Monday, March 22, 2010

The Lacking Afflictions of Christ

Elisabeth Elliott wrote about trials in her book A Path Through Suffering. I can't quite remember her exact application of Colossians 1:24, but afterward it left me with the impression that we are co-redeemers with Him. I'm surely to blame for my confusion. The verse says,

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....

Is Christ lacking afflictions? Does He desire Christians to suffer the remainder? What does this mean? The NKJV Nelson Study Bible notes say we are not coredeemers:

"In this verse, Paul is not saying that Christ's death was insufficient or that somehow he was a coredeemer with Christ. Paul is making the point that a Christian will endure the sufferings that Christ would be enduring if He were still in the world. Christ had told his disciples that if the world hated Him it would hate His followers. If people persecuted Him they would persecute His followers. Paul believed he was suffering the afflictions God wanted Him to endure. Instead of facing his difficulties with dread Paul saw his troubles as a sign of joy, because they were producing an eternal reward."

They were producing more than eternal reward. I'm looking at the context. It says that the afflictions are being filled up in Paul "for the sake" of the Body. More of the context beginning in verse 24:

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, 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, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

Paul's focus is for others, as he agonizes. He's thinking about the Gentiles for their salvation and the Church for their perfecting. He writes similarly of the same issue in 2 Corinthians 1:5-7.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

Here I notice that the consolation is for Paul and the consolation is also for others. The consolation to Paul is so that he might "give aid" (another definition of being "effective") to those who are enduring affliction in the present. This goes far beyond eternal gain. What kind of aid is being dispensed in the midst of Paul's sufferings? Salvation? Sanctification? I think I'm hearing both.

I still wonder about those "lacking afflictions" (Col. 1:24) with which Paul is being filled. Aren't his descriptions of purpose and design in those passages a very Isaiah 53 feel? Verse 5 of this Old Testament prophecy about Jesus Christ says:

But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

Jesus and Paul appear to be doing exactly the same business. This is the Way in which justification and sanctification are catalyzed.

Jesus came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father. He emptied Himself of the privilege to exercise His Deity nature, so that everything He had came to Him directly from the Father. In His affliction He was modeling for us this new Way; He was effecting for us our total salvation (deliverance from the punishment, power & presence of sin). But He did not surrender being fully God. He is the perfect Lamb of God from before the beginning of time and this is why we are not coredeemers with Christ. It is so important for the lost person to come to conviction that Jesus is the Son of God. He may have suffered like a criminal or heretic. He may have been crucified in weakness. He sure looks like we do and us Him. He was afflicted and we all after Him, but He is also eternally Messiah. Let that be part of the testimony as Comfort flows out.

blog archive

Phrase Search / Concordance
Words/Phrase To Search For
(e.g. Jesus faith love, or God of my salvation, or believ* ever*)