Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Colossians 1:24)
Christ has prepared a love offering for the world by suffering and dying for sinners. It is a perfect sacrifice. It pays in full for all the sins of all his people. Nothing can be added to make a better gift. It is lacking in nothing — except one thing, a personal presentation by Christ himself to the nations of the world.
God’s answer to this lack is to call the people of Christ (people like Paul) to make a personal presentation of the afflictions of Christ to the world. In doing this, we “[fill] up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” We finish what they were designed for, namely, a personal presentation to the people who do not know about their infinite worth.
But the most amazing thing about Colossians 1:24 is how Paul fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
He says that it is his own sufferings that fill up Christ’s afflictions. This means, then, that Paul exhibits the sufferings of Christ by suffering himself for those he is trying to win to Christ. In his sufferings they are to see Christ’s sufferings.
Here is the astounding upshot: God intends for the afflictions of Christ to be presented to the world through the afflictions of his people.
God really means for the body of Christ, the church, to experience some of the suffering he experienced so that when we proclaim the cross as the way to life, people will see the marks of the cross in us and feel the love of the cross from us.