J. A. Trench.
Article 37 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
There could not be a more wonderful expression of what the Assembly is to a heart devoted to Christ's interests on earth, as Paul's was. Time does not enter into account in that which is the fruit of God's eternal counsels for the glory of Christ. Thus the Apostle looks at the present sufferings of the saints that compose the Assembly, as one complete whole from Pentecost till He comes. At his conversion by the revelation of Christ to him he had learned that they were one with Him in glory; "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." The afflictions of the members of the Body were the afflictions of the Head. Paul had endured much of them in his flesh for the sake of what was so dear to Christ as His Body, the Assembly. But as long as there was a persecuted and suffering saint on earth, there was what yet lacked of the afflictions of Christ. For as we have seen, all the tribulation that His saints are called to pass through here, as their appointed path to the Kingdom, is counted by Him as His own. Even of the remnant of Israel it could be said, "in all their afflictions he was afflicted." But now the identification of His people's lot with His, flows from their union with Him by the Holy Ghost, as the Head of His Body.
In the largeness of Paul's heart and the devotedness of a love that left no room for self-consideration, his desire was to fill up in his own experience so much of the afflictions of the Assembly that yet remained, that there might be the less left for those who should come after him: he could rejoice in his sufferings with this thought, that he was filling up what yet lacked of the afflictions of Christ, that is, of the saints whom He regarded as Himself. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ the church, for we are members of his body." As to the Apostle personally and the spirit that characterised him, we may indeed rightly compare 2 Timothy 2:10: "I endure all things for the elect's sake."