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2 Corinthians 1:111comment (0)

April 14, 2011

By M. Sydney Park

Related Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:111

Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Receive Comfort — Give Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:1–11

Paul’s words of comfort to the Corinthians have been a timeless source of consolation to many believers through the centuries. His short exposition on the theme of consolation is neither a quick-fix remedy nor a superficial pop psychology of “be happy.” Rather, in these short verses, Paul drew from his own experience of affliction and concluded that not only does God comfort His people but also based on his experience of suffering and God’s comfort, he was able to comfort others.

Know the Source of Comfort (1–3)
Paul began by identifying the Corinthian church as one belonging to God, a fact that should serve as a beacon for the church, which was frequently misled by its contemporary culture (see 1 Corinthians). The church’s identity begins with the simple fact that it does not belong to itself but God. But this God is also the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus Paul began his exposition on consolation with a doxology to God for being both God and Father. And this God is also the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. The fatherhood of God is neither oppressive nor abusive; it is full of compassion and mercy as revealed on the cross. And no believer is without need of God’s tender mercy and compassion.

Be a Channel of God’s Comfort (4–7)
Here Paul stated that in the daily afflictions of living as Christians, God comforts His children. And yet, contrary to the contemporary understanding that God’s comfort indicates His desire to remove all forms of suffering in believers’ individual lives, Paul pointed to the communal effect of knowing His consolation. God uses those moments to shape Christians to be a comfort to those suffering. This is not simply “misery loves company.” Nor is this an encouragement to patronize others with one’s superior knowledge or experience of suffering. Genuine struggle with adversity and intimate knowledge of God’s comfort can be used by Him to bring that same consolation to others suffering for His name’s sake. Believers’ affliction is not debilitating or destructive but ultimately leads them to the proper communal relations before God; they comfort others with the same comfort they received from God. And there is no adversity beyond God’s comfort. His solace reaches even to the tiniest crevice. Notably Paul did not ask God to remove suffering. But Paul used even adversity to refine his character and knowledge of God’s mercies so that he might effectively minister to the Corinthians in their suffering.

Offer Comfort Through Prayer (8–11)
Paul continued to describe what he meant by “affliction” to the Corinthians. These were the hardships he and his companions experienced in Asia (cf 2 Cor. 4:8–9; 6:9b–10; 12:9–10). Indeed the suffering was so difficult he even believed that his life was at its end. But even when death appeared imminent, Paul saw God’s redemptive hand at work. The horrific experience was to lead Paul not to rely on himself. Even in affliction, God’s aim is to sanctify Christians so that they might put all their trust in Him who resurrects the dead. In the face of death, believers are not without recourse; it is not their competence, resourcefulness nor resilience that saves them but God the Father who gives life even in death. And as Paul was guided to this place of vulnerability and dependence, he solicited prayers from the Corinthians. In spite of the fact that the Corinthians’ suffering might not be comparable to Paul’s, their prayers would bless not only him but also others.

In the modern-day church, the definition of Christian faith excludes suffering. Indeed, when we speak of suffering, it is not the kind of suffering Paul and other early believers endured for Christ’s sake (cf Acts 5:33–42). But even in everyday suffering, we believe and pray that God will remove all forms of suffering; all too often, we seek complacency and convenience. Perhaps it is time to rethink what it means to be a Christian and entertain the possibility that God cannot truly be known from the comforts of an easy chair. Perhaps it is time to change our prayers from “God remove my hardship” to “God let me know your comfort and mercy in all my afflictions.”

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