Summary: The believers need to understand that no one is exempted from sacrificing for the sake of the Body of Christ
A. Our Submission to the Word of God
1. One of the differences between genuine Christianity and counterfeit Christianity is in the area of authority. Genuine Christianity believes that the Word of God, as contained in the 66 books of the Bible, is the final authority in matters of faith and practice. On the other hand, counterfeit Christianity insists that the Bible alone is not final. One has to consider some tradition and dogmas of the Church in his "Christian (?)" faith and practice.
2. The Herald of Grace Ministry believes and submits to the sole authority of the Bible in its faith and practice. We are one with the cry of the Reformation when we declare "Scriptura Tota, Scriptura Sola."
3. Our text today has puzzled me for how many days. Yesterday, I still was not able to get sufficient interpretation of this "difficult" passage. I was almost tempted to pass by this passage and proceed to the next chapter. But conscience kept me from doing it. I only found peace from God just this morning! And I praise Him because He did not allow His Word to remain blurred. And so today, let us enjoy as we feast of this "hard" but nutritious Bread of Life.
B. My Confusion
1. What confused me in the past few days is the statement of the Apostle Paul in verse 24 that says, "...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."
2. Isn’t the sacrifice of Christ at the Cross of Calvary complete? Isn’t the Salvation of mankind complete in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice or afflictions at the Cross? Why does the Apostle say that he fills up in his flesh what is still LACKING in regard to Christ’s afflictions?
3. There must be another interpretation in this passage aside from salvation, since the Scriptures do not contradict one another! Praise be to God, because this is really the case. We stand firm in our belief that Christians are saved by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And our salvation is complete; our destiny in heaven is secure. And all of these happened because of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice at the Cross.
II. Sacrifice and Mystery in the Body of Christ
1. What did Paul mean when he said, "...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?"
2. Christ’s afflictions or sacrifice mentioned in this verse does not refer to His afflictions at the Cross of Calvary, since that affliction was already perfect, enough, and sufficient for the salvation of mankind. The text does not give any hint that what is still lacking in regards to Christ’s afflictions is for the salvation of man. Instead, it is for the sake of His body - the Church (the already saved). The afflictions referred here are the sacrifices required of the saints in serving Christ. Ministry requires afflictions or sacrifices. History attests this fact. Our church fathers from the first century Christianity, the martyrs in the Reformation, and all the saints in the past all had their share of afflictions in the Body of Christ.
3. Learn from history how the early believers made sacrifices for their faith in Jesus Christ. Some were tortured, fed to the lions, imprisoned, killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The book of Acts alone records this fact.
4. In I Peter 2:9, the believers are described there as Royal Priesthood. What does it mean? It means that every believer has the privilege and responsibility of direct access to God.
5. In the Old Testament, the family of Aaron was designated as a priesthood to God. In the New Testament, that priesthood becomes the birthright of every Christian.
6. Like their Old Testament counterparts, believer-priests have the privilege of direct access to God.
7. However, with privilege comes a two-fold responsiblity - sacrifice and intercessory prayer.
8. What are the sacrifices required of every believer? They are:
a. his body (Romans 12:1,2)
b. His praise to God (Hebrews 13:15)
c. His substance (Romans 12:13)
d. His service (Hebrews 13:6)
The Christian ought also to pray on behalf of others (Colossians 4:12)
9. The sacrifices required in the ministry of the Church age are still lacking. There are still tribes and places that are not yet reached out for Christ. Oh, that the saints today would feel the gravity of what the Apostle Paul felt - the LACKINGNESS of the sacrifice for the sake of Christ’s body - the Church. Hence, "...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."