February 5, 2022

Filling up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper - Book Review

 Filling up the Afflictions of Christ is book number five in the series of books by John Piper called, The Swans are not Silent. I think, but I'm not sure, that each of these books... and even each of the three short biographies in each book... sprang from a conference message or a church message that John Piper originally delivered. I believe most of these have sermons that you can find online at DesiringGod.Org. 

In this book we can read about William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton. The unifying thread with these three men is, as the book subtitle states: "The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations..." in each of their lives. 

The title of this book comes from Colossians 1:24 -- 

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

Piper goes on to explain this passage by saying, 

"What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is not that they are deficient in worth, as though they could not sufficiently cover the sins of all who believe. What is lacking is that the infinite value of Christ's afflictions is not known and trusted in the world. These afflictions and what they mean are still hidden to most peoples. And God's intention is that the mystery be revealed to all the nations. So the afflictions of Christ are 'lacking' in the sense that they are not seen and known and loved among the nations. They must be carried by the missionaries. And those missionaries 'complete' what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others."

All three of these short biographies are impactful in their own right, but I found the elements of Adoniram Judson's life to be the weightiest in my own heart and mind. The enduring hardships, the regular encounters with death, and the deep distresses of dark emotions all left me with a lasting respect for what was accomplished through God's sovereign grace in his life and an odd desire to follow, in what ways I could, in his footsteps. 

The reading of Christian biographies and autobiographies is important for many reasons; including reminding us of our rich heritage, prompting us toward deeper and more lasting affections, and inspiring us to keep our eyes on things that are eternal and lasting. The benefit of this series of books is found in the brevity of the stories, the emphasis on their lasting impact, and the unpacking of how Biblical doctrine that is both wide and deep will serve as the spiritual food and strength for Spirit-filled people. 


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