10/3 Colossians 1:24

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.

Many people puzzle over the meaning of this statement. How could Christ's afflictions be lacking? The confusion comes over the purpose of the suffering. Jesus' suffering came because He was paying the just penalty for our sins. Certainly there was nothing lacking in that suffering. His declaration of "It is finished" could be translated "Paid in full!" So what is Paul talking about?

The ultimate purpose of paying for our sins was to claim a bride. Jesus could only have a bride who is holy. While Jesus' death on the cross meant that those who repent are forgiven of all sins, the bride, which consists of all believers, still needs a lot of preparation. Paul called it being washed by the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26). As Paul proclaimed the gospel to the Gentile world, he was not only inviting them to be a part of the bride of Christ, but also teaching them how to live, preparing for that day when we will see Jesus face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). He was persecuted for doing so.

The suffering that was "lacking" was that which believers receive from inviting people to belong to Jesus and preparing them for eternity with Him as His bride. Paul was a part of the body of Christ and so are all those who share the gospel and disciple others. All who suffer for doing so fill up what is "lacking" in Christ's affliction for the sake of His body, that is, the church. Paul said he did so gladly.

Consider: Think of what an honor it is to suffer for this incredible cause. Would you gladly suffer for the One who suffered for you?