Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Cross and Human Suffering

I took these notes at the Cathedral 2 days ago, from Phillip Jensen's talk at the Cathedral Easter Convention.

The formatting is all over the place, but what you have here is what was typed on the afternoon. It's the outline, followed by the notes.

The Cross and Human Suffering

April 22, 2011

3 points.

1. Human suffering

a. Normal abnormal
b. Creation and fall
c. Pain
d. General fall
e. Particular and specific suffering

2. Christ and Christian suffering

a. Christ’s suffering
b. Christian suffering
i. Increases our suffering
ii. Reduces the pain
iii. Enabling us to endure with patience and joy.

3. 1 Peter

[Outline ends]

1. Human suffering
a. Normal abnormal

Sickness is quantitatively normal but feels abnormal.

Sickness is abnormal, in that it is a sign of the curse of death given by God.

b. Creation and fall

Gen. 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Gen. 3:16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
Gen. 3:17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

c. Pain

Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? General fall
This pain will come to an end.

Rev. 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

But for the moment, there is suffering, which is felt as pain. We can medicate it eg strong drink for those who are poor (Prov 31), but even the medicating can cause problems and suffering.

d. General fall

It is the human condition to suffer. Eg John 9. Eg Job’s friends were wrong to suggest a specific sin as the cause of his suffering. Satan is unjust. We are unjust. God is just and fair, but at the moment has given us over to our own foolishness. Rom 1.

e. Particular and specific suffering

God does bring particular suffering upon us.

Is. 45:7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Amos 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the LORD has done it?
The Bible is not dualist. It has a limited dualism. God is sovereign and Satan is his messenger.

Sometimes suffering comes as a judgement.
Sometimes it comes as a warning.
Sometimes it comes as a judgement and a warning.

1Cor. 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Jas 1, Rom 5, Heb 12, a discipline.

There is so much more that could be said because it is on every page of the Bible.

Nearly every page of the Bible deals with the problem of evil and suffering—contra Phillip’s atheist philosophy tutor at UNSW in 1975.

2. Christ and Christian suffering

See Stott, Cross of Christ on this topic.

a. Christ’s suffering

Christ as a human being shared in our suffering. Knew that humans suffer, knew that the Messiah must suffer and repeatedly predicted his suffering and persecution and death, and yet set his face resolutely toward Jerusalem. Great courage and resolution—not that he thought like Socrates that death would be a release. But rather cried out against it in Gethsemane, yet willingly laid down his life under his father’s will.

Phil. 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

His resurrection the final seal of his approval, the sign that his suffering fulfilled its intention. His death was a death for us. Matt 8, he fulfilled Isa 53.

Matt. 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
Sickness is a result of sin. His atoning death deals with the sin, and so we await

b. Christian suffering

i. Increases our suffering
“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
We take up our cross and follow Christ. Mk 9
Col. 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…

“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” says Paul.

The exact opposite of the prosperity gospel.

ii. reduces the pain

Suffering increases but pain reduces. For our pain is not random meaninglessness, such as atheists believe. Nor is it karma, an endless cycle. In cross we see the personal love of God expressed in Christ, and we see him sharing in our suffering and taking what we deserved.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Rom. 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Eph. 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Heb. 2:16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hos. 11:7 My people are bent on turning away from me,
and though they call out to the Most High,
he shall not raise them up at all.
Hos. 11:8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
Hos. 11:10 They shall go after the LORD;
he will roar like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west;
11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria,
and I will return them to their homes, declares the LORD.

We are not in the hands of an irrational, impersonal force.

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Just as we volunteer for pain at the hand of the dentist, so we volunteer to be crucified with Christ—because we trust the one who is at work on us, knowing that the suffering has a good end. God is better than the best of dentists.

iii. enabling us to endure with patience and joy.

Knowing all this enables us to endure with patience and joy.

Acts 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.

These people can’t be persecuted out of existence. They can’t be imprisoned out of their faith.

Rom. 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Our Lord’s crucifixion paved the way for our suffering

3. 1 Peter
1 Peter is written to suffering people.

Pet. 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
Pressure to turn away from the sufferings of the cross; external and internal.

Internal struggle.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

We must focus on cross and resist internal pressure to sin.

We are called to unjust suffering:

1Pet. 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
We must follow Christ’s example in going through unjust suffering.

Christ bore not his own sins but ours. Resentment, victimology is no part of the Christian psychology.

That is why we suffer as we do, because we are followers of him.

1Pet. 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
1Pet. 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

1Pet. 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Rom. 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Rom. 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No comments: