Life-Study of Colossiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 1:24 Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body, which is the church.” When I first read this verse, I was surprised and troubled. I wondered how there could be any lack in the sufferings of Christ. At the time, I was fully under the religious concept that it was impossible for Christ to have any lack. Nevertheless, in this verse Paul says clearly that he was to “fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ.”
Are not the sufferings of Christ already complete? How can it be necessary for the afflictions of Christ on behalf of the Body to be completed? The Lord Jesus underwent two kinds of suffering: the suffering for redemption and the suffering for producing and building up the Body, the church. None of us can have any share in His suffering for redemption. To say that we can participate in this suffering is to speak blasphemy. He alone is the Redeemer, and the suffering for redemption was fully accomplished by Him. We are neither qualified nor positioned to share in the Lord’s suffering for redemption. In typology, on the day of atonement, only the high priest, who made atonement for the people, was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies. The high priest was a figure of Christ as the unique One capable of accomplishing redemption and qualified to do it.
A number of verses speak of Christ’s sufferings for the accomplishment of redemption. For example, 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Christ, the righteous One, died for the unrighteous ones. He was the only One qualified to bear this kind of affliction. Hebrews 9:26 and Isaiah 53:3-5, 7-8 also indicate that Christ suffered to accomplish redemption on our behalf. In this suffering we have no share. It was borne by Christ alone.
Although we cannot participate in Christ’s suffering for redemption, if we are faithful to Him, we must share in His suffering for the producing and building up of His Body. Paul was a pattern for us in this matter. Immediately after his conversion, he began to share in this suffering of Christ, to partake of the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His Body.
This is contrary to the concept that nothing related to Christ can be lacking. According to this concept, whatever Christ is and does is complete. But here is a word telling us that at least one thing related to Christ is lacking—His afflictions for producing and building up His Body. For the producing of His Body, Christ suffered a great deal. But because this suffering has not been completed by Christ Himself, there is the need for His faithful ones to make up this shortage. Paul did not suffer for redemption, but he did suffer for the producing and building up of the Body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul was a pattern for the believers to follow (1 Tim. 1:16). We must consider Paul as a pattern, not as someone who was so high that no one else can be like he was. Because by the Lord’s mercy Paul was set up to be a pattern for us, whatever he was, we can be also. We must believe in the Lord’s mercy. If the mercy of the Lord made Paul a pattern, then His mercy can accomplish in us the same thing that it did in Paul. This means that just as Paul suffered for the producing and building up of the Body of Christ, so we must also suffer for the church.
Christ, of course, took the lead to suffer for the producing and building up of His Body. But the apostles and believers must follow Christ’s footsteps in suffering this kind of affliction. In John 12:24 the Lord Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This verse does not speak of Christ’s redeeming death, but of His producing, generating death. Christ fell into the ground and died as a grain of wheat in order to produce many grains for the church. According to John 12:26, those who desire to serve Him must follow Him in this regard.
In Luke 12:50 the Lord Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straightened till it be accomplished!” The word baptism in this verse refers to Christ’s all-inclusive death on the cross, a death that was not only for redemption, but also for producing the Body through the release of the divine life. As the Lord’s word to His disciples in Mark 10:38 and 39 makes clear, they also were to share in the baptism with which He Himself was to be baptized.
In Philippians 3:10 Paul speaks of knowing the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. These sufferings are not for redemption, but for the building up of the Body. We cannot have fellowship in Christ’s sufferings for redemption, but we need to have much fellowship in Christ’s sufferings for the church.
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