Text: Acts 8:26-35
In our text the Ethiopian eunuch asks Philip a crucial question. He is reading from Isaiah 53 and is puzzled as to whom Isaiah refers. His question is pivotal: “Of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”
Philip's answer is directly to the point: Isaiah is writing about Jesus of Nazareth.
Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets, who were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), declared unambiguously that Jesus is the Messiah. In the New Testament, Jesus, as recorded in John's gospel, makes this statement concerning the purpose and intent of the Old Testament:
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).
Some claim that our understanding of who Jesus is doesn't matter.
But it does matter. It matters profoundly. For not only is our understanding of who Jesus is and what He did for us through and in His suffering tied to salvation, but the agonizing question of the meaning of our own suffering as Christians is tied to it as well, especially as we contemplate his role as the Suffering Servant as seen in Isaiah's 53rd chapter.
In Luke 22:37, Jesus quotes directly from Isaiah 53. In this passage He identifies Himself as the Sutffering Servant.
The clear teaching is that Jesus suffers “for us.” Yet we are called to participate in His suffering. Though He was uniquely the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, there is still an application of this vocation to us. We are given both the duty and the privilege to participate in the sufferings of Christ.
Paul says, 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. (Colossians 1:24).
But we must understand that we add nothing to the value of Jesus' suffering
In order to understand the concept of adding to the afflictions of Christ, we must first understand how closely Christ is related to the Church.
Christ so linked His church to Himself that when He first called Paul on the Damascus Road He said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me ?” [Emphasis Mine] Saul was not persecuting Jesus. Jesus had already ascended to heaven. He was already out of reach of Paul's hostility. Saul was busy persecuting Christians. But Jesus saw such a relationship of solidarity with His church that He regarded an attack upon His body, the church, as a personal attack on Himself.
It is in that sense that when we suffer we add to the afflictions of Christ.
It is similar to what the Bible says when it speaks about the sufferings we share with each other:
]I Cor 12:26
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Let me say three things in general about suffering:
1) Suffering Is Inevitable
2) Suffering Is Incomprehensible
3) Suffering Is Instrumental
Suffering Is Inevitable
A. Consider the following verses:
Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
2 Tim. 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
1 Thess 3:3,4
That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation;
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
Suffering Is Incomprehensible
A. We know very little about the mystery of Suffering. What we do know about suffering further complicates the mystery:
1) Christ Himself was made perfect by Suffering
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made ]perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
a) He was exalted after He suffered
2) The Righteous Suffer as well as the Wicked
a) Consider Job
b) The Blind Man in John's Gospel (John 9)
3) In order to reign with Him we must also suffer with Him (2 Tim 2:12)
4) Our Suffering is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
5) When we suffer it is to partake of Christ's sufferings
1 Pet 4:13
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
Suffering Is Instrumental
Suffering Precipitates Dependancy
1 Pet 4:19
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.
Suffering Produces Patience
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Suffering Proves (or tests) Our Character
1 Pet 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 honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Suffering Provides A Means of Judgment
1 Pet 4:14-18
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
Rejoice when you suffer. Do not think some strange thing is happening to you. Paul calls our time of suffering here on earth “a light momentary affliction.” We are never to be ashamed when we suffer for righteousness sake.
May we have the same spirit and mindset as the Apostle Paul who said,
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; [Emphasis Mine]