“Now I rejoice for what was suffered for you and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of the body, which is the church.” Colossians 1:24
I couple of questions come to my mind as I read this verse: 1. What was lacking in Christ’s sufferings? 2. How does the suffering of Paul make up for this lack? 3. How does this apply to us today?
To answer these questions, we must step back and take a look at the Big Picture. If you read this passage in context, you see that Paul saw himself on a journey to deliver the Mystery to all men, “completing them in Christ.” (v.28) There was a concept at the time of Christ, that only special people should hear the Gospel or any teaching for that matter. Paul takes the rather courageous step to state that this Gospel is for all men, all women everywhere, not just for a chosen people. That’s the big picture.
This verse does not say that there was anything lacking in the atoning work of Christ. It says that when Jesus went home to the Father, there was still work to be done, but not work to complete the atonement. The atonement work is done once and for all on the cross. What Paul is addressing here is that Jesus Christ handicapped Himself by deciding to use the body of Christ to finish the work of getting the Gospel to the nations. There has been lots of suffering over the years to preach the Gospel to all the world.
Paul went through lots of suffering to get the Word out, but what he is referring to here seems to be his imprisonment. This allowed him time to write the letters that we have today! No imprisonment, probably no letter to the Colossians. So the answer to question 2 is simple that Paul’s suffering and imprisonment helps to complete the task of getting the Word to all people.
How does this apply to us today? My back is hurting today from an old automobile accident. But I do not get to use this pain and say I am completing the suffering of Christ. This applies to us today in our willingness to “suffer” inconvenience, embarrassment or getting a reputation as we try to share Christ with people around us. We do this in a loving, caring way, like one beggar showing another beggar where to find food.
What suffering are you encountering in your life because you are attempting to get the mystery out to others?