1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. 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…ESV
I understood the “once you were alienated” of verse 21. I did have a curious little blip when I read “now reconciled in His body of flesh by his death” but I didn’t realize how lightly I’d skimmed over that phrase until I got down to verse 24. Those Words were the shock factor that turned my blip into a full-on stop light. The first thing I found was this wise statement from William Barclay. “It is one of the facts of the human mind that a man thinks only as much as he has to.” The Bible is filled with that “has to” factor. STOP! Look more, this is different, don’t just let this casually slip away.
I found myself wondering about the nature of reconciliation that requires a “body of flesh” as well as Christ’s death. What made those words “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” so shocking is knowing even though we are the the body of Christ, the church cannot save people from their sins, or by baptism or communion make them holy and blameless and above reproach. Only Christ can do that. What could possibly be lacking in His afflictions? What could possibly make someone rejoice in their suffering for the sake of His body, that is the church? Paul knew the answer. He wasn’t boasting when he said I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, he was giving his testimony. It’s a shared testimony for all us who are the part of the physical presence of Christ today, the church.
What is lacking in Christ’s afflictions is our afflictions.
We are His physical testimony, His body, made visible to the world…
He has now reconciled [us] in his body of flesh by his death.