What did Christ lack?

Monday Musings for November 07, 2016

Good morning, Musers,

We have a conundrum. Paul keeps telling us that our salvation is complete in Christ — and that we cannot (and should not try to) add anything to it (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians). But now I’m reading where Christ’s afflictions are somehow lacking. What’s up with this?

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24, NIV) 

This is messy… and for two opposing groups. First, the prosperity preachers hate it when people like Paul — who really knew what was going on with God and the Bible — suffered anyway, and who gratefully accepted their “daily bread” as their portion. Second, we who understand that salvation is all “on Christ”… and who make a big deal out of the fact that it occurs apart from any works that we have done… are confronted with a reference to a lack on Christ’s part. — and a supplementing on Paul’s part. Yikes! That sounds a little ungospelly to me! So we will explore this today. 

Although I’ve referenced a few commentators in this response, my personal solution tracks best with my typical emphasis: if you read the Bible with the assumption that the omniscient God who inspired Scripture would never contradict himself — that is, if you postulate a God who is at least minimally competent at communicating and protecting his word — the problems disappear. But whichever tack you prefer, we will vindicate Paul and the salvation model that we know so well. The prosperity preachers? They’re on their own.

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