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A Little Ocean Ambiance
The Fellowship of|
Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for
Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of
the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all
things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him,
not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 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. (Phillipians 3:7-11)
Paul had given up a great deal in order to know Jesus Christ (language that in the Bible often refers to intimate fellowship with the Saviour), and to experience both the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. Everybody in the service of the Lord would do well to give attention to the meaning of fellowship with Jesus in His sufferings. Along the Calvary road, there will be many hard experiences, but they are all bearable when we suffer them in partnership with the Lord Jesus Himself.
"Fellowship" is an important theme of Paul's inspired epistle to the Philippian church. The Greek word for fellowship has the idea of partnership and sharing. The word translated "communicated" in Philippians 4:15 is based on the same root, and means "shared" in the sense of "giving and receiving." The word translated "partakers" in Philippians 1:7 is also from this root.
The first chapter opens with the apostle thanking God for the "fellowship in the gospel" he had enjoyed with the Philippians "from the first day until now" (verse 5). They had been partakers with Paul in getting out the Gospel ever since they themselves had been saved! This precious fellowship is expounded in verses 5 through 7. Fellowship in the Gospel is also mentioned in verse 27 of the same chapter with the words, "striving together for the faith of the gospel." It refers to the partnership Christians ought to have among themselves in the work of preaching the Gospel to every creature in the world. In Chapter 4, Paul talks in grateful terms of their generous support of his evangelistic work "even in Thessalonica," the very next city he visited after starting the church in Philippi, according to Acts 16 and 17. They were his partners in the spread of the Gospel.
The second chapter of Philippians opens with a reference to the "fellowship of the Spirit" (read verses 1 and 2). The indwelling Spirit of God makes the partnership between Christians both deep and powerful, and He also enables the believer to enjoy real partnership with Christ. In Philippians, this partnership with Christ by the Spirit is described in terms of fellowship in His sufferings.
"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." (Philippians 1:29-30)
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)
The idea of sharing in the sufferings of our Lord is also taught in other New Testament books, such as II Corinthians.
"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." (II Corinthians 1:5)
"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." (II Corinthians 4:10)
Do dedicated Christians actually share in the sufferings of their Saviour, and is this fellowship the source of special intimacy with Him? The Bible certainly affirms both concepts, and commands all of us to enter willingly into the sorrows that Jesus experienced in Gethsemane, at the house of the high priest, at Pilate's judgment hall, and at Calvary. Jesus told us that, if we are to follow Him, we must take up the cross (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and Luke 14:27). Certainly taking up the cross involves self-denial and absolute surrender to the Lord, but it also includes the willingness to suffer and to fellowship with Christ in His sufferings.
The Bible identifies seven aspects of our Lord's sufferings (His "passion," Acts 1:3), all of which may be experienced by those who follow Him. In the suffering of His sufferings, the disciple experiences intimate fellowship with Christ, and enjoys the comfort of that fellowship.
The Lord Jesus was sent by His Father to be the Saviour of the world, but when He came, He was rejected.
"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:10-11)
Similarly, those who follow Jesus in this dark world can expect at some time to suffer rejection.
"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)
The sorrow of rejection is commonly experienced by the servants of Christ. He gave them this warning the night before His crucifixion.
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me." (John 15:18-21)
Preachers know the pain of rejection. Every evangelist has both his person and his message rejected at some place at some time, sooner or later, and the experience can hurt. Pastors are sometimes rejected by a church they had hoped to shepherd, or even by the congregation they are shepherding. Missionaries often experience the rejection of the people they have given their lives to reach.
Dedicated Christians of every calling will know the rejection their Lord knew, as people turn down their witness or refuse to be friendly because of Christ in their lives. To take up the cross is to accept rejection as part of life.
Jesus admonished His disciples with these words in the same talk that stated the fact that they would be hated by the world:
"But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." (John 15:25-16:1)
When the disciple of Christ suffers rejection he will either respond to it in the right way or react to it in the wrong way. The spiritual way to deal with rejection for Christ's sake is to resort to the Word ("these things have I spoken unto you, that you should not be offended") and to the Holy Spirit ("the Comforter . . .whom I will send unto you"). The words of Jesus, especially in John 16, quickened by His indwelling Spirit (who partners with us in our witness for Him) will draw us near to Him and turn the suffering into fellowship in an amazing and satisfying way! Suffer rejection with the Man of Sorrows and know the fellowship of His sufferings.
In Matthew 20, we find a description of His sufferings that the Lord Jesus made to His disciples before they occurred.
"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again." (Matthew 20:18-19)
After His rejection by Israel came His betrayal by one of His followers. In Chapter 26 we read the account of that betrayal. In verse 21, Jesus tells His disciples, "One of you shall betray me." In verse 25, we are led to believe that it will be Judas. In verse 48, Judas comes into the Garden of Gethsemane with a large detail of soldiers sent from the council of elders, and scripture calls him, "he that betrayed him." The actual betrayal happens in verses 49 and 50. The Greek word translated "betray" in Matthew 20 and 26 has the idea of "give over." Betrayal is somebody on the inside turning his friend over to his enemies. In the Old Testament, David expresses the experience of betrayal in Psalm 41.
"Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish? And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it. All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more. Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them." (verses 5-10)
Of course, these words are a prophecy of Christ's betrayal, but they are also a description of the common experience of many of God's servants. Jesus told His disciples, "Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends." (Luke 21:16) The New Testament also speaks of betrayal in the lives of good Christians through the inspired words of Paul in II Timothy 4:9-18.
" Demas hath forsaken me. . ." ( verse 10)
". . . no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. . ." ( verse 16)
Paul was betrayed and forsaken by his friends just before he was killed. Betrayal is part of Christ's suffering, and is experienced by those who have taken up the cross.
Paul helps us to respond rightly to the pain of betrayal in this important chapter. We must resort to the Lord and to His faithful servants. Paul lists those who stayed true to him and to Christ, along with those who forsook him in his final days ( verses 11-13). When betrayed by an insider, we must look to those who remain faithful, and also to the Lord.
"At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." ( verses 16-17)
Betrayal is a hard experience but one common to the servants of God. But the grace of God to endure it is given in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings when the servant looks to the Lord and to His faithful servants instead of harboring anger and resentment.
- False Accusation.
Some years ago I heard a preacher say that false accusation is part of Christlikeness. He was right. Remember that. . .
". . . the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;" (Matthew 26:59)
Pilate asked them, "What accusation bring ye against this man?"
And Jesus taught that His followers would also be falsely accused. Remember Matthew 5:11-12?
"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."
I Peter teaches that good Christians will suffer false accusation with Jesus.
"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. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1Peter 2:19-25)
"And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 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 of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing." (1Peter 3:13-17)
Men will "falsely accuse" (3:16) those who do the will of God. We should expect it.
These passages not only warn us about being accused, but they also warn us against accusing others falsely. Often men and women of God are the subjects of false rumor. The enemy of God sees to it. Therefore we do well not to believe everything we hear, and certainly not to pass the gossip on to others.
But when we are personally attacked with slander, we must not fret or dispair ("neither be troubled"). Instead we ought to "sanctify the Lord God" in our hearts, and experience fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. False accusations sometimes must be answered directly, as God allows and directs, but the best defense is to keep on doing right no matter what you have been accused of doing.
Matthew 27:28 says that "they stripped him." Jesus was subject to shame as well as physical abuse on the day He went to Calvary. But we should remember how the apostles rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" (Acts 5:41). The Hebrew Christians "were made a gazingstock" (Hebrews 10:32-33). Followers of Jesus will suffer His sufferings, including sometimes terrible shame. When we are shamed, we are tempted to quit, but instead we ought to draw near to Christ. We can know the fellowship of His sufferings, and rejoice in them as Peter and John did.
Part of Christ's suffering was His being "mocked." It is said in Matthew 20 that "the chief priests and the scribes. . .shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him" (verses 18-19). Luke 18 says "he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated" (verse 32). Then the account records in Matthew 27:29-31 how He was crowned with thorns, given a reed to hold, worshipped in jest, spat upon, and hit on the head. This mistreatment is described with the word "mocked." To be mocked is to be ridiculed. The mocking of Jesus was part of His suffering for sin, as was His shaming. The sinner is a fool. And yet, disciples of Jesus can expect to be ridiculed in order to know His sufferings.
Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 20:7, "Every man mocketh me." New Testament Christians are said to have been mocked in Acts 2:13 and 17:32. When ridiculed, we are tempted to react in the flesh by threatening, reviling, or retaliating. But Jesus,
". . . when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:" (I Peter 2:23)
Like our Lord, we must respond to ridicule by committing ourselves to God and not striking back.
- Physical Pain.
We can see that the book of I Peter centers on the subject of suffering as a Christian. The sufferings described in it are not just mental. Physical suffering is also addressed, and viewed as an aid to holiness.
"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." (1Peter 4:1-2)
Our Lord's physical pain was great on the day He died. He was buffeted (Matthew 26:65-68), scourged (
Matthew 27:22-26), crowned with thorns (Matthew 27:29-30), and crucified (Matthew 27:33-35). Physical pain also often comes in great measure to the dedicated followers of Christ. The experience of pain can tempt a Christian to quit serving the Lord, but it is allowed however, inorder to purify him. If we "arm" ourselves with the mind of Christ in the experience of pain, the Bible says that we will cease from sin! This will happen because pain will make it so that we "no longer" live "to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." We will be armed with the mind of Christ in suffering as long as we are fellowshipping with Him in His sufferings. Do you see it?
- Suffering for the Church.
We all know that Jesus died for us. He "loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25). Strangely, the followers of Jesus who have taken up the cross also suffer for the church.
". . . be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:" (Colossians 1:23-24)
Paul said that he was completing the sufferings of Christ for the church by his own sufferings for Christ.
"Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all." (Phillipians 2:17)
"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." (II Corinthians 1:5-6)
Paul's suffering was for the salvation of the saints. His troubles were also the bearing of Christ's dying on the cross so that those who believed might have life.
"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you." (II Corinthians 4:10-12)
Those who follow and serve Jesus Christ will often be required to suffer for His church. Pastors sacrifice so that the church is benefitted. Evangelists suffer so that more will be saved. Missionaries give things up so that the Cause is advanced and new churches are born. It's all part of fellowship with Christ, the fellowship of His sufferings. Those who minister are tempted to resent their sacrifices unless they see them as part of the Lord's suffering for His people. Fellowship with Jesus in His sufferings, and the burdens will become blessings.
We must expect suffering as part of the surrendered life. Don't be surprised when the troubles come, and don't just blame them on the devil! Experience them as opportunities to share in Christ's sufferings (rejection, betrayal, false accusation, shame, ridicule, physical pain, and suffering for the church) and to fellowship personally with Him in an extraordinarily intimate way.
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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