Saturday, August 22, 2020

An Ongoing Finished Work

"Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24)

Colossians 1:20 says that God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things through Christ’s blood, which was shed on the cross. One of the earliest heresies in the church, and one that continues to live a quiet life in the minds of many people, is the notion that God the Father was angry at humanity, but that God the Son intervened and through His death persuaded the Father to relent. This idea pits the Father against the Son, the former being wrathful and the latter loving. Nowhere does the Bible teach this. Quite the contrary: It was the Father whose love sent the Son to die for us, just as the Son’s love motivated Him to do it. Also, there is just as much wrath in the Lamb as in the Father (see Revelation 6:16).

Another error that Colossians 1:20 calls to our attention is the error of thinking that there was some kind of magical efficacy in Christ’s blood. If Jesus had cut His finger in Joseph’s carpentry workshop, it would have had no redemptive significance. If we read the Old Testament as foundation to the New Testament, we will see that “the shedding of blood” is a phrase that simply means “death.” It is the death of Christ, not His physical blood, that has reconciled the world. We will not misinterpret Colossians 1:20 if we keep it in its whole-Bible context.

It is clear from Colossians 1:20 that our reconciliation to God is accomplished wholly and solely by Christ. In verse 24, however, Paul speaks of his own sufferings as “filling up what is still lacking” in Christ’s afflictions. Since we can be sure that Paul is not contradicting himself, we have to ask in what sense the sufferings of Christ are “lacking.”

There is nothing lacking in Christ’s sufferings as regards satisfying the wrath of God. God’s people, however, are placed in union with Christ and are given the privilege of joining with His sufferings in another sense. Christ bore our sins on the cross, but we are given crosses to bear one another’s burdens. Our sufferings are part of the outworking of God’s sanctifying work in history, and not until history is finished will what is lacking be completely fulfilled.

It is precisely because we have already been reconciled to God by the unique sufferings of Christ that we can be given the privilege of finishing up what is lacking in His non-unique sufferings. If God has called on you to suffer at this time, ask Him for insight to help you understand the good that it can accomplish for the kingdom.