Colossians Devotional | Filling Up What is Lacking
Colossians: Christ Above and Before All
The Glory of God Revealed in Jesus
Filling Up What is Lacking
“24 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, 25 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, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” - (Colossians 1:24-26)
What a puzzling thing to say about Jesus.
Paul says that he’s:
Rejoicing in his sufferings (imprisonment, persecution, being beaten, and someday, execution)
By suffering, he’s “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”
What, of all things, could be lacking in the work Jesus did in his trial, torture, and crucifixion? Is Paul implying that Jesus left something undone? That he didn’t complete his work? By no means.
Pastor John Piper’s explanation of this text is helpful:
“What’s missing is the in-person presentation of Christ’s sufferings to the people for whom he died. 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 gospel. And those ministers of the gospel fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others. Paul sees his own suffering as the visible reenactment of the sufferings of Christ so that they will see Christ’s love for them.”
(desiringgod.com: “Filling Up What is Lacking”)
Because the people who need to know that Jesus suffered and died for them don’t have a crucified Jesus before their eyes, it’s the mission and work of Christians to repeat and replay that work, over and over again. Not just in gospel-word, but in gospel-deed. Sacrifice, humility, mercy...these all cost a Christian something. If you’re sacrificial, you’re losing money or time or even your own blood. If you are humble, you’re losing pride, dignity, honor, and esteem. If you are merciful, you’re giving up your right to revenge, retribution, and restitution.
Jesus does all of these things in his afflictions with his goal of saving sinners. But, if they’re going to hear it and believe, they’ll need to see it, too. And so, Paul, with every act of sacrifice, humility, and mercy, gets hurt. He loses. Putting the gospel of Jesus on display costs him something, but he knows people need to see what Jesus has done for them...so, he shows them.
And he rejoices.
He’s glad that people will see and believe who Jesus is, with every drop of his own blood, every tear running down his cheek, and with every drop of sweat of his brow.
What is it costing you to show other people what Jesus has done? If it doesn’t really feel that way, what do you think that means?
In what way can you--today--personally present the sufferings of Jesus to someone else?