Colossians 1:24–29 (NKJV)
24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.Colossians 1:24-29
The first verse of this passage opens with two parallel phrases. The first is “I now rejoice in my sufferings,” and the second is “I now fill up in my flesh.” These express the actions of Paul in response to his plight as a pioneer missionary of the gospel. He sees his suffering as a blessing worthy of rejoicing, and he fills up his flesh with Christ in order to please him. This is the first verse in What is a somewhat symmetrical set of five verses in this overall passage. The outline is provided by this quote from Zellinger in the Word Biblical Commentary:
The suffering of the apostle (v 24)
The apostle’s task (v 25a–c)
The mystery (vv 25d–27)
The carrying out of the task (v 28)
The toil and labor of the apostle (v 29).Colossians 1:24 (WBC Vol. 44):
From this framework, one can see that Paul’s suffering is a reality in his ministry, yet he is not daunted by the task. 1) The suffering is an understandable cost of doing business. In the climate into which Paul entered, the hostility toward the gospel was intense, and Paul willingly stepped into that arena in order to see souls saved for the glory of Christ. 2)His task is that of a minister. He considers it an honor and a stewardship of grace. He also sees the task as benefitting those to whom he ministers. He loves his spiritual children and is willing to give of himself for them willingly. God has given him a gift and he accepts it and cares for it heartily. 3) The latter phrase of verse 25 begins a discussion of the mystery of it all. Paul has been given the task to deliver the word of God, the mystery of God’s grace that has been hidden from generations on ends, but has now been revealed through Jesus Christ. God revealed this secret to His saints through Paul, but especially made this mystery known to the Gentiles. This mystery is Christ, the hope of glory What a powerful message, what a glorious mystery! Jesus came to give us life through His grace appropriated by our faith. 4) The carrying out and completion of the task is effected by the preaching, warning, and witnessing of Paul and his associates. Paul moves from the singular identification to the plural identification here to show that many are preaching the gospel, delivering the message of the mystery, and reaching a world with the gospel. 5) The final piece of the message in this passage (v. 29) is the purpose for which Paul labors. He comes back to the original thought, his sufferings, and rehearses his commitment to the gospel and its spread. He strives, he labors, and he works as God uses him mightily for His glory.
This powerful message is that the gospel is not cheap, not easy, but it is free. Paul eventually will give his life for the sake of the gospel, but he continues to serve as a good steward of the gospel, and a diligent servant of God. He presses on, and he determines to endure whatever hardship comes his way for the good of his disciples and those who would be saved. Paul’s example shows us that preaching and teaching the gospel is not always easy, but it is always worth the effort, the pain, the suffering. Be encouraged, woman of God. Stand strong, man of God. Understand the cost, understand the reward, understand the call, and you can stand strong in the midst of opposition. You are not alone. The multitudes who ministered before you push you forward. The souls in need of salvation and discipleship inspire you today. The work yet to be done draws you forward into a future of excellent ministry until He comes! Just as David said he would offer God a sacrifice that cost him nothing, let us lay down our lives, our comfort, our opulence in order to minister in the name of Christ. From our suffering will come riches!
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