Biographical Sketch of Dr. Stuart E. Lease / Bible Messages by Dr. Stuart E. Lease
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Message #13: The Sufferings of Christ
The theme of I Peter is Sustaining Strength for Suffering Servants. I want to deal with this tonight even differently from the way we approached it when we introduced the book. I had a teacher, a very fine man of God who had a personal library of some 15,000 volumes in his home, Rev. O. M. Craybill from York, to which I am greatly indebted for many of the things that I have learned. He said, Usually the key to a book is found hanging inside the front door or inside the back door. Peter sort of hangs his key inside the back door. I Peter 5:10 is essentially the theme of I Peter, But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect (adjust), stablish (confirm), strengthen, settle you. Sustaining Strength for Suffering Servants.
In I Peter 3:18 we have a theme and an emphasis that is repeated in each chapter of I Peter. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. The thing that I want you to see is that throughout I Peter, as he presents the sufferings of the saints is that he brings in right alongside and with it the sufferings of Christ. Put two columns in your Bible. The first Suffering of Saints. Under that you will have 1:6-7, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Then 2:19-20, For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. Then 3:14-17, But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, Having a good conscience, that, whereas they speak evil of you as evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation (or behavior) in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing. Then 4:12-19, (just reading verse 19), Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Then in 5:6-7, Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, Who hath called us into eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. Thus, in each of the five chapters there is reference to the suffering of the saints.
Now alongside of that there is also reference to The Sufferings of Christ. Ill just give them to you to put down in your column. I Peter 1:11, Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Then 2:21, For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps. Then 3:18, For Christ also hath once suffered for sins. Then a similar reference in 4:1 which really ties in with this, Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh. Then 4:13, (There are two references in chapter 4.), But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christs sufferings, that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. Then 5:1, The elders who are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.
There is something that I want you to see in this study tonight. That is, that basically that any and all of our sufferings ought to be related somehow to the sufferings of Christ and the glory that shall follow: Looking back to Calvary, looking forward to the coming of the Lord in glory. By the way, we do that every time we partake of the Lords Supper. We remember His death till He comes. In fact, the Greek word there for you do proclaim or show forth really means to herald, just like you preach. You preach at the Lords table of His death till He comes and His coming. It is between those two things, but it is essentially tonight that I want to go back to the sufferings of Christ.
Now I am going to go to those references in that right hand column, and I want to relate to them. First, the suffering of Christ prophecized, 1:11, Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them (that is, the prophets of old) did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. When Christ appeared on earth, His entire life and ministry and especially His death, burial, and resurrection were prophecized. We can go right back to the Old Testament beginning at Genesis 3:15 and going up through Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and one after another of the great passages of the Old Testament, and Paul did that sort of thing. For example in Acts 17 when he went to Thessalonica in Acts 17:2, And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures. The only Scriptures that Paul had were the Old Testament Scriptures. The New Testament was not yet written. Opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. Later on when Paul writes to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 15:3-4, he declares unto them the gospel which is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (Dont ever let the Roman Church tell you that they are the originators of the gospel or that they predate the Bible. They have a Knights of Columbus ad out about that sort of thing. The Scriptures predated the Roman Church, and the gospel which Paul and the apostles proclaimed was not according to the Church. It was according to the Scriptures.) Here again, we are back to the eternal Word of God which prophecized the sufferings of Christ. It didnt just happen as an accident or as a fluke as some writers, by the way, are saying such as the Passover Plot and books like this. No, the sufferings of Christ including His death, burial and resurrection were clearly prophecized in the Old Testament.
Second, the sufferings of Christ become a pattern for the believer. In I Peter 2:21 it says, For even hereunto were you called (and it has just talked about the matter of suffering as you will see if you look over in your left-hand column), because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example. When we expounded that this week we pointed out that word example in the Greek is a copywriting. Its like when you attended a country school, like I did, where we were taught the A B Cs (Im not sure what they teach now), but we had Capital A, small a, Capital B, small b. Remember that? That was copywriting around the blackboard, and then we copied that for our writing. That is exactly the word here in the Greek for example, something that we copy. Well, how do we copy the sufferings of Christ? Obviously, we do not suffer in exactly the same way that He suffered any more than we can walk exactly as He walked, even though we are commanded to do that in I John 2:6, to walk as He walked. He does allow us and even leads us through the valley of the shadow of death when often difficulty comes into our lives. Dont ever think that because you are a child of God that you are exempt from suffering, from difficulties, from distresses. I guess that one reason I related to I Peter last year when I began the series here was because of our own sufferings with Beckys illness. The Lord does allow suffering to come into our lives. We are not exempt, but He was not exempt either. I think of a verse that has been a challenge to me before, during and since our own experiences (in fact, for many years a verse that has stirred me because it is almost inconceivable); and its found in Hebrews 5:8, Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. You say, Well, wasnt He obedient? Yes. I tell you, you learn practical obedience when you are in the midst of suffering. I want to share with you, that while the Calvary experience and the week immediately preceding is often called Christs passion and sometimes referred to as His humiliation, it was that. I agree with those theologians and expositors, who say in reality, that all of Christs incarnation was a humiliation for Him. All the time that He was here was in some respect a suffering time. I believe that was true, because He was away from the Fathers home. I guess that one of the problems that we have, those of us who minister in various places, is being away from home. All the times that you are away, you have ambivalent feelings. You enjoy where you are, but you wish that you were back home. I cant help but believe that all the time that our Lord was here, He was glad to be here to do His Fathers will; but I believe that He always wanted to be back home. Having fulfilled His Fathers will, being obedient even unto death, He returned home; and there He has gone to prepare a place for you and for me.While we are here, we will suffer some of the similar experiences of difficulties which He suffered. Maybe they wont be physical for you, but maybe they will be emotional. We have one of our students right now in a mental hospital because of some tremendously traumatic experiences that she had in her childhood. She cant relate to and relate life to. Dont think that because you are a child of God that you are exempt from that. It can come or it might be persecution that you get because of a faithful witness for Christ. It may be difficulties in your home. Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. And in that respect He became a copywriting for us, and we follow in His steps in that way. We do not follow absolutely but relatively, and we follow not in our power but by His power by the Spirit of God.
This brings us to the one that is our text tonight in 3:18. Here is our provision. Christs sufferings were prophecized. They have become a pattern for us, and they are our provision. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, (and as 4:1 indicates, Christ suffered for us). He suffered once for sins. The great book of Hebrews emphasizes this truth again and again. When you come to Hebrews 10:12 you have it clearly enunciated in one verse, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God. Throughout the Old Testament there was one sacrifice after another after another after another after another. I have been reading through the Old Testament and New Testament reading through the Bible in a year, and I guess one thing that really impressed me was how many sacrifices there were. Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice. His sacrifice was unique, once for all and done because it was so perfectly done the one time. Christ has once suffered for sins. It is unique.
Secondly, in this passage it indicates that its expiatory. It simply means washes our sins away. Suffered for sins. I John 4:10, Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation Thats a big word. It involves a number of things. Sometimes we say to clarify it, its the substitutionary, satisfactory, sacrifice for our sins. You can add the word sufficient there. Satisfactory to God. He took our sins away when He died on the cross for us.
The third expression here, the just for the unjust is the substitutionary idea emphasized again. II Corinthians 5:21, For He hath made Him, Who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. He took our place. He was victorious. I like this expression, that He might bring us to God. I Timothy 2:5-6, For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. He became the very bridge by which we may pass from earth to heaven, from destruction to delight, from death to life. Victorious! (I have a little problem in getting from one place to another at certain times. I loose my way. Our daughter has an uncanny sense of direction. She can usually get us around if she has gone some place once.) I am glad that Jesus Christ provided a way that will get us there without fail. We wont get lost on the way somewhere. His death was sufficient; so that if and when we leave this life, whether by death or by the rapture, we will be projected immediately into the presence of God. His death was such that it might bring us to God.
The fourth thing is found in the fourth chapter. I have combined 4:13 with 3:18. In 4:13, there is something of our participation in the sufferings of Christ. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christs sufferings, that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. One of the great verses of Christian experience is Galatians 2:20, I am (or literally from the Greek it is I have been) crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. I have been crucified with Christ. I was a participant with Him in that respect in His sufferings. Positionally when He died on the cross, I died with Him. Thats the great truth of Romans 6, How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer to sin, because we have been crucified with Christ. I believe that is a truth that Christians must recognize that when Christ suffered we suffered with Him and entered into that with Him. I do believe here again He suffered not that He should suffer eternally there, but again that He might bring us to God that He might be raised from the dead; and then as Romans 6:4 indicates, that we might walk in newness of life. We are buried with Him by baptism, but I dont believe that this is water baptism although I am baptistic. I am not quite as baptistic as those who sing, Water fellowship, water joy divine. I believe in baptism by immersion, but I dont believe that that is water here. I think that this is our identification with Him. We are identified with Him. We are buried with Him, and by this identification into death like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life, we enter into the sufferings so that we may also experience with Him the glory. Thats throughout I Peter as well. In fact, the latter section of I Peter relates to the glory that follows.
In the last chapter, chapter 5, Peter says, The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, (Literally the Greek word there is a fellow elder which means that he was not one over all the rest as the Roman Church teaches but one with them) and a witness of the sufferings of Christ. I have sometimes said when I have referred to that passage, I wonder if he blushed when he wrote that. He was a witness of the sufferings of Christ but in what way? Afar off. We dont have time to trace it tonight, but I am going to give you the verses and then just tell you what the verses say. In Matthew 26:36-38 you have Peter going with Jesus to Gethsemane, Peter, James and John. Remember what happened to him there? When he was asked to watch and wait he fell asleep. Then you have him following afar off in that same chapter 57-58. In Luke 22:61-62, the Lord Jesus looks on him, and he hears the cock crow and he goes out and weeps bitterly. He failed his Lord when he said, Though all men fail you I will never forsake you. He failed. In the midst of the failure the Lord Jesus looks on him; and then later after the resurrection, the Lord appears to Peter (in fact, even Paul says that he appears to Peter). In at least one appearance there in John 21, He commissions Peter to feed His lambs and His sheep. After his failure, he is still commissioned by the Lord. I think what some Christians need and it is sad to say this, that they need a good failure now and then. To make them aware of their utter insufficiency in themselves so that then they will come to trust in the Lord completely. Peter was very cock sure, he was very brash and outspoken when he was a disciple. But he writes in quite a different vein when he comes to write I Peter and II Peter. He writes with compassion and concern and care for the children of God. He writes in terms of suffering. He writes to encourage those who do suffer. Calvary was not just provided for our salvation. It is provided for our sustenance and our strength as well.
There is an experience in the journeys of the children of Israel right after they had come out of Egypt. They had crossed over the Jordan, and they had sung a great victorious hymn, and then they moved on three days into the wilderness and found no water (Exodus 15:22). In 15:23 it says, And when they can to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently harken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee. There is a beautiful type here, and Scofield picks it up in the notes of his Bible there. The tree cast into the bitter waters of Marah, and Marah means bitter and is a type of the cross. Christ became a curse for us, because it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree. Galatians 3:13. I want to say there is something very practical here. When you get into some very bitter experiences of life, may I encourage you to cast in the tree of Calvary, the sufferings of Christ; and realize that when you suffer, you are not the first one to suffer nor probably the last, but that also the Son of God suffered for you. The sufferings of Christ were for you, and youre not alone now in your time of suffering.
After one of the World Wars, a man whose son had suffered and died in the war went to his pastor and said, Pastor, where was God when my son suffered and died? The pastor said, The same place He was when His Son suffered and died. You see, our Father knows, our Lord knows the experience you go through. When we learned about our daughter, I just had two words that I first said to my wife when I took her in my arms. I said, God knows. I guess I said more than I thought I knew because God does know. He knows the sufferings that you face, and you can draw upon the resources of Calvarys sufferings. The sufferings of Christ and out of that also comes glory. Paul said that we would only be glorified if we suffer with Him. He said, I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross despising the shame, but it was for the joy that was set before Him. When you allow Calvary to come into your bitter experience in life, there will be an unusual joy that comes into your life, even in the midst of suffering; and you will experience something of the glory of God right now as well as something of the glory that awaits you when we will see our Lord face to face.
As it was delivered at
SANDY COVE BIBLE CONFERENCE
Dr. Stuart E. Lease
July 10, 1976