And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
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, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Comment: The beginning of this writing is a very brief but powerful statement about the church. It is made up of people who were in the past evil (a description as seen in God’s sight, as we often make excuses for our our own nastiness), hostile to and alienated from God. Its members have, by the the death of Jesus and their faith in the gospel, been reconciled to God. So that God now sees the church (people) as no longer culpable for our past. However we are called to persistent (steadfast) faith and hope in the gospel which was proclaimed by Paul. This gospel applies to all people ‘under the sun’.
The concept of anyone ‘ filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions‘ initially seems to go against the completeness of the salvation which is taught as being available in Jesus. But when you think about it the final call of Jesus ‘it is finished’, talking about the payment for the due punishment of the sins of mankind, occurred in a small region in a past period of time. Most of the world did not have the knowledge of Jehovah God that the Jews had. Thus the message needed to be spread and explained throughout the whole world. The responsibility for the spread across the world does not fall exclusively on Paul, but he did have that experience on the road to Damascus when Jesus chose him in a special way. Paul took that calling very seriously. So what had been hinted at in Old testament prophecies, fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus needed to be testified to in the whole world. The reception of Christ into a life brings ‘the hope of glory’ and is a rich glorious message which Paul saw as his responsibility to share wherever he could. If we have experienced the truth of the gospel are we supposed to see it as our responsibility also? I seem to remember Jesus on His triumphal entry into the heavens as saying that His followers would be world wide witnesses!
Prayer: Help me to see what You are calling me to do, and to face up to Your calling faithfully.