I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, NKJV
24 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 that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, NASB
Paul wrote this book from prison in Rome during the last years of his life. He knew all about ministry and he knew all about suffering. And although he had suffered much he is not bitter about it. He was actually happy that he could suffer for Jesus. We remember Paul’s commission given to Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." Acts 9:15-16 NKJV
Let us then look more closely at this passage.
I. I Now Rejoice in My Sufferings
A. Sufferings refers to his present imprisonment (Acts 28:16, 30), from which he wrote Colossians. Paul could rejoice despite his imprisonment because he always viewed himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ, not the Roman Empire (cf. Philem. 1, 9, 23). MacArthur's New Testament Commentary
B. Since the relationship between sufferings and being happy is essentially one of cause and effect, it may be important to make this quite explicit, for example, "my sufferings on your behalf have caused me to be happy" or "I am happy that I may now suffer for you." This may be far more meaningful than to say "happy about my sufferings." (from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright (c) 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies)
C. Now I rejoice (nun chairomen). This is not a new note for Paul. See him in jail in Philippi (Acts 16:25) and in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33; Romans 5:3; Philippians 2:18. Robertson Word Pictures
1. Acts 16:25-26 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. NKJV
2. 2 Cor 11:16-33 I say again, let no one think me a fool. If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little. 17 What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast. 19 For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! 20 For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. 21 To our shame I say that we were too weak for that! But in whatever anyone is bold — I speak foolishly — I am bold also.
3. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? — I speak as a fool — I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness — 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
4. 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands. NKJV
5. Rom 5:3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; NKJV
6. Phil 2:17-18 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. NKJV
D. The early church considered it a privilege to suffer for the name of Christ. In Acts 5:41, the apostles “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” To the Philippians Paul wrote, “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). Why was suffering a cause for joy? The New Testament suggests at least five reasons.
1. First, suffering brings believers closer to Christ. Paul wrote, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Suffering in the cause of Christ yields the fruit of better understanding of what Jesus went through in His suffering.
2. Second, suffering assures the believer that he belongs to Christ. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Because “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master” (Matt. 10:24), we will suffer. Paul warned Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Peter tells suffering Christians, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). Suffering causes believers to sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, which gives assurance of salvation.
3. Third, suffering brings a future reward. “If indeed we suffer with [Christ] in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:17-18). “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
4. Fourth, suffering can result in the salvation of others. Church history is filled with accounts of those who came to Christ after watching other Christians endure suffering.
5. Fifth, suffering frustrates Satan. He wants suffering to harm us, but God brings good out of it. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary
E. Jesus is everyone’s example. Hebrews 12:1 - 3 (NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
F. But in Christ, affliction points to good news. As Jesus suffered on Friday, he rose on Sunday. Christians called to endure hardship for the sake of Christ (and this includes even personal suffering like cancer and car accidents) endure their affliction with the assurance that Sunday comes: restoration and resurrection, eternal life. Because Christ guarantees our resurrection, we can handle anything until then. Life Application Bible Commentary
II. For You
A. How is it that although he had never been to Colosse he could claim to be suffering for them.
1. Paul’s ministry went far beyond his personal appearance.
2. As he instructed Timothy so he had done, to commit the teachings of the gospel to faithful men who would commit them to others also.
B. Paul did not mind suffering on others behalf but it was his calling. He once said that he endured all things for the sake of bringing people to Jesus.
1. 2 Tim 2:9-10 9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. NLT
III. And Fill up in My Flesh What Is Lacking in the Afflictions of Christ
A. Paul’s words, I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, did not mean that Christ’s suffering was inadequate to save people. Paul believed that Christ’s suffering on the cross alone paid for believers’ salvation from sin: “All have sinned … and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:23-25 niv). (See also 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Galatians 1:4; Colossians 2:13-14.) Life Application Bible Commentary
B. That which is behind, [ta (NT:3588) hustereemata (NT:5303)] - 'the deficiencies'-all that are lacking of the afflictions of Christ (note, 2 Cor 1:5).
1. Christ is 'afflicted in all His people's afflictions' (Isa 63:9).
2. 'The Church is His body, in which He is, dwells, lives, and therefore also suffers' (Vitringa).
3. Christ was destined to endure certain afflictions in this figurative body, as well as in His literal; 'that which was behind of these afflictions of Christ,' Paul 'filled up.' Christ's meritorious sufferings in expiation for sin were once for all completely filled up on the cross, and need not supplementing; but His Church (His second Self) has her complete measure of afflictions fixed, which He regards as His. The more Paul, a member, endured, the less remain for the rest of the Church, the communion of saints giving them an interest in His sufferings (1 Cor 12:26).
4. She is afflicted, to promote her completeness in Christ. Not one suffering is lost (Ps 56:8).
5. Rome's inference is utterly false, that the Church has a stock treasury of the merits and satisfactions of Christ and His apostles, out of which she dispenses indulgences: the context has no reference to sufferings in expiation of sin and productive of merit. (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
C. In what sense were Paul’s sufferings filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? In that Paul was receiving the persecution that was intended for Christ. Jesus, having ascended to heaven, was out of their reach. But because His enemies had not filled up all the injuries they wanted to inflict on Him, they turned their hatred on those who preached the gospel. It was in that sense that Paul filled up what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions. MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary
D. Roman Catholics have imagined here a reference to the suffering of Christians in purgatory. Christ’s suffering, they maintain, was not enough to purge us completely from our sins. Christians must make up what was lacking in Christ’s suffering on their behalf by their own suffering after death. That can hardly be Paul’s point, however. He has just finished demonstrating that Christ alone is sufficient to reconcile us to God (1:20-23). MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary
E. Christ’s afflictions refer to the mystical union between Paul and Christ and between Christ and the church. This view shows the corporate identity of Paul and Christ, as well as between the church and Christ. That union is best expressed in Paul’s words that the church is Christ’s body. What Paul suffered, Christ suffered, because Paul was a member of Christ’s body on earth. What Christ began as suffering with his persecution and rejection on earth, all believers complete in his continuing body on earth. This view seems most likely because it stresses that the cause of the suffering would be the extension of the gospel to all the world. Paul shared the suffering of the Messiah as he brought the Messiah’s message to the world. Life Application Bible Commentary
IV. For the Sake of His Body, Which Is the Church
A. Paul knew that a reward awaited him for his faithful service but that was not the motivating force behind his ministry.
B. Paul understood the connection between the church and the person of Jesus Christ.
1. The church is His body here on earth.
2. When Jesus stopped Paul on the road to Damascus, He told Paul that when he persecuted the church he was persecuting Jesus Himself.
3. This is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. Eph 5:32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. NKJV
4. Paul’s affection for Jesus and his dedication to Jesus was rightly also given to the church as the body of Christ.
C. For Paul to serve and to suffer for the church was the same as serving and suffering for Jesus.
V. Of Which I Became a Minister According to the Stewardship from God Which Was Given to Me for You
1. The word Paul uses here is the simple word diakonos which is often translated servant or deacon.
2. NT:1249 diakonos (dee-ak'-on-os); probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands; compare NT:1377); an attendant, i.e. (genitive case) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specially, a Christian teacher and pastor (technically, a deacon or deaconess): Strong's
3. Paul never lost sight that he was a servant of Jesus Christ.
1. An old word from oikonomeoo (NT:3621), to be a house steward from Robertson's Word Pictures
2. The word translated “commission” (oikonomia, from which we get our word “economy”) means “management” or “stewardship.” As a well-trusted servant would manage his master’s estate, so Paul was entrusted with a special task. He was commissioned to make the word of God fully known. (nrsv) Literally translated, this means “to fulfill the word of God.” Life Application Bible Commentary
3. Because he was made a minister by sovereign call, Paul viewed his ministry as a stewardship from God. Stewardship translates oikonomia, a compound word made up of oikos (“house”) and nemo (“manage”). It means to manage a household as a steward of someone else’s possessions. The steward had oversight of the other servants and handled the business and financial affairs of the household. That freed the owner to travel and pursue other interests. Being a steward was thus a position of great trust and responsibility in the ancient world. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary
VI. To Fulfill the Word of God
A. Like Jeremiah, who spoke of the Word of God as a burning fire in his bones (Jer. 20:9), Paul felt compelled to carry out his ministry. To the Corinthians he wrote, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). MacArthur's New Testament Commentary
B. Acts 20:25-29 25 "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. NKJV
1. Paul’s goal was to preach the whole council of God into all the world.
How is your suffering going? Are you able to rejoice in filling up what remains of the suffering of Christ.?
Have you ever thought about your ministry?
God has given you skills and opportunities for which He expects a stewardship.
If you have never put your trust in Jesus, now is the time.
If you have never committed your life to a life of service to Jesus Christ and His church, then I encourage you to do so today.