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Colossians 1:24

Finding Joy in Suffering

24 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:

I have known many "Christians" who seem to have very little joy in their lives. Most of them seem to have everything they need in the physical realm. Furthermore, they suffer nothing for Christ, and yet they never show the kind of joy that is generated by a true relationship with Christ.

In this passage, Paul speaks of rejoicing in his sufferings. A more understandable translation of this verse might be, "Now I am rejoicing in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s tribulations for His body, that is, the church." It should be noticed that he has switched from writing in the first person plural (we) to the singular, "I." This is more personal.

The first question that naturally arises is, "How did Paul rejoice in his sufferings?" That is not so difficult to answer. He had seen the power of the gospel at work bringing Gentiles into the church. Whatever hardships he had experienced at the hand of the Jews, because of his ministry to the Gentiles, were small when compared to the eternal consequences of his work. When our lives are committed to serving Christ, we can rejoice in all things because we see the power of the gospel working through us. The so called "Christians" who have no joy in their lives have failed to take up their crosses daily and follow Him. They have not experienced the power and joy of serving their Lord.

But, how did he claim to suffer for the church at Colosse when he had never been there and had nothing to do with winning them to Christ? Paul did seem, however, to have a strong relationship with Epaphras (1:7) who was probably taught by Paul and who seems to have founded the church at Colosse. So, through that connection and through Paul's struggle to bring the Gentiles into the church, he could feel like he had suffered for their sake.

"...and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s tribulations for His body,..." This phrase brings up another question. What could have been lacking in Christ's tribulations? There was nothing missing in the tribulations that Christ suffered but in what the church had suffered in comparison to Christ. "Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12) The church is called to suffer for Christ's sake but many fall short of having to suffer as terribly as He did.

"For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." (Hebrews 12:3-4) A very small percentage have had to resist sin until their own blood was shed. Paul, therefore, says that he was suffering those afflictions, which the majority of the church did not suffer.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible says, "The apostle seems to mean:
(1) that he suffered in the same cause as that for which Christ suffered;
(2) that he endured the same kind of sufferings, to some extent, in reproaches, persecutions, and opposition from the world;
(3) that he had not yet suffered as much as Christ did in this cause, and, though be had suffered greatly, yet there was much that was lacking to make him equal in this respect to the Saviour; and,
(4) that he felt that it was an object to be earnestly desired to be made in all respects just like Christ, and that in his present circumstances he was fast filling up that which was lacking, so that he would have a more complete resemblance to him."
The fact that Paul could rejoice in his sufferings was a benefit to the church. It set and example and encouraged them to stay strong in their faith, rejoice in their tribulations and grow in their relationship with the Lord.

Before I finish, I want to warn the reader that, for each of the questions presented here, there have been multiple interpretations by some very widely recognized scholars. Due to my desire to keep each day's Bible study short and easily readable, it would be impossible to explore every variation. Therefore, I have tried to present only my own view, without favoring any one of the others, except what God has allowed me to understand. The serious student would be wise to research some of the other views and decide for himself which is correct.

Before The Throne:

Is your faith such that you are able to rejoice in your tribulation? Many of us have not had to face much persecution for the gospel's sake, but the time may come when we will need to know the answer. Pray about it. You certainly will not be facing tribulation, if you are not faithfully serving the Lord first. But then you will never know the fulness of joy that is available to you through Jesus Christ. Pray about your service to Him.

For Further Study:

** rejoice. Matt 5:11-12; Acts 5:41; Rom 5:3; 2Cor 7:4; Eph 3:1, 13; Phil 2:17-18; Jas 1:2; ** fill. 2Cor 1:5-8; 2Cor 4:8-12; 2Cor 11:23-27; Phil 3:10; 2Tim 1:8; 2Tim 2:9-10; ** for. Col 1:18; Eph 1:23;


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