Colossians 1:24 and Suffering

You most likely found this site by googling, "Colossians 1:24" because you are either:
A.  Teaching on it tomorrow and looking for some last minute help
B.  Doing a personal study on the most difficult passages in the Bible
C.  Really, really bored and running a google search on every verse in the Bible

No matter how you got here, I thought I would share some of the thoughts I have come up with on this great, but confusing passage from the Bible.
{Adapted from my sermon at Calvary Church Santa Ana on October 2, 2011}.

Here is the verse: (NASB)
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions."

Paul is writing to the Colossians from Prison.
Why is he in prison?
He is not in there for any crime against humanity.
He is in prison b/c he preached Christ and Christ crucified…& in the process offended the religious & political leaders of the area.

Ironically, before he met Jesus,Paul was on the other side of the fence, being an active persecutor of  Christians. In fact he is recorded at being at the scene of the killing of the 1st martyr of the early Church (Stephen). When Paul b/comes a Christian, He was completely transformed.
(Just like many of us have been).

And He goes from hating Jesus and his followers
To being a leader of the movement and willingly suffering on behalf of Jesus & his followers.
May we be reminded thru Paul's story that no one is beyond God’s love and trans formative power!

Verse 24 tells us, Paul’s suffering,
“Fills up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction.”
What does this mean?It sounds rather odd at first glance…
It can’t mean that Jesus’ work on the cross is somehow unfinished or needs Paul’s help.
Paul has just spent the previous verses in Colossians 1 telling us how Christ is enough! 
Jesus is supreme, He has paid the full penalty for our sins thru His death & resurrection.
So what does Paul mean here in Verse 24, “Filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?

I believe Paul means,
The world misunderstands and hates Jesus.
Although Christ is not present physically to be mocked and persecuted by the world,
His followers are. So Christ continues to be persecuted by those who do not believe, thru the persecution of his followers. 
This is what Paul is filling up thru his physical suffering, the world’s desire to keep afflicting Jesus…
And it is not just Paul who suffers this way.

You may have heard this week about the case in Iran, where a judicial court has sentenced
Iranian Christian, Youcef Nadarkhani
To death for being a Christian, for proclaiming Christ…
3 Times the court has asked him to recant Christianity and 3 times Youcef has simply said, “I cannot.”

Just this week, President Obama has publicly condemned Iran for the planned execution,
And just yesterday, the Iranian gov’t created false charges of {rape and extortion} against Youcef just to get international pressure off of their backs…

It is is very difficult time for Christians in Iran.
But one thing I can guarantee you, is that as Youcef, sits on death row, he is being comforted and ministered to by the Lord.

For when we suffer for the sake of Christ and for his Church (as Paul did), we can identify with Jesus and better understand just exactly what he did on our behalf in going to the Cross. 
This ability to relate to Christ’s suffering, produces a fresh sense of Thanksgiving to the Lord,  
A renewed sense of gratefulness,and a deeper need for dependence and intimacy on the Lord. 
And I know like Paul, Youcef  rejoices over his suffering because of this.

I heard of a group of Korean Missionaries who were arrested and jailed in a Muslim country for proclaiming Christ.  After experiencing torture, solitary confinement and emotional and physical abuse, they were finally released.

A reporter caught up with them a few years later back in Korea and asked them,
“Do you just try to block out the memories of your persecution?”
They curiously responded, no, just the opposite,
“We often long to be back in that prison…
For our dependence and worship of God in that prison cell was so much more rich and more authentic than anything we have experienced since being released.”
Paul experiences this in his sufferings for Christ and this is why he can truly say, 

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions."

1 comment:

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