Jesus suffered for his people so that he could offer them eternal life. He humbled himself to become a man here on earth and then hung on the cross as a blood sacrifice, taking our punishment upon himself for our sins.
The Apostle Paul understood this gift of grace and mercy very well and it completely changed the rest of his life. He knew that he must follow Jesus in taking the afflictions of Christ upon himself for the sake of the Body of Christ. Paul would be the afflicted ambassador, beaten and scorned in order to carry the message of God’s love to people all across present-day Turkey, Greece, and Eastern Europe.
To the church in Colossae, Paul wrote this:
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.Colossians 1:24
Paul says that he rejoices in his suffering.
What? How is that possible that he would rejoice in his suffering? It is only because he understands the greatness of this gift of God, that life in eternity with him is worth the price that he pays in suffering so that both he and others can know Jesus.
But then he also says that there is something lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions. How is that possible? How could it be that Jesus’s perfect sacrifice could be lacking something?
I want to recommend that you listen to this podcast episode by John Piper. He explains the answer to this question, showing us that what is lacking in Jesus’s afflictions.
In Piper’s talk, he says this:
What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is not that they are deficient in worth or merit, as though they could not sufficiently cover the sins of all who believe. What is lacking is that the infinite value of Christ’s afflictions are not known in the world. They are still a mystery — hidden — to most peoples. And God’s intention is that the mystery be revealed, extended to all the Gentiles. So the afflictions are lacking in the sense that they are not seen and known among the nations. They must be carried by ministers of the word. And those ministers of the word fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others.To Finish the Aim of Christ’s Afflictions – The context suggests the meaning
Listen to the entirety of the podcast here:
So what does this mean for us? As disciple-makers, we also must be ready to suffer for Christ. We cannot have an expectation that we can carry the Gospel and live our lives avoiding risk or without pain. That is inconsistent with the message and life of Christ, inconsistent with what we see in the life of Paul, and will likely cause us to be unfruitful in our ministry work.
We are not saying that we are specifically looking for pain and affliction. But we know that if we are carrying the message of the cross, we won’t need to look for it. It will find us. We should simply not be surprised, but instead embrace the affliction and rejoice because the Body of Christ is being built up and people are being added to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus was our suffering savior and we must follow him to take his message to the world. He is worth it – all glory to him!