Paul said, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Col. 1:24-29.
The value of this little paragraph (Col. 1:24-29) is in providing gospel preachers insight as to the work they are to perform. It also points out the sacrifices that must be made for one to be a faithful proclaimer of the Word. Paul rejoiced in his sufferings for the church (v. 24). He was entrusted with the gospel (v. 25). He was a steward of the gospel (1 Th. 2:4; Gal. 1:6-12). He preached all of the gospel, “fully carrying out preaching of the word of God” (v. 25 NASV). Paul preached the “mystery hidden from ages and from generations” (v. 26). This mystery was “Christ in you the hope of glory” (v. 27). It was the aim of the apostle Paul to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). There was a two-fold emphasis in Paul’s preaching: (a) “warning every man”; (b) “teaching every man” (v. 28)
Some powerful words are used by Paul in verse twenty-four: “sufferings”, “afflictions”, “rejoice”. Keep in mind Paul was a Roman prisoner when he penned these words. Try to catch the image of a man in chains (Acts 21:17-28:31). This fact alone would have caused his enemies great delight. However, he “rejoiced” that he was “counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41). He had fellowship in the sufferings of Christ (Phi. 3:10). Not only did he suffer, he endured “afflictions”. This has reference to the pressures and persecutions of life (2 Co. 4:8-10).
How could he “rejoice” in the midst of all this suffering and ill treatment? One answer is in the fact that he had his eyes on the prize (Phi. 3:12-14; 2 Co. 4:16-18). He was looking beyond his present circumstances to a superior reward (Rom. 8:18). He rejoiced because of his love for the Gentiles (Phi. 1:7-8). The brethren in Christ were in his heart and he was willing to suffer for them (Phi. 2:17-18). He became what Peter described as a “partaker of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pe. 4:12). It is the case that every faithful Christian will endure some degree of suffering (Mat. 5:10-12; 2 Ti. 3:12).
Paul rejoiced in his sufferings for the sake of the church. He had been told he could suffer (Acts 9:16). To the Colossians he wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col. 1:24). The “now” looks back over the past of the Lord’s dealings with him. His sufferings were manifold and were more than that of imprisonment. While they were endured for Christ’s sake, they were for the benefit of the Colossian believers, who would not have received spiritual help had it not been for what he suffered and was suffering. (WEV 347)
All of the apostles suffered greatly. They were “as men doomed to death”; they were “made a spectacle unto the world” (1 Co. 4:9). Paul was no exception. He outlined his sufferings to the Corinthian brethren (2 Co. 11:24-27).
What is meant when the apostle wrote that he suffered “to fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col. 1:24)? It is not being suggested that there was anything lacking in the value of Jesus’ death. He died as a sacrifice for all men and in so doing appeased the wrath of God (John 1:29; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pe. 2:24; Isa. 53:1-12; Rom. 5:6-9). Hendrickson notes: “We should bear in mind that although Christ by means of the afflictions which he endured rendered complete satisfaction to God, so that Paul is able to glory in nothing but the cross (Gal. 6:14), the enemies of Christ were not satisfied! They hated Jesus with insatiable hatred, and wanted to add to his afflictions. But since he is no longer physically present on earth, their arrows, which are meant especially for him, strike his followers. It is in that sense that all true believers are in his stead supplying what, as the enemies see it, is lacking in the afflictions which Jesus endured. Christ’s afflictions overflow toward us.” (Hendrickson 87) “Paul’s motivation for enduring suffering was to benefit and build Christ’s church.” (MacArthur 2600)
Let's preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. May the Lord bless you and keep you!
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