4:11-12, NKJV).

What a blessed message for the afflicted soul! O child of God, lift up your head for your redemption draws nigh! It is not in vain that you suffer. There can be no gold without the refiner's fire. Christ is glorified in your patience. You are bidden to count it all joy when you experience various testings (James 1:2) . From your wounds healing streams of life - Christ's own life - are flowing. This will cause the increase and the edification of Christ's body. What you suffer will deepen your "death-identification position" with Christ. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die, else it abides alone.

"O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, ,and lay your foundations with sapphires.

And I will make your pinnacles of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones.

All your children shall be taught by the Lord; and great shall be the peace of your children" (Isa. 54:11-13, NKJV).

"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ" (2 Cor. 1:5, NKJV) .

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)