The Suffering Christ

James Boyd

First Peter 3: 18, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins..." First Corinthians 2:2, "For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

In every generation since Pentecost God's children have been called upon to suffer for the sake of Christ. Second Timothy 2:3, "Thou therefore endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ. " Second Timothy 3: 12, “Yea, and all that will live godly shall suffer persecution." Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Our suffering should be for well doing rather than for doing evil. First Peter 3: 14, 17, "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled...For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” First Peter 4: 12-16, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

Suffering Unjustly

But when one thinks of suffering wrongfully, and for righteousness' sake, one must think of Christ. First Peter 2:21-25, "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 committeth himself to him that judgeth righteously; who his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

We can be encouraged when we meditate on the suffering of Christ. When we measure the extent of His sorrow, we are made ashamed that we complain of our own troubles. We are encouraged to bear with patience any hardship imposed upon us because of our convictions in the faith of Christ. We realize His suffering was motivated by His love for us and we are therefore inspired to live better in spite of persecutions.


There is much more to the suffering of Christ, His death on Calvary, than the suffering of a martyr for a cause even when the cause is just and noble. Many have suffered for noble causes. Christ suffered for a noble cause. But Peter presents a higher aspect of the Lord's suffering than that. Even in His suffering He proved (1) His superiority above all else, (2) the concern that He always has for mankind, (3) it was a necessary part of God's plan for saving mankind that He suffered as He did. We want to note three primary points in our text about the suffering of Christ. Our lesson is an attempt to preach Christ and Him crucified.

Peter presents a fact about the suffering of Christ when he said, “Christ also suffered for sins once.”This affirms the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. He died for sins and He died only once and that was all that was necessary.

His suffering and death is given prominence in the New Testament more than His birth, being mentioned more than any other single event. Some one hundred seventy five times there is reference to His death. Between twenty-five and thirty percent of the first four books of the New Testament are concerned with the last week of His life on earth before His death. It is apparent that the Holy Spirit, through the Word, desired that we know more about His death and suffering than most anything else about Him. He suffered for sins, carrying our sins in His body to the cross as a sacrificial victim. He is truly, “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29).


Again we give special emphasis of Scripture that He died once. Under the old Law of Moses sacrifices were made on a regular basis, some daily, some yearly. But the sacrifice of Christ was once (Hebrews 7:26,27; 9:25-28; 10:1-4). Being the final sacrifice, it was completely adequate to satisfy the God of heaven and was to never occur again. Being done once evidences the superiority of His sacrifice.

Romanism contends that the “mass” that is a part of their worship is the continual sacrifice of Christ. This is contradictory to the Scriptural affirmation regarding the one sacrifice of Christ.

It is according to God's plan for the redemption of man that the death of Christ provides sufficient power for the forgiveness of sin. Whereas sins were “rolled forward” year by year by the sacrifices under the Law of Moses, His sacrifice provided all that was needed to cleanse every heart and soul of every sin.

The Nature Of His Suffering

It is important that we understand the nature of His suffering. By this we mean it was a death of the righteous on behalf of the unrighteous. First Peter 3: 18, “...the just for the unjust...” First Peter 2:22, “Who did no sin...” Christ did not die for His own sins. He had none. Though tempted as we are, He was without sin {Hebrews 4: 15) .His death was for others inasmuch as “he by the grace of God should taste of death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9) .In the announcement to Mary of His coming birth she was told how “he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). Christ “gave himself a ransom for many.” (Second Timothy 2:6). He came into the world to save sinners (First Timothy 1: 15). His blood was shed “for the remission of sin.” (Matthew 26:28). First Corinthians 15:3,“ that Christ died for our sins…” Other passages that teach the same theme are Romans 8:3 and Romans 5:6-9. The truth is clearly established. Christ died for sins, though not His own, but for the sins of the whole world (First John 2:2).

His death is rightly called a vicarious death, meaning that it was on the behalf and for the benefit of another. He served as a substitute for sinful man. Somebody had to pay for sins and God provided His only begotten Son to stand in the stead of the guilty. The good died for the bad; the perfect on behalf of the imperfect, meaning mankind.

The text also reveals the purpose of His suffering in another way. “That he might bring us to God.” He was the atonement, which might be looked upon as the “at-one-ment.” He made it possible for us to be united with Deity and in fellowship. Sin is the barrier between God and man (Isaiah 59: 1,2), but Christ is “our peace.” (Ephesians 2: 14). In a sense, man declares war against God by sinning and there is need for reconciliation. God designed things that Christ would be the only way for man to be reconciled to God (John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2: 13).

Why This Plan?

But why did God devise this kind of plan? Could not God have devised some other way? There is no question that God could have made it possible for mankind to be saved any number of ways if He has seen fit to do so. The fact remains that He planned it through the death of Christ.

The defilement of sin is offensive to the Lord. His holiness, goodness, purity and nature demands that the sinner be separated from his sins. God's justice demands the sinner be punished. But His mercy requires that the sinner be given opportunity to live. His love said He would allow Jesus Christ to suffer in the stead of the guilty. The justice and mercy of God met at the cross of Christ (Romans 3:26). Only the spotless, sinless and perfect Being without blemish could have stoned for the sins of another. Only Deity would be sufficient for this. Therefore, Christ, as God's Son, took on the form of man, humbled Himself, became obedient to the death on the cross, that He, by death, might bring us to God (Philippians 2:7,8).

The fact that God so loved man that He sent Jesus to be sacrificed is the most powerful appeal that can be made to man to motivate him to come to God. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13). Yet, even while we were yet sinful, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). By His death He ransomed us from the grasp of Satan. Matthew 20:28, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”We sold our souls to Satan by sinning, and by His death He paid the ransom price for our redemption. He bought us with a price (First Corinthians 6:20) and that price was His blood (Acts 20:28).

Salvation Provided

Though His suffering has provided the way of salvation, we can benefit from His death only by coming to the blood of Christ and being washed in His blood. As the Psalmist wrote, "...wash me and 1 shall be whiter than snow.”(Psalm 51:7). In Revelation 7:14 the redeemed are said to have had their robes washed "and made them clean in the blood of the Lamb.” Isaiah had prophesied, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1: 18).

The way God has provided for mankind for reach the soul-cleansing blood of Christ is in obedience to the command to be baptized into His death (Romans 6:3,4), and this is when and where His blood was shed (John 19:34). God applies the blood of Christ to the sin-stained soul upon our obedience to His command and it is then we are raised to a newness of life, being born again, new creatures in Christ, having been washed by His blood. To refuse to obey is to discount His suffering and render it of no value or spiritual benefit to you. Each must decide to respect His sacrifice by rendering submission to the will of the Lord