So, as I’ve stated before, I’m currently working on an essay that examines Ignatius’ suffering in light of Pauline suffering. To do this, I have to clearly articulate what we learn about Paul’s understanding of suffering from his letters. Right now, I’m trying to think of texts to examine this. Philippians will definitely play a large role in my construction, but 2 Corinthians will also likely play a big role. There also seem to be little germs spread out in other letters where suffering isn’t an explicit theme, like Romans 8:17, Colossians 1:24, Ephesians 3:13, Galatians 6:17, and throughout Thessalonians.
Baptism seems to play a large part in Paul’s theology of suffering. In baptism, we participate in the passion, the death and resurrection of Christ. In baptism, we have been “crucified with Christ,” (Gal 2:20), and are “clothed with Christ” (Gal 3:27). Paul goes into more depth in Romans. In understanding suffering, I think we have to understand the participation language in Paul, and not simply think in forensic terms like Protestants typically do. That’s to say that while there is a large amount of legal terminology in Paul, where something is done by God for the sinner, there’s also quite a bit of participation language in Paul. When taken into account, this means that the sufferings of Christ are not only something done for us, but also something which we ourselves participate in to some degree. This is seen in Philippians 3, among other places, “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Of course, the justification language in Paul is very important as well, but I don’t think we’ll correctly understand Paul’s ethics, and especially his views on suffering, without understanding the participation of the believer in Christ.