"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christs afflictions, for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from G-d that was given to me for you, to make the word of G-d fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed in his saints." Collosians 1:24-26
This is what what a person interacting with G-d and His word live for, and that is the passage that makes you stumble, trip and skin your brain. This is the live action wrestling match of the homemade bible interpreter.
There is a problem when I go after trying to understand scripture, and that is, when I have come to a conclusion of interpretation, I am forced to pursue the inevitable; application of the principle before me.
I must confess that this passage truly challenged my thinking and theology. Scripture does that if you are honest with it and try not to manipulate it to make it say what you want it to say, although it is easier that way.
Without going to deep into the background of the letter, I will say that Paul the apostle is making a case for the supremacy of Jesus Messiah over the elemental practices of groups swayed to asceticism, such as this group witch is kind of a combination of gnostic(which was not yet fully developed at this point) and the dead sea community, or Essene type group which really got into ritualistic observances.
Paul does this by elevating Jesus with the truths of him being "the image of the invisible G-d, the first born of all creation"...."all things were created by and through him"..."he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first born form the dead....preeminent....in him all the fullness of G-d was please to dwell....making peace by the blood of the cross.". In other words, Christ is the man!
Paul, who has never been to the city of Collossae, or even met the people except for Epaphras who was the elder or pastor as so it seemed from the letter, was encouraging this assembly to hold fast to the Savior who was all these things that Paul was describing. He then adds this sentence that has so much meaning and implication, that to miss it would be such a travesty of omission in our lives.
Let's start with the beginning of v.24;"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake..". At first glance, I almost assumed that Paul might have been talking of his imprisonment, which is where he wrote a majority of his letters, but these sufferings are from his heart for the people of concern for which he was writing. This really shows the heart of a man in love with G-ds people. His sufferings, or affliction of emotion and human passion was bubbling over towards the progress of these called out ones.
Paul then throws in this statement which is utterly amazing!!;"..in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christs afflictions for the sake of His body,...". At this point, you can say with me;"WHAT!!!!!?"
My first question in this was what is lacking in Christs afflictions? Was this speaking of his death and atonement for sin on the cross? That was supposed to be a perfect and completed work, right? Jesus himself that his work was "finished". So what is lacking here?, and what is Christs afflictions?
I will take a swing at this and try to understand what needs to be understood. The lacking means or conveys the idea of that part which is like baggage lagging behind, or the failing of meeting a standard. The afflictions of is defined as a result of being squeezed or put into a narrow place, hence trouble, distress or afflictions.
Just after Paul says such an amazing statement, he goes onto to say that it is for the sake of his body, the church or assembly of believers. In v. 25 we get the clue to understanding of what is lacking;"of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from G-d which was given to me to fulfill the word."
The word stewardship in the Greek means the act of making visible that which was not readily seen. How awesome is this?!! This means that what is lacking in this world is the real physical presence of the Lord Jesus. His glorified body now in heaven, waits until the revealed time of his glorious appearing in triumph to rule the nations. Until this time comes Paul expresses the part of which we all play and that is to be and to act as Jesus' body in this dark world of chaos, dismay and unbelief. We are to fill up in our flesh, my flesh the passions of Christ. That kind of passion calls for a life devoted to serving, giving, instructing and even dying to this flesh for the sake of even just one person or to the whole body of Christ.
This flesh which we give over to the fulfilling of G-ds will.
We are to be Jesus in this world!!!! This is absolutely nuts! I ask myself,"Did I really need to know this? Did I really want to understand this?" Now however, with this interpretation I must therefore act on it, because it is G-ds stewardship that I am responsible to live out.
If we all take to this responsibility of this revelation, what great things can be done for the kingdom of G-d? Let us go forward with G-ds strength and find out.
Follow with me and let us be Jesus to this world.