Useful Bible Studies > Colossians Commentary > chapter 1

When Paul suffered, Christ was suffering in him

Colossians 1:24

This is a difficult verse; not all Bible teachers agree about its meaning. There are two difficulties:-

(1) In most Bible translations, Paul begins: ‘I rejoice in my sufferings on behalf of you.’ To rejoice is to have joy; sufferings are pain and troubles. Paul wrote these words as a prisoner in Rome (see Acts 28:16-31). Although he suffered much there, God gave him great joy (Philippians 1:18-19). Paul was suffering there because of his work for God, to declare God’s good news to the Gentiles (people who are not from Israel) – Ephesians 3:13.

However, the word ‘my’ does not actually appear in that part of Colossians 1:24, in the original language (Greek). So Paul could mean that he rejoiced in Christ’s sufferings. Christ died so that we can have a right relationship with God (Romans 5:6-8; 1 Peter 4:13).

(2) After that, Paul adds some words that are definitely about his own troubles. In his own body, Paul was completing what was lacking in Christ’s sufferings for his people. It is difficult to know what Paul means here. Paul did not believe that anything was lacking in Christ’s death (Romans 5:18-21). So clearly, Paul was using a word-picture here. Only Christ could suffer to bring people a right relationship with God (1 Peter 2:24); his death achieved all that God intended (Hebrews 9:24-26).

So probably, Paul was saying that he (Paul) did not consider his troubles to be his own. Paul depended absolutely on Christ. Paul lived by the strength that came from Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). So when Paul suffered, in reality Christ was suffering in him. In other words, Paul’s pain was real, but in his mind he handed the matter over to Christ. Paul’s own task then was simply to serve God with joy, in that situation.

Next part: Who, or what, should a minister serve? (Colossians 1:25)


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