Board index Specific Bible verses, texts, and passages Colossians

Colossians 1:24 - Paul had to complete Christ's work

Postby Dominator » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:20 pm

According to the author of Colossians, Christ's work on the cross is incomplete without Paul. Here's one that probably doesn't get preached much on Sunday morning. I credit Robert Price's The Human Bible for this thought:

The author of Colossians oh so unequivocally states that Christ's work on the cross was not complete. Verse 1:24 reads:

I (Paul) am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
I think this one is complete by itself.

What was incomplete about Christ's sufferings? Should we worship Paul, too, as the one who finished the work on the cross? Catholics might be familiar with this theme with Mary as the co-redeptrix with Christ, whose sorrows at seeing her son's suffering also had redemptive power.

But now we have to add Paul's suffering to the pantheon, too?

What to do, what to do. My argument would be that anyone who takes up his cross and follows Christ in teaching, attitude, and deed completes salvation and becomes one of the Psalm 82:6 Gods, on which Christ proclaimed his own divinity in John 10:34. But that's besides the point. Burn me at the stake, I suppose.

Back to the scriptures: According to Colossians, Christ's work on the cross is incomplete and in need of Paul, the suffering servant.
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Re: Colossians 1:24 - Paul had to complete Christ's work

Postby jimwalton » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:29 pm

Christ's work is finished and doesn't need Paul to make it complete. The Scripture is clear on that point: Heb. 2.9; 1 Pet. 1.11; 5.1; Rom. 5.1; Jn. 10.30. The suffering of Christ on the cross was totally sufficient for salvation, and God's justice was completely satisfied.

This verse has nothing to do with salvation, and that's where Robert Price and you have both erred. It has to do with the suffering of service for Christ. What the verse is about is that we are not yet finished with participating in Christ's suffering. This is what Paul was referring to in Philippians 3.10 when he talked about "becoming like [Christ] in his death." The same thought is in 2 Timothy 3.12. The price for sin was paid and is complete, but the sufferings have barely begun. Those who follow Christ will suffer as he did (John 15.18-21). That's what Paul is talking about in Col. 1.24, not the way of salvation. That way is complete (Col. 1.22).
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Re: Colossians 1:24 - Paul had to complete Christ's work

Postby Dominator » Tue Dec 13, 2016 4:39 pm

I'm sorry, but you can't soften his language to make it fit with other parts of the Scripture. Paul (or the author) overstepped his bounds here. Christ work is finished, but Paul's language clearly indicates here that it is not.

Paul was a pastoral evangelizer, not a systematic theologian, and as such he would wield whatever theological rhetoric served his purpose. I don't think Paul is proclaiming his divinity here (though it is doubtful that Paul shared John's conclusion that Christ was God), but that he was engaging in some pretty extreme rhetorical hyperbole.

Paul crossed the line, in my mind. This is chapter one. The goal is twofold: who is Christ, and who am I (Paul)? It establishes authority, and in order to establish his own, he lifted his sufferings (often times an appeal to churches for his sincerity and authority) up a little to highly.

The language is clear here. It is not: I am completing Christ's work via my work, but I am supplementing the very work accomplished by Christ's suffering on the cross (salvation) via my own sufferings.

I don't think this is necessarily damning to Paul or the Gospel, but it is damning to a particular way of reading the Scripture, which is what I'm more interested in challenging here.

So I would not actually not draw any huge philosophical conclusions from this one verse (or many other verses that do make Christians feel happy in their dogmas) of Paul's. But you also can't ignore this and continue reading as if Paul is infallibly writing inerrant scriptures.

> This is not the first comment you have moved along from Price's Human Bible. I have learned from your posts that it's not a reliable source for biblical information.

It's not perfect, but his research his grounded. It is horrible if you hope wish to preserve the doctrine of Christianity. This particular argument is not as watertight, but if you can't see the demand for child sacrifices prior to their ban in the OT, then you just choose not to read. And if you uphold an inerrant view of Scripture, then to me you prefer abdication to authority to independent thought. If Christ is truly the light of logos, what a blasphemy!
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Re: Colossians 1:24 - Paul had to complete Christ's work

Postby jimwalton » Tue Dec 13, 2016 5:37 pm

You're reading it wrong. The text is not about salvation. Paul is saying that Christ didn't cause suffering to come to a halt. There is plenty of that left for all of us to share. Paul is playing off a common Jewish belief that some suffering had to be fulfilled before the end of the world would come. Paul is saying he's doing his part (2 Cor. 1.5; 4.11-12; Phil. 3.10)! The same thought is expressed in Rev. 6.11: until the suffering was completed.

It's also quite clear that Paul never, ever (not even here) attached any atoning work to his sufferings. He often speaks of his sufferings (Acts 16.25; 2 Cor. 11.16-23; Rom. 5.3; Phil. 2.18), but never with such theology (or pride) in mind. In Col. 1.14 he says that redemption comes through Christ. In 2.14 he says that Christ is the one who takes away all sins.

The term θλίψεων that Paul uses for suffering is a term that is never in all of the NT applied to Jesus's expiatory work on the cross. Paul is not portraying himself as a co-redeemer.

And as far as Paul claiming deity for Christ, you seem to have missed Col. 1.15 and 2.9, among many others.
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Re: Colossians 1:24 - Paul had to complete Christ's work

Postby Dominator » Wed Dec 14, 2016 1:49 pm

What is lacking, specifically, in Christ's afflictions on the cross?
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Re: Colossians 1:24 - Paul had to complete Christ's work

Postby jimwalton » Mon Dec 26, 2016 2:59 pm

Christ didn't die to remove suffering from the world, but to save the world from sin. His suffering on the cross still left behind a world that experienced suffering, and Jesus's followers in specific would particularly continue to suffer (John 15.20; 2 Timothy 3.12). If suffering in the world had to be "filled up" (Revelation 6.11, along with traditional Jewish teachings), Paul and the other believers were partaking in his sufferings to continue the legacy, so to speak (2 Cor. 1.5). It was their figurative way of speaking (Jn. 17.13, "that you may have the full measure of joy"; Mt. 1.22,"to fill up the prophecy...").


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