“24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and I fill up in my flesh that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body, which is the church,”
“I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake”
The Apostle Paul was as selfless as a servant of Christ can be. He was totally committed to serving Jesus no matter what it cost Him, and he did so for the spiritual welfare of others. Paul was single-minded, stable in all his ways (Ja 1:8). He had one purpose in life, one reason for being in this world, and that was to fulfill that which Christ had called him to do. He had a strong sense of accountability to God, and was careful to walk in a manner that was in harmony with His will, no matter how much suffering he had to endure.
Paul had a selfless love for others. He genuinely cared that people were dying and on their way to hell. Thus he went about proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, to both Jews and Gentiles. Everywhere he went, he shared the good news about Jesus and what He did for us. Once they came to faith in Christ and became a part of the elect church, which is His body, he committed himself to teaching them the Word of God. He sacrificed and worked hard to see that believers learned how to live the Christian life, and how to serve Christ. He lived and served with eternity in view. He had no regard for the things of this world; he was always moving forward with his eyes on the King of kings, before whose throne he would one day stand. Nothing else in life mattered to him (Phil 3:7-14). Paul serves as the finest example of servanthood that we have.
“and I fill up in my flesh that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ”
First of all, there was nothing insufficient or incomplete about the afflictions and sufferings of Christ. That is not what Paul is saying here. What he is saying, is that he is picking up where Christ left off in His sufferings. The sufferings of Christ were continuing and being completed through him. Jesus said, “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Just as Jesus yielded His body to suffering, so too Paul yielded his body to suffering for Christ, and for the message that bears His name.
Suffering is not something that Paul was simply willing to endure, it was something that he actually cherished:
“that I may know Him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed to His death;” (Phil 3:10)
Paul wanted to be like Jesus in every way, and that included sharing in His sufferings. For most of us, pain and suffering is something we dread and avoid as much as possible. But Paul, and there have been others like him, did not fear that sort of thing. He didn’t allow physical pain to prevent him from fulfilling the work that God had ordained him to. Paul experienced an unusual sense of God’s grace and power, and that is what enabled him to do what was required of him.
In America, where life is comfortable and enjoyable and fun, it’s hard to imagine giving all that up for a life that is anything but that. However, those who are called to that type of work and that type of life, will experience the same grace and power that Paul did in his work. Whom God calls, He enables. But one must first cast aside the fears that hinder, and step out in the faith that frees. God will act once those steps are taken, just as He did on behalf of the priests as they stepped into the Jordon River while carrying the art of the covenant (Joshua 3:7-17). The step of faith activates the power of God in our lives.
“for the sake of His body, which is the church”
Paul served as he did for the spiritual benefit of the Church, which is the body of Christ. He served for those who would enter, and he served for those who were already a part of it. In the grand scheme of life, nothing else really matters. As the saying goes, “one life will soon be past, and only what’s done for Christ will last.” We simply must take our eyes off the temporary things of this world, and live with eternity always in our view.
“25 of which I was made a servant, according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,”
“I was made a servant”
(See commentary on Col 1:1)
“stewardship” (Gr. oikonomia – 3622)
Management, overseer, as one who is given the responsibilities to oversee the affairs of a household, and is responsible to the owner.
Paul uses this word in a figurative sense to describe his appointment and office as an apostle of Christ. He was tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the church, along with the other apostles. They were the leaders of the early church. They led and established the church in the early years, teaching them the Word of God and about our life in Christ, and protecting them from false teaching. Their authority was confirmed by way “signs and wonders” (Ac 2:43; 5:12; 14:3; 2 Cor 12:2; He 2:4).
“which was given to me for you”
In regard to Paul’s calling as an apostle, his mission was primarily to the Gentiles (Ro 15:15-19). This was his primary area of responsibility as a steward or overseer.
“to fulfill the Word of God”
ESV: “to make the word of God fully known”
NAS: “so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God”
LEB: “to complete the word of God”
NIV: “to present to you the word of God in its fullness”
NET: “to complete the word of God”
NET Bible Note:
“The idea here seems to be that the apostles wants to “complete the word of God” in that he wants to preach it to every person in the known world.”
“Fully discharge my office, so that the divine intent shall be fully carried out in the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles no less than to the Jews.”
“Paul is saying: ‘I just want to do what He called me to do. And I will rejoice in any suffering that comes my way because it’s necessary in fulfilling the scope of the ministry” which include proclaiming fully the “Word of God”, i.e., to as wide an audience as possible’”
Paul’s calling and area of ministry was wide-spread. He was given the task of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many lands and to as many people as possible throughout the known world, especially to the Gentiles.
“26 the mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations, but has now been revealed to His saints,
27 to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,”
A truth not previously revealed.
What is this mystery that Paul is referring to? He answers this question in the next verse:
“which is Christ in you,” referring to the Gentiles.
Paul answers this question more fully in the book of Ephesians:
“3 how that by revelation was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words,
4 whereby, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ;
5 which in other generation was not made known to the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
6 that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” (Eph 3:3-6)
The mystery is that we are now all one in Christ, through a common faith in Him, both Jew and Gentile. Together we make up the Church. We are made one through the indwelling Holy Spirit, both individually and corporately. Before Christ, God dealt with the world through His people, Israel. The Word of God and salvation was proclaimed to, and through, them. It’s not that salvation was limited to believing Jews, but it was a Jewish religion, and therefore, Gentiles had to join themselves to their religion.
However, true Israel is now all those who are in Christ, consisting of both believing Jews and Gentiles. The focus is no longer on a particular nation, but on the Church. It’s no longer a nation that God fulfills His will through, but through a people of common faith in His Son. Together we make up the Church, and together we are the true people of God. This is something that was hidden from the Jews, and to the rest of the world. The Jews didn’t see this coming; it was hidden from them. However, when Christ came, it was revealed to them (and to the rest of the world) through the apostles and prophets.
“pleased” (Gr. thelo – 2309)
To will, to delight in.
“Literally, “willed to make known”
“the riches of the glory”
This “mystery” is a glorious truth, full of eternal wealth and value that can only come from God.
“The mystery of the admission of the Gentiles to the gospel covenant, now revealed through Paul’s preaching, was divinely rich and glorious. This glory is the manifestation of the kingdom of Christ among the Gentiles as their inheritance (Colossians 1:12; compare Romans 8:18, Romans 8:21; 2 Corinthians 4:17). The richness exhibited itself in the free dispensation of the Gospel to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. It was not limited by national lines.”
“the hope of glory”
Referring to our joyous anticipation of Glory, both of the glory of Heaven, and to that time when we have been raised in a glorious, immortal body, where we will dwell in the Eternal Kingdom (1 Cor 15:20-26; 35-57; Matt 25:31-34).