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…
A stolid indifference to, and heroic endurance of, suffering, was not unknown to paganism. But Christianity alone has taught us to rejoice in it. Observe —
I. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF THE APOSTLE'S SUFFERINGS.
1. He represented the suffering Saviour. We are not to suppose that Christ's sufferings were incomplete. His passion was the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin. No one could represent this. But while His personal sufferings are over He so thoroughly identifies Himself with His people that their afflictions become His own. Paul represented the suffering Saviour in what he endured for Him and the Church. Thus He could say, "The sufferings of Christ abound in us;"' and so may the Church as Christ's representative to-day (Matthew 25.).
2. The sufferings of the apostle supplemented what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. "Fill up," Every age of the church has its measure of suffering. The church is built up by repeated acts of self-denial in successive individuals and generations. They continue the work which Christ began. The great Mediator suffered to effect our salvation; and His people, on their part, fill up the suffering needed for the perfection of their spiritual life, and for the full display of the Divine glory.
II. THE VICARIOUS CHARACTER OF THE APOSTLE'S SUFFERINGS. "For his body's sake, which is the Church."
1. The apostle's sufferings for the Church(1) confirmed the faith of her converts;
(2) were for the consolation of the Church. "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation." "Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for the water of consolation." When James Bainham, who suffered under the reign of Henry VIII., was in the midst of the flames which had half consumed his arms and legs, he said aloud: "O ye Papists, ye look for miracles, and here now you may see a miracle; for in this fire I feel no more pain than if I were in a bed of down; but it is to me a bed of roses";
(3) tended to promote its increase. The more the Egyptians afflicted the Hebrews the more they multiplied. The devil's way of extinguishing goodness, is God's way of advancing it.
III. THE HIGH-TONED SPIRIT OF THE APOSTLE'S SUFFERINGS. "Who now rejoice." Nature shrinks from suffering. It is altogether above nature to triumph in it. It is Christianity alone that inspires us with joy in tribulation.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: