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Tuesday, October 17th, 2023

Scripture: Col. 1:24 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.

Teaching: As Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he was imprisoned in Rome under house arrest (Acts 28:16). After completing his Christological teaching in verses 15 through 23 and ending it on an matter of fact statement of his own calling in verse 23 (saying that the mission of this Christ, the preeminent and incarnate Jesus Christ is whom Paul has become a servant to), Paul continues to introduce himself and his own role in the Church in verse 24.

Verse 24 is tricky, because on its face, it seems to say that Paul is picking up where Christ left off, that Christ’s suffering was somehow incomplete, and now it takes Paul to carry them forward. However, a careful study of the Greek reveals something quite different. Paul is relating his own sufferings for the advancement of the Gospel as emblematic of Christ’s suffering, but for entirely different purposes. Paul’s sufferings – his imprisonment and other bodily suffering as detailed in Acts – does not bring salvation like Christ’s did, but Paul’s sufferings do proclaim the Gospel. His point is that while Christ is no longer present in the fleshly body, but is forever present in Spirit, Paul now has the opportunity to witness for Christ with his own fleshly body, suffering affliction in similar ways to Christ for the mission of Christ. For this, Paul rejoices because in suffering, he understands that he is becoming more Christ like, which serves eternal benefit both for the Church at large as well as for him personally.

Takeaway: Suffering for Christ is part of following Christ, but something Scripture calls us to rejoice in. Jesus explains in John 15:18-25 that the world will hate those who love him because the world hated him first. Paul picks up on this truth in Colossians 1:24 having lived personally what it means to suffer for Christ. But Paul rejoices in this because it enables him to draw closer to Christ and because even in persecution for preaching the Gospel, the Gospel advanced. Paul says the same in his letter to the Philippians 1, expressing joy for his present suffering because he has found that the Gospel advances whether by his preaching or his faith filled imprisonment. Paul here in Colossians as well as in Philippians calls us to eternal perspective towards our present conditions and unity as a Church body. Philippians 1:27 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Today, remember Hebrews 12:1-3 which says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."


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