Martin Luther famously said, “It wouldn’t matter if Jesus died 1,000 times if no one ever heard about it.”

This statement helps us understand one of the most staggering statements made by the Apostle Paul: “I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24 CSB).

What could possibly be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Didn’t Jesus say from the cross, “It is finished”? Hasn’t he done everything necessary to save us? How did Paul’s suffering and sacrifice for the gospel have any effect on what Jesus has already done for us?

Yes, in one sense, the work of salvation is 100% complete: Jesus has done everything necessary to save us. But in another sense, the saving act is not complete until we hear about it and respond.

“Christ’s sufferings are not complete in the fullest sense,” Paul is saying, “until you hear and respond, and if it takes my suffering to bring that to pass, I’ll gladly go through it.”

I love the way one Romanian pastor says it: “Christ’s cross was for propitiation; ours is for propagation. Christ suffered to accomplish salvation; we suffer to spread salvation.”

Let me give you a hard (and rather unpopular) teaching. This isn’t going to increase your church’s attendance, but it is absolutely crucial to grasp if you want to be a disciple-making disciple: Suffering is the means by which God has ordained bringing salvation in the world.

We want prosperity and blessing to be the means by which God brings salvation into the world. But it only happens through suffering.

Jesus told his disciples right before he ascended to heaven, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Just like the Father sent Jesus into the world to bring salvation through suffering, so Jesus sends us into the world to extend his salvation through suffering.

Life in the world comes only through suffering in the church.

Is that a price we are willing to pay?

What did it cost us to receive the gift of salvation? Nothing. Jesus paid it all. But are we willing now to do what it takes for people all over the world to know that message?

Consider where we would be without Jesus. Had Jesus chosen not to come and die for you, you would be in the exact same place millions of people in the world are without you. How can we receive the extravagant grace of the gospel and do nothing to get it to those who have never heard?

We owe an incredible debt to the world, and we owe it to the gospel to complete Christ’s afflictions by joyfully sacrificing and enduring whatever it takes to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.