Colossians 1:24-25 Commentary



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Colossians 1:24-25 Commentary

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice (1SPAI)  in my sufferings for your sake & in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is (3SPAI) the church, in filling up (1SPAI)  what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.  (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: Nun chairo (1SPAI) en tois pathemasin huper humon, kai antanaplero (3SPAI) ta husteremata ton thlipseon tou Christou en te sarki mou huper tou somatos autou, o estin (3SPAI) e ekklesia, 
Amplified: [Even] now I rejoice in the midst of my sufferings on your behalf. And in my own person I am making up whatever is still lacking and remains to be completed [] on our part] of Christ's afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church.
 (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am completing what remains of Christ's sufferings for his body, the church. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips:  I myself have been made a minister of this same Gospel, and though it is true at this moment that I am suffering on behalf of you who have heard the Gospel, yet I am far from sorry about it. Indeed, I am glad, because it gives me a chance to complete in my own sufferings something of the untold pains for which Christ suffers on behalf of his body, the Church. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: I now am rejoicing in my sufferings on your behalf, and on my part am filling up the things lacking of the afflictions of the Christ in my flesh for the sake of His Body which is the Church (
Young's Literal: I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and do fill up the things lacking of the tribulations of the Christ in my flesh for his body, which is the assembly,


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NOW I (continually) REJOICE: Nun chairo (1SPAI): (2Co 7:4, 2Cor 11:16-33, Php 2:17-18, Mt 5:11 Ro 5:3)  

Lost your joy in ministry? Click and scroll to "Attitude of Joy"

Regarding the word "Now" W E Vine writes

"The “now” looks back over the past of the Lord’s dealings with him. His sufferings were manifold and were more than that of imprisonment. While they were endured for Christ’s sake, they were for the benefit of the Colossian believers, who would not have received the spiritual help had it not been for what he had suffered and was suffering."

S. Lewis Johnson writes that

"Now, in my present circumstances, Paul declares, there is a deep sense of joy in my personal sufferings for you Colossians. His general meaning is clear, but this verse, the twenty-fourth, is probably the most controversial in the letter. We may introduce the problem of the text by rejecting any suggestion to the effect that Paul implies there is any lack in the atonement of Christ. The gospel has an element of finality in it, if it has any element at all." (Bibliotheca Sacra: Page 235, 1996,  Dallas Theological Seminary)

Rejoice (5463) (chairo) means to be glad and is present tense, active voice (this voice calling for a volitional choice of one's will) indicating that Paul continually made the choice to rejoice in the midst of his suffering for Christ. This word is used to describe a little lamb skipping around for joy. It describes a physical change in your countenance. You can't fake this. It is a physical expression of joy and something that radiates to people around you. You can walk around and say that you are rejoicing but if it's not seen then you are not rejoicing. This was a clear indication of Paul manifesting the fruit of the Spirit (joy), which is independent of his circumstances. Paul action is a visible expression of the inner reality of the fruit of the Spirit.  Remember Paul was in prison (Col 4:18-note). Only a Spirit controlled Christian can rejoice under such circumstances...the joy of the Lord was Paul's strength (Neh 8:10). 

Whose strength do you rely on when suffering? Yours or His?

Paul had learned how to be content in whatever circumstances he was in (Php 4:11-note).

On another occasion, despite being in a Philippian jail

"about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25)

After being flogged for speaking in the name of Jesus, Peter and others were released from jail and

"went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41)

 These men did had experienced suffering and used those times as a divine classroom to learn the secret it wasn't within their own power to suffer joyfully, but that they could do "all things through Him Who" strengthened them in those times of suffering. Don't waste those times you suffer for Jesus. Learn the lessons He desires to teach you and you too will begin to rejoice in your suffering.

John MacArthur notes that in ministry (and every believer is a minister - albeit not necessarily a pastor) there are 4 "Thieves Of Joy"

(1) circumstances,
(2) people,
(3) possessions and
(4) worry.

On the other hand he summarizes the three guardians that protect one's joy as

(1) humility,
(2) devotion to Christ, and
(3) trust in God.

IN MY SUFFERINGS FOR YOUR SAKE: en tois pathemasin huper humon: (Jer 20:9 Acts 9:16, Col 4:18, 1Pe 2:21, 2Co 1:5)

Sufferings (3804) (pathema [word study] from páscho = suffer + suffix –ma = that which is suffered, experience a sensation/suffer pain) refers to the actual suffering itself (not suffering in general). In other words, it describes the very pain that one is experiencing right now, those very things that we can "see, touch & feel", those things that are causing us anguish and emotional trauma. A less common meaning of pathema (not the meaning in this context) is passions or impulses.

For your sake (5228) (huper) speaks of substitution or in your place.

Have you ever asked yourself, how many prayers and tears, how much heartache and disappointment has someone gone through for you in order that you might come to Christ? We should never read the Scriptures without a momentary thought, at least, of what it cost others for us to have this Bible in our hand: the blood of martyrs, the fears and tears of persecuted people throughout centuries, the sweat and labor of translators, and the effort of teachers to make it plain and clear. Never read the Scriptures without remembering that someone has died to make it possible.

Suffering not only benefits others but it benefits us as well. That is why Paul says, "I rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf." "It does something for me," he says. "It keeps me usable. I am reminded constantly that it is out of weakness that I am made strong." That is what suffering for others will do for us: it will keep us humble and useful. But it also has great effect upon others: it shows them that we are deeply concerned. We pray for them, we long for them, we grieve over them, we hurt when they hurt. That is the process by which others come to Christ.

AND IN MY FLESH I DO MY SHARE ON BEHALF OF THE BODY  WHICH IS THE CHURCH IN FILLING UP: kai antanaplero (1SPAI) ta husteremata ton thlipseon tou Christou en te sarki mou huper tou somatos autou, o estin (3SPAI) e ekklesia:
(2Co 1:5-8 4:8-12 11:23-27 Php 3:10 2Ti 1:8 2:9-10)

Filling up (466) (antanapleroo from antí = in turn or correspondent to + anapleróo = to fulfill from ana = again + pleroo [word study] = to fill) means to fill up instead of, to make good. This verb is used a secular Greek writing to describe one group of soldiers filling a road, and a second group forming another line.

Paul rejoices in supplying what his Master has left him to suffer. After receiving his apostolic assignment, Paul assumes the burden of sufferings that would befall Christ were the latter to undertake the apostolic mission in person. It is now Paul's "turn" at the bat, to use a baseball figure. Christ had His "turn," the grandest of all and suffered for us all in a sense not true of any one else. And yet Christ did not cause suffering to cease and as we allow Christ to live out His life through us we will also experience suffering. So one of the purposes of the church, Christ's visible body during this age, is to suffer for the sake of righteousness (1Pe 3:14-note). Christ suffered for believers and declared that in this world His disciples would have tribulation (Jn 16:33), so now each believer as he conforms to Christ's example takes his turn so to speak in suffering for the sake of Christ (Php 1:29,30-note).

John MacArthur explains this verse this way

"The enemies of Christ were never satisfied with what they did to Jesus. They hated Jesus with an insatiable hate. They wanted to add to His suffering. So, as soon as Jesus ascended back into heaven and wasn't around any more, who did the world attack? The church! They began to persecute the church--whipping them, burning them at the stake, throwing them to the lions. Why? Was it because they hated them individually? No, it was because the church stood in the place of Christ. And since Christ wasn't around to hate, they hated the people who stood in His place."

To reiterate, remember that the redemptive suffering of Christ has no deficiency, but He does not exhaust all the suffering to be endured in the redemptive purpose of God. The sufferings of Paul do not add to the finished work of redemption but are incurred in making known the redeeming work of Christ to the Gentiles. The afflictions of every believer supplement those of Christ.

Paul boasted about his suffering on behalf of the body of Christ declaring

"Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands." (2Cor 11:24-33)

Paul is attaching no atoning value whatever to his sufferings for the church.

Guzik has an excellent comment:

"Notice that Paul didn't suffer for himself the way that an ascetic might. Instead he suffered for the sake of the body of Christ. Ascetics focus on their holiness, on their spiritual growth, and on their perfection. Paul followed in the footsteps of Jesus, and was an others-centered person. Instead, Paul found holiness, spiritual growth, and maturity when he pursued them for others.

Church (1577) (ekklesia from ek = out + kaleo = call) is literally the "called-out ones". Greeks used ekklesia for an assembly of citizens "called out" to transact city business. The church is not an organization but a living organism, Christ's body, composed of individual members (believers) joined together and in and through which Christ, the Head works, carries out His purposes and lives.

Ekklesia - 114x in 111v - Matt 16:18; 18:17; Acts 5:11; 7:38; 8:1, 3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3f, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:32, 39f; 20:17, 28; Rom 16:1, 4f, 16, 23; 1 Cor 1:2; 4:17; 6:4; 7:17; 10:32; 11:16, 18, 22; 12:28; 14:4f, 12, 19, 23, 28, 33ff; 15:9; 16:1, 19; 2 Cor 1:1; 8:1, 18f, 23f; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Gal 1:2, 13, 22; Eph 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23ff, 27, 29, 32; Phil 3:6; 4:15; Col 1:18, 24; 4:15f; 1 Thess 1:1; 2:14; 2 Thess 1:1, 4; 1 Tim 3:5, 15; 5:16; Phlm 1:2; Heb 2:12; 12:23; Jas 5:14; 3 John 1:6, 9f; Rev 1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7f, 11f, 17f, 23, 29; 3:1, 6f, 13f, 22; 22:16. NAS =  assembly(3), church(74), churches(35), congregation(2).

THAT WHICH IS LACKING IN CHRIST'S AFFLICTIONS: ta husterêmata ton thlipseon tou Christou:  

Lacking (5303) (husterema) is that which is behind, that which is lacking or that which is deficient. The root verb hustereo [word study] pictures someone in a company marching together with others who march faster than he can. He cannot keep up, so he falls behind (he is "lacks" in the sense he cannot keep up).

Paul used the verb "fill up" meaning in essence "I take my turn in filling up. I take my turn in suffering." Each one of us takes our turn in suffering for our Covenant Partner Christ Jesus, for the world hated Him and it will likewise hate us! So don't act so surprised. Paul's picture here is like a relay race. He is saying that I will run this lap, and hand the baton off to you to run your lap, etc., etc.

Ryrie comments that

"because of the union of believers with Christ, Paul's sufferings for the sake of the church can be called Christ's afflictions as well." (The Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation: 1995. Moody Publishers)

Clearly Paul is not saying that Jesus' suffering on the Cross was in any way deficient to fully atone for the sins of the world because earlier (which accentuates the importance of carefully observing the context in order to arrive at the most accurate interpretation) Paul declared that reconciliation of all things was through Christ because He

"made peace (aorist tense = past completed effective action) through the blood of His cross"... and that Christ "has now reconciled (aorist tense = past completed effective action) you in His fleshly body through death." (see notes Colossians 1:20; 1:21; 1:22)

Christ's sacrificial suffering on the Cross paid the price of redemption in full, John recording that...

When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" (Paid in full!) And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit. (Jn 19:30).

Afflictions (2347) (thlipsis from thlibo = to press together) conveys the basic idea  of severe constriction, narrowing or pressing together (as of grapes) (cf Mt 7:14 - note "the way is narrow [thlibo] that leads to life"). It is notable that the word thlipsis  is never used in the New Testament of the atoning sufferings of Christ substantiating that the afflictions alluded to here have nothing to do with atonement.

S. Lewis Johnson has the following comments on the interpretation of this somewhat controversial passage writing

"I am inclined to see a much closer relationship between the apostle’s afflictions and Christ. From the day when Paul met the risen Messiah and heard His “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me” (Acts 9:4), identification with Christ in mystical union (I use “mystical” in the true sense) dominated his theological thinking. Soon afterwards he heard of further words spoken by Him, “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Paul had come to understand that everything done in and for the body of Christ was done in and for Christ Himself. He and the body were one. Thus, the sufferings of Paul were the afflictions of Christ, because He suffered in and with Paul (cf. 2Cor 1:5, 6, 7; 2Cor. 4:10, 11, 12). Lightfoot’s idea of continuity between His afflictions and the church’s is valid, too. In fact, the sufferings of Paul, which arose out of persecution, were simply the continuation of the world’s quarrel with Jesus Christ (cf. John 15:18, 19, 20, 21). It is a very immature theology, then, which claims that all suffering is alien to the will of God, and it reaches its ultimate expression in the blind and foolish request, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matt. 27:40), and its shattering repudiation in the shout of suffering dereliction, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  (Matt. 27:46) It is no wonder, then, that Paul rejoiced in his sufferings. Seen in the light of his union with Christ, they were transfigured and made an occasion for fellowship with Him, as well as a benefit to the body, the church”. (Bibliotheca Sacra: Page 235, 1996,  Dallas Theological Seminary)

What Paul is saying is that he knew suffering was inevitable and he took his turn to suffer not only for the body of believers at Colossae but for the whole body of Christ. Even today we read Colossians and gain encouragement from the example of Paul's suffering. That's what happens when we are willing to take our turn and suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is Christ's physical body on earth and as Christ manifests His presence in our life, we are going to go through the same type of suffering that He went through. This is what is left behind or "lacking in Christ's afflictions". As the result of what He did we are going through the same thing. If you let Jesus be the center of your life then look out! Love Jesus. Preach the Word and duck! You're going to catch flack. Christ in us is the same One that they persecuted while He was on the earth.

What does Paul mean "for your sake"? Our suffering for Christ is never isolated from our responsibility to the body of Christ around us. The way you are handling your suffering right now directly affects the body of Christ. It affects the testimony of other believers. When we are faithful to suffer with the same attitude that Paul had, it encourages and enhances the integrity of Christianity to the rest of the body of Christ. Paul also wrote from prison in (Php 1:12, 13-see notes
Php 1:12; 13)

"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel  so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard (these guards were chained with Paul) and to everyone else. ." .

In Philippians 4:22 Paul wrote

"All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household." (see note)

So his suffering in prison resulted in the spread of the gospel.

Paul continues in (Philippians 1:14)

"and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear." (see note)

Note that even though Paul was imprisoned at Rome, he never saw himself as a prisoner of Rome but constantly referred to being a prisoner of Jesus Christ. A proper perspective on suffering can makes the ordeal much easier to walk through. Do you see your suffering in the light of eternity? Ask God to give you His eternal perspective on your temporal suffering.

John MacArthur reminds believers why we can suffer with an eternal perspective, writing that suffering "brings us nearer to Christ".

Paul's desire in Php 3:10 (see note) was

"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...." (cf  Jn 15:20, 2Ti 3:12 - note, Heb13:13- note)

Suffering "brings us assurance of salvation" for as Peter writes (Amplified Version)

"if you are censured and suffer abuse [because you bear] the name of Christ, blessed [are you--happy, fortunate, to be envied, with life-joy, and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of your outward condition], because the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God, is resting upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.." (1Pe 4:14-note

As someone has written the Spirit rests upon the Christian even as the Shechinah cloud of the glory of the LORD rested upon the tabernacle and over the Ark in the Holy of holies. 

Barnes adds that

"God would impart his proportion to their sufferings in behalf of (Christ)...and this is the secret reason why they are so sustained in their trials. Their persecutions are made the reason of a much more copious effusion of the Spirit on their souls. The same principle applies, doubtless, to all the forms of trial which the children of God pass through; and in sickness, bereavement, loss of property, disappointment in their worldly plans, and death itself, they may hope that larger measures of the Spirit’s influences will rest upon them. Hence, it is often gain to the believer to suffer."

MacArthur goes on to add that suffering "brings us future reward" which is alluded to by Paul in Romans where he writes that "

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Ro 8:18-note).

Suffering now will be rewarded in eternity future. Suffering also "results in the salvation of others" and encourages their faith for in (Php 2:17, 18-see notes Php 2:17;  18) writes (God's Word Translation) that

"My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service I offer to God for your faith. Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you."  (cf Acts 16:25ff).

 Have you ever suffered or been persecuted for being a Christian?

If not, why not (2Ti 3:12 - note)? If you have, what was your attitude (1Pe 4:12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19-see notes 1Pe 4:12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 19)?

When you suffer with a rejoicing attitude in your heart, you can do so knowing that you can are taking your turn, going through whatever you need to go through for the glory of God and that you are doing so on behalf of the body. This will in turn encourage other believers and adds integrity to the life changing message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blood of all the martyrs that has been shed taking their stand for the Lord Jesus Christ has added just one more level of integrity to what we profess to believe. Next time you are called to suffer for His sake, don't retreat...rejoice because you know that

"momentary, light affliction is eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2Co 4:17-18-note)


J R Miller - Who… fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ. - Colossians 1:24

This is a strange saying of Paul's in our reading to-day - that he must fill up on his part the afflictions of Christ.

Was Christ's sacrifice insufficient for the redemption of the world? Was His work incomplete? Do others have to suffer also to fill up a lack in His atonement? No; on His cross He said, "It is finished." He paid the whole price.

What Paul meant was that while Christ had made a full and glorious redemption, His followers must enter into His experiences in order to present the benefits of His redemption.

We can make men believe in the love of Christ only by loving as He loved. We can show them the cross truly only in our own lives.

Christ gave Himself once to redeem the world; now we, His followers, must give ourselves to make His redemption real to the world. When we ask Christ to have compassion on men, His answer is: "I have had compassion - My part is finished. Now do you have compassion and reach and save men?"


Colossians 1:25 Of this church I was made (1SAMI) a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed (APPFSA) on me for your benefit so that I might fully carry out (AAN) the preaching of the word of God,  (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: hes egenomen (1SAMI) ego diakonos kata ten oikonomian tou Theou ten dotheisan (APPFSA) moi eis humas plerosai (AAN) ton logon tou Theou, 
Amplified: In it I became a minister in accordance with the divine  stewardship which was entrusted to me for you [as its object and for your benefit], to make the Word of God fully known [among you]-- (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his message in all its fullness to you Gentiles.  (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips:  For I am a minister of the Church by divine commission, a commission granted to me for your benefit and for a special purpose: that I might fully declare God's word (
Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: of which I became a servant according to the stewardship of God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, (
Young's Literal: of which I -- I did become a ministrant according to the dispensation of God, that was given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God,

OF THIS CHURCH I WAS MADE A MINISTER: es egenomen (1SAMI) ego diakonos:

"I became a servant of the church when God gave me the work of telling you his entire message" (GWT)

Of this - The word "church" is not in the Greek but added to aid the flow of the sentence.

Made (1096) (ginomai) means more literally that Paul became or was brought into existence (at a point in time) as a "minister". He didn't seek this job, but Jesus sought him one "Son-ny" day on the road to Damascus.

Jesus went on to explain to Ananias that Saul (soon to be Paul) was

"a chosen (ekloge - see study of related word eklego) instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15, 16)

Comment: Jesus made the same point to His 12 disciples declaring that..."16 "You did not choose [eklego] Me, but I chose [eklego] you, and appointed (set you, placed you) you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you." John 15:16)

Minister (1249) (diakonos) (Click study of related word diakonia) is the word used most frequently in the NT to describe the spiritual activity of believers and conveys the basic meaning of the performance of menial and mundane activities, such as waiting on tables or caring for household needs, activities without apparent dignity. Since such service necessarily involves dependence, submission, and constraints of time and freedom, the Greeks regarded a diakonos as a degrading and dishonorable position.

Service for the public good was honored, but voluntary giving of oneself in service of one’s fellow man is alien to Greek thought. In the Greek mindset, the highest goal before a man was the development of his own personality, a thought which is strikingly contemporary. Judaism adopted a philosophy of service not unlike that of the Greeks for if service was rendered at all, it was done as an act of social obligation or as an act to those more worthy. A superior would not stoop to become a servant! Such an attitude, which conforms so closely to man’s natural prejudices, causes the Paul’s example and teaching to stand out in brilliant contrast.

The New Testament introduces a radically new attitude toward ministry and so the diakonos is not reflective of the activity of a lesser to a greater, but is the lifestyle of a follower of the Lord Jesus.  “Ministry” is not the activity of an elite class, but the mutual caring of a band of brothers. Such service is personal and practical, rather than institutional. Paul was a diakonos who had come to be under the authority of his Master and who therefore served others with the Master's attitude of love and gratitude.

According to Webster a minister is 

“one officiating…in church worship” or “a clergyman especially of a Protestant communion.”

While this undoubtedly reflects popular concept of a minister, it severely distorts biblical truth. Ministry is not the activity of a spiritual aristocracy or the work of a professional class but is the lifestyle, responsibility, and privilege of every believer. A philosophy of ministry that fails to recognize this fact cannot be truly biblical. On the other hand a rejection of a spiritual aristocracy must not lead to the opposite extreme: a spiritual anarchy that fails to recognize the differing gifts Christ has given to members of His body.

Paul states that the character of those who truly preach the gospel is that they are servants. They count it a delight and joy to be used of God. This is a major distinguishing mark by which you can tell whether a preacher is true or false - is the predominant element of his message that of trying to get something from God or trying to get God to work for us? How backwards can it be for we as mere mortals are given the privilege of ministry to the Living God, of God using us in our weakness, failure, folly and faultiness to live out and proclaim His truth to others. The realization that the God of Glory is willing to do that should create in us a deep sense of gratitude that we can be his servants. That is the difference between the false and true witnesses. The false think God works for them; the true delight in the fact that God is using them, and they they do not regard it as an intrusion or a burden, but the highest honor that could ever be given.

ACCORDING TO THE STEWARDSHIP FROM GOD BESTOWED ON ME FOR YOUR BENEFIT: kata tên oikonomian tou theou  tou theou ten dotheisan (APPFSA) moi eis humas:
(Ro 15:15, 16, 17, 18, 1Co 4:1, 2, 1Co 9:17 Gal 2:7,8 Eph 3:2, 7, 8, 1Pe 4:10)

Stewardship (3622) (oikonomia [word study] from oikonomeo = to be a manager of a household <> oíkos = house + némo = manage, distribute) in secular Greek referred literally to the management of a household by the oikonomos, the steward manages a house and is accountable to the owner (which even involved a presentation and examination of records, receipts, disbursements, cash on hand and the settlement of accounts - our English words "economy", "economic" are derived from oikonomia and this background helps one see some association). Oikonomia indicates the task given to responsible and faithful servants who were appointed over the economy or an area of responsibility in the household. Thus oikonomia stresses obligation, responsibility, and faithfulness of the servant to his master in carry out the entrusted task. 

Oikonomia is used 9 times in the NAS (Luke 16:2, 16:3, 16:4; 1Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10, 3:2, 3:9; Colossians 1:25; 1Timothy 1:4) and is translated in NAS as: administration, 3; management, 3; stewardship, 3. In the KJV it is also translated 4 times as dispensation.

In the ancient world the steward (oikonomos) was an individual appointed by and accountable to the owner who delegated to the steward the task of oversight of other servants as well as the management (stewardship - oikonomia) of the household business affairs (this idea is seen especially in Lk 16:2, 3, 4). Being a steward was a position of great trust and responsibility in the ancient world. The word oikonomia describes the activity of the steward.

Paul uses oikonomia in a figurative sense (figurative because he is not managing a literal household) in Colossians 1:25 to describe his office as an apostle, who has been entrusted with a commission (see similar meaning in Eph 3:2 - note). Oikonomia thus referred to those who managed spiritual truths on God’s behalf.  In Titus Paul uses oikonomia with this meaning writing that...

the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward (oikonomia) not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain (Titus 1:7-note)

Detzler adds that...

Greek writers about the time of the New Testament used oikonomia to describe the job of a household manager. In practice Greek slaves often managed the homes of wealthy landowners. Later this term came to describe the general work of administration. In the New Testament, and later, under the church father Ignatius, the word took on a theological twist. It came to mean the plan of God for redeeming people (Ed note: See discussion of this nuance below). (Detzler, Wayne: New Testament Words in Today's Language)

Oikonomia is also used in the NT to refer to the state of being arranged (an arrangement) and speaks of order (arrangement or disposition of people or things according to a particular sequence or method) or plan. Stated another way oikonomia refers to a plan which involves a set of arrangements. In Scripture this use of oikonomia refers to God's unique plan of salvation, His arrangement for redemption of sinful men. Specifically Paul uses oikonomia with this meaning to refer to the administration by God of a certain period of human history designated as “the fulness of times” when God gathers everything to Himself. Thus  Paul writes...

(God made known the mystery of His will, the church composed of believing Jews and Gentiles) with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. (see notes Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:10 )

Paul describes himself as a "house administrator" who takes care of "family affairs". Once Paul was in the family, through Jesus, Paul took over his assigned responsibilities (his stewardship), to be a proclaimer of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He didn't ask for it but it was given to him,  the Father through Christ assigning Paul a specific role for Paul to manage or be steward over while he was here on earth.

In Ephesians 3 Paul writes that...

"you have heard of the stewardship (oikonomia) of God's grace which was given to me for you (Gentile believers)" (Eph 3:2-note)

Comment: Here oikonomia is used with a meaning similar to that in Colossians 1:25 -- it speaks of God giving  Paul the responsibility of having oversight or management over the His grace. Paul was given the revelation of the grace of God and the responsibility of properly preaching and teaching it

Here is the point of application: Do you realize that God has assigned you a specific ministry and that in fact you are not in part time but in full-time ministry! In 1Corinthians 12 Paul affirms that God gave the spiritual gift, the ministry and the effect of that ministry.  Each one of us has a specific spiritual gift which we are to "manage". One of the primary purposes of a believer on earth is to be a minister of the Most High God. How are you doing? Are you sitting and soaking (in the sermons) or are you selflessly serving and exercising your gift or gifts following the in the footsteps of your Example, Christ Jesus? If not, now is the time to begin  to redeem the time -- it is a decision that you will be eternally grateful that you made. So don't procrastinate. Fulfill your purpose as Paul did with great zeal and joy.

Bestowed (didomi) describes the act of giving and reflects a decision of the will of giver (in this case God), not based on any presumed or real merit of the recipient. Paul was

"formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief" (1Ti 1:13

THAT I MIGHT FULLY CARRY OUT THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD: plêrôsai (AAN) ton logon tou theou: (Acts 20:27, Ro15:19, 2Th3:1) (See John MacArthur's excellent, practical discussion of Paul and Jesus' "Method" of fully carrying out the preaching of the Word. In summary, we are to take care of the "depth" of our ministry and God will take care of the "breadth".  Good advice)

Paul is saying,

"I just want to do what He called me to do. And I will rejoice in any suffering that comes my way because it's necessary in fulfilling the scope of the ministry" which include proclaiming fully the "Word of God", i.e., to as wide an audience as possible (cf. Col 4:17-note; Ro 15:19-note).

The word of God in context is the "mystery which has been hidden" and here as elsewhere is often a synonym for the "gospel".  All believers should be encouraged by Paul's example to be faithful witnesses, seeking to fully carrying out the preaching of the Word of God for this word is

not...the word of men, but...the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." (1Th 2:13-note)

Word of God in Scripture (NAS) - 1Sa 9:27; 2Sa 16:23; 1Kgs 12:22; 1Chr 17:3; Pr 30:5; Mt 15:6; Mk 7:13; Lk 3:2; 5:1; 8:11, 21; 11:28; Jn 10:35; Acts 4:31; 6:2, 7; 8:14; 11:1; 13:5, 7, 46; 17:13; 18:11; Ro 9:6; 1Cor 14:36; 2 Cor 2:17; 4:2; Eph 6:17; Phil 1:14; Col 1:25; 1Th 2:13; 1Ti 4:5; 2Ti 2:9; Titus 2:5; Heb 4:12; 6:5; 11:3; 13:7; 1Pet 1:23; 2Pe 3:5; 1Jn 2:14; Rev 1:2, 9; 6:9; 19:13; 20:4

Related Resources on the Word of God:

Scriptural Descriptions of Word of God

Delighting in the Word of God

Quotations related to the Word of God

Inductive Study on the Power of God's Word

We are called to live out and speak forth the life changing message of the gospel fully confident that the "results" do not depend on our eloquence or perfect presentation for the gospel is

"the power (inherent ability) of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Ro 1:16-note)

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Last Updated July, 2013