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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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ENDURANCE.—The active qualities of perseverance and persistence, never absent from the biblical notion of endurance, form, in effect, the substance of the art. Activity, and need not be considered here. The passive aspect suggests an inquiry as to—

1. The causes of those trials which Christ had to endure.—Of (a) supernatural causes (1) the first, an all-inclusive cause, was the Divine will (John 10:18), recorded beforehand in OT Scriptures (Matthew 26:54, Mark 14:21, Luke 22:37; Luke 24:25 f.), and referred to constantly by Christ in words of resignation (Matthew 26:42, Luke 10:21), often under the figure of a ‘cup’ (Matthew 20:22; Matthew 26:39, John 18:11). (2) A second supernatural cause (under Divine permission) appears in the agency of Satan, acting both directly, in temptation and opposition (Matthew 4:3 ff; Matthew 13:39, Luke 10:18), and also oftener indirectly, through the weakness (Matthew 16:23, Luke 22:31) and wickedness (Luke 22:3; Luke 22:53, John 6:70; John 8:44; John 13:2) of men. These two causes, whether expressly referred to or not, are undoubtedly to be regarded as factors never absent (see John 19:11 and also John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, where the title ‘prince of this world’ is significant in this connexion).

(b) Internal causes (supernatural also, in a different sense) were not wanting. (1) The prophetic mission of Christ (John 12:46; John 18:37) made suffering and death morally inevitable at the hand of man (Luke 4:24; Luke 11:49 f., 13:33f., John 7:7), light and darkness being essentially opposed (John 3:19 f.; cf., for illustration, a remarkable passage in Plato, Rep. vii. 517 B, where a similar inevitability is declared even in the case of Socrates). (2) The revelation of His Divine nature, implied in His relationship to the Father’s Being (John 5:18; John 8:58; John 10:30 ff.) and prerogatives (Matthew 9:2, Luke 7:48 f.) was bound to provoke deadly hostility in unbelieving Jews (Matthew 26:65, John 19:7). It is at the same time clear, from Christ’s anxiety to avoid publicity (Matthew 12:16, Mark 7:36; Mark 8:26 etc.) and needless offence (Matthew 17:27), that persecution and death were not courted by Him.

(c) The external causes were more complex. (1) Many trials arose from the imperfections of His disciples; their dulness (Mark 8:15 ff; Mark 9:32, Luke 24:25), spiritual powerlessness (Matthew 17:16 f.), false zeal (Matthew 15:23; Matthew 16:23, Mark 9:38, Luke 9:54), mistaken aims (Mark 9:5; Mark 10:35 ff., Luke 22:24), and discreditable falls (Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:66 ff., Luke 22:47 f.). But (2) most arose from Christ’s rejection by ‘His own’ (John 1:11, Matthew 23:37, Mark 12:6 ff., John 5:43; John 19:15) from motives (which He well perceived, Matthew 9:4; Matthew 12:25, Mark 9:33 f., Luke 6:8, John 2:25) of fear (Matthew 8:34, John Joh_12:42 f., John 19:12), policy (John 11:49 f., Mark 15:15), gain (Matthew 26:14 f., Mark 10:22, Luke 16:14), envy (Matthew 21:38; Matthew 27:18, John 12:10), and hate (Luke 19:14, John 7:7; John 15:18; John 15:24); a rejection characterized in its display by indifference (Luke 14:18 ff.), ingratitude (Luke 17:17 f., John 5:15), contradiction (John 8:13), insult (Matthew 10:25; Matthew 12:24, Mark 15:32, Luke 7:34; Luke 22:63; Luke 23:11, John 8:48; John 9:24), treachery (Luke 11:53; Luke 20:20; Luke 22:48), injustice (Mark 14:55 f., John 19:4; John 19:10; John 19:18), violence (Luke 4:28 f., John 8:59; John 10:31), brutality (Luke 22:64, John 19:1-3 etc.), and death (John 19:18).

2. Some features of Christ’s endurance are vitally connected with fundamental doctrines of His person and work. (1) It was voluntary. Of this the emphatic statement in John 10:17 f. leaves no doubt. Such an utterance may be hard to parallel, but prudence would almost make it so; and the expressions used in Luke 9:31, John 7:33 f., John 8:21, John 13:31 seem to speak of a course equally spontaneous; indeed, in one case (John 8:22) a voluntary (i.e. a suicide’s) death is actually suggested as their meaning! (2) It was perfect. (a) Under suffering: for His spirit, words, and demeanour were admittedly supreme examples of His own teaching, e.g. upon submission (John 18:22 f., Matthew 5:39), retaliation (Luke 6:35; Luke 22:51), and love to enemies (Matthew 5:44 f., Luke 23:34). (b) Under temptation: otherwise it would be inexplicable that Christ should have urged repentance as a first essential for others (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 11:20 f, Matthew 21:38 ff., Luke 5:32; Luke 13:3; Luke 13:15, etc.), whereas He afforded no example of it in His own case. On the contrary, He laid claim to sinlessness both negatively (John 14:30) and positively (John 8:29), as unchallengeable (John 8:46). An intuitive perception of His sinlessness appears in the self-abasing awe of a few good men (Matthew 3:14, Luke 5:8) more convincingly than in the ambiguous testimony of many other observers (Matthew 27:3; Matthew 27:19, Luke 23:47, John 19:4 etc.). (3) It was human. Christ’s capability of human suffering is beyond question. No mention, indeed, is made of sickness in the ordinary sense; perhaps it is excluded; but all other bodily needs and infirmities were shared by Him (Matthew 4:2; Matthew 8:20; Matthew 8:24; Matthew 21:18, John 4:6 f., John 19:28). The emotions of His mind (Mark 3:5; Mark 7:34; Mark 10:14, Luke 19:41, John 11:35) and spirit (Luke 10:21, John 11:33; John 13:21) were evident from their outward traces, as well as from His own statements (Matthew 15:32, Luke 22:15, John 11:15). On two occasions He referred to those of His soul (John 12:27, Mark 14:34). That this capability of suffering was not counteracted by the exercise of miraculous power is proved by His reference to His ‘temptations’ (Luke 22:28), by His prediction of sufferings on the part of His disciples similar generally to His own (Mark 10:38 f.), by the shrinking of His human will (Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42, Luke 12:50, John 12:27), by His refusal to allay His own hunger miraculously (Matthew 4:3 f.), or to lessen His torments even by ordinary means (Mark 15:23), by His craving for the support of human sympathy (Mark 14:33 ff.), and by His reliance above all else upon the Father’s presence (John 8:29; John 16:32) and the spiritual support of prayer (Luke 6:12; Luke 9:18; Luke 9:28; Luke 11:1; Luke 22:41 etc.). As man He met temptation (Matthew 4:4), and overcame by faith (see John 11:41 f., Matthew 27:43, and also the important expression ‘my God,’ Matthew 27:46, John 20:17).

In some respects, however, His endurance differed essentially from that of believers. (1) It was free from the inherent tendencies of a sinful nature (John 14:30) and from the enslaving influence of sins committed (John 8:34-36). (2) It contained the additional elements of prescience and perfect consciousness. Predictions of suffering are numerous and detailed (Matthew 17:22 f., Matthew 20:18 f., Matthew 26:2, Mark 14:18; Mark 14:30, Luke 9:22; Luke 9:44; Luke 12:50; Luke 13:33; Luke 17:25; Luke 22:37 etc.). The knowledge (John 18:4) whereby He ‘saw’ and ‘tasted’ death (John 8:51 f., John 10:12) was complete. (3) Above all, the relation between the Passion of Christ and the sin of the world (John 1:29), symbolized by the supernatural darkness, laid on Him that infinite woe, almost amounting to despair (Mark 15:33 f.), the prospect of which was undoubtedly the main factor in the Agony and other forebodings.

3. There remain to be considered the purposes for the attainment of which Christ’s endurance was a necessity (Luke 24:26). In the trials and temptations of (a) His life, two such purposes are prominently visible: (1) the fulfilment of all righteousness (Matthew 3:15; Matthew 5:17), described as a progressive course through service and suffering (Luke 22:27 f., John 13:14; John 19:30), in which Christ met continually the Father’s approval (Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52, Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5, John 12:28), being declared to be the ‘Son of God’ ideally as well as actually. (2) The acquirement of sympathy; through experimental acquaintance with the weakness of the flesh (John 1:14, Matthew 26:41). Numerous instances might be given of the sympathy of Christ with human nature in its aspirations (Mark 10:21; Mark 10:38 ff., John 21:17), weakness (Matthew 12:15 ff.), weariness (Matthew 11:28, Mark 6:31), misery (Matthew 8:3), and shame (Matthew 11:19, Luke 15:1 f.). To Him, therefore, as ‘Son of Man,’ ideally as well as actually, is given authority to exercise pardon (Mark 2:10), legislation (Mark 2:28), and judgment (John 5:27). Lastly, the great purpose which involved the endurance of (b) His death is in the main so clear as to leave no room for doubt. It may be summed up in the words ‘forgiveness’ (Matthew 26:28), ‘redemption’ (Mark 10:45), and ‘removal of sin’ (John 1:29); to which, in John 11:50 ff., is added the gathering of all the children of God into one in Christ (cf. John 17:21 ff.), benefits potentially world-wide (John 1:29; John 6:51), but limited, in their highest realization, to believers (John 3:16 ff.). It need be no cause of surprise that these purposes are not more frequently enlarged upon in the Gospels, for they were incomprehensible to the disciples (and are remarked as such, Matthew 16:22, Luke 9:45; Luke 18:34, John 13:7) until after the Crucifixion had taken place.

4. It may be added that Christ warned His disciples in all ages to expect trials comparable in some measure to His own (Matthew 5:11 f., Matthew 10:24 f., John 15:17 ff.), and accompanied in many cases by decline and apostasy (Matthew 24:12; Matthew 24:48 ff.). Hence He marked endurance as a continual test of genuineness (Luke 8:13; Luke 8:15) and an indispensable requisite for final salvation (Matthew 24:13.). At the same time He declared a complementary truth, namely, the Divine preservation of His ‘own sheep’ (John 10:28 f, John 17:12, John 18:9, Mark 13:22), a privilege commonly described as the ‘perseverance of the elect.’ However stated, the antithesis of these two truths is plain. The assurance in John 10:28 f. is largely parallel to that in Matthew 16:18, except that the latter, the indestructibility of the Church, is more clearly collective in form. There are ‘branches’ (so it appears, John 15:2) even ‘in Christ’ that the Father takes away; moreover, the remarkable use of the imperative in John 15:4 suggests an element of conditionality in the abiding or perseverance referred to. The practical inference is intended to lie in a direction quite the opposite of false security and presumption (Matthew 7:22 f., Luke 13:24 ff; Luke 21:34 ff; Luke 22:32 ff.). ‘Perseverance is undoubtedly the privilege of the elect, but there is no infallible sign of the elect except their perseverance’ (Vaughan on Philippians 1:6).

F. S. Ranken.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Endurance'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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