Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.
Last week, we examined the first two Bible passages that Armstrong presented as proof texts for the Catholic teaching of penitential suffering. This week, we’ll examine the last two passages:
#75) 2 Corinthians 4:10: “…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
#76) Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”
Beneath these passages, Armstrong writes, “God allows us to take part in the great drama of redemption by allowing us to share the sufferings of Christ that brought it about. That does not mean that the cause of redemption does not completely lie with Jesus Christ, but that we can be part of it in some mysterious way (in his will and by his design and providence), just as our prayers are part of his redemption and our works part of salvation.” – p.130.
I’m not going to spend a lot time on these two verses because I already examined in quite a bit of detail last week how Catholics believe suffering is expiatory (see here). Catholics will not only offer up any natural sufferings they encounter as penance for themselves or others, the will even inflict pain upon themselves as exercises in self-mortification.
But does suffering contribute to Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross towards redemption/salvation as Armstrong and Catholics claim? Colossians 1:24 is admittedly a difficult verse to interpret. Does Paul mean by this verse that there is something lacking or deficient in the sufferings that Christ endured to atone for the sins of the world? Such an interpretation would contradict the MANY passages Paul wrote regarding the absolute sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice including the very passage (vv. 15-23) leading up to verse 24, which proclaims Jesus the Savior “making peace by the blood of his cross.”
In the article below, theologian, Sam Storms, presents several evangelical interpretations of Colossians 1:24. Although they differ in detail, the main point is the same: “the calling of Christians is to willingly and joyfully endure suffering for the sake of Christ and his kingdom, for the sake of Christ and his body, the church. In this way we are seen to be his own. In this way others see him, through us, in his love for sinners. In this way we “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).”
Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by Sam Storms