Posted by: Moses | January 7, 2006

The God Who Lacks

Colossians 1:24-29 is a beautiful depiction of God using a man to uniquely fulfill His sovereign desires. These verses follow Paul’s glorious description of Christ’s preeminence in and ownership of all things, and then, seemingly incongruously, he mentions something that Christ lacks. The perfect image of a perfectly self-sufficient God, and He lacks something? How can this be? He created all things, and through Him all things hold together, He is the head of the body, the church; He is even the first born from the dead! The God who cannot die, is even preeminent in conquering something that never had any power over Him. He is all God, and He has reconciled His entire fallen creation back to Himself. (Colossians 1:15-20)
And yet, this all-sufficient owner of the entire universe lacks something, he lacks something that Paul has! What? Paul exists by His power; He holds together because of Christ’s power, and yet he has something Christ does not? Yes. Paul says it right there in the middle of the verse, his flesh.
Christ suffered, died, took on our guilt, and conquered it. In one fell swoop he accomplished the salvation, sanctification, and glorification of every believer (Hebrews 10, Romans 8 ) There is nothing left for Him to do. There is nothing lacking; His sacrifice was perfect.
Now consider; since God is all-powerful, we generally assume that He lacks nothing. In a sense that is a true statement, but in another sense because He is all-powerful he does lack negative attributes. God lacks weakness; God lacks lust or sin in general; and God lacks a physical body here on earth. Paul, on the other hand, had a physical body here on earth.
The only thing lacking in Christ’s affliction is His bodily presence with the church. He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High and does not walk the paths of earth with us anymore. He is omnipresent, but He is not leading us and suffering for us in His body. This lack of “presence” with His body allows for three unique ways that God uses Paul and other ministers of His word. The nifty thing is, that each of the ways that Paul is used to serve God is a beautiful illustration of Paul’s utter dependence on His creator.

Suffering on His Behalf

First, since Christ’s work is finished and He has ascended, He can no longer suffer on the behalf of His children. His work is done; however the Holy Spirit’s work through the church has just begun. Paul suffered afflictions for the sake of the Body of Christ. He suffered all manners of injustice to further the gospel. Tertullian said in response to the early church’s persecution that “the oftener [Christians] are mown down… the more in number [they] grow. The blood of Christians is seed.” Suffering Christianity strengthens the church, it prunes the fake, and strengthens the faithful. In verse twenty-four Paul makes the incredible statement that he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions in his flesh, for the sake of His body the church. He is suffering in his flesh, on behalf of Christ, in order to advance the gospel! Beautiful.
Paul continues on to describe His service to Christ in his capacity as “filler of Christ’s afflictions.” In verse twenty-five he ascribes his position directly to God; God gave him over-site of the church in order to reveal God’s truth. The title of “steward” emphasizes his dependence on another for his authority. He is acting as a bodily over-seer of the church on behalf of God. What a beautiful statement of dependence after he shows how God is using him uniquely to do something that God would not do. He does not want the Colossians to think that he is anything special because he is carrying on Christ’s work. He is just a servant suffering for His Lord.

Heralding His Glory

Second, since Christ is not bodily present, He cannot proclaim the gospel Himself. He has ordained that we take the Good News to every tribe tongue and nation, a duty and passion for every believer.
Verse twenty-six once again makes veiled reference to Paul’s dependence on God within his work. The mystery of the ages, the Gospel, is now revealed to God’s saints. Paul chooses a passive verb as he shows off-hand yet another way that he is dependent on God. Paul might plant, Apollos might water, but God gives the growth to the church. (I Corinthians 3 ) No matter how emotionally charged Paul got, no matter how charismatic he was, he could not reveal truth to a single heart. Only the Spirit of God can take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26) Only by the Spirit of God can an individual put to death sin (Romans 8 ).
As Paul continues on he continues to heap more and more honor upon God’s sovereignty. God chose to reveal His glory to the gentiles. God chose to indwell believers with His spirit and give them a hope of glory. Our hope of glory depends utterly on God choosing us (Ephesians 2). all glory goes to Him for our salvation. He reveals His glory to us, indwelling and sanctifying us, in order to bring us home to glory (Hebrews 2:10-11).

Shepherding Many Sons Toward Glory

Third, since Christ is not bodily present, He cannot struggle, He cannot fight, and he cannot presently labor alongside us, spurring us on by His bodily example. Paul was a vessel, a means toward accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose. God’s purposes are already complete; they cannot be altered. However, Paul was an integral step toward their completion. God chose to use him to accomplish the first great mission trip of all time. But as the over-seer for countless churches, he bore the responsibility of leading those churches. He strove to present his charges to Christ, mature and faithful. For this he labored with a passion. But his passion was not by his power alone; Paul toiled, “struggling with all [God’s] energy that He powerfully worked within [him].”
This passage in Colossians is a beautiful portrait of the relationship between God and man in a ministry. All power comes from God. All purpose comes from God. All success comes from God. All hope comes from God. And all Glory goes to God. But all of that is worked through God’s vessel, the minister. God chooses to use humanity to fulfill the things he “lacks.” He chooses to use Paul because that’s what he wants. He uses us, weak vessels to confound the strong. Could Christ come down and suffer again for His church if He desired? Yes. Could Christ herald His own glory? Yes. Could His power work without a vessel to pour it through? Yes. But the key is that He chooses not too. For some unknowable reason, He chooses to use humanity to further His glory. And we are loving it.

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Responses

  1. arghghghghghghghhh.. I have been trying to comment for an eternity and now it works when daniel does it for me. is there something wrong with me?? i think there is.

  2. So does this still work?

  3. Hey guys, if any of you try to post a comment and it won’t let you. Shoot me an e-mail. Also, if you have an account with edublogs, try using the e-mail address you registered with. Hmm… but yeah, just e-mail me.


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