Shelby G. Floyd
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.—Galatians 2:9 KJV
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS
While the Christian life is predominately a life of joy and happiness, because of the salvation that one has in Christ Jesus, nevertheless, there must be times when there will be sickness and sorrow, crying and tears, pain and death. For these things will not pass away until we reach the heavenly state (cf. Revelation 21:4).
Because of sin and wickedness which is in the world, it is the lot of all who live in the flesh to suffer. Especially, may the children of God be called upon to endure trials and suffering, because of the high principles to which they have attached themselves, and because of the opposition of the kingdom of darkness (Matthew 23:30).
When Jesus Christ began his earthly ministry, he wanted his disciples to understand that suffering must be expected, and must be endured, by those who are faithful with the promise that they would be blessed and happy in so doing:
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
When Christians associate themselves with other Christians who are suffering injustice, they, thereby, become companions or partners in their suffering.
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS
When the apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, the faithful members of the church were enduring trials and persecutions similar to those, which the great apostle Paul suffered. Therefore, they were to expect to receive the same comfort and consolation from God, which Paul received: “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation” (2 Corinthians 1: 5, 7).
In verse seven of the above reading, the term partaker is from koinonos, which simply means that they shared and had in common the same suffering which the apostle Paul suffered. They, therefore, were partners with Paul in human suffering for the cause of righteousness; because of this they were to look to the God of comfort for their consolation and help in time of need. Not only were the Christians from Gentile backgrounds required to suffer for the cause of Christ, but also those who came from Judaism over into the Christian system, were also required to suffer great afflictions.
In the tenth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, the writer presented a fearful picture awaiting those who fell away from the Christian religion. In order to encourage them to be faithful unto death, he reminded them of how patiently they had endured trials, afflictions and sufferings in their earlier days: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used” (Hebrews 10:32-33). In reminding them of the sufferings which they endured he did not generalize, but he specified the various forms of suffering which they had endured.
In Hebrews 10: 33, the word companion is from a word that means to be, “a partner, associate, comrade, companion, to be the partner of one doing something” (Cf. Thayer, p. 352). The Hebrews were comrades with their fellow Christians, who were suffering; because they had assisted them, and had tried to do everything possible to relieve their suffering. This is exactly the same kind of comradeship or fellowship, which the Philippians had with Paul (Cf. Philippians 4:14-16).
Even the beloved apostle John, was not exempt from human suffering. Late in his life, when he became an old man, he was called upon to endure shameful suffering because of his attachment to the pure and undefiled religion of Jesus Christ. In writing the last book of the Bible, to the seven churches in Asia, John said, “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1: 9).
In the above verse, the term companion is from sunkoinonos, which is defined as a, “participant with others in anything, joint partner.” The apostle John was far removed from the members of the seven churches of Asia; however, he was still a partner, he still had fellowship with them because he was enduring the suffering and banishment and exile on the lonely island because of his steadfastness and his faithfulness to the word of God and the preaching of the gospel. While John was not with his fellow Christians in the body on the Lord’s Day, when all of them gathered together to worship God, he was with them in spirit (Revelation 1:10). Therefore, he was a companion of all who suffered like he was suffering.
However, not all of the suffering, which Christians endure, is the result of opposition. Some suffering comes upon the children of God because like children who have disobeyed their parents, they must be chastised for their infraction of the law of God (Cf. Hebrews 12: 8). Only sons, who have fathers who look after them, and care for them, chastise their sons when they do wrong. Therefore, children of God are partakers of the chastening hand of God (Cf. Hebrews 12: 8).
QUESTIONS ON THE LESSON
1. Discuss why it is the lot of all men (including Christians) to suffer.
2. How long will the suffering continue?
3. Discuss what Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount about the suffering of his disciples.
4. How were the Corinthians partakers of the sufferings and consolations of Paul?
5. Specify the terrible sufferings, which many Hebrew Christians endured.
6. How had the Hebrews been companions of them who were used for suffering?
7. Discuss why John the apostle was a companion in tribulation late in his life?
8. Did John have any fellowship with those who suffered in Asia while he was in exile?
9. Discuss why not all suffering is the result from opposition, but some results from chastisement.
10. Apply this lesson to the people of God today.
30And you say, `If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11″Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
2 Corinthians 1:4-5
5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
2 Corinthians 1:6-7
6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
32But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Copyright © 2002, 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142