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Chapter 1:24 - 29

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Paulís Labour For The Church  (ch. 1:24 - 29)


Paul begins this section by telling these people that he actually rejoiced in what he had suffered for them in sharing the gospel.  Although Paul apparently had not met most of these people in person, others that were his acquaintances had.  Paulís sufferings had produced fruit in people's lives that he had never met.  Many times in history someone has led someone else to the Lord.  That someone else then led another person to the Lord and that third person went on to be a great man of God.  This was the case with Billy Graham.  The same is so here.  Paul led people to Jesus, who in turn led many people from Colosse to salvation.


Those of us in the western world today no little to nothing about suffering for the sake of Jesus.  I do believe, however, this is in the process of change as our culture becomes more anti-Christ in nature. 


Parts of Christendom today even suggest and teach that suffering is not a part of the blessed Christian life.  I don't believe that.  History tells us that where communities of Christ suffer persecution, the gospel is spread, people are won to Jesus, and communities of Christ are formed. 


Paul understood from day one that he would suffer greatly for Jesus.  He viewed suffering as normal Christian living that would produce Godly fruit.    


The next phrase is interesting and fairly hard to understand.  It does give us an opportunity to sharpen our Biblical interpretation skills.  The phrase says, "I fill up in my flesh that which is still lacking in regard to Christís afflictions."  This phrase seems to say that Christís afflictions were lacking and therefore Paul had to be afflicted in order to make up for the lack of infliction that Jesus went through.  This does not sound right.  Jesus not only suffered while on the cross.  His whole earthly existence, compared to His heavenly existence, would have been a matter of suffering.  Scripture also tells us that Jesus' suffering on the cross was sufficient for all people, for all times.  Jesusí sufferings were complete. Nothing should be added to what Jesus has already done for us.  This is quite clear in Scripture.  So what does Paul mean here when he says that he had to fill up in his flesh what was lacking in regard to Christís affliction?  He canít mean that Christís afflictions were not sufficient and therefore he had to finish the work, or improve on it. 


In Philippians 3:7-10 Paul says that he has given up everything in order to know Christ, and to share in the fellowship of His sufferings.  Right from the beginning of his life as a Christian, Paul new he was going to suffer for Jesus (Acts 9:16).  He not only knew that he would suffer; he embraced the sufferings.  I believe that Paulís mentality towards suffering was that if Jesus could suffer and die for me, then I could do the same for Him.  Therefore, he rejoiced when he could suffer for his Lord.  Is this masochistic?   No.  It is called love.  Paul loved Jesus.  If he had to suffer to promote the love of God, he would gladly suffer.  Paul did suffer.  He did share in the fellowship of Christís sufferings.  Like Jesus, Paul was killed for the sake of the gospel.  This is what Paul must mean in this verse.  The sufferings of Christ have been extended in His people.  The sufferings of Christ did not end on the cross.  The sufferings of Christ continue to be experienced by his people, His earthly body.  This is what it means when Paul uses the words "lacking in regards to Christís afflictions".  In 1 Timothy 3:12 Paul warns Timothy that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. This clearly tells us how Paul views persecution and suffering.  In 2 Corinthians 2:5 Paul also tells his readers that the suffering of Christ flows over to His people.  Here too we can see that the sufferings of Jesus did not end on the cross.  His sufferings spill over on us.   I havenít heard too many messages on this topic lately. 


Why does Paul suffer?  Verse 24 says, "For the sake of Christís body."  Jesus laid down his life for His people, and Paul did the same.  He laid down his life for the sake of the church.  I don't think most western world Christians think in terms of laying down their lives and suffering for the sake of those in their church congregation


All of the above being said about verse 24, it is a tough verse to translate from the Greek.  Here's how the HSBB translates the verse. "Now I rejoice in my suffering for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for His body, that is, the church."   In my thinking this translation might suggest a bit of a difference from the NIV's version.  If the HSCB's version is better, to me, it suggests that Jesus' suffering did provide salvation for the individual, but, in concerning the church, there is actually a need for ongoing suffering.  Jesus told us that a kernel of wheat produces no fruit unless it is buried into the ground and dies (John 12:24).  Only then does it produce a crop of wheat.  If I connect what Jesus said and what Paul says here I think it might suggest that in order for the church to grow there must be ongoing suffering.  I think that history, even present times in nations where believers are persecuted, tell me that church grows under affliction.  


Note the words "his body" in verse 24.  The Body of Christ, the church, is an extension of Jesus and thus His body, the church, belongs to Him, not us.  The sad fact of the matter is that in many parts of the church, both in the past and in the present, we have hijacked Christ's body, His church.     


The NIV seems to say verse 25 differently than other translations.  The NIV says that Paul preached the gospel in all of its fullness.  Most other translations suggest that Paul "fully preached the gospel."  There is a difference between the two translations.  The NIV suggests that Paul preach every last detail of the gospel.  The other translations suggest that Paul did his full best in preaching the gospel.  I lean towards the other translations in how we should understand this verse.  


In verse 25 we note that God commissioned Paul to become a servant or a slave.  Westerners do not like to use the word "slave" here and elsewhere in the New Testament but according to the Greek text it is an appropriate word to use.  Paul became a servant or slave.  His duty was to preach the gospel.  As a slave he proclaimed the word of God in all of its fullness.  Paul did not leave anything out.  Paul knew nothing of being politically or religiously correct.  What he knew was the gospel.  He did not add to it, nor did he take from it to make it easier to be heard and accepted. 


In verses 26 and 27 Paul mentions the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations.  Paul says that this mystery is now made known, and that the mystery is that Christ, by His Spirit can now live in Godís people which would include the Gentiles, not merely the Jews.  This is part and parcel of the gospel. The good news of Jesus is for all mankind, not just for a specific group of people.  Jesusí sacrifice on the cross isnít limited to any one ethnic group. 


Paul is saying that in Old Testament times the idea that God would have a people that include Gentiles was hidden.  The fact that God would actually live in His people through His Spirit was not seen or at least clearly seen in the Old Testament.  It was a mystery, only to be revealed in New Testament times, and Paul was the main promoter of uncovering this mystery.  For this reason many people rejected Paul and his teaching back then.  Even today there are some so-called Christians, especially those who still give themselves to the Law of Moses, that believe Paul was not a valid Christian to follow and his writings were not inspired and thus should not be part of the New Testament.        


Note the word "ages" in verse 26.  It's the plural "ages", not the singular "age".  Paul could well have viewed the Old Testament, not as one age, but a number of ages.  These ages might consists of pre-fall, Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Moses, Moses to the book of Malachi, and, the 400 years from Malachi to John the Baptist.   

Verse 27 ends with some great words; "Christ in you, the hope of glory".  This is the mystery that was hidden throughout the Old Testament.  Christ is both in the individual believer and in the community of Christ.  God no longer lives in buildings made by human hands.  He live in us, the believers.  We are His temple, and what is now gives us hope fro the glorious future ahead of us that will be seen on the new earth when the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven and settle on a new earth.  That is our ultimate hope as a Christian.  What we have noW in Christ is simply a deposit of better things ahead.              


Jesus, the hope of glory living in the life of
both Jews and Gentiles was hidden from the Jews.
Why was this the case?  God Himself blinded the eyes of the Jews (Romans 11:8).  If Israel of old would have been open to these things their eyes would not have been blinded. 


In verse 29 Paul says, "I labour, struggling with all His energy."  The preaching of the gospel was not an easy task for Paul.  He laboured and he struggled, yet he did not labour and struggle in his own energy, but with the energy that came from God Himself through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spiritís enabling did not take away the struggle, or the work involved.  The Holy Spirit just gave Paul the ability to carry on the work in the midst of the struggle. 


Paul laboured and struggled so he could present everyone perfect in Christ.  Our English word "present" here is a Greek aorist verb.  That means the presenting is a one time action.  Our English word "perfect" or "complete" as seen in other versions is translated from the Greek "teleios" which incorporates the concept of the ending of something.  It seems to me that Paul is saying that some day in the future he will present those people he was given responsibility for to Jesus.  When he makes this presentation, he wants it to be complete and perfect.  


In verse 29 Paul repeats the fact that he struggles but he struggles with "his energy", as stated in the NIV.  Note the pronoun "his" is not capitalized, but I believe the context shows us that "his" refers to the Holy Spirit.  Paul does struggle but the Holy Spirit provides the needed energy in the midst of the struggle.

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