Posted On February 15, 2019

The Importance of Preaching the Theology of Suffering

by | Feb 15, 2019 | The Gospel and the Ministry, Featured

Learning Obedience by Suffering

One of the most mysterious statements about Christ in the Bible appears in Hebrews 5:8: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” The Holy Spirit had just asserted that Christ, though tempted as we are, was “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). How then did he learn obedience through suffering? He did not have to cleanse his soul from evil, for he was “holy, harmless, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26). His human body and soul were holy from conception (Luke 1:35), and yet his human holiness had to grow through exercise, just as muscles grow stronger by exercise even to the point of pain. And what suffering Christ endured to learn obedience! It wrenched from him “prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7).

If righteous Jesus had to suffer so much to learn obedience, how much more do we need to suffer in order to purge away our sins and grow in his likeness? Sin clings to our souls more stubbornly than stains to our clothes, but God will get it out. William Gurnall says: “God would not rub so hard if it were not to fetch out the dirt that is ingrained in our natures. God loves purity so well that he had rather see a hole than a spot in his child’s garments.”1 Materialism and psychology fool us into thinking that our greatest goods in life are our physical, financial, and emotional well-being. Therefore, when afflictions come, we may question the truth of Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We cry out, “How can this affliction be working good for me?” But we need to read the next verse to discover what God decrees as our good: “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). The Father elected us to holiness (Eph. 1:4). Christ died to make his church holy (Eph. 5:25–27). God will stop at nothing to make his people holy, after the image of his Son.

Affliction as the Training Camp of Holiness

Therefore, preach to your people a theology of suffering that places all our trials in the hands and will of a loving Father. Hebrews 12 teaches us to view our sorrows, even the persecutions of wicked men, as part of God’s fatherly discipline: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:4–6). Why would a loving God discipline his children so severely? He does it so “that we might be partakers of his holiness,” for without that holiness, “no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:10, 14). He is drawing us into his fatherly presence by engraving his image upon us, even through the strokes of a rod.

Teach your congregation to view their sufferings as their training for holiness. Encourage them to submit to the rod of their Father, trusting in his goodness and love revealed at the cross (Rom. 8:32). Show them the many benefits of submitting to God’s sanctifying trials with meekness. Thomas Brooks says that Christians should be “mute” or quiet under the smiting of God’s rod so that they can (1) learn from God’s correction and repent of sin, (2) distinguish themselves from the world, which murmurs against and curses God, (3) become like Christ, who suffered quietly as a lamb led to slaughter, (4) escape the curse of a fretful spirit, which is a thousand times worse than any outward affliction, (5) enjoy the comfort of inward peace, (6) avoid a futile striving against almighty God, (7) frustrate Satan’s design to tempt them to blaspheme God, and (8) follow in the footsteps of other saints who patiently endured suffering before us.2

This is a guest article by Joel Beeke, author of Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.

Notes:

  1. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour: A Treatise of the Saints’ War Against the Devil (London: Banner of Truth, 1964), 1:417–18
  2. Thomas Brooks, “The Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. 3. Alexander B. Grosart (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:312–19.

Related Posts

Dave and Sarah Jenkins- What It Means to Love One’s Neighbor

Dave and Sarah Jenkins- What It Means to Love One’s Neighbor

On today’s Equipping You in Grace show, Dave and Sarah Jenkins consider the meaning and purpose of the Great Commandment, what it means to love our neighbor, the dangers of the social gospel and how to avoid it, and the meaning and purpose of Christian conscience,...

Perfectionism

Perfectionism

The day that I married my husband was, up to that point, the happiest day of my life! We had seven months from the night he proposed until the day that we walked down the aisle, and we made the most of it. We spent hours upon hours working through wedding details. We...

God’s Servant for Our Good

God’s Servant for Our Good

Romans 13:3-4, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he...

The Christian and the Government

The Christian and the Government

Romans 13:1-2, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will...

The Meaning and Purpose of Reverence for God

The Meaning and Purpose of Reverence for God

On today’s episode, a listener writes in and asks Dave, “What does it mean to have reverence for God?” What you’ll hear in this episode The unchanging nature of God. Redemptive history. Why reverence and awe are vital to the Christian. Subscribing, sharing, and your...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share33
Tweet14
Reddit
Email
Buffer