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April 15, 2022
The Suffering Continues
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Colossians 1:24-28

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Let’s turn our Bibles to Colossians chapter one and verse 24. Colossians one and verse 24. We’re going to look at several texts this evening, but we’re going to come towards the end of my message to this passage. Paul writes and he says, “Now I rejoice in my suffering for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the church. Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God, which was given to me for you to fulfill the Word of God. The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to his saints. To them, God willed to make what are the riches of his glory and of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach warning every man, teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Want to speak this evening on the suffering continues. What I want to achieve, my goal in this message is to help you see on the one hand, Christ’s suffering is over, and finished, and done with. But in another sense, his suffering continues through the suffering of the church as it preaches the message of the crucified savior. So keep your Bible open at Colossians 1:24, and please give your attention to God’s Word. Well, it’s Good Friday, and we are focused on the mockery Christ endured, the isolation Christ felt, the beatings Christ took, and the shame Christ faced, and the death Christ died. And as we focus on his sufferings, I would remind you that for his enemies, they were not satisfied with what they got to do to him and the suffering he endured. Their hatred for Jesus Christ was insatiable. For them, the cross was not long enough. For them, the suffering of the cross ended too soon. Because don’t forget, Jesus dismissed himself somewhere late on Friday afternoon.
In John 19:30, it reminds us that he didn’t bow to death. He bowed in death. He sovereignly, according to his own will, in his time, yielded up his spirit to the Father. He chose the moment of his death, right? Jesus said back in John 10:17-18, “No man takes my life from me. I lay it down.” So think about that. For them, the suffering of the cross ended too soon. Jesus’ affliction and agony was not long enough. They wanted the cross to continue. They wanted to add to his suffering. So as soon as the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to the father’s right hand and wasn’t around anymore, who did the world attack? The church. In Jesus’ physical absence, they turned their hatred and hostility towards those who represented him. Towards those who in their manner of life in what they said and how they loved. They turned their animosity towards them as they reminded them of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, Jesus has warned his disciples that that was coming. Back in John 15:18-20, he said, “Look, they hated me and they’re going to hate you.” See, if you were of the world, the world will hate you. But since you’re not of the world, the world’s going to hate you. Is the servant greater than the master?” So as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, and as assure as day follows night, the church will face pressure and persecution for Christ’s sake while we are in this world. Since they can’t take it out on him, they’ll take it out on us, because we remind them of him. We preach his Gospel. We live according to his law and his love. Isn’t it interesting how the early church describes suffering.
Give you two examples. What about Acts 5:41 after the apostles were kind of bullied and censored by the religious authorities. It says that they laughed, and they rejoiced that they had been counted worthy to suffer for his name’s sake. They were happy that they got to suffer on the behalf of Christ, because they realized that indeed they were his representatives. And indeed when the world hated them, they were really hating him. Christ in them, the hope of glory. Paul says in his letter to the Philippines, chapter one verse 29, he says, “Look, it has been granted unto you, not only to believe in him but to suffer on his behalf.” To be on the right side of God has often meant we will be in the wrong side of man. In fact, when John wrote his Gospel where he tells us that the world will hate us because at first hated him, by the time he wrote the Gospel of John, round about AD 80, somewhere between 80 maybe as far up as 90, he was the last living apostle.
They had all been martyred. They’d all suffered to the point of death. Peter, Andrew, and Philip had been crucified. John’s brother, James, had been beheaded. The other James and Thaddaeus had both been stoned to death. Nathaniel had been flared alive. Simon, the zealot had been shot through with arrows. Thomas had been disemboweled with spears in India. Matthew had been stabbed to death somewhere in the caucuses. And now the emperor, Domitian, was indeed persecuting the church, to such an extent that John himself would end up as a prisoner on the island of Patmos, where he would write the book of the revelation of the coming Christ. The world hated Christ, the world will hate Christ in us. Being a Christian makes you weird to the world, okay? If you’re a flat out Christian, if you’re a born again, on fire Christian, which is the only type, by the way, the world’s going to think you’re weird. And no charm offense on the part of the church will save of us from that reality.
Jesus was the embodiment of love in that, yet they hated him because he reminded them of how far short they fell in their love for God and neighbor. So with that background, I’m going to talk about Jesus suffering. And we’re going to talk about his suffering, finished and unfinished, complete and incomplete. We’re going to look at three aspects to his suffering. He suffered as a man, he suffered for, man and he suffers from man. The first two are history, the third is ongoing. The first two are finished and complete. The last one is unfinished and incomplete. Let me explain. Keep your Bible open and follow along. Here’s the first thought as we think about Christ and his suffering. His suffering as a man is over. And for that, I’m thinking about Hebrews two verses 17-18, because the suffering of Christ is talked about.
The Hebrew writer tells us that Jesus, by means of incarnation, he was made flesh and blood, he was made like unto his brethren. Christ was God, but became a man. Added humanity to his daddy without confusion or corruption. He was fully God, fully man. And as man, he faced temptation. He faced trials, he faced tears. And the Hebrew writer tells us he endured all of that kind of suffering, all of that kind of hardship so that he might be qualified to be a merciful and fearful friend to you and to me. Listen to what Hebrews 2:17 and 18 says, “Therefore, in all things he had to be made like his brethren, that he might be a merciful and fearful high priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself suffered, being tempted, he is able, capable to aid sucker strengthen those who are tempted.”
What a great truth. In fact, this truth is picked up just a chapter or two later in Hebrews four, “Seeing then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. Jesus Christ, the son of God. Let us hold fast our confession for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.” Because you see, he lived as a man. He grew up in a poor neighborhood. He grew up the child of peasant parents. He was a refugee in Egypt for a time. He experienced hardship, betrayal, ongoing hatred. He would ultimately, be betrayed by a friend, beaten by the Romans, hung on a tree. I mean, you can think about the gamut of things that Jesus went through as a man. And he did it so they could sympathize with us in our weaknesses, because he himself was tempted yet without sin. Therefore, we can come to him as he sits on a throne of grace, and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. How beautiful is that? What a friend we have in Jesus, right?
All our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. That’s why JC Ryle, the great bishop of Liverpool, said, “Jesus is the son of God mighty to save. But Jesus is the son of man mighty to feel.” At times we’re tempted to say, of God and about God, he doesn’t understand. Now, at that point, we’ve stopped being Christians and we’ve started being deists. That God has removed and unmoved. That God created the world like a clock-maker, and he winded up, and he lets it run. And he kind of stares at a distance. He doesn’t get his hands dirty.
But that’s not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible sent his son. And Jesus Christ became like you and me, yet without sin. And he went through all that he went through so that whatever we are going through, he can identify with us. And so, although you and I are tempted, and at times we faulted the temptation, we might stay a moment of anger or discouragement, hid in the dark, “God you don’t understand.” But he does, more than you understand. He understands. And he stands ready to help you, and pour his grace into that open wound, give you an ability to forgive the unforgivable, and strengthen you for the fight, and give you hope as you travel the road of life. He understands and he undertakes.
One writer Donald MacLeod said this, “Let us never imagine that God does not understand us. God’s son took our nature. He entered our experience. He knows what physical pain is. He knows what emotional and spiritual pain is. He knows what the loss of God is. He stood in the outer darkness in the place where there is no comfort, in the place of absolute why, where needing God as no man ever needed God. He cried and God was not there, right? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I can’t understand that given the oneness of the Trinity. Martin Luther said, “Oh, the mystery of that.” But thank God it’s true. Being a burden such as the world has never known and left comfortless. We never go beyond his pain. Our darkness is never more intense than His. Our whys are never more bewildered. Sometimes when we ask why me, part of his answer is, “Me too.” Wow. That’s the implications of the incarnation and what Jesus suffered.
Let me illustrate this and move on. You know what? Imagine a room with two pianos. Someone’s sitting at one piano, there’s nobody at the other piano. And that the musician or the pianist strikes the note middle C. And interesting thing is that very same note is registered and responded by the other untouched piano. That’s called sympathetic resonance. The Oxford Companion to Music will tell you that phenomena is sympathetic resonance. Jesus’ human instrument is the same as ours. And by virtue of his resurrection, he has taken this same instrument to heaven. So that when your instrument strikes a note of weakness, it resonates with him having been tempted in all points like his way. I’m thankful that that element of Jesus suffering is over and he is qualified to be your friend and my friend forever. Amen?
So his suffering as a man is over and he’s now our great high priest, our constant forever friend. Number two, his suffering for man is finished. His suffering for man is finished. You see, you read the Gospels. The tenor theme and focus of the biblical writers is that Christ came to surrender his life, and to substitute his life for ours in the suffering of the cross. If you want a summary statement, maybe you’re here and you’re a seeker, maybe you’re here and you’re exploring Christianity, maybe you’re just here out of a kindness to a friend. Welcome. We’re so glad you’re here. But I want to tell you that you don’t leave with any misunderstanding of Christianity. Christianity is not an ethic. Christianity is not a set of rules. Christianity is a story centered upon a person and what he did for you and for me, chiefly through dying on the cross, and rising from the dead.
Matthew 20:20, it tells us, “For the son of man came not to be served, but to serve.” What a beautiful way to live for others. “And give his life a ransom for many,” that is give his life on the cross, surrender his life, substitute his life in your place and in mine. The heart of Christianity is not Jesus’ teaching. It’s not Jesus’ miracles, it’s his death, and burial, and resurrection. Paul tells us that one, 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, it’s a matter of first importance that Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the scripture. And it’s a matter of first importance that you and I believe that he was buried, and in the third day rose again. Now let me just get to the heart of what I’m talking about. John 19:30, there’s seven Words that Jesus states on the cross. And this is the sixth one. It’s late in the afternoon. It’s just prior to the seventh cry where he gives up his spirit into the hands of the Father.
And that sixth cry is one word in the Greek, tetelestai. Three Words in the English, it is finished. Now just pause. Let’s keep it very simple. What do you mean? Now, did you notice he didn’t say, “I’m finished. They got me. All my hopes and dreams die in this moment.” He didn’t say, “I’m finished.” He said, “It’s finished.” In fact, just some hours later in anticipation of what he was going to do on the cross, John 17:4 tells us, he said to the Father, “You know what? I’m about to finish the work which you give me to do, and I can’t wait to get home where you’ll restore my glory.” So on the cross he said it is finished, tetelestai. That’s a word that means paid in full.
I hate to remind you, but your taxes are due on April 18th. You’ve got three more days to scrape all your pennies together and get Uncle Sam what he wants. I’ve filed an extension, I’m going to have him waiting for a few more months. But you know what this word, tetelestai, was found in documents around Jesus’ time, and they were tax receipts, all right? Tax receipts. And this word, tetelestai, was fine on them. Paid in full. I’ve paid my debt to the Romans, or I’ve paid my debt to the local principality. So Jesus is saying on the cross, I’ve paid your debt of sin. Wow, how wonderful is that. He paid the debt of our sin in the giving of his life. The just for the unjust. He who knew no sin, absorbed the wrath of God concerning our sin. And in a wonderful exchange, God put our sin on Christ, and if we’ll put our fear in Christ, his righteousness becomes ours.
Christ suffered the penalty of God’s justice which sin deserved. And he finished that work. My friend, what Jesus did for you and for me on the cross is enough. You don’t need to add baptism to that. You don’t need to add keeping the 10 commandments to that. You don’t need to keep the golden rule for God to love you more or you to experience his grace. Jesus said it’s finished. I paid it in full. My friend, if you will put your faith where God put your sin, you can be forgiven of all your sin. Jesus’ suffering was enough. The shedding of Jesus’ blood, propitiated and satisfied a holy God.
In fact, we’re coming to a Colossians 1:24 in a moment, but if you’ll go to Colossians two, verse 14, here’s what you’ll read. “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us, he took it away having nailed it to the cross.” What an image. Paul has in fact, that Friday afternoon in mind. That very cross upon what Jesus uttered the sixth word, finished, paid in full. Paul gets the significance of that and he explains it like this. Above the head of a crucified victim was an indictment. Whatever their crime was, whatever debt they must pay to society was written above the cross. And Pilate had written above the head of Jesus what? He said, he was the king of the Jews. He was messing with the Jews when he did that.
Because they had come earlier in the day and said, “You know what? He’s offended our laws. He’s a blasphemer. He says he’s the king of the Jews. We reject him.” But above the other tooth crucified victims that day were indictments nailed to the cross. And they were paying their debt to society in their own blood. And Paul is saying, “Look, I want you to imagine that. And I want you to see above the head of Jesus nailed to the top of his cross the handwriting against you.” What does that mean? That is the list of sins you’ve committed. In fact, that’s how long… Can’t get there. It’s a long list, isn’t it? All the thoughts that fallen beneath the glory of Go., the failure to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind. The failure to love your neighbor as yourself. Covetous thoughts, blasphemous thoughts. Not keeping the Sabbath. Taking the Lord’s name in vain. Watching movies where his name is taken in vain. When the list goes on.
But the marvel is that list of sins that indict us, has been nailed to his cross and he’s kicking it away. The IOU of your sin has been paid for in the blood of Jesus. Amen? That’s why we celebrate Easter. That’s why we’re going to come in a few minutes and celebrate what Jesus Christ has done for us. Since coming here in 1994, my family has known the love of the American people. We have known the kindness of God’s people, especially. Do good onto all men, but especially the house of God. And we have enjoyed that in many, many ways.
One story when we came to go to the Master Semi in 1994, someone sold us at a next to nothing price, a little Honda Accord. And it went for a while, but it had issues. It was old. I think it went 170,000 miles on it. And once in a while I had the ticket into the shop. And there was a car shop at the bottom of Lyons Avenue in Santa Clarita where we lived. And it was owned by a Christian man. I’d been recommended to go there. He was a member of Grace Community, John MacArthur’s church. And his name was Jay and he became a dear friend. And nine times out of 10 when I went to crack the bill, and looked at the bottom of it, it just had this stump on it, paid. It’s a good feeling. Paid. Paid in full.
He absorbed that price himself like God absorbed the suffering that was due us in his son. In fact, I preached in this word, tetelestai, a few years ago. And it was a Greek friend in the audience, a wonderful man of God called George Cathalous. And after that, my wife and his wife, we went to lunch. And we got to the end, and I was reaching for the bill, and he snatched it out of my hand, and he said, “Tetelestai.” I go, “George, that’s music to my ears. Thank you for listening to the sermon. Pay it in full.” My friend Jesus suffering for man is complete. You don’t need to do anything for God to accept you. You just need to throw your arms around the one God loves most of all, his son, and be amazed at God’s love for you in his son.
Let’s get the last point. Suffering from man is incomplete. Now we’re coming back to where we started. Let’s go to Colossians 1:24. Listen to these words, especially, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you and Philip in my flesh, what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Hold on a moment. What do you mean lacking? Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. What do you mean, Paul, that you’re filling up what’s lacking in the afflictions of Christ? This is a striking statement and it’s going to bring us back to this thought, that the world’s hatred for Jesus Christ is insatiable. And since they can’t get their hands on him, they’ll put their hands on us when they encounter Christ in us. And in that sense, Christ continues to suffer.
Let me unpack that quickly. See Paul’s rejoicing here in his suffering. Because you see, he understands, as he said to the Philippines, “I want to fellowship with him in his suffering. I want to identify through my suffering, for the sake of the Gospel with the one who, in that Gospel, suffered from me, so that God would accept me on the basis of what his son had done.” That’s what Paul is driving out here. What he does not mean is that Christ’s suffering on the cross was not enough or insufficient. We’ve already established what Jesus cried on the cross, enough, done, finished, fully paid. Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:14 all established the fact that Jesus Christ offered himself once forever, and obtained for us eternal salvation. Jesus’ death doesn’t need to be repeated in a mass. Jesus’ death doesn’t need to be added to in tenants, or good works, or religious activity. He offered a full, and final, and forever sacrifice for sin, right? Hebrews 9:26 tells us he appeared at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
There’s a finality and completeness to the work of Christ on the cross. So when we read Colossians 1:26, it can’t mean that Jesus’ work on our behalf was incomplete. And it can’t mean that Paul’s suffering in some way as meritorious. There’s no treasury of the sins. Where we take the merits of some of the great sins of church history and history/ and we add them to ourselves through prayers and penance, so that we might eventually merit God’s favor. And that’s not what we’re talking about. Here’s what we mean, that Christ continues to suffer when Christians suffer for him. I think that’s what Paul’s said here. He says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for you. I do this for the sake of the body of Christ. And when I suffer as part of the body, for the body, I’m filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, as in I experience suffering because of him, and he identifies with me in my suffering.”
In fact, Paul lived this on the other side of what I’m talking about. Remember he was a persecutor. In Acts nine, Jesus stops him and saves him. But remember when Jesus stopped him, he said, “Paul, Paul, why do you persecute me?” Well, Jesus was in heaven. What do you mean, “Persecute me?” Well, you see, Christians make up the body of Christ. Christians are people who live in a union with Jesus Christ by daily faith. And he identifies with us and we identify with him. And when the world hates the church and when society attacks God’s people, they’re persecuting him. And in that sense, he continues to suffer. He suffers with and alongside his people. I love Isaiah 63:9, it says, of God concerning the people of Israel when they were afflicted, he was afflicted. And when people lay hands on you, my friend, for the sake of the Gospel. We think of our brothers and sisters this evening across the world who are looking down the barrel of a gun. Who are in some cold dink sale in North Korea. Who are being chased by Islamic terrorists somewhere in Africa.
They’ve got to believe this, that should anyone lay a hand on them, they are slapping the very face of Christ. Because you see he’s in union with us, and we are in union with him. And so as we close, Paul is saying, “You know what? I rejoice in my suffering because it advances the church and it brings me closer to Christ.” This is a jolting joy, isn’t it? The world tells us to rejoice in our accomplishments, peace, health, wealth. But the Gospel confronts this worldview that puts a premium on ease and comfort. And the Gospel tells us to take up our cross and follow Christ. It’s not only granted to us to believe in him, but to suffer on his behalf, and to find that a joy. We want to know Christ in his suffering. We’re not following the Christ whose sole responsibility is to massage our ego, sooth our wounds, and not add to our suffering.
Now, he told us to take up our cross and die daily. And then our dying, and in our suffering as we preach the Gospel, and live as disciples of Jesus Christ in a world with an insatiable hatred for Christ, we will advance the kingdom. See, his suffering is not just the content of our message. His suffering is the method of our mission. You know what? You and I, if we’re going to advance the Gospel, if we’re going to disciple the nations, it will come at a cost. It will invariably come at a price. Didn’t Paul say that in second Timothy 2:10? “I suffer and endure all things for the sake of the elect that they might obtain eternal salvation.”
What Paul is saying, you know what, if people are going to trust in the suffering savior, I’m going to have to suffer to get that message to many. If we’re going to take the Gospel to the world behind walls and barriers, philosophical and political, it’s going to cost us as the church. And by the way, persecution has started in the west, in Europe, in the United States. Those who hate the Gospel are already in the halls of power. And they’re flexing their muscle. And we’re going to have to understand that Jesus suffering as a man is over, and Jesus suffering form is complete, but Jesus suffering from man continues through the suffering of the church. It’s a suffering church that will spread the Gospel. Read the Book of Acts, study the life of Paul.
Let me finish with this story. For 15 years I was on the board of trustees with Dr. John MacArthur and enjoyed every minute of it. In 2007, he brought a young woman from Tunisia to our board meeting. She’d grown up in his Islamic home but had come to Christ in a wonderful way. Not all the details of her story were told to us, just for some aspects of security and safety, her own father was a high government official in Tunisia. And she told us that one particular day, her uncle, who was a Muslim cleric, arrived at the home to get her to recant. To abandon her faith in Jesus Christ. And they talked for a while, and then it got a little tense, and it got a little heated, especially on his part. And he lifted a kitchen chair and he started beating the girl right down to the floor of the kitchen, continued to beat her.
She said she was able to wrestle herself free and escape, badly injured. Her family whisked her off to the United States for her own safety and she enrolled at the Masters University. That was a day in a board meeting I’d never forget. And here’s what she said as I close, I’ll let her words be my closing words. She said this, “While I lay on the kitchen floor, shielding myself from the blows of my uncle, I, at that moment, realized he had a religion he would kill for. But I had a savior I would die for.” Spoken as a true Christian. See, I’ve got a savior who died for me. And by faith in him, God accepts me. And I am in union with him.
And in union with him. I’m in union with everyone else, in union with him when we make up the body of Christ. And the body of Christ preaches his Gospel, and lives his life, and it reminds the world who’s got an insatiable hatred of him. And so they take it out on us, since they can’t take it out on him. But that’s okay. We’re going to love our enemies and we’re going to preach the Gospel to the nations, whatever the cost, because we have a savior worth dying for. Amen?
Father, we thank you for this word challenging, breathing. We hear the Words of AW Tozer when he said, “We must not embrace a Christianity in which Christ does all the dying.” Oh Lord, we thank you for your death for us. And it’s our privilege should it happen to die for you. Or if it’s not physical death, we die daily. We live a lifestyle that furthers the Gospel. We live a lifestyle of denial in a world that seeks to censor Christianity. Oh Lord, we thank you that your suffering as a man is over. We thank you that your suffering for man is complete. But we recognize your suffering from man is ongoing through the suffering of your church, the body of Christ. Lord, help us to be willing to fill up the afflictions of Christ. To bear his marks in our body.
We pray for the persecuted church this Good Friday, that our brothers and sisters and their children who don’t know what tomorrow can bring, may they revel in the Gospel, treasure Christ, and be willing to suffer. Count it a joy to suffer on his behalf. Because as we are bound in the work of the Lord, our labor is not in vain. The suffering of this present age is not to be compared with the glory that awaits us. For we ask and pray these things in his name. Amen.