THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS
Paul said in Philippians 3:10 that he wanted to know the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. This means that Paul desired participation in His sufferings. If the Lord had stayed in the heavens, He would never have been a man who suffered on the earth. Then it would have been impossible to produce the church, the Body of Christ. The Body is produced through the sufferings of Christ. Christ suffered not only for our redemption, but also for the producing of the Body. But the producing of the Body has not yet been completed. There is a lack in the afflictions of Christ. Therefore Paul said, “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” (Col. 1:24). Paul filled up the lack of the afflictions of Christ for the Body’s sake. But do not think that the Body of Christ has been completed. Even today, we must complete the Body by suffering the same kind of afflictions the Lord Jesus suffered as a man.
Paul was very religious before he was saved. Then he was saved and became so spiritual. I would say that he even reached the highest attainment of spirituality. But he did not stay there. Apparently, he lost all his spirituality to suffer for the Body of Christ. Today there are many so-called servants of the Lord who have never touched any secular job or worldly business. Once they begin to serve the Lord, they would never go back to any kind of business. But have you realized that Paul was in the tentmaking business even after he reached such a high attainment of spirituality? He was not making tents for his own use. He was making them to sell to others. Paul might have received criticism for this, which would have been a suffering to him. After reaching such a high attainment in spirituality, he continued to make and sell tents! But he was filling up the lack of the afflictions of Christ for His Body’s sake.
SUFFERING TO PRODUCE THE BODY
We cannot participate in Christ’s suffering for redemption. But we must take part in the sufferings of Christ for the producing of the Body. Consider further the situation of the Apostle Paul. He was a Pharisee in the Jewish religion, a position highly respected and honored by many people. But he left it and became a Christian. Moreover, he attained to the mountaintop of spirituality. Not only were the Judaizers not building up the Body of Christ, but also many so-called Christian workers were not doing the proper things to produce and build the Body of Christ. Paul was the only one in the Gentile world willing to suffer for the Lord’s Body. He was criticized and opposed; some even tried to kill him. He suffered these things to fill up the lack of Christ’s afflictions for His Body’s sake.
Now let us look at today’s situation. Christianity is just like Judaism. It is respected and honored, yet it does not care for the Body of Christ. Many so-called free preachers have left the denominations, but they only care for their own ministry; they care little for the Body of Christ. Hence, they do not suffer for the sake of the Body.
Because the Lord has burdened us for the Body, we cannot avoid suffering. We are forced to take a special standing, a standing which is absolutely different from Christianity and the free groups. Of course, this causes much criticism and opposition to come to us. But this is the suffering for producing the Body.
We may think that we love the Lord, but when we begin to suffer for His Body’s sake, the love between us and the Lord will become exceedingly sweet. We will be sick of love, and we will tell others that our Lord Jesus is altogether lovely. We will realize more of His love and more of His loveliness. We will learn that no matter how we feel, the Lord is always within us. Whether we sense His presence or not, He is still there. Through these experiences, we will become a city as God’s dwelling place, God’s habitation, and also an army to stand against God’s enemy. This will be the fulfillment of God’s purpose in us.
(Life and Building as Portrayed in the Song of Songs, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)