Look at those two words… What do they mean to you? “It’s all Greek to me,” you may say.
Well, it is Greek. Those two little words come from Colossians 1:24 and are often translated sufferings/afflictions and sufferings/sufferings. I believe the first is more appropriate and some of what I say will explain why.
Here is the verse in question,
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my physical body—for the sake of his body, the church—what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” Col 1:24(NET)
Why do I believe rendering one of those “sufferings” different than the ever wiser NET translators? Because the word is supposed to be different and convey a different sense of “suffering.” They are two words in Greek, those first two I cited.
Paul is purposefully separating these two words that have a different perspective. His sufferings are something they can see, or witness first hand; read the preceding three verses and see what I mean.
Paul doesn’t want them to waver from the “hope of the gospel that ya’ll heard.” Soon he will tell them what the “mystery that has been kept hidden” is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Why all this talk of sufferings and afflictions and hope and glory et cetera? Because, what happens when Christians fail; what happens when we “move away from the hope of the gospel” Col 1:23b(NASB)?
What would constitute this?
Is sin a sign we have indeed moved away from this hope?
In short, yes and no. Sin, in and of itself, is not a sign one has wavered from the hope of the gospel. Paul tells the Colossians what that hope is, the free and gracious reconciliation of us toward God in Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection by faith.
Buuuut… there are implications of what this means for us, as Christians.
It means a change. A change in how we look at active sin and past sin we no longer participate in.
If a christian commits active sin without regards to the consequences, what does that say of their “hope in the gospel?”
Does it show a genie in a bottle type hope; a hope where the gospel just covers this stuff, a “Jesus will fix it all on the other side” hope?
Paul mentions this type of activity in 1 Cor 6:9–10
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
That is not Christian hope. Christian hope is hard, that is what I believe Paul is talking about when he uses that Greek word I mentioned above; the word translated “sufferings.” It is suffering we have in rejecting and combatting sin, I believe it is why Paul uses two different words for his sufferings (and by consequence ours) and then Christ’s.
Christ’s is different, but in some way it is lacking for the Colossians. It is lacking because they didn’t see it or experience it first hand. Paul often uses himself as a punching bag of sorts, a look at me type of example. “I’m showing you how to experience this stuff and overcome, it’s God working in me and it will be for you too… if you continue.”
When is there no hope though? When we stop trying to combat sin and give in. That is when one can say, “I have no hope.”
If Christ is in you, you always have hope! You are indeed a new creation, not of this world, therefore you have the tools necessary to combat a “sin pattern” of life. If need be, and there is always a need, God gives us brothers and sisters, just as the Colossians had Paul, to lean on as examples and tools to assist in combat.
If we don’t use them, what does that show towards our efforts?
Let us, Christians, fight the good fight and help, rejoice in our sufferings for other Christians, and fill up in our physical bodies—for the sake of his body, the church—what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.
That is how we see hope working. Don’t forget the ending of that quote from 1 Cor 6:9–10 concerning active sin…
“Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:11(NET)
Let’s help each other remember the hope of the gospel, the hope of glory!