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Jesus stated: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). In this declaration are salvation and suffering, and the relationship is salvation through suffering. The life (lit., “His soul”; Gr. is psuchē) of Christ is given up in death as a ransom for many, with the ransom being the price that is paid in order to free the guilty from the debt that is owed. His life is given, so the suffering is voluntary and also determined.

At the core of the solution for the problem of sin, with its resulting judgment and damnation and the hope of deliverance from the same, is this concept that affirms salvation through suffering. But the very thought that suffering can be a blessing is incompatible with the modern and popular ecclesiastical mind, especially in the West where suffering is something to be despised and is considered inconsistent with spirituality. In fact, the believer, by affirming faith and the rights he has a believer, is to rise above suffering in all of its forms; mistaken individuals even affirm that such is in the Atonement and is provided for the believer by Christ. All of this is available; we must simply claim it and affirm it, and it will become reality in our lives.

In contrast to such foolishness, and really such evil, because it is an attack on the Christian Faith itself, is the cogent teaching of the Scriptures that affirm the reality of suffering, the need of suffering, the blessing of suffering, the education through suffering, and the victory of suffering. Scripture does not invalidate suffering but seeks to make it understandable and to provide insights that enable the believer to endure suffering. All who struggle to live godly will suffer. To teach otherwise exposes a lack of faithfulness to the Scriptures and a abject denial of their teaching and normative authority. Following is just a sampling of the texts related to suffering:

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41; “worthy to suffer,” suffering was desirable not objectionable);

Suffering produces endurance (Rom. 5:3; “suffering” is Gr., thlipsis, meaning “tribulation”; see Matt. 24:21, 29);

. . . if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together; for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:17-18);

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ . . . to suffer for His sake (Phil. 1:29);

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24);

Share with me in the sufferings for the gospel (II Tim. 1:8);

He learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Heb. 5:8);

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps (I Pet. 2:21);

If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed (I Pet. 4:16);

Do not fear what you are about to suffer (Rev. 2:10).

Obviously, the message of Scripture is not the condemnation of suffering, with instructions  given for escape from trouble. Rather, suffering is desirable, especially if it is for the cause of Christ, because in the suffering the believer is identified with Christ and His sufferings. Additionally, suffering is a teacher; suffering develops character; suffering of the believer is so insignificant that it cannot even be compared to the future glory of the believer; and suffering is not to feared because it has been granted to the believer.

Believers are to suffer because Christ suffered, even experiencing death. Repeatedly in the Gospels, especially John, Jesus speaks of His death and its purpose:

My hour has not yet come (Jo. 2:4);

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (Jo. 3:14);

The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world (Jo. 6:51);

My time has not yet fully come (Jo. 7:8);

When you lift up the Son of Man . . . (Jo. 8:28);   The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep (Jo. 10:11);

I lay down My life for the sheep (Jo. 10:15);

My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again (Jo. 10:17);

No one takes it [My life] from me, I lay it down of Myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (Jo. 10:18);

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain (Jo. 12:24);

My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour (Jo. 12:27);

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself (Jo. 12:32);

The Son of Man must be lifted up (Jo. 12:34);

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (Jo. 15:13);

I have finished the work which You have given Me to do (Jo. 17:4).

The above verses speak of an appointed time or an hour, a time and an hour of suffering. It was the time for which the Son came to earth. It was the time of the Son’s suffering. It was the time the Son would be lifted up, and in the lifting up His life would be given.

“Lifted up” meant death, probably understood to be death by crucifixion or hanging; thus, Jesus had spoken of the “must” of His suffering, a suffering that involved death. It was difficult for the nation to comprehend for the nation, in light of passages like Ps. 89:36-37, felt that “the Christ remains forever” (Jo. 12:34), meaning that death for the Messiah cannot be a possibility. In the Jewish mind suffering and salvation did not mix; death and the Messiah were inconsistent; suffering was to be avoided, even while salvation was to be sought.

But the work that the Son, the Jewish Messiah, had been given to do was the work of redemption, providing salvation for those given to Him by the Father; and His work of salvation necessitated suffering and death, that is, the salvation would be provided through the suffering. Without the suffering there would be no salvation.

The concept, then as now, staggers human thought. It does not seem possible; it does not seem proper. Part of the staggering of human reflection is the fact that the human perception of suffering is truncated; in the modern mind all suffering is bad, and is something to be avoided if possible, certainly not invited and sought. To pursue suffering or to delight in suffering seems to indicate a certain mental instability.

Nevertheless God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His actions do not parallel our actions. The Scriptures affirm that God ordains suffering and is even pleased with suffering, especially in relation to His own Son.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand (Isa. 53:10; note the words “pleased” and “bruised”);

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things (Mk. 8:31; note the words: “suffer,” “must,” and “many things”);

He said to them, “Thus it is written and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Lu. 24:46; note the words: “suffer,” and “necessary”);

Him [the Son], being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23; note the words “delivered” and “determined purpose”).

Suffering is ambivalent. From one perspective, that of its association with sin, it is part of the consequences that flow from the existence of evil; but from another perspective, that of its association with salvation, it is good because through it good comes. So, is suffering good or bad? It is both!

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