That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death;…
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS CALLED INTO FELLOWSHIP OF HIS LORD'S SUFFERINGS.
1. He is called into fellowship with Christ. This is further implied by the clause, "becoming conformed unto his death." It is St. Paul's conception of the heart and essence of the Christian life. He constantly describes the process of our union with Christ as involving our repetition of Christ's experience of life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. The Christian life is an "Imitatio Christi."
2. The Christian is called to suffer with Christ. His life is not all suffering. Much Divine gladness shines across the path of his pilgrimage. But while new joys come with the gospel, new sorrows unfelt before also accompany it. Christ's joy is in his people (John 15:11). So also is his sorrow. The Christian has his Tabor and his Olivet; he has, too, his Gethsemane and his Calvary (Romans 6:5; 2 Corinthians 4:10).
3. The necessary experience of the Christian life involves a fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings are not accidental.
(1) Externally, they are caused as Christ's were caused. "A servant is not above his lord. If they persecuted me they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). St. Paul suffered from Jewish jealousy, as Christ did before. More generally the hatred of darkness to light which raged against the great Light of the world besets and attacks all the children of light.
(2) Internally, we have to fight all evil, and the mortal conflict is painful.
(3) Sympathetically, our union with Christ leads us to sorrow with him in his sorrow.
II. THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES. We might naturally take it to be quite otherwise. We might think it a thing to be submitted to simply as part of the necessary cost of entering the kingdom of heaven. But St. Paul reckons it as part of the gain in comparison with which all conceivable earthly advantages are but as refuse. How can this be? Surely we cannot embrace and love pain for its own sake.
1. Fellowship with Christ's sufferings is a great honor. It is something to be counted worthy to suffer with him. We honor our noblest heroes by selecting them for the most arduous tasks.
2. This fellowship preserves us from many evils. Sorrow is a spiritual antiseptic. It kills the germs of corruption that breed freely in luxury. To be admitted into the sacred temple of the sorrows of Christ, to be touched with the solemn awe of his agony, and to feel in ourselves some faint throbs of this sublime passion, all this is to be called above the earthly scenes of folly and sin and to receive a baptism of purification.
3. This fellowship leads us to participation in Christ's glory. The story does not end with the suffering. It looks tragic; but. it is no tragedy; for it issues in glad hallelujahs. But as even Christ was perfected through suffering, so much more must his disciples tread the via dolorosa in order to reach their triumph. It is they who suffer with him who will also be glorified together with him. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;