What does Colossians 1:24 mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“[I Paul] Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” Colossians 1:24 can be misread (misconstrued) to teach that the Lord Jesus did not suffer enough on Calvary’s cross. It is sometimes assumed that the Lord Jesus only paid for some sins, and that Paul was suffering for the sins Christ did not expiate. Even today, we are urged to “do penance”—suffer for our sins, make up for the wrongs we have done. Of course, these statements are good religion for people who do not read the Bible for themselves. It endorses denominational tenets and church agendas but it does not convey Bible truth. Read your Bible, friends!

Colossians 1:24 can be understood in light of two extremely simple facts. Firstly, Jesus Christ is not physically here on Earth. He is in the third heaven at His Heavenly Father’s right hand (Colossians 3:1). No one can mistreat Him anymore. They cannot scourge Him, or beat Him, or spit on Him, or crucify Him. That all happened long ago, never to happen again. They can touch Him no longer. He can no longer be abused. “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Secondly, we Christians are physically here on Earth. We are Christ’s “ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20), His representatives, or “outposts from the third heaven.” While unbelieving people cannot harm Jesus Christ, they can and do mistreat us, His people. Lost people did not like Jesus Christ when He lived in His flesh, and they will not like Him when He lives in our flesh. These are the “afflictions of the gospel” that Paul spoke of 2 Timothy 1:8. Read the book of Acts. Immense opposition and persecution come with preaching the Gospel of God’s Grace to this lost and dying world.

Colossians 1:24 simply means that Paul was suffering tremendously for the Church the Body of Christ. As 2 Corinthians 11:22-27 said, he was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, scourged, and so on, all for the sake of Jesus Christ’s ministry to the Gentiles. Jesus Christ’s enemies could not abuse Him, but they could (and did) harm His servant, the Apostle Paul. Hence, Paul was “[filling] up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” Likewise, they persecute us Christians today, to varying degrees— name-calling, shunning, physical violence, imprisonment, and execution. But, Paul said that he rejoiced in his sufferings for the grace believers in Colosse. It was well worth his trials and tribulations to have them learn about Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (see Colossians 1:28-29). Brethren, may we say that with our Apostle!

Also see:
» Is the indwelling Christ the mystery of Colossians 1:27?
» Does God chasten us when we sin?
» Should we pray for “safe trips” and “traveling mercies?”