Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, which is the church.
Sermons
Joy in SufferingH. Simon.Colossians 1:24
Joy in SufferingJames Hinton.Colossians 1:24
Suffering Working PerfectionW. M. H. Aitken, M. A.Colossians 1:24
The Joy of Suffering for the ChurchG. Barlow.Colossians 1:24
The Privilege of SufferingE.S. Prout Colossians 1:24
Christ All in AllU.R. Thomas Colossians 1:15-29
The Indwelling Christ the Believer's Hope of GloryR.M. Edgar Colossians 1:21-29
The Ministry of the MysteryU.R. Thomas Colossians 1:23-29
The Mission, Sufferings, Gospel, and Preaching of the ApostleT. Croskery Colossians 1:24-27
Paul's SufferingsR. Finlayson Colossians 1:24-29
St. Paul's View of His MinistryE.S. Prout Colossians 1:24-29
He introduces here a somewhat abrupt reference to himself, not to vindicate his authority as an apostle, which was not challenged at Colossae, but to emphasize his mission as the apostle of the Gentiles, and to draw the Colossians into closer relations of sympathy with himself.

I. THE APOSTLE'S SUFFERINGS FOR THE CHURCH "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the Church."

1. The nature of his sufferings. These are to be understood by his frequent reference to the afflictions of Christ.

(1) The afflictions of Christ are not

(a) afflictions borne on account of Christ;

(b) nor afflictions imposed by Christ;

(c) nor afflictions which resemble those of Christ;

(d) nor the afflictions which the apostle endures instead of Christ, as supplementing his afflictions; but the afflictions which Christ endures in his suffering Church. The Messiah was "to be afflicted in all their afflictions" (Isaiah 63:9).

(2) How the apostle filled up that which was lacking of Christ's afflictions. Not as if Christ did not suffer all that was necessary to the salvation of men, but left something to be suffered by members like the apostle as a means contributory to their own salvation. Roman Catholics base upon this passage their doctrine of supererogatory merit and indulgences. Some Protestant divines think this position is to be met by distinguishing part of Christ's sufferings as vicariously satisfactory and part as merely edifying by way of example, and represent the apostle as supplementing, not the first, but the last kind of suffering. This view is subject to the grave objection that there were no sufferings of Christ that were not vicariously satisfactory, as there were none that were not likewise designed for edification, comfort, and example. The Roman Catholic view is unsound,

(a) because it contradicts the whole tenor of Scripture (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:1-15);

(b) because it is absurd, for if the apostle supplied in his suffering what Christ failed to supply, nothing remains for other saints to supply by their sufferings.

(3) The apostle shows in the context that his work was not to redeem, but to edify the Church. What, then, is the meaning of the apostle's statement? That the sufferings of the members of Christ are the sufferings of Christ; for the Church is his body, in which he exists, lives, and therefore suffers. All the tribulations of the body are Christ's tribulations.

2. The design or intent of the apostle's sufferings. "For his body's sake, which is the Church." It was for the extension and edification of the Church. He suffers in his natural body - "in my flesh" - for the mystical body. He teaches us:

(1) That we are to seek the advancement of the cause of Christ above our own personal comfort.

(2) That we ought to endure sufferings because they concern the good of others more than ourselves.

(3) That we are not to take care for the flesh or serve the flesh. (Romans 13:14; Galatians 6:8.)

3. The spirit in which the apostle bore his varied sufferings, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you."

(1) Because they were the means of unspeakable blessing to the Gentiles;

(2) because they would confirm the faith of the Colossians and encourage them to bear suffering with like patience;

(3) because they would contribute to the apostle's own ultimate blessedness (Hebrews 10:34; 1 Peter 1:6, 7).

II. THE SPECIAL DISPENSATION ASSIGNED TO THE APOSTLE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE GENTILES. "Whereof I was made a minister according to the dispensation of God which was given me to you-ward, to fulfil the Word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations, but now hath it been manifested to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the Hope of glory."

1. The apostle's peculiar mission to the Gentiles. He calls himself here "a minister of the Church," as he has just called himself "a minister of Christ." His commission is from God himself. "A dispensation of God is given to me." God is the Dispenser of all good things to his Church. Hence we infer

(a) that the efficacy of the Word depends much upon God's appointment of his servants;

(b) that his servants ought to be regarded with confidence and love, because they are God's ambassadors and make the Word of God their supreme rule in dispensing the things of God;

(c) that the commission ought to be executed with all faithfulness and diligence (2 Timothy 4:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2).

2. The design of the dispensation given to the apostle. "To fulfil the Word of God." That is, to give its complete development to the Word of God - "to give its fullest amplitude to, to fill up the measures of, its foreordained universality." Every minister is bound "to fulfil the Word of God" in his ministry,

(1) by preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27);

(2) by rightly dividing the Word of truth according to the wants of the hearers;

(3) by the application of the promises of the Word (Luke 4:21);

(4) by bringing men to fulfil it in a gospel obedience (Romans 15:18).

3. The long hid but now revealed mystery of the gospel.

(1) It is "Christ in you, the Hope of glory." Here is the true mystery of godliness. It is not Christ, but Christ freely given to the Gentiles.

(a) Christianity is Christ in the heart. "He dwells in our hearts by faith" (Ephesians 3:18). He lives in us (Galatians 2:20). He is in us (2 Corinthians 13:5) if we are not reprobates. If he is in us, then

(α

) we must continue to live by faith (Galatians 2:20);

(β

) we may expect to receive "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" that are "hid in him" (Colossians 2:3);

(γ

) we may look for larger measures of his love (Ephesians 3:18);

(δ

) we must keep holy hearts, for he will not dwell in an "evil heart of unbelief" - "The heart is Christ's chamber of presence: shall we not, therefore, keep it with all diligence?"

(ε

) the grace of Christ will be efficacious against all temptations (2 Corinthians 12:9).

(b) Christ in the heart is the Hope of glory.

(α

) He is expressly called "our Hope" (1 Timothy 1:2; Colossians 1:4, 23).

(β

) He is the Hope of glory because he has, as our Forerunner, carried the anchor of our hope within the veil, and fastened it to the two immutable things - the oath and the promise of God - in which it was impossible that he should lie.

(γ

) The resurrection of Christ establishes this hope (1 Corinthians 15:19), We should be of "all men most miserable" without it.

(δ

) We should read the Word, that "through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may have hope" (Romans 15:4), seeing Christ therein as the ground of our hope for eternity.

(ε

) There is no hope. for man apart from Christ.

(2) The mystery was long hid from the world. Hid from ages and from generations."

(a) This does not mean that the future salvation of the Gentiles was unknown in ancient times; for the prophets are full of it (Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 54:1-3).

(b) But the mystery was that the Gentiles should be admitted to the blessings of salvation on equal terms with the Jews.

(3) The mystery was at last made known to the saints

(a) by revelation to the apostle (Ephesians 3:5);

(b) by preaching (Colossians 4:4; Titus 1:3);

(c) by prophetic exposition (Romans 16:26); and

(d) by the actual conversion of the Gentiles themselves without their conformity to Jewish usages. - T. C.







Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you.
The vast region of human sorrow is to most a dark and dreary desert. But if we saw truly we should find many streams of refreshment, many sunny spots, and on all sides evidences of the Divine tenderness. Here we find Paul at home in the region of suffering — rejoicing amid mysteries which fill most men with darkness. And no wonder, for he had been led to gather that his sufferings were supplementary to those of Christ, and essential to the well-being of the Church.

I. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST.

1. This is a subject of which we can know little. All the notes that have been marshalled into harmony by the great rulers of song tell most of the unexplored regions of music. The fire which sparkles from the flint when struck with steel tells most of the unspent fire within. And so all the outward manifestations of Christ suffering tells most of the inexpressible anguish of His heart. That it was terrible beyond human thought is indicated —

(1)by the prophecies concerning the Man of Sorrows;

(2)by His sudden death of a broken heart;

(3)by the exquisite sensibility of His holy nature.

2. But while it is impossible to know fully His sufferings, some facts concerning them are revealed.

(1)They were borne voluntarily for men.

(2)The spring of His sacrificing of Himself was His infinite love.

(3)Consequently His sufferings were not only compatible with His unspeakable joy, but were the cause of what was unspeakable in it (Hebrews 12:3).

3. Christ in His life of sacrifice declared the Father's love for men, and in His life mirrored the life of God. God is ever spending Himself for His children, and is ever unspent. "He that spared not," etc. We infer, then, that the purest joy of heaven is sacrifice, and since Christ is the firstborn among many brethren, that He should furnish the ideal of all true living; which throws light upon the text.

II. THE SUFFERINGS OF PAUL. These were twofold; those which He voluntarily endured for the sake of the Church, and those which were personal and inevitable.

1. He did not seek suffering for its own sake, As an end it was contemptible, but as a means to the well-being of the universe it was sublime. Paul's joy was not in the suffering, but in the love of which suffering was the medium of expression. As the love of fatherland inspires the patriot to bleed for his country, so the love of men made the apostle ready to sacrifice anything for them. And as he did so he was filled with Divine ecstasy.

2. But His love for Christ was a richer source of gladness amid His suffering. We want always to know all we can about those we love. One of the great ends of Paul's life was to know Christ, and the idea of being in fellowship with Christ in His sufferings was full of glory to Him. He would be in a position for realizing more of that love which passeth knowledge. Love's fullest revelations can only be made in suffering. The mother never knew the strength and blessedness of a mother's love until her child became ill, and until she lost herself in all-consuming love for it. It has been the common testimony of Christ's most afflicted ones, that in the hour of their greatest suffering they have had the profoundest sense of Christ's love. Christ meets us where Love's grandest revelations are possible, There Paul rejoiced in His sufferings.

III. THE SUPPLEMENTARY CHARACTER OF PAUL'S SUFFERINGS TO CHRIST'S AND THEIR SUBSERVENCY TO THE WELL-BEING OF THE CHURCH.

1. There cannot be anything meritorious in suffering. "After ye have done all, ye are unproftable servants." Yet there is a vicarious element in suffering borne for others. Our Lord's life affected men through the idea of sacrifice. In the Cross we see sin condemned and the glory of the Divine rectitude and mercy displayed. But Christ is no longer with us, and His sufferings are over. How, then, shall we convey the idea of His self-sacrificing love? By preaching partly, but mostly in the imitation of it in the self-sacrificing lives of His people. Thus do Christians "fill up" that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ.

2. The sufferings of Christian people are among the chief means of deepening and enlarging their power of sympathy. In Christ sympathy was one of the mightiest forces for saving men. "The bruised reed will He not break," etc. Sympathy is the secret of true blessedness and usefulness. Christ was perfected through suffering. — "And in that He suffered," etc. — and by having it perfected in Himself the apostle felt that He was "filling up," etc.

3. Affliction is everywhere regarded in the Scriptures as a necessity for the Christian in this world. When sanctified it breaks down our wills, subdues our hearts, moulds us more and more into the likeness of Christ. How does this affect the Church? Is it not Christ's body? The increased life of the individual members then, must affect the whole body through the spiritual veins and nerves and joints which bind the members to each other, and all to Christ the Head. The lowliest sufferer, therefore, is not suffering in vain, he is "filling up," etc.

(H. Simon.).

— A great pleasure in giving. No pleasure so great as to be able to give or serve. Pleasure in personally going without, in order to give to another, or serve another; that is, in putting yourself to pain for the sake of another. Our sufferings really are a giving to others and serving others, though possibly we may not see how. It is very often the case that losses or pain do a great deal of good to the person who suffers them. When we know that a pain or loss of ours does some good to some one else, to some one whom we truly love, then it is a very different thing — then we rejoice in it. The mother rejoices in her pain for her child. In this way, look at the misery and sorrow in the world; to think of it as being borne, not by each one for himself, but by every one for others; as serving others in some unseen way. We shall see in the future state how our pain was borne for others, and be glad that thus we served. God has revealed to us in Christ both that His own life is a life of sacrifice and service, and that ours truly is so too. The work of making mankind perfect is helped on by all that we are called upon to bear. We help God's work by our sorrows. They are God's special gift to us of serving; it is God's best gift to us — the privilege He gave His Son — to be used and sacrificed for the best and greatest end. The result which glorifies and makes good the painful part of human life is one that we cannot see. To make sacrifice for others always joyful to us, our own life must be made more perfect.

(James Hinton.)

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.

(G. Barlow.)

Just as a certain amount of heat in the furnace is required to produce certain definite effects upon the metal, so it would seem as though a certain definite amount of suffering, recognized by the infinite wisdom of God, were necessary to work out the perfection of that body of which Christ is the Head. As we each cheerfully and thankfully bear our share, what a joy to think that, along with the Head, we are contributing in our measure to the perfecting of the whole.

(W. M. H. Aitken, M. A.)

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