Completing Christ’s Sufferings


Colossians 1:24 (ESV): 24 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,


Paul’s assertions about suffering in this verse are shocking, for at least two reasons. First, Paul wrote that he rejoiced in his suffering. Second, Paul suggested that his sufferings completed Christ’s afflictions. While the idea of rejoicing in suffering startles us, the idea that Christ’s suffering was incomplete, and especially that any human being could “complete” Jesus’ suffering, is mind-melting.

What did Paul mean when he wrote that he was “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”? One, we can be certain that he was NOT saying that Christ’s suffering for sin was insufficient. To suggest that Christ’s death was not a complete sacrifice for our sins would have contradicted Paul’s gospel that he preached repeatedly, as well as the teachings of the New Testament, in general.

Paul’s letter to Corinth Church may help us understand his thinking and reasoning in this letter to Colossae Church:

2 Corinthians 1:3–5 (ESV): 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Notice what Paul said in verse 5. When we suffer in Christ’s name, we share in Christ’s sufferings. A glorious principle of suffering for Jesus’ sake is that we do not suffer alone.

We must hurriedly give the caveat of Peter: if we suffer for wrongdoing, we gain no credit for it – that is just bearing the consequences of our actions, our sins. But if we suffer because we have chosen to serve Jesus instead of the world, we share in the suffering of Christ!

This idea is revolutionary. Suffering for Jesus is not an individual activity, but even more amazing, when we suffer for Jesus, we enter in his suffering!

Suffering for Christ vitally identifies us with Christ. 1 Peter 4:1–2 (ESV) states: 1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Is Peter saying that a person who suffers in Jesus’ name is incapable of sinning any more? No! Rather, Peter is expressing this same thought of identity with Christ. The person who suffers because they live for Jesus has forsaken the world and sin and has become so identified with Christ that they now share the sufferings of Christ.

We naturally recoil from the prospect of suffering. We do not want to be harmed. Being shamed and disgraced is not the road to success… according to the world.

But we have chosen the way of the Cross. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and serve the Lord of lords. Thus, when we realize that suffering for Jesus vitally identifies us with Jesus, our perception of suffering changes.

Like Paul, we rejoice in suffering! No, we do not rejoice in suffering for the sake of suffering. Rather…

Colossians 1:24 (ESV): 24 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,

Paul rejoiced in his sufferings which he endured for the sake of other believers, understanding that in his body he was vitally sharing with the suffering Christ endured for the sake of the Church of God.

Remember. Christ suffered and died for the world, to save us from our sins. But in doing so, Christ also died for the Church.

Ephesians 5:25–27 (ESV): 25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Christ’s purpose in death was not only to redeem from sin, but to purify from sin. Again, neither Paul’s suffering for Christ nor our suffering for Jesus can atone or purify of sin. Yet our suffering with Christ for the sake of the church may be used by God to help the church become more like Jesus.

There is a great danger with this concept, however. We must not overlook or excuse the pain of suffering because of how God is able to gain glory for himself through that suffering. If we do this, we become insensitive to those who are suffering greatly. If we are the one suffering, our perspective of God can become twisted. Yet we can also rejoice, despite the difficulties that we experience, that our suffering for Jesus can bring good to His Church.


One of the great problems of suffering today is that we too easily label any difficulty as a trial we must suffer for Christ. Difficulties and setbacks in life are not necessarily suffering for Jesus’ name.

The early church was physically beaten, imprisoned, had their lands and other assets confiscated, and were killed for the specific offense of claiming Jesus as their Messiah, their Lord and Savior.

Taxation, being taken advantage of, and even being physically harmed or imprisoned is not necessarily persecution, at least for the sake of Christ. We must not downplay such evil or the pain felt by those who suffer. But we must recognize that sharing the sufferings of Christ occurs when we suffer for Christ.

Physical hardships, disease, and sickness are also not necessarily suffering for Christ. Yet we should recognize that physical illness could be part of suffering for Jesus. Furthermore, we should be aware of demonic activity that may lead to physical suffering. Therefore, any time I feel sick or have a headache, I should not attribute that as suffering for Christ, but we should also not overlook the physical suffering many do experience for Christ.

Maybe the better approach is that as we live and serve Christ faithfully and then begin to face opposition, whether it be people who mock and malign us, even physically threaten or harm us, or difficulties – physical, spiritual and more, while not labeling every difficulty as “from the devil”, we should aware that serving Jesus does result in opposition. Thus, we should rejoice that when we experience suffering, we share in Christ’s sufferings!


Heavenly Father, I do not want to carelessly suggest any difficulty I experience in life is a “suffering for Jesus”. Yet I do know that Satan is quite active and hates it when we serve you wholeheartedly and sacrificially, and engineers difficulty and suffering to discourage us and destroy our efforts to serve you. Thank you for the privilege of sharing suffering with Christ! May I imitate Christ’s example of humility, perseverance and sacrificial love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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