Summary: Paul suffered persecution, hardship and imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the congregations which were under his spiritual care in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome.
Title: IIIA1? His Joy in Suffering for Them? (Colossians 1:24)
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” follow associated verses.
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Colossians 1:24 (NIV)
(Text) 1:24: Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
Paul suffered persecution, hardship and imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the congregations which were under his spiritual care in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. He often mentions his sufferings and tribulations, but he always boasts of his difficulties and trials because they were inflicted on him for the sake of the Gospel of Christ, which had been entrusted to him.
Paul tells the Colossian Christians to rejoice in his sufferings, and not to grieve about his imprisonment and difficulties, because persecution and sufferings were bound to come. Jesus had warned his disciples of the trials which awaited them. Believers in the Gospel were to be like lambs among wolves. They would be imprisoned and persecuted (Matthew 10:17-19). Paul tells the Colossians to make up for the sufferings that he had escaped. That is to say, his sufferings were nothing compared to those of Jesus Christ, who had died the death of a criminal. Paul is humble in comparing his sufferings with those of His Master. He did not consider beatings, hunger and imprisonment as enough. Paul was ready even to die on the Cross or to be beheaded for the sake of the ministry which God had entrusted to him. The afflictions of Paul are identified with the afflictions of Christ but are of a different intensity. Paul’s afflictions could add nothing to the finished work of Christ.
(1:24) “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
Now I will give you my translation of the verse: “That which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ are filling up in my flesh, but I am delighted to suffer the afflictions of Christ for His body’s sake, that is, for you, His church.” Paul is saying that it was necessary for him to fill up in suffering that which was lacking in the suffering of Christ. Isn’t that an interesting statement? I am sure that after reading this someone will say, “Doesn’t that contradict what you have been teaching all along? You said Christ suffered for us and paid the penalty for our sins and there is nothing we can do for salvation.” That’s very true, and this verse does not contradict that at all.
Paul was suffering in his body for the sake of Christ’s body. That seems to imply that there was something missing in the sufferings of Christ. A second implication could be that it was necessary for Paul and I think in turn for all believers, to make up that which is missing. In other words, when Paul suffers for them, it completes the suffering of Christ. What a striking concept that Paul’s sufferings, born on behalf of the Colossians, complete what is lacking in Christ afflictions, however, that idea is not limited to this passage (see 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; 4:12; 13:4; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13; 5:9; Revelation 1:9).
There is still another conclusion which has been drawn from 1:24; “fill up . . . what is lacking.” Paul was experiencing the persecution intended for Christ. In spite of His death on the Cross, Christ’s enemies had not gotten their fill of inflicting injury on Him. So they turned their hatred on those who preached the Gospel (John 15:18, 24; 16:1-3). It was in that sense that Paul filled up what was lacking in Christ afflictions.
If Colossians was written, in part, to establish the authority of those who continued Paul’s ministry, this purpose is largely accomplished here. To “rejoice in sufferings” echoes Paul’s tendency to see suffering, and even death, as nothing in comparison with the joy of being in Christ (Romans 8:18; Philippians 1:19-23). The notion that somehow Christ’s death might be inadequate was anathema to Paul (Galatians 2:21); it is inconceivable that such a claim was intended here. In this case, it is not Christ’s own sufferings that might be lacking, but rather the sufferings of Paul for the sake of Christ and the church. Paul did not mean that Christ’s suffering on the Cross was in any way insufficient (Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 10:10-14). He was not speaking of salvation but of service. Christ’s suffering alone procures salvation (1 Peter 1:11; 5:1; Hebrews 2:9). A Christian should never suffer as a thief or an evil doer, but it is a believers privilege to suffer for Christ (2 Timothy 3:11; 1 Peter 3:13-14; 5:9; Hebrews 10:32). The word “affliction”—never used in the New Testament when referring to Christ’s death—means “distress,” “pressure,” or “trouble” (which Paul had plenty of; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Ordinarily it refers to trials in life, not the pains of death.