The Pattern of Christlikeness
The more the Apostle Paul endured persecution and affliction, the more he was shaped into his Redeemer’s likeness, the One who died and rose for him. In this brief clip, Sinclair Ferguson notes that our union with Christ is to follow this same pattern.
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Turn back a few chapters to 2 Corinthians 4. In 2 Corinthians 4, and especially verses 10, 11 and 12, he’s speaking about the sufferings he goes through, “We’re persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed.” And then, think about this description of him and this description of you. “We are always carrying in the body,” literally, “the dying of Jesus.” He doesn’t use the word “death;” he used the word “dying.” “We’re always carrying around in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” Where did he get that from? He got that from Stephen, didn’t he? Stephen in his death is Christ-like, carrying in his body his union and communion with the crucified Savior, always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus. And the result? The life of Jesus being manifested in his body. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” So here is the explanation. Death in union with Christ—my sufferings, the persecution I experience, the afflictions I go through—death is at work in us in order that life may be at work in you. He’d learned that through Stephen, hadn’t he, and it was the characteristic feature of the whole of his Christian life. Now, friends, this could be a very discouraging word to us: “Do you mean that’s what I’m going to experience in the Christian life? Don’t you have something more cheerful to say to me?” Well, I have something really cheerful to say to you. As you carry around in your mortal body the dying of Jesus, the life of Jesus will be manifested in you. Now, why does God do it this way? Because this is the way He did it in Jesus, isn’t it? It was through His suffering and dying that He bore fruit, and He’s transforming us into His likeness to bear fruit. And so, He’s going to use the same pattern. He doesn’t have a better pattern. That’s the pattern—if I had put it this way—that’s the pattern that works. To transform us into the likeness of Christ, God uses the pattern that He used with Christ. And so, we embrace Him. And as we embrace Him, it is as though some of His blood will come upon our clothing, and the power of the resurrection will be seen in our lives. And these are lenses. When we view the whole of our Christian lives through these lenses, we will see that pattern working out, sometimes in very small ways, very minute ways. We will need well-crafted lenses to see that pattern. We may not understand fully where and when and why. But if we are united to Christ, this will begin to work out in our lives.