Colossians 1:23b-24. and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church:
I neglected yesterday to comment on Paul’s words that the gospel had been preached “to every creature which is under heaven.” I did some searching because I wasn’t sure of the exact meaning. What I found is that there are many differing opinions and interpretations of that statement. The one that makes the most sense to me comes from Barne’s Notes on the Bible:
The gospel in the time of Paul seems to have been so extensively preached, that it might be said that it was proclaimed to everybody. All known countries appear to have been visited; and so zealous and laborious had been the heralds of salvation, that it might be said that the message had been proclaimed to all the world.Barne’s Notes on the Bible
In our own time, we can say that the gospel has been taken around the world, to every known corner. Maybe not every individual alive has personally been confronted with Jesus Christ, but the opportunity to hear the gospel is virtually everywhere, as it was in Paul’s day due to the preaching of the Apostles to every known area of the world at that time.
God blesses the preaching and teaching of His Word. To use a personal example, I am just a no-name housewife. I love the Lord, and I want to teach. This blog has been one way in which I can teach. According to the information I gather from my statistics page, this blog has been read in places I’ve never heard of, by people I will never meet. Perhaps some of those readers will share what they have read with someone else, who may then pass it along. Also, the ubiquity of the internet has spread the gospel all around the world by writers both known and unknown. God has said that His Word will not return without a harvest. It is true today, and it was true in Paul’s day.
Paul, in verse 24, goes on to say that he rejoices in his suffering for the sake of the saints in Colosse. He was writing from a Roman jail, which was not exactly a luxury suite. He was glad to be so incarcerated for the sake of the gospel, and those to whom he preached.
He goes on to mention afflictions. That word, afflictions, is never used of the suffering of Christ on the cross. Rather, it relates to His struggles during His ministry, which are not yet complete as His Word is spread through the ministry and afflictions of those appointed to carry the gospel to others. Paul’s afflictions in no way increased his salvation, but he considered that they were simply a result of his desire to preach and teach, and to minister to the believers in Colosse and elsewhere. His affliction were always for the sake of others, and not for his own holiness or sanctification.
Asceticism was a problem in the church in Paul’s day. People who followed Asceticism practiced self-affliction in the hope of being worthy of salvation. They starved, went without sleep, endured the cold with no fires or clothing to protect themselves. Ascetics focus on themselves; their own holiness, spiritual growth, and perfection. Paul’s suffering was for the sake of the gospel, and for the believers who needed his encouragement and teaching. He suffered for the church, for the Body of Christ, and felt privileged to do so.