The Fellowship of His Suffering
by Asher Intrater
There is a place of deep intimacy that only comes through shared suffering.
This refers to the “godly” kind of suffering. There is another kind of suffering that comes from doing wrong and then reaping the results. Here I am speaking of suffering that comes from evil in the world attacking the innocent, and in its highest sense is suffering that comes from persecution because of serving the Lord.
This is called the “fellowship of His suffering”.
Philippians 3:10 – to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to the image of His death
This verse describes three areas of being conformed to the image of Yeshua.
The first is to know Him;
the second is to know the dynamic spiritual power that raised Him from the dead;
the third is to know the fellowship of His suffering.
- The word for fellowship is koinonia.
- The word for suffering is pathema, as in “passion, pathos, sympathy”.
- The word for conformed to the image is sug-morphos. Morph means form. “Sug” or “Sym” means together with as in sympathy, symphony, synergy, synchronize, etc.
Since Yeshua suffered as a righteous man in an evil world, and since we are called to follow after Him, there is a significant aspect of faith which is to experience suffering similar to that which He suffered.
We all recoil at the thought of suffering. Suffering itself is NOT a good thing in and of itself. However, when one suffers in a godly way, there is an emotional and spiritual intimacy with Yeshua. He suffered. You are sharing part of that experience with Him. It is the shared experience that is beautiful. Intimacy in the midst of suffering is precious. It is worth the price.
The experience of shared suffering is not only with Yeshua, but also with others who have suffered similarly. John calls this being a ‘companion in tribulation”.
Revelation 1:9 – I, John, your brother and companion in tribulation
This fellowship of suffering makes us to be more like Yeshua, and also to share the experience of suffering together. There is a place of unity – oneness - in that shared experience.
- The word for companion is sug-koinonos, which is the same as the word for “fellowship” but emphasized more by adding “sug” as in sug-morphos above.
- The word for tribulation is thlipsis, the same word throughout the New Covenant.
Yeshua told us to be encouraged, even though in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33). He did not pray for us to be taken out of the world but to be protected in it (John 17:15).
Recently, I had an experience with a dear friend. (I need to blur the details to protect the person’s safety and identity.) This person is a great leader and had suffered much persecution for his faith. We had a chance to meet recently in a secret location. At that time there was an imminent threat upon him. I went to give him a hug of affection and encouragement.
On my side, I had been through some difficult experiences that caused me to feel pain deep in my spirit. I couldn’t explain it to anyone. It was beyond words. In fact, I felt somewhat lonely in even carrying it. I thought to myself, “I’m sure he has experienced what I am experiencing and much more.” I also wanted to give him a hug just to “touch” a bit of that same place of pain.
At the moment I hugged him, something strange happened. I felt something come out of his heart that touched the place of pain in my heart. There was a supernatural impartation of healing. I could feel pain leaving. This moment was brief, but profound. The point of pain touched the other’s point of pain. There was a joining together in spirit, an impartation, a oneness, a “sug-koinonia”, a healing.
I walked away thinking about the expression from Isaiah 53:5 – by his wounds we are healed.
In Hebrew: בחבורתו נרפא לנו
By the wounds of Yeshua, our wounds are healed. Our wounds could not be healed if He was not willing to be wounded on our behalf. The place of His woundedness touches our place of woundedness; and heals us.
[The expression in Isaiah 53 is rather unique, and somewhat puzzling. The letter “bet” in the word for “wound” does not have a “dagesh” dot in it. With the dot it means “wound”, but without the dot it means “fellowship”. There is a word play in the text between wound and fellowship (habura and havura). We are healed by His wound and by fellowship with Him. Fellowship and wounding are just a dot away from one another.]
Let’s consider the meaning of being “grafted in” according to the parable of the olive tree in Romans 11:17-24. This parable describes Jew and Gentile being joined together into one olive tree. We are branches, grafted into the tree of faith. For a branch to be grafted, it needs to be cut. The inner part of the branch which is exposed can be joined into the tree which also has been exposed.
A portion of bark must be removed. You cannot graft two branches together if the bark is still on. This parable implies that our place of openness and woundedness is where we can be joined together. The price of becoming one is to expose and touch one another’s points of pain.
Through the grafting we experience the fatness or richness of the root that flows through the sap (Romans 11:17). The sap doesn’t flow outside the bark; it flows through the inner, softer, more delicate, wet wood. As we are joined, we are also able to receive one another’s blessing. There is an exchange of life flow.
This is similar to what is called “circumcision of the heart” - Romans 2:29, Colossians 2:11, Jeremiah 4:4, Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6. In faith, we open our heart to God and to one another. The heart must be cut in order to be opened.
Physical circumcision is done with a sharp scalpel. Heart circumcision is done by the spear that pierced Yeshua’s side on the cross (John 19:34, Zechariah 12:10). His crucifixion is the cut of our heart circumcision.
This is the mystery of the cross and of our fellowship in His suffering.