Labor for Hearing and Holiness
Colossians 1:24-2:5
Plow Forward in the Power of God to Prove His People
Published March 26th, 2020; Updated March 26th, 2020
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Colossians 1:24-29
What Does it Mean to "fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions?"
Colossians 1:24-29
Colossians 1:24-29
Now I rejoice
in my sufferings
for your sake,
and in my flesh
I am filling up
what is lacking
in Christ’s afflictions
for the sake of his body,
that is, the church,
of which I became a minister
according to the stewardship
from God
that was given to me
for you,
to make the word of God fully known,
Big Purpose
the mystery hidden
for ages and generations
but now revealed to his saints.
To them God chose
to make known
how great ... are the riches
among the Gentiles
of the glory
of this mystery,
which is Christ
in you,
the hope of glory.
Him we proclaim,
warning everyone
and teaching everyone
with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature
Big Purpose
in Christ.
For this I toil,
struggling with all his energy
that he powerfully works
within me.
(Should be indented to the right of "which is Christ")
God chose to make Christ known (riches, the hope of glory). We emulate our Creator in making Him known. Why? To present people as mature. This is our labor-- The work of God and the purpose of God.
Making the Word of God fully known has at least two meanings here: 1. Making the Word fully heard by God's people. 2. Making the Word fully obeyed by God's people.
We plow forward in the power of God to present people. This purpose is directly connected to making the Word of God fully known. Making the Word of God fully known and presenting people holy go hand and hand. That is why the Word is the tool towards unity-- a unity which builds one another up in persevering towards the purity of God Himself. The Word is the only One we hold fast to. The marriage of these purposes is taught through this passage.
Christ is the riches-- therefore we proclaim Him to all. We proclaim riches to present the saints as mature . It is the indwelling possession of Christ as valuable that pushes us forward to maturity.
The big question is-- what does this mean? What does it mean that we are "filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions?" Was His sacrifice not sufficient? Certainly it was. We must begin with what it DOESN'T mean. It doesn't mean that Christ fulfilled 99% of the law for us, but there remains a bit for us to complete. That is opposite the gospel. Therefore, it must mean something else.
It is our responsibility from God to do what God does-- make the Word of God known in hearing and obedience so that God's people might become holy before Him. There remains a work of God to be completed, with the church and His saints as the Father's primary instrument.
What Does it Mean to "fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions?"
In this portion of Paul's letter to the Colossians, Paul makes clear the purpose and responsibility of the church. He says that we are "filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Now, I want to begin by asking what exactly that means. We know that Christ died for sinners, and that for those who put faith in Him this is a complete, final, once and for all sacrifice. So, what does Paul means that he is filling up in his flesh what is lacking or behind in Christ's afflictions? Well, I think the first thing to notice in verse 24 is that this is all done for the church. It is for the sake of the church that Paul is accomplishing this task. And, in verse 25, we see that this is a responsibility given to him by God himself, a responsibility clarified right after as making "the word of God fully known." So, so far, we know that the big purpose of "filling up what is lacking" in Christ's suffering is making God's word fully known. Now, what is God's word? Well, it's defined right after as a mystery. A mystery that was hidden, but now revealed to God's people. What is being revealed? Well, in verse 27 we see that it is riches of glory-- it is treasure, it is valuable above all else-- and just after that Paul just comes out and says it: "which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." This word in Greek is a certain hope. It is as solid as knowledge, and it is a knowledge of a future fulfillment of purpose-- the purpose for which we were created-- glorifying God forever. So, the hope of glory is the certain knowledge that we will one day fulfill our God-given purpose of enjoying His riches (which are Himself in Christ) forever. Now I want you to feel the weight of what Paul says in verse 28-- it is HIM we proclaim, that Christ, those riches, that glory, that certain fulfillment of purpose that we proclaim and preach to the nations. It is Christ as supremely valuable. That is the gospel. Why do we preach it? Paul tells us in verse 28: It is to present everyone as mature in Christ. That is why. We come to church on Sunday, we listen to preaching, we do outreach, all of it, ultimately to prove one another, striving through sin together, arm in arm, unto the end. We preach to persevere. This means that we can never divorce the purpose of preaching from its end of presenting the the church as holy. What does that mean for us? Well, it means that we can never be satisfied with people just praying prayers and sitting in chairs. That's not why Christ died. Christ died TO MAKE US HOLY. And that purpose of God is what we have the privilege now to play a part in. So, let's go back to our question, what does it mean to "fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions"? Not that we must complete His suffering. That has been completed. Well, what has yet to be completed? Making this fully known to His people . That is what Paul is talking about here, and that is what he says he labors for in verse 29. He plows forward in the power of God to present His people as holy on that last day . That is his work. And that is our work. Let us labor for the church, praying for one another, speaking hard truths and soft encouragements with intentionality and wisdom-- always with eternity in mind. Eternity is the motivation for the work of the people of God. Let us rejoice in continuing the work of our Creator, making His work known, which ends in holiness-- enjoying Him forever in heaven. If we are content with just hearing, we have fallen short of the purpose of God. We must laboring for hearing , and for holiness .
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.