Colossians 1:24
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:
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(24-29) Here (as in Ephesians 3, in the same connection) St. Paul dwells on his own mission to set forth the universal gospel to the Gentiles. In the Ephesian Epistle this declaration is made a direct introduction to practical exhortation (comp. Col. 4, 5, 6); here it leads up to the earnest remonstrance against speculative errors in Colossians 2, which precedes a similar practical exhortation. In both cases he dwells on the committal to him of a special dispensation; in both he rejoices in suffering as a means of spiritual influence; in both cases he declares the one object to be the presentation of each man perfect before Christ.

(24) Who now rejoice.—In the true reading of the original there is no relative pronoun. The sentence starts with emphatic abruptness, “Now (at this moment) I rejoice” (just as in 2Corinthians 7:9). In all the three Epistles of the Captivity this same rejoicing is declared in himself and urged on his brethren. In Ephesians 3:13, “I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory;” in Philippians 2:11, “Yea, if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause do ye also joy, and rejoice with me.” There, as here, the rejoicing is in suffering, not in itself, not solely because it is borne with and for Christ, but also because it is for the sake of the Church. Here, however, this idea is expressed with far greater emphasis.

Fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.—The sense of this passage is at first sight startling, but it could not have been thought difficult or doubtful, had not false inferences from it tempted men to shrink from the obvious meaning. Now, (1) the “afflictions of Christ” is a phrase not used elsewhere; for “affliction” (properly, hard and galling pressure) is the ordinary burden of life, and is generally spoken of only as coming on His servants. But, like the common phrase “the sufferings of Christ” (2Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; 1Peter 4:15; 1Peter 5:1), it must moan the afflictions which He endured. It is true, as has been thoughtfully suggested (see Chrysostom and others on the passage) that we are to count as His the afflictions of His Church; but still, even if we are to include these indirect afflictions, we cannot possibly exclude the direct. Next, (2) St. Paul expressly says (in the full force of the original) that “he fills up instead” of his Master, what is still left unfinished of his Master’s afflictions. (See the passages quoted by Dr. Lightfoot in his note on this verse.) He declares, i.e., that, succeeding to the suffering of Christ, he carries it out for the sake of His body the Church. This is, indeed, nothing but a clearer and more striking expression of the truth conveyed in 2Corinthians 1:5, “The sufferings of Christ overflow to us,” so that we bear our part, in addition to the full measure which He bore; and even in the commoner expression, to be “partaker of Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10; 1Peter 4:13), or “to drink of His cup and be baptised with His baptism” (Matthew 20:22-23). But, (3) looking to the meaning and use of the word “afflictions,” we note that “the afflictions of Christ” must be His sufferings on earth considered simply as a part—though immeasurably the chief part—of the burden of humanity in a sinful world, They represent, not the Cross of Atonement, on which He alone could suffer—and in which any reader of St. Paul must find it absurd to suppose that he would claim the slightest share—but the Cross of struggle against sin even to death, which He expressly bade us “take up if we would follow Him.” This He has still left “behind;” this in His strength every one of His servants bears, partly for himself, partly also for others. In the former light St. Paul says, “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14); in the latter he claims it as his highest privilege “to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ for His Body which is the Church.”

In my flesh for his body’s sake.—There is obviously an antithesis here. St. Paul suffers in his natural body for the mystical Body of Christ.

Colossians 1:24-29. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you — Endured for your benefit, having been exposed to them in consequence of my preaching the gospel to you and other Gentiles; and fill up — That is, whereby I fill up; that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ — That which remains to be suffered by his members. These are termed the sufferings of Christ, 1st, Because the suffering of any member is the suffering of the whole, and of the head especially, which supplies strength, spirits, sense, and motion to all. 2d, Because they are for his sake, for the testimony of his truth. And these also are necessary for his body’s sake, which is the church — Not to reconcile it to God, which has been done by Christ’s sufferings, but for an example of patience to it, and for its further edification and establishment in grace. Whereof — Of which church; I am made a minister — Appointed to serve its best interests, and daily employed in doing so; according to the dispensation of God — Or the stewardship with which I am intrusted. See the same expression Ephesians 3:2. Hence the apostle calls himself and his brethren apostles, (1 Corinthians 4:1,) οικονομους μυστηριων Θεου, stewards of the mysteries of God; which is given to me for you — On your account, or for your benefit; to fulfil — Or, fully to preach, as πληρωσαι seems here to signify. Thus, Romans 15:19, πεπληρωκεναι το ευαγγελιον is translated, I have fully preached the gospel; the mystery which hath been hid from ages — Namely, that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and that they should be called into the church of God without being subjected to the bondage of the Jewish law, or the ceremony of circumcision. For by the word mystery is frequently meant, not a matter hard to be understood, but a matter long concealed, and, when revealed, difficult to be believed, through the prejudices of men. Which hath been, comparatively, hid from former ages, and past generations of men, but now is made manifest to his saints — That is, to true believers in Christ, even to Gentiles as well as Jews. Though it was promised in the covenant with Abraham, and predicted that mankind should be saved by faith, this was not understood by the Jews, and therefore it is here called a mystery, or a thing kept secret, in allusion to the heathen mysteries. To whom God would make known — By revelation, confirmed by miracles, and the accomplishment of prophecies; what is the riches of the glory of this mystery — This hitherto concealed doctrine. Here the apostle proceeds to show what was the chief matter of their preaching, as also what was the manner and the end of it. Which is Christ in you — Not only among you, but in you. See on 2 Corinthians 13:5; living in you, Galatians 2:20; dwelling and reigning in your hearts by faith, Ephesians 3:17; through the influence of his Spirit, Romans 8:9-10; John 14:20 : the hope of glory — The ground and source of that hope. For Christ in us as our wisdom, enlightens our minds in the knowledge of that glory; as our righteousness, he entitles us to it; as our sanctification, he makes us meet for it; and as our redemption, brings us to the enjoyment of it. Whom we preach — Who, in believers, as their hope of glory, is the subject of our preaching.

The apostle mentions next the manner of their preaching: warning every man — Namely, of the necessity, excellence, and attainableness of this blessing; and teaching, or instructing, every man — Respecting the way of attaining it; or warning every man of his duty, and teaching him how to fulfil it; and of his danger, and teaching him how to avoid it; in all wisdom — In a rational, Scriptural, and consistent manner; using solid and convincing arguments, and placing them in a clear and lucid order, and adapting the matter, manner, language, and time of our preaching, reproof, or exhortation, to the state, character, and circumstances of our hearers. That we may present, &c. — This was the end of their preaching; what they had in view in the exercise of their ministry; namely, that at the bar of God, in the day of final accounts, they might present every man perfect — Namely, having been made so while on earth; 1st, In an acquaintance with Christian doctrines, 1 Corinthians 2:6; Hebrews 5:12-14; Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 2:2 d, In the possession of Christian graces, faith, hope, love to God and man, humility, resignation, patience, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, &c., Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 4:17; Colossians 3:12-14. 3d, In the enjoyment of Christian privileges, peace with God, a sense of his favour, adoption into his family, the Spirit of adoption, communion with God, an earnest of their future inheritance in their hearts. 4th, In the performance of all Christian duties, perfect in every good work to do his will, Hebrews 13:21; omitting no good work which there is an opportunity and ability to perform, and doing them all from a proper principle, namely, a principle of love to God and mankind; to a proper end, the glory of God; and in a proper spirit, a spirit of lowliness, meekness, and patience. Observe, reader, the same ought still to be the matter, manner, and end of the preaching of all God’s ministers. Whereunto — In order to which important purpose; I also labour — In the sphere appointed me, striving — With zeal and diligence; Greek, αγωνιζομενος, contending, combating, agonizing with an earnestness like that of those who contend in the Grecian games. To these the apostle fitly compared himself; because everywhere he met with the greatest opposition from evil spirits and wicked men; and in preaching the gospel he sustained toils and sufferings much greater than those which the athletes endured in their combats. According to his working Την ενεργειαν αυτου, his energy; which worketh in, or by, me mightily — Supports me in the glorious contest, wherein otherwise I should sink, and renders my efforts effectual to accomplish the purposes intended.

1:24-29 Both the sufferings of the Head and of the members are called the sufferings of Christ, and make up, as it were, one body of sufferings. But He suffered for the redemption of the church; we suffer on other accounts; for we do but slightly taste that cup of afflictions of which Christ first drank deeply. A Christian may be said to fill up that which remains of the sufferings of Christ, when he takes up his cross, and after the pattern of Christ, bears patiently the afflictions God allots to him. Let us be thankful that God has made known to us mysteries hidden from ages and generations, and has showed the riches of his glory among us. As Christ is preached among us, let us seriously inquire, whether he dwells and reigns in us; for this alone can warrant our assured hope of his glory. We must be faithful to death, through all trials, that we may receive the crown of life, and obtain the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls.Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you - For you as a part of the Gentile world. It was not for the Colossians alone, but he regarded himself as suffering on account of his labors in preaching to the pagan at large. His trials at Rome had come upon him because he had maintained that the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles was broken down, and that the gospel was to be preached indiscriminately to all mankind; see this illustrated in the introduction, Section 5.

And fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ - That which I lack of coming up to the sufferings which Christ endured in the cause of the church. The apostle seems to mean:

(1) that be suffered in the same cause as that for which Christ suffered;

(2) that he endured the same kind of sufferings, to some extent, in reproaches, persecutions, and opposition from the world;

(3) that he had not yet suffered as much as Christ did in this cause, and, though be had suffered greatly, yet there was much that was lacking to make him equal in this respect to the Saviour; and,

(4) that he felt that it was an object to be earnestly desired to be made in all respects just like Christ, and that in his present circumstances he was fast filling up that which was lacking, so that he would have a more complete resemblance to him.

What he says here is based on the leading desire of his soul - the great principle of his life - to be just like Christ; alike in moral character, in suffering, and in destiny; see the notes at Philippians 3:10. Having this strong wish, he had been led to pursue a course of life which conducted him through trials strongly resembling those which Christ himself endured; and, as fast as possible, he was filling up that in which he now fell short. He does not mean that there was anything lacking or deficient in the sufferings which Christ endured in making an atonement which was to be supplied by his followers, so that their merits might be added to his in order to secure the salvation of men, as the Romanists seem to suppose; but that there was still much lacking on his part before he should be entirely conformed to the Saviour in his sufferings, and that his present condition was such as rapidly to fill that up. This seems to me to be the fair meaning of this expressions though not the one commonly given. The usual interpretation is, "that which remains to me of affliction to be endured in the cause of Christ." But this seems to me to be cold and tame, and not to suit the genius of Paul.

In my flesh - In bodily sufferings.

For his body's sake, which is the church - See the notes at Ephesians 1:23.

24. Who—The oldest manuscripts omit "who"; then translate, "Now I rejoice." Some very old manuscripts, and the best of the Latin versions, and Vulgate, read as English Version. To enhance the glory of Christ as paramount to all, he mentions his own sufferings for the Church of Christ. "Now" stands in contrast to "I was made," in the past time (Col 1:23).

for you—"on your behalf," that ye may be confirmed in resting solely on Christ (to the exclusion of angel-worship) by the glorification of Christ in my sufferings (Eph 3:1).

fill up that which is behind—literally, "the deficiencies"—all that are lacking of the afflictions of Christ (compare Note, see on [2408]2Co 1:5). Christ is "afflicted in all His people's afflictions" (Isa 63:9). "The Church is His body in which He is, dwells, lives, and therefore also suffers" [Vitringa]. Christ was destined to endure certain afflictions in this figurative body, as well as in His literal; these were "that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ," which Paul "filled up." His own meritorious sufferings in expiation for sin were once for all completely filled up on the Cross. But His Church (His second Self) has her whole measure of afflictions fixed. The more Paul, a member, endured, the less remain for the rest of the Church to endure; the communion of saints thus giving them an interest in his sufferings. It is in reference to the Church's afflictions, which are "Christ's afflictions, that Paul here saith, "I fill up the deficiencies," or "what remain behind of the afflictions of Christ." She is afflicted to promote her growth in holiness, and her completeness in Christ. Not one suffering is lost (Ps 56:8). All her members have thus a mutual interest in one another's sufferings (1Co 12:26). But Rome's inference hence, is utterly false that the Church has a stock treasury of the merits and satisfactions of Christ and His apostles, out of which she may dispense indulgences; the context has no reference to sufferings in expiation of sin and productive of merit. Believers should regard their sufferings less in relation to themselves as individuals, and more as parts of a grand whole, carrying out God's perfect plan.

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you; he confirms his call to the ministry of the gospel from his cheerfulness in his present sufferings, so that they should not be discenraged, being it highly contented him to witness and seal his doctrine by bearing his cross for them, Revelation 5:2,3 2 Corinthians 7:4: see Philippians 1:14,20 2:17. The Jews hated him and persecuted him because of his communion with the Greeks and other Gentiles, which occasioned his imprisonment at Rome, Colossians 2:1 4:3,18 Ac 21:28,29 26:17,18 Eph 3:1; yet this did not deter him from his office, but he took pleasure in doing his duty. Acts 5:41 2 Timothy 2:10, gladly spending himself and being spent for their souls, 2 Corinthians 12:15, for their edification and consolation, 2 Corinthians 1:6,7 Php 1:13,14.

And fill up; and, the copulative, is used as causal; fill up, not simply, but in one’s turn, implying a contradistinction between what Christ suffered for the apostle, and what the apostle suffered for Christ. Christ in his rank suffered what was necessary for my redemption; now I, in my turn, (by his gift, Philippians 1:29), undergo what afflictions are useful for his glory. He purchased salvation by his cross, I advance his kingdom and cause by my combats.

That which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh: one learned man renders this clause, what remains concerning the afflictions for Christ in my flesh; however, if we conceive of things distinctly, we may retain our own translation, considering Paul’s filling up is either:

1. With respect to Christ; so he doth not mean what Christ suffered in his own proper person during his tabernacling here; for neither Paul nor any other penman of the New Testament doth use the term affliction, to express the sufferings of Christ whereby he appeased God’s wrath and satisfied his justice: that he finished in his own person when he gave up the ghost, John 19:30, he perfected all completely, Colossians 1:14,22; nothing will be required from any believer upon that account, Romans 6:9,10 Heb 10:14; there be no remains upon that account, all was filled up by Christ himself. All can be imagined that Paul should mean in this respect, would be only from Christ’s leaving an example, 1 Peter 2:21: q.d. As Christ hath suffered for my salvation, so in like manner, following him, I bear his cross, suffering for his gospel and glory. Or:

2. With respect to Paul himself: the sense is, q.d. As I have borne a great part of afflictions for the name of Christ, and in his glorious communion, 2 Corinthians 1:5 Galatians 6:17 2 Timothy 1:8,10; so in like manner I fill up the remains of them assigned to me a member of the mystical body, in conformity to the image of him who is the Head, Romans 8:18 1 Peter 4:13. I do by little and little accomplish in my present sufferings (which make a part of it) the portion allotted to me in the same afflictions, which are accomplished and accomplishing in our brethren that are in the world, 1 Peter 5:9, in time and degree according to God’s counsel, (whereby the Head was preordained to suffer, Acts 4:28 1 Peter 1:20), which apportioned to every member what share it is to bear, till it be perfectly confirmed to Christ, Philippians 3:10,12,21. These sufferings as Christians, 1 Peter 4:13,14,16, (which the members undergo in their causes), may be said to be the afflictions of Christ:

(1.) Being for his cause and glory, the troubles they receive upon his account may be called his, the badges of his family and followers, Galatians 6:17 Hebrews 11:26.

(2.) Because of the union between Head and members, 1 Corinthians 12:12; they being give, to the whole body, the wounds of his members are his, Acts 9:4,16, he doth sympathize with them; but as he finished his work of proper sufferings while in the flesh, so the apostle’s expression intimates here, their sufferings shall not last longer than they are in the body, they need not fear any purgatory afterwards.

For his body’s sake, which is the church: and while Paul suffered here, he adds another reason for the supporting and cheering of him, viz. the usefulness of his sufferings for the whole church, the mystical body of Christ, as Colossians 1:18; which consideration might sweeten his bitterest afflictions, not only because it was in their service, to further their faith, that he was so persecuted, but for their edification and consolation; this was the scope of his patience, Philippians 1:12-14, to encourage those who knew his testimony to embrace the truth, 2 Timothy 2:10. What the Rhemists and other papists infer hence, that the apostle satisfied for the sins of other believers by his sufferings, contributing to the church’s treasury of satisfactions for temporary punishments, is altogether groundless. It is brutish to conclude, because he sustained afflictions for the edification of the church, that therefore he satisfied for the sins of the church; because he was spent for the Corinthians, that he answered for their faults, 2 Corinthians 12:15: he was not crucified for any, 1 Corinthians 1:13. To take Paul’s sufferings satisfactory is to derogate from Christ’s merit; none is without sin as Christ was, and as it is necessary for him that satisfieth, Proverbs 20:9. Christ’s sacrifice became expiatory, being offered by the eternal Spirit, Hebrews 9:14; he having borne the sins of believers in his own natural body upon the cross, and that by himself, there needs no supplements (could any be found) from others, John 1:29 Hebrews 1:3,8 1 Peter 2:24 1Jo 2:2. To conceit there is any need of human satisfactions as supplies to Christ’s sufferings, is to cross the apostle’s main drift here, Colossians 1:12-14,20-22; he was far from satisfying for himself, Philippians 3:9,12, and shows that every man shall bear his own burden. Galatians 6:5, however he should endeavour to honour Christ, and edify his church, 2 Corinthians 12:10.

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you,.... The apostle, as soon as he had made mention of his being a minister of the Gospel, thinks and speaks of his "sufferings"; for those are what always more or less attend persons in such an office; they are appointed to them by God; Christ has foretold them of them; they are necessary for them; they must expect them, and patiently endure them: the apostle was under them now at this present time, for he wrote this epistle in his bonds when a prisoner at Rome, not for any immorality, any crime he had committed, but for Christ's sake, for his Gospel's sake, for the sake of the churches of Christ to whom he preached, for the confirmation of them, and so of these Colossians; and therefore he says, "for you"; and which he mentions to animate them to abide by the Gospel, for which he was suffering, that it might continue with them and others: nor was he distressed and discouraged at his afflictions, he "rejoiced" in them, because he had the presence of God in them, the Spirit of God and of glory rested on him, and God was glorified by them; he esteemed it an honour done him that grace was given, and he counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ; and as well knowing that he should live and reign with him, since he suffered with him and for him: and what greatly caused and increased his joy was what follows,

and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh; by which are meant not the afflictions or sufferings of Christ in his own person; for these were all over, he was now entered into his glory, was exalted at the Father's right hand, and was crowned with glory and honour: there was nothing left behind of his sufferings, to be undergone by any of his people; he had drank of the cup and all the dregs of it; he had sustained the whole of his Father's wrath, and all the curses of the law, being abated nothing, but was made perfect through sufferings; having perfectly suffered all, he suffered once and once for all, he will suffer no more; nor is there any need of his suffering more or again, for he has finished sin, wrought righteousness, made peace, and obtained eternal redemption; nor had he any partner in his sufferings, nor did he need any, or left any part of his sufferings to be filled up by others; for he endured all and the whole, which the law and justice of God could require in his own body, in the body of his flesh through death; of these sufferings the apostle does not speak, but of such which he filled up in "his" own "flesh"; and design the afflictions of Christ in his members, which are called "his", because of that near union there is between Christ and them; so that what befalls them may be predicated of him; when anyone of them suffers, he suffers with him, as the sufferings of a part of the body are ascribed to the whole person; and because of that sympathy there is between them, he has a fellow feeling with his people in all their infirmities; in all their afflictions he is afflicted: if Saul persecutes his saints, he persecutes him; whatever injury is done to them, he takes it as done to himself, who are to him as the apple of his eye. Moreover, hereby they are conformed unto him, and made like him; as he was, so are they in this world; there is a good deal of likeness between the afflictions of Christ and his people, though in some things there is a great disparity; add to this, that the afflictions of the saints are endured for Christ's sake, for the sake of his Gospel, and the profession of his name, and therefore called his, and the more cheerfully bore by them: now of these there were some remains to be filled up by the apostle; not that all the afflictions of the whole body of Christ were to be, or have been filled up by him; there was a great deal left behind by him to be filled up by others, and which has been filling up ever since, and still is, and yet all is not fulfilled to this day, nor will be till the end of time; but he speaks only of that part and measure of them, which was to be tilled up in his flesh; he had his measure of afflictions allotted to him, great part of which he had endured already, but some remained, the measure was not yet full, though pretty near being completed, which gave him pleasure; it was just filling up, and the time of his departure was at hand, when there would be no more sorrow; for it was only while he was in the flesh he was filling up this measure, and would be quickly up; and what added to his joy was, that as these were the afflictions of Christ, and the measure of them was appointed by his heavenly Father, to be filled up by him in this mortal state, so they were

for his body's sake, which is the church; not in the room and stead of the church, and people of Christ, as were the sufferings of Christ personal; or to exempt them from sufferings who all have their share in this life; nor for their sins to make reconciliation for them, and procure the remission of them; nor to redeem them, or obtain salvation for them, all which is completed by Christ; but for their good and profit, that the Gospel might continue and be blessed to the conversion of many, for the increase of the church and additions to it, and for the furtherance of the Gospel, and that such who professed it might be established and confirmed in it, by the sufferings of the apostle for it: and such good effects did follow upon his sufferings and afflictions; they were for the consolation of many souls, the strengthening of weak believers, and causing even preachers of the Gospel to wax more confident, and more boldly preach the Gospel without fear of man.

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for {r} you, and fill up {s} that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

(r) For our profit and benefit.

(s) The afflictions of the Church are said to be Christ's afflictions, by reason of that fellowship and knitting together that the body and the head have with one another. And this is not because there is any more need to have the Church redeemed, but because Christ shows his power in the daily weakness of his own, and that for the comfort of the whole body.

Colossians 1:24.[61] A more precise description of this relation of service, and that, in the first place, with respect to the sufferings which the apostle is now enduring, Colossians 1:24, and then with respect to his important calling generally, Colossians 1:25-29.

ὃς (see the critical remarks) ΝῦΝ ΧΑΊΡΩ Κ.Τ.Λ.: I who now rejoice, etc. How touchingly, so as to win the hearts of the readers, does this join itself with the last element of encouragement in Colossians 1:23!

νῦν] places in contrast with the great element of his past, expressed by οὗ ἐγεν. κ.τ.λ., which has imposed on the apostle so many sorrows (comp. Acts 9:16), the situation as it now exists with him in that relation of service on his part to the gospel. This present condition, however, he characterizes, in full magnanimous appreciation of the sufferings under which he writes, as joyfulness over them, and as a becoming perfect in the fellowship of tribulation with Christ, which is accomplished through them. It is plain, therefore, that the emphatic νῦν is not transitional (Bähr) or inferential (Lücke: “quae cum ita sint”); nor yet is it to be defined, with Olshausen, by arbitrary importation of the thought: now, after that I look upon the church as firmly established (comp. Dalmer), or, with Hofmann, to be taken as standing in contrast to the apostolic activity.

ἐν τοῖς παθήμ.] over the sufferings; see on Php 1:18; Romans 5:3. This joy in suffering is so entirely in harmony with the Pauline spirit, that its source is not to be sought (in opposition to Holtzmann) in 2 Corinthians 7:4, either for the present passage or for Ephesians 3:13; comp. also Php 2:17.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν] joins itself to ΠΑΘΉΜΑΣΙΝ so as to form one conception, without connecting article. Comp. on Colossians 1:1; Colossians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 7:7; Ephesians 3:13; Galatians 4:14. Since ὙΠΈΡ, according to the context, is not to be taken otherwise than as in ὙΠῈΡ ΤΟῦ ΣΏΜ. ΑὐΤΟῦ, it can neither mean instead of (Steiger, Catholic expositors, but not Cornelius a Lapide or Estius), nor on account of (Rosenmüller, Heinrichs, Flatt; comp. Ephesians 3:1; Php 1:29), but simply: in commodum,[62] namely, ἵνα ὑμᾶς ὠφελῆσαι δυνηθῶ, Oecumenius, and that, indeed, by that honourable attestation and glorifying of your Christian state, which is actually contained in my tribulations; for the latter show forth the faith of the readers, for the sake of which the apostle has undertaken and borne the suffering, as the holy divine thing which is worthy of such a sacrifice. Comp. Php 1:12 ff.; Ephesians 3:13. The reference to the example, which confirms the readers’ faith (Grotius, Wolf, Bähr, and others), introduces inappropriately a reflection, the indirect and tame character of which is not at all in keeping with the emotion of the discourse.

The ὑμῶν, meaning the readers, though the relation in question concerns Pauline Christians generally, is to be explained by the tendency of affectionate sympathy to individualize (comp. Php 1:25; Php 2:17, et al.). It is arbitrary, doubtless, to supply τῶν ἐθνῶν here from Ephesians 3:1 (Flatt, Huther); but that Paul, nevertheless, has his readers in view as Gentile Christians, and as standing in a special relation to himself as apostle of the Gentiles, is shown by Colossians 1:25-27.

καί] not equivalent to ΚΑῚ ΓΆΡ (Heinrichs, Bähr), but the simple and, subjoining to the subjective state of feeling the objective relation of suffering, which the apostle sees accomplishing itself in his destiny. It therefore carries on, but not from the special (ὑμῶν) “ad totam omnino ecclesiam” (Lücke), since the new point to be introduced is contained in the specific ἈΝΤΑΝΑΠΛΗΡῶΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ, and not in ὙΠῈΡ Τ. ΣΏΜ. ΑὐΤΟῦ. The connection of ideas is rather: “I rejoice over my sufferings, and what a holy position is theirs! through them I fulfil,” etc. Hence the notion of χαίρω is not, with Huther, to be carried over also to ἈΝΤΑΝΑΠΛΗΡῶ: and I supplement with joy, etc. At the same time, however, the statement introduced by καί stands related to ΧΑΊΡΩ as elucidating and giving information regarding it.

ἀνταναπληρῶ] The double compound is more graphic than the simple ἀναπληρῶ, Php 2:30; 1 Corinthians 16:17 (I fill up), since ἀντί (to fill up over against) indicates what is brought in for the making complete over against the still existing ὑστερήματα. The reference of the ἀντί lies therefore in the notion of what is lacking; inasmuch, namely, as the incomplete is rendered complete by the very fact, that the supplement corresponding to what is lacking is introduced in its stead. It is the reference of the corresponding adjustment,[63] of the supplying of what is still wanting. Comp. Dem. 182. 22: ἀνταναπληροῦντες πρὸς τὸν εὐπορώτατον ἀεὶ τοὺς ἀπορωτάτους (where the idea is, that the poverty of the latter is compensated for by the wealth of the former); so also ἀνταναπλήρωσις, Epicur. ap. Diog. L. x. 48; Dio Cass, xliv. 48: ὅσονἐνέδει, τοῦτο ἐκ τῆς παρὰ τῶν ἄλλων συντελείας ἀνταναπληρωθῇ. Comp. ἀντεμπίπλημι, Xen. Anab. iv. 5. 28; ἀνταναπλήθειν, Xen. Hell. ii. 4. 12; and ἀντιπληροῦν, Xen. Cyr. ii. 2. 26. The distinction of the word from the simple ἀναπληροῦν does not consist in this, that the latter is said of him, who “ὑστέρημα a se relictum ipse explet,” and ἀνταναπλ. of him, who “alterius ὑστέρημα de suo explet” (so Winer, de verbor. c. praepos. in N. T. usu, 1838, III. p. 22); nor yet in the endurance vieing with Christ, the author of the afflictions (Fritzsche, ad Rom. III. p. 275); but in the circumstance, that in ἀνταναπλ. the filling up is conceived and described as defectui respondens, in ἀναπλ., on the other hand, only in general as completio. See 1 Corinthians 16:17; Php 2:30; Plat. Legg. xii. p. 957 A, Tim. p. 78 D, et al. Comp. also Tittmann, Synon. p. 230.

τὰ ὑστερήματα] The plural indicates those elements yet wanting in the sufferings of Christ in order to completeness. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:12.

τῶν θλίψ. τοῦ Χριστοῦ] τοῦ Χ. is the genitive of the subject. Paul describes, namely, his own sufferings, in accordance with the idea of the κοινωνεῖν τοῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθήμασι (1 Peter 4:13; comp. Matthew 20:22; Hebrews 13:13), as afflictions of Christ, in so far as the apostolic suffering in essential character was the same as Christ endured (the same cup which Christ drank, the same baptism with which Christ was baptized). Comp. on Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Php 3:10. The collective mass of these afflictions is conceived in the form of a definite measure, just as the phrases ἀναπιμπλάναι κακά, ἀναπλῆσαι κακὸν οἶτον, and the like, are current in classic authors, according to a similar figurative conception (Hom. Il. viii. 34. 354, 15:132), Schweigh. Lex. Herod. I. p. 42. He only who has suffered all, has filled up the measure. That Paul is now, in his captivity fraught with danger to life, on the point (the present ἀνταναπλ. indicating the being in the act, see Bernhardy, p. 370) of filling up all that still remains behind of this measure of affliction, that he is therefore engaged in the final full solution of his task of suffering, without leaving a single ὑστέρημα in it,—this he regards as something grand and glorious, and therefore utters the ἀνταναπληρῶ, which bears the emphasis at the head of this declaration, with all the sense of triumph which the approaching completion of such a work involves. “I rejoice on account of the sufferings which I endure for you, and—so highly have I to esteem this situation of affliction

I am in the course of furnishing the complete fulfilment of what in my case still remains in arrear of fellowship of affliction with Christ.” This lofty consciousness, this feeling of the grandeur of the case, very naturally involved not only the selection of the most graphic expression possible, ἀνταναπληρῶ, to be emphatically prefixed, but also the description, in the most honourable and sublime manner possible, of the apostolic afflictions themselves as the θλίψεις τοῦ Χριστοῦ,[64] since in their kind and nature they are no other than those which Christ Himself has suffered. These sufferings are, indeed, sufferings for Christ’s sake (so Vatablus, Schoettgen, Zachariae, Storr, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Böhmer, and others; comp. Wetstein), but they are not so designated by the genitive; on the contrary, the designation follows the idea of ethical identity, which is conveyed in the ἰσόμοιρον εἷναι τῷ Χριστῷ, as in Php 3:10. Nor are they to be taken, with Lücke (comp. Fritzsche, l.c.), as: “afflictiones, quae Paulo apostolo Christo auctore et auspice Christo perferendae erant,” since there is no ground to depart from the primary and most natural designation of the suffering subject (θλῖψις, with the genitive of the person, is always so used in the N. T., e. g. in 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 3:12; Jam 1:27), considering how current is the idea of the κοινωνία of the sufferings of Christ. Theodoret’s comment is substantially correct, though not exhibiting precisely the relation expressed by the genitive: ΧΡΙΣΤῸς ΤῸΝ ὙΠῈΡ Τῆς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς ΚΑΤΕΔΈΞΑΤΟ ΘΆΝΑΤΟΝΚΑῚ ΤᾺ ἌΛΛΑ ὍΣΑ ὙΠΈΜΕΙΝΕ, ΚΑῚ Ὁ ΘΕῖΟς ἈΠΌΣΤΟΛΟς ὩΣΑΎΤΩς ὙΠῈΡ ΑὐΤῆς ὙΠΈΣΤΗ ΤᾺ ΠΟΙΚΊΛΑ ΠΑΘΉΜΑΤΑ. Ewald imports more, when he says that Paul designates his sufferings from the point of view of the continuation and further accomplishment of the divine aim in the sufferings of Christ. Quite erroneous, however, because at variance with the idea that Christ has exhausted the suffering appointed to Him in the decree of God for the redemption of the world (comp. also John 11:52Colossians 1:24-29. PAUL REJOICES THAT HIS SUFFERINGS ARE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE CHURCH, IN WHOSE SERVICE HE FULFILS HIS DIVINELY APPOINTED TASK, OF FULLY PREACHING THE LONG HIDDEN BUT NOW REVEALED MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL, WHICH IS UNIVERSAL IN ITS SCOPE, A TASK IN WHICH HE USES ALL THE MIGHTY STRENGTH WITH WHICH GOD HAS ENDOWED HIM.

24–29. The Apostle’s joy, and labour, in his Ministry

24. Who] This word is undoubtedly to be omitted, on the evidence of documents. Read, Now I rejoice.

now] as I review the glory of our Redeemer in His Person and His Work, the scope of His Gospel, the blessedness of His service.

rejoice in my sufferings] Cp. Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:13; Php 2:17-18.

“A pastor should always regard himself as the representative (vicaire) of the love of Jesus Christ towards His Church, not only for teaching, but also for suffering” (Quesnel, on this place).

fill up … afflictions of Christ] Lit., fill up, as required, the lackings of the tribulations of Christ. The verb rendered “fill up” by A.V. is a double compound (found here only in the Greek Scriptures) conveying the thought of a supply occasioned by, fitted to, a demand. (See Lightfoot’s quotations.) The word rendered “sufferings” is better “afflictions,” or more exactly “tribulations,” “troubles.” It is nowhere else in N.T. used of our blessed Lord’s experiences, though it occurs in the Psalm of the Crucifixion, 22:(21 in the LXX.)11. Its ordinary reference is not to the pains of death but to the toils and anguish of persecution, and generally to the trials of a burthened life.

Thus there is no suggestion here of any supplement added by Paul to the unique Sufferings of the Propitiator in His atoning Death; a sorrow and labour in which the Lord stood absolutely alone, unapproachable for ever by any or all of His people, “bearing their sins,” “made a curse for them.” The reference is to the toils, shame, and persecution of the Lord’s life and labour as “the Apostle of our profession” (Hebrews 3:1), our supreme Evangelist and Pastor. In these “troubles,” though indeed preeminent, He was not unique. He only “began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1) personally what through His members He was to carry on the end, and what was in this respect left incomplete when He quitted earth. Every true toiler and sufferer for Him and His flock contributes to the “filling up” of that incompleteness, so far as he toils and bears in Christ.

“The idea of expiation or satisfaction is wholly absent from this passage” (Lightfoot).

“The Apostle entered deep into the spirit of his suffering Master when he wrote those words, so embarrassing for the commentators, so edifying for the simple, where the sufferings of the disciple are made almost as necessary for the instruction of the Church as those of the Saviour for its redemption.” (Ad. Monod, Saint Paul, Cinq Discours, p. 55.)

in my flesh] Connect these words with “fill up,” not with “afflictions of Christ” as some expositors. True, “in all their affliction He is afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9); and so in a tender sense He was “afflicted in” His servant’s “flesh,” his sensibilities and powers in bodily life. But, as Lightfoot points out, this explanation here is out of harmony with the verb “fill up as required.” The thought is of tribulations necessary for the practical ends of gathering in and building up the Church.

for his body’s sake, &c.] Cp. 2 Timothy 2:10, a close parallel. For the sake of the glorious Head, the spiritual Body becomes Paul’s absorbing interest.

On the words “body” and “Church” see above, on Colossians 1:18.

Colossians 1:24. Νῦν, now) This is in antithesis to from (since) the day that, Colossians 1:9.—καὶ, and) This is to be explained thus: in my sufferings, in which I fill up in turn. And is used as but,[2] Ephesians 5:27.—ἀνταναπληρῶ, I fill up in turn) The measure of sufferings was fixed, which the whole Church must endure. The more of them therefore that Paul endured (drained out), the less is left for himself and others; the communion of saints produces this effect. [While the measure of sufferings destined for Paul was filling up, the Gentiles attained to the full communion (participation) of the Gospel.—V. g.] Hence the Papists infer the doctrine of merit in behalf of others, as very many errors in their system have sprung from a subtle (nice and profound) truth, received without discrimination.—ὑπὲρ, for) Ephesians 3:1, note.

[2] Not having spot, etc.—BUT that it should be holy, for, but holy.—ED.


(1) The apostle's ministry is at present one of suffering (ver. 24)

(2) Christ, the Hope of the Gentiles, the Secret of the ages, is its theme (vers. 25-27);

(3) and its aim the individual perfection of all to whom it is addressed (ver. 28).

(4) In seeking which he is sustained by a supernatural power (ver. 29). Verse 24. - Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake (Colossians 4:3; Ephesians 3:1, 13; Ephesians 6:19, 20; Philippians 1:12, 16, 29; Philippians 2:17; Philemon 1:9, 13; 2 Timothy 1:11, 12; Acts 9:16; Acts 26:29). "Who" is wanting in the older manuscripts. The abruptness of expression indicates a sudden outburst of feeling (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Timothy 1:12). "Now - as these thoughts fill my mind" (Lightfoot); or, better, "In my present position (with the chain round my wrist:" Eadie). St. Paul's sufferings as apostle of the Gentiles and in defence of their rights in the gospel - so "for your sake" (comp. Acts 13:44-50; Acts 22:21, 22; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; Romans 15:16; Galatians 5:11; 1 Timothy 2:7) - were matter of joy to him as they were of benefit to them. And am filling up in my turn the things that are lacking of the afflictions of Christ (Mark 10:39; John 15:20; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:12; Philippians 3:10). "Am filling up" (ἀναπληρόω) has the same object (ὑστέρημα) in 1 Corinthians 16:17; Philippians 2:30 (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10). Here it is further compounded with ἀντί ("over against"), which implies some sort of correspondence - between defect and supply, say Meyer, Alford, Ellicott; but this is surely contained in the idea of filling up, whereas ἀντὶ bears as a rule, and always in St. Paul, a distinct and pointed reference of its own. "He says not simply ἀναπληρῶ, but ἀνταναπληρῶ, that is, Instead of the Lord and Master, I the slave and disciple" (Photius). Christ, the Head, had borne his part, now the apostle in turn fills up his part, in the great sum of suffering to be undergone on behalf of the body of Christ (see parallels). The verb being so understood, then, with Lightfoot, we infer that "the afflictions of Christ" (a phrase peculiar. . to this passage). are:

(1) Christ's own ministerial sufferings, endured at the hands of men. Affliction is a common term for all that Christians suffer as being in "this present evil world" (2 Thessalonians 1:4-6; Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 4:17: comp. John 16:33). Such suffering is common to the Master and his servants (John 15:20), and he leaves behind to each his fitting and correspondent share therein. These afflictions are "the sufferings of the Christ" in their ministerial as distinguished from their mediatorial aspect.

(2) The latter sense is, however, put on the phrase by Romanist divines, who quote the text in support of the doctrine of the merit of the saints, in contradiction to the uniform teaching of St. Paul and the whole New Testament, that the sacrifice of Christ is the sole meritorious ground of salvation for all men, leaving nothing to fill up (vers. 20-22; Ephesians 2:16; Romans 3:25, 20; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 10:14; Acts 4:12; Acts 13:38, 39; John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 2:24, etc.). It is worthy of note that, unless it be in the Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul never uses the words "suffer," "suffering" (much less "affliction") in connection with the atoning sacrifice. He dwells rather on the objective fact itself - "the death," "the cross," "the blood."

(3) The prevailing interpretation (Chrysostom, Augustine, down to Alford, Ellicott) finds here the afflictions of the Church (including Paul's) made Christ's by mystic sympathy (Ephesians 5:23, 29). But this view identifies Paul's sufferings with his Master's, while he expressly distinguishes them; and the idea, however beautiful in itself, is without Pauline analogy.

(4) Meyer holds the afflictions to be Paul's own afflictions which are Christ's by ethical identity, as belonging to the same class. This approaches (1), but is less simple grammatically, and again confuses the antithesis involved in the pointed ἀντί.

(5) Other modifications of this view - afflictions coming from Christ, on account of Christ, etc. - are less plausible. Dr. Gloag, in the Expositor, first series, vol. 7. pp. 224-236, fully discusses the passage and ably defends (3). In my flesh (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11; 2 Corinthians 7:5; Galatians 4:13, 14); for St. Paul's physical nature felt keenly the pangs of imprisonment, the chafing of "these bonds." And thus he puts honour on the despised flesh, as capable of such high service (see note, ver. 22). On behalf of his body, which is the Church (ver. 18; Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:23; 2 Timothy 2:10). The interests of the Church demanded his sufferings. They are "for you" (Colossian Gentiles); but, in his view, the full possession of the gospel by the Gentiles and the existence of the Church itself were vitally bound up together (Ephesians 2:15, 21, 22; Ephesians 3:6). If "Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for her" (Ephesians 5:25), he might well in his turn suffer on the same account. The magnitude of the interests involved are measured by his greatness whose body the Church is (vers. 15-18). (On "body," see note, ver. 18 .) Colossians 1:24Who now

Omit who. Now is temporal: in the midst of my imprisonment and sufferings, after having become a minister of the Gospel, and having preached it.

In my sufferings

Not as our idiom, rejoice in, as rejoice in the Lord, but in the midst of; while enduring.

Fill up (ἀνταναπληρῶ)

Only here in the New Testament. Lit., fill up in turn. Rev., on my part (ἀντί) Ἁναπληρόω to fill up occurs 1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 16:17; Galatians 6:2, and elsewhere. The double compound προσαναπληρόω to fill up by adding, 2 Corinthians 9:12 (note); 2 Corinthians 11:9. Ἁντί on my part offsets Christ in the next clause. Lightfoot explains well: "It signifies that the supply comes from an opposite quarter to the deficiency, and so describes the correspondence of the personal agents," and not merely the correspondence of the supply with the deficiency.

That which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ (τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ)

Lacking, lit., behind. Used with different compounds of πληρόω to fill, 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 2:30. Of the afflictions of Christ. The afflictions which Christ endured; which belonged to Him: not Paul's afflictions described as Christ's because endured in fellowship with Him (Meyer); nor the afflictions which Christ endures in His Church (Alford, Ellicott, Eadie).

These afflictions do not include Christ's vicarious sufferings, which are never denoted by θλίψεις tribulations. That which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ signifies that portion of Christ's ministerial sufferings which was not endured by Him in person, but is endured in the suffering of Christians in all generations in carrying out Christ's work. Compare 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:10. Hence those are mistaken interpretations which explain the filling up as a correspondence of the supply with the deficiency. The correspondence is between the two parties, Christ and His followers, and the supply does not correspond with the deficiency, but works toward supplying it. The point is not the identification of Paul with Christ in His sufferings (which is true as a fact), but the distinction between Paul and Christ. Hence the present tense, I am filling up, denoting something still in process. The full tale of sufferings will not be completed until the Church shall have finished her conflict, and shall have come up "out of great tribulation" to sit at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

In my flesh

Connect with fill up.

For His body's sake, which is the Church

Σάρξ flesh is never used of a metaphorical organism like the Church, but σῶμα body. See on flesh, Romans 7:5, sec. 3. In Colossians 1:22, flesh was used with body in order to define the reference of body to the fleshly human organism of Christ. Compare John 1:14. Here σῶμα body only, defined by Church.

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