A Believer Must Commit To Suffer

Taking up our cross and following Jesus will require some “suffering!” A cross always involves suffering and to allow one’s self to suffer will require a firm commitment! Are you aware that a part of the Christian calling is a call to fellowship the sufferings of Christ? What does the Word say? “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Phil. 1:29. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Pet. 2:21-23. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” 1 Pet. 4:1-2. “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” 2 Tim. 2:11-12.

We enter into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and become “dead with Him” when we commit to crucify [mortify; control] our flesh on the cross of self-denial. This is what Peter meant when he said, “he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” We cease from sin by the way of the cross. The cross becomes our gateway to sharing in, and partaking of, Christ’s abundant grace and abundant life, as we fellowship [partake of] His sufferings. As Paul said, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 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; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:7-12. In verses 17 and 18 of this same chapter Paul exhorts: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” A Christian brother from Nigeria, West Africa recently commented as follows (in regards to verse 18) in a posting he made on Facebook:

“Remember, Paul said ‘enemies of the cross;’ not ‘enemies of Christ. …These enemies … claim to love Christ … they pray to Him, they talk about Him, and may even be benevolent enough to preach about Him. …[But] these persons Paul talked about here hate the cross. They do no want the burden of Christ. …As you cannot separate the shell from the snail, so you cannot [truly] love Christ without loving the cross. The cross means burdens, discipline, [and] restrictions for the cause of Christ. Many would say, ‘I love Jesus,’ but they are not ready to live the life of Christ. …Don’t hate the cross, because it is the cross you will exchange for a crown on the Day of Judgment. If you have no cross, you will have no crown!”

– Ezekiel Efeobhokhan (condensed and edited)

Brother Ezekiel has well stated the truth! Consider also James’ words, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8) and “Purify your hearts, ye double minded” (see James 4:8). Double-minded people are people who find it difficult to follow a commitment through to the end. They are only willing to suffer up to a certain point, and if the going gets too rough, they will change their mind and decide to take another course. They will not maintain that devotion and commitment [love] that “suffereth long,” “beareth all things, endureth all things,” and “never faileth” (see 1 Cor. 13:4, 7-8). This is why so many marriages today fall apart and end in divorce.

(Unfortunately, this generation has not been taught the value of committing to suffer for a cause.) Somewhere along the journey of life suffering often becomes involved in a relationship, and self-denial is required, that was not expected at the beginning of the commitment. Then (finding themselves really committed only for the “better” and not for the “worse”), one spouse or the other, or perhaps both, have a change of mindset. They begin looking for an easy way out – whatever path bypasses self-denial and suffering. Unwilling to drink the bitter with the sweet, they draw back from their commitment and allow their minds and affections to go out in other directions.

This is also why many believers who make a start in the Christian race do not follow their commitment through to the end and come out winners. To be a winner in the Christian race we must see to it that our hearts are purged, and kept purged, from all double-mindedness. This is our personal responsibility. [You] “purify your hearts, ye double minded.” We must see to it that we remain committed. We must do whatever it takes to maintain singleness of heart toward God. We must keep our eyes on the goal. We must not allow our minds or our affections to be diverted by the attractive things the devil places along side our pathway to decoy us from the strait and narrow way of the cross. We must be willing to be a partaker of Christ’s sufferings, whatever that may entail, and to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,” and “run with patience the race that is set before us,” keeping our eyes on “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (see Heb. 12:1-2). We must put forth a concentrated effort to follow Him, pattern our lives after Him, and cultivate our relationship with Him, just as spouses must put forth a concentrated effort to follow through with their commitment and to keep their marriages fresh and intact.

Here, I would like to quote the words of another faithful fellow pilgrim, whom I dearly love in the Lord. He comments as follows on Philippians 3:7-14, 2 Peter 1:5-10, and 2 Peter 3:10-14. We will do well to take heed to these words of wisdom:

“The grace of God that brought salvation for mankind through our Lord Jesus Christ affords a bright and blessed hope and expectation. This hope proves to be an anchor for our souls through the toils, sorrows, and adversities of this mortal life. It greatly helps us to bear with courage and faith whatever we meet along the way. We must remember and be aware of the responsibilities that attend our possession of this hope. In the scriptures referenced above we have these solemn and yet joyful requirements presented by the writings of these two apostles: Paul and Peter.

“In Paul’s epistle to the Philippians we have the things that we need to diligently attend to in our pursuit of the crown of glory. Paul said that he suffered the loss of all things and counted them as worthless trash so that he could win, or truly possess, Christ. To be found in Him with the righteousness of faith; to know (learn and get fully acquainted with) Him; to experience the power of His resurrection; to fellowship His suffering; and to die as Christ had died – all of this he was seeking to attain in pursuit of the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ. He also stated that he did not count himself to have yet gained it but was pressing toward it for the prize.

“In 2 Peter 1, we who have obtained this like precious faith are counseled to add to our faith the things that are so vital to gain entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord. Consider carefully and earnestly these valuable assets to success in serving God: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. By having these spiritual assets abounding in us we will make our calling and election sure.

“Then our third scripture points us to that final awful day of the coming of our Lord, the destruction of this fleeting material world and the new heaven and new earth. We are hereby exhorted to ‘be diligent that we may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.’

“We need to diligently consider the objective presented in these scriptures! This matter of having a home in heaven has many more solemn requirements and responsibilities than so many people in darkness and ignorance are aware of. ‘Oh, just believe in the Lord Jesus and accept Him as your personal Savior!’ is the theme of many people in our age. Many churches hold to this standard. The Holy Scriptures present a much greater and more serious challenge for us. It is more than just a “head” faith. We must follow the example of our Lord Jesus in His obedience, suffering, and sacrifice of His life if we are to share in the blessed resurrection from the dead that Christ gained. We must possess (not just profess) Christ, be found in Him (not about Him), know Him personally in His light, experience the power of His resurrection, suffer as He suffered, and be willing to die as He died. This is what Paul clearly believed. Peter gave us the list of things we need to possess along with our faith if we hope to have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of Christ.

“How wonderful it will be in the resurrection of the dead in that last great day to … awake with His likeness! This is the true mark that we must press toward for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus! The New Testament abounds with counsel and instruction of how to successfully attain to this glorious hope. This is what we must be conscious of as we come to the Lord for forgiveness and victory over sin and the world.

Even David, in Psalm 17, had fully in mind this blessed hope. As he did, so we must pray for God to deliver us from wickedness and sin and from unholy association with the wicked. To awake in that great resurrection in this order, we must press and do all that is required in God’s Word. ‘As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.’” (1 Pet. 1:14-15)

– Leslie Busbee [edited]

How true, how true! Let us now consider more quotations from the early church fathers, and see how closely they agreed with this sentiment and teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles:

Quotations From the Early Church Fathers Relative to Eternal Security

“We ought therefore, brethren, carefully to inquire concerning our salvation. Otherwise, the wicked one, having made his entrance by deceit, may hurl us forth from our life.” – Barnabas, AD 70-130.

“The whole past time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger. … Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called, we fall asleep in our sins. For then, the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, will thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. … And you should pay attention to this all the more, my brothers, when you reflect on and see that even after such great signs and wonders had been performed in Israel, they were still abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found to be, as it is written, the ‘many who are called,’ but not the ‘few who are chosen.’” – Ibid

[Notice how the above quotation from Barnabas harmonizes with Jude 5-6.]

“Let us then practice righteousness so that we may be saved unto the end.” – Second Clement, AD 150.

“We should fear ourselves, least perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but are shut out from His kingdom. And for that reason, Paul said, ‘For if [God] spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest He also not spare you.’” – Irenaeus, AD 180.

“It was not to those who are on the outside that he said these things, but to us – lest we should be cast forth from the kingdom of God, by doing any such thing.” – Ibid.

“Knowing that what preserves his life, namely, obedience to God, is good, he may diligently keep it with all earnestness.” – Ibid.

“Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons.” – Ibid.

“He who hopes for everlasting rest knows also that the entrance to it is toilsome and narrow. So let him who has once received the Gospel not turn back, like Lot’s wife, as is said – even in the very hour in which he has come to the knowledge of salvation. And let him not go back either to his former life (which adheres to the things of sense) or to heresies.” – Clement of Alexandria, AD 195.

“It is neither the faith, nor the love, nor the hope, nor the endurance of one day; rather, ‘he that endures to the end will be saved.’” – Ibid.

“God gives forgiveness of past sins. However, as to future sins, each one procures this for himself. He does this by repenting, by condemning the past deeds, and by begging the Father to blot them out. For only the Father is the one who is able to undo what is done. … So even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him. For at the climax of the drama, he has given up his part.” – Ibid.

“The world returned to sin … and so it is destined to fire. So is the man who after baptism renews his sins.” – Tertullian, AD 198.

“We ought indeed to walk so holily, and with so entire substantiality of faith, as to be confident and secure in regard to our own conscience, desiring that it may abide in us to the end. Yet, we should not presume [that it will]. For he who presumes, feels less apprehension. He who feels less apprehension, takes less precaution. He who takes less precaution, runs more risk. [Godly] fear is the foundation of salvation. Presumption is an impediment to fear. … More useful, then, is it to apprehend that we may possibly fail, than to presume that we cannot. For apprehending will lead us to fear, fear to caution, and caution to salvation. On the other hand, if we presume, there will be neither fear nor caution to save us.” – Ibid.

“[The Valentinians claim] that since they are already naturalized in the brotherly bond of the spiritual state, they will obtain a certain salvation – one which is on all accounts their due.” – Tertullian, AD 200.

“Some think that God is under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy what He has promised [to give]. So they turn His liberality into His slavery. … For do not many afterwards fall out of [grace]? Is not this gift taken away from many? These, no doubt, are they who, … after approaching to the faith of repentance, build on the sands a house doomed to ruin.” – Tertullian, AD 203.

“God had foreseen … that faith – even after baptism – would be endangered. He saw that most persons – after obtaining salvation – would be lost again, by soiling the wedding dress, by failing to provide oil for their torches.” – Tertullian, AD 213.

By “oil for their torches” he is probably referring to the five foolish virgins, Matt. 25:1- 13.

“A man may possess an acquired righteousness, from which it is possible for him to fall away.” – Origen, AD 225.

“Certain ones of those [heretics] who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost.” – Ibid.

Does that not sound familiar? Do you ever hear anyone talk like that today? Evidently, this heretical dogma is almost 1800 years old! If orthodox Christians rejected it and took a stand against it almost 1800 years ago, should we not do the same today?

Let us continue examining the teachings of the early church fathers:

“He who has not denied himself, but denied Christ, will experience the saying, ‘I also will deny him.’” – Origen, AD 245.

“Being a believing man, if you seek to live as the Gentiles do, the joys of the world remove you from the grace of Christ.” – Commodianus, AD. 240.

“There remains more than what is yet seen to be accomplished. For it is written, ‘Praise not any man before his death.’ And again, ‘Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.’ And the Lord also says, ‘He that endures to the end, the same will be saved.’” – Cyprian, AD 250.

“You are still in the world. You are still in the battlefield. You daily fight for your lives. So you must be careful, that … what you have begun to be with such a blessed commencement will be consummated in you. It is a small thing to have first received something. It is a greater thing to be able to keep what you have attained. Faith itself and the saving birth do not make alive by merely being received. Rather, they must be preserved. It is not the actual attainment, but the perfecting, that keeps a man for God. The Lord taught this in His instruction when He said, ‘Look! You have been made whole. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’ … Solomon, Saul, and many others were able to keep the grace given to them so long as they walked in the Lord’s ways. However, when the discipline of the Lord was forsaken by them, grace also forsook them.” – Ibid.

Notice how these early church fathers quoted from many of the same scriptures I have already quoted in this present writing. Cyprian continues:

“I ask … that you will grieve with me at the [spiritual] death of my sister. For in this time of devastation, she has fallen from Christ.” – Cyprian, AD 250.

“Whoever that confessor is, he is not greater, better, or dearer to God than Solomon. Solomon retained the grace that he had received from the Lord, as long as he walked in God’s ways. However, after he forsook the Lord’s way, he also lost the Lord’s grace. For that reason it is written, ‘Hold fast that which you have, lest another take your crown.’ Assuredly, the Lord would not threaten that the crown of righteousness might be taken away if it were not that the crown must depart when righteousness departs. … ‘He that endures to the end, the same will be saved.’ So whatever comes before the end is a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation…” – Ibid.

“To anyone who is born and dies, is there not a necessity at some time … to suffer the loss of his estate? Only let not Christ be forsaken, so that the loss of salvation and of an eternal home would be feared.” – Ibid.

“We pray that this sanctification may abide in us. For our Lord and Judge warns the man who was healed and quickened by Him to sin no more – lest a worse thing happen to him. So we make this supplication in our constant prayers, … that the sanctification and quickening that is received from the grace of God may be preserved by His protection.” – Ibid.

There is need of continual prayer and supplication so that we do not fall away from the heavenly kingdom, as the Jews fell away, to whom this promise had first been given.” – Ibid.

“Let us press onward and labor, watching with our whole heart. Let us be steadfast with all endurance; let us keep the Lord’s commandments. Thereby, when that day of anger and vengeance comes, we may not be punished with the ungodly and the sinners. Rather, we may be honored with the righteous and with those who fear God.” – Ibid.

“Those who are snatched from the jaws of the devil and delivered from the snares of this world, should not return to the world again, lest they should lose the advantage of their leaving it in the first place. … The Lord admonishes us of this in His Gospel. He taught that we should not return again to the devil and to the world. For we have renounced them and have escaped from them. He says, ‘No man looking back after putting his hand to the plough is fit for the kingdom of God.’ And again, ‘Let him that is in the field not return back. Remember Lot’s wife.’ … So we must press on and persevere in faith and virtue. We must complete the heavenly and spiritual grace so that we may attain to the palm and the crown. In the book of Chronicles it says, ‘The Lord is with you so long as you also are with him; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.’ Also in Ezekiel: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not deliver him in whatever day that he may transgress.’ Furthermore, in the Gospel, the Lord speaks and says: ‘He that endures to the end, the same will be saved.’ And again: ‘If you will abide in my word, you will be my disciples indeed.’” – Ibid.

“Even a baptized person loses the grace that he has attained, unless he remains innocent. In the Gospel according to John: ‘Look, you are made whole. Sin no more, lest a worse thing happens to you.’ [John 5:14]. Also, in the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: ‘Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of god abides in you? If anyone violates the temple of God, God will destroy him.’ [1 Cor. 3:16, 17].” – Ibid.

“The Holy Spirit always abides with those who are possessed of Him, so long as they are worthy. … The Holy Spirit remains with a person so long as he is doing good, and he fills him with wisdom and understanding.”– Apostolic Constitutions, compiled AD 390.

These are just a few quotations from the early church fathers. I could give more, but I don’t want to weary my readers by being too tedious. These quotations that I’ve given are surely enough to convince any honest person of what the true teachings of the primitive church were regarding this subject. Anyone who would close their eyes to these writings and look another direction would certainly be one who is determined to believe what he wants to believe in spite of the facts!