“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” Colossians 1:23-24 KJV
There a just a couple of items in these few verses that I want to highlight. The beginning of verse 23 was discussed in the last post, so please go there to read if needed. The first thing I want us to notice is that our gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of hope. The Greek word translated “hope” means expectation, firm, confident expectation. So it is a confidence in what He has accomplished for us that give us eternal, confident expectation for what tomorrow will bring. It is not a “hope” like we use the word today – that is more like a “wish.” That is not at all what is meant here. Instead, this good news of all the accomplishment of Christ for us brings a moment-by-moment expectation of all He has promised. This does not lead to despair, nor to depression. It leads instead to joy!
Paul has said in 1:6 that this gospel has come to all the world (as it did to them) and now he repeats that truth by saying that it had been preached to every creature under heaven. So that has been completed, at least once in this world.
Then he returns to the “joy” theme as he states that he rejoices in his personal suffering which is doing four distinct things: 1 – It is for them; 2 – It is filling up (or completing) what was still lacking in the afflictions of Christ; 3 – This is for Christ’s body’s sake; 4 – That body is the church. Now what he is talking about is the sufferings that he (and everyone who is a believer) suffered as a result of being a part of the body of Christ – the Church. This suffering is the body’s part. Christ completely purchased total redemption, forgiveness of sin, reconciliation, sanctification, and on and on. As a believer suffers for the cause of Christ, that is added to Him personally. We, His body, do suffer – everyone in one degree or another due to our faith in Him. That is natural in the Body we belong to. It is a part of the whole and a participation of each one of us in Christ’s afflictions. (Review Acts 9:4-6 where Paul encounters our Lord and the Lord asks him why was he persecuting Him when in fact, it was the Lord’s people that were being persecuted). Our suffering is “participatory” but not redemptive. Nothing in that process has been left undone, or “left behind” as Paul says here.
We can embrace the attitude he is talking about here and learn to rejoice in being misunderstood, disliked, left-out, looked-over, hurt, misused, and every other form of suffering that might happen. To turn that natural “sorry-for-self thinking” into the thinking that I can be joyful, even here, takes some mind training in the expectations of the Lord for us, in us, and with us. We begin to understand we are in Him, so it is not just us – it is Him being persecuted and mistreated. We share in that and that can bring us joy. So as He teaches us, let us learn openly to be glad when others do not appreciate us. That will immediately let go of any offense, and leave us in love for others – regardless. I did not say this is easy, and neither did Paul. But it is not only possible, but it also brings great rewards within its understanding. Thank you, Lord!
Thank you for reading.
Later this week: Becoming a “Manager of the Mystery.”