"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. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."
We can endure suffering but should we rejoice in it? Paul did and I think we can to. Shakespeare, in his play Henry V, depicts a scene where the English troops are about to engage a highly superior French army. In order to rally the troops their General Henry V gives this speech:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered--
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
In essence Henry tells his men that they should rejoice and count it an honor to fight, even if to die, on this day for it will be a story told for many generations. Then men who are at home asleep will miss out on the glory of being able to be remembered on this day.
The Apostle Paul was suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Some TV Preachers try to tell us it is a sin to suffer. That God wants you healthy, wealthy, and wise. Joel Osteen said, “The Bible clearly states, "God has crowned us with glory and honor.”…In other words, God wants to make your life easier. He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages. He wants you to have preferential treatment.” But Paul said in Colossians 1:24 that he rejoices in his sufferings. Let us remember that Paul is in jail in the city of Rome due to his preaching of the Gospel. So why would he rejoice at these circumstances?
Paul said when he suffers it fills up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions (v. 24). It is important to remember that the atonement of Christ is complete. As the third stanza of the hymn Rock of Ages says, "Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die." But the Bible affirms the same point.
- John 19:30, "Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."
- Matt. 5:17, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill."
- Col. 2:13-15, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him."
Do we really believe His work is finished?
- Catholics think Jesus must sacrifice himself at every mass. Transubstantiation is their doctrine that says the juice and bread of Communion literally become the real body and blood of Jesus.
- Jehovah Witnesses deny Jesus died on the cross & insisting one must be a member of the Watchtower Society.
- Mormons think we are saved by grace & works
i. 2nd Nephi 25:23—“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
- Islam denies Jesus died on the cross, Judas took his place, and that he was only a prophet
- Evangelical Christians preach the finished work of Christ but their methods seem to deny it.
ii. Diminishing the power of the Gospel & say it needs our help
(1) We attempt to use gimmicks, sales pitches, and promises of pragmatism to attract people. If that fails we can always market the church
iii. Unbiblical montras
(1) "Christians have to earn the right to share the gospel with someone." But is this what we see in the book of Acts? Did the original Gospel preachers spend an unruly amount of time gaining friends or did they simply preach the Gospel to real people when the opportunity arose?
(2) "Unbelievers need to see Jesus in you before they will hear what you have to say." People are believing all sorts of false things. It is true we need to have good characters but people are willing to follow truth even fi they hear it from a stranger.
(3) "People need to hear more than ‘Jesus can forgive your sins and give you eternal life.’ They need help with the real problems they're facing today." The real problem people need help with is their sin problem.
iv. Fail to distinguish service, help, & hospitality from evangelism. The church acts like if we do a Trunk or Treat, a Christmas Eve service, or some service project that we have done our evangelism for the year. But evangelism is generally done one-on-one. People might want to come to church with you because of your event but they need to hear the Gospel preached. What you win them with is what you win them to.
So if the atonement of Jesus is complete and there is nothing we can add then what is Paul filling up? Jesus did his part in accomplishing redemption but Paul, and others by extension, was doing his part by preaching the Gospel. Notice Colossians 1:25 says that Paul was "fully carrying out the preaching of the word of God". Literally it says he was filling up the word. Paul saw his ministry as an extension of Christ working in the world (cf. 2nd Cor 4:8-12).
What are the characteristics of the Word and how did Paul fill up the Word of God? Watch my sermon below to get the answers.