Comfort, Received & Shared
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
We suffer because of our attachment to Him. But we are consoled by our attachment to Him! It is all connected.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Cor. 1:3-7
One thing stands out!
When you first read this paragraph, one thing stands out; one word gets your attention: Comfort! In the ESV, the word “comfort” or a form of that word is found ten times just in these verses. So this is about comfort or the synonym, consolation (appears in the New King James.)
But this is not about just any kind of comfort; this is not about comfort in general, or worldly sources of comfort (there is actually an alcoholic beverage called “Southern Comfort!”).
This is the highest kind of comfort there is. This is the comfort God supplies to His suffering people, enjoyed by Paul and his companions, and available to all God’s people who suffer. And, to be shared with each other in a very special bond of fellowship we can have.
The meaning of the word, in this context, is help of the highest sort. This is a form of the same word Jesus used, when He said to His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper,” (Jno. 14:16). In those passages, Jesus was promising the Holy Spirit to the apostles. While that’s not the same as the teaching
of 2 Cor. 1:3-7, the word is the same, and the use of the word in one place gives us insight into the use of the word in another place.
Paul is talking about the help God supplies to His suffering people. One definition of the Greek word shows how God calls His children to His side to assist and strengthen them. But there is another term to be studied here…
In 2 Cor. 1:4, look at that word “affliction.” In the New King James, “trouble,” but in the English Standard and New American Standard, the term is “affliction.” This word has to do with being under pressure, or in a narrow place where escape seems impossible. Paul and other faithful Christians in his time were pressed into a narrow place. They were restricted, persecuted, and under pressure.
It seemed like there was no way out, like being locked up in a small, narrow, dark place. For most of them the pressure would continue until they died, but while undergoing all that pressure, they received help from the Highest source! And as they received that help, they shared it, comforting each other. God made all this possible through the death of Christ! Thus He is …
The God Of All Comfort
In verse 3, Paul praises God for His mercy; He is the “God of all comfort.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”
Paul, Silas and Timothy and any suffering saints in Corinth should praise God for the comfort He supplies to His people.
When we are pressed, depressed, suffering, or in despair – by our ongoing faith in God we are comforted. We should praise God for that. When we feel like we are locked in to a narrow, dark place - - remember, as Christians we can receive comfort from the highest source. And we can share it.
The question will come up, “How does God comfort us when we are under pressure and in despair?”
First let me say, there may be ways God comforts us we cannot objectively quantify or describe! In God’s providential responses to our prayers, there are certainly ways and means at His disposal that we may not be able to see clearly or know. Yet for us the result is – we are comforted. The fact that I cannot identify all of God’s ways – should never detract from my confidence in Him, or my reception of the results.
But we do know that God comforts us in our troubles through these two means:
ONE – We take comfort by reading and studying His Word. Absorbing the promises, understanding how we are loved and how we should live. Every experience of Bible reading and study can have this benefit: Comfort.
TWO – We are comforted by His people. This passage, in fact, shows Paul sharing comfort or imparting comfort to the faithful Corinthian Christians. Rom. 12:15 says this well: Rejoice with those who rejoice . . . weep with those who weep.
The second of these ways is under direct consideration here in Second Corinthians chapter one! Paul comforted the faithful Corinthian Christians. And, Paul received comfort from them. This comfort from God – received and kept, brings great courage to us.
Whatever kind of trouble God’s people are suffering, the highest comfort is to be found in God. Be close to Him. Let Him talk to you through His Word. Meditate on His promises. Remember the sacrifice of Christ. Worship God in spirit and in truth. COMFORT OF THE HIGHEST SORT IS AVAILABLE FROM GOD and all that is required is, the dependence of our hearts on Him that is active in our obedience.
“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them,” (Psa. 10:17)
Receiver & Transmitters
“who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,” (verse 4).
Well, in English, we might want to call this wording “awkward.” In some English or composition classes, this would be marked “redundant” in red ink, and given back to you. Four times, the word “comfort” or a form of that word is used. In English, we may not word a sentence in this way. So to us it may seem awkward. For Paul it was a matter of emphasis.
Let’s break it down.
ONE, God comforts us in all our affliction or tribulation.
TWO, Paul and his companions, as recipients of comfort from God, were qualified to be givers of comfort to troubled people.
But in their giving of comfort – they were only transmitting what originated with God. Do you see that?
Here is 2 Cor. 1:4 from the New Century Version: God “comforts us every time we have trouble, so that we can comfort others when they have trouble. We can comfort them with the same comfort that God give us.” So it is simple. Receivers become givers or transmitters. Receivers of comfort from God, share that comfort or give that comfort to others.
In my study of Second Corinthians I’m using a newly published commentary, written by Melvin Curry. Melvin says something I don’t feel I should try to paraphrase or re-word. It is so well expressed.
“…all Christians should come to think less and less of their own troubles, and more and more about how these seeming negatives really become positives for them, and especially about how they can use these experiences in day-to-day difficulties to strengthen others, who must undergo a similar pathway of life.”
It has also been said – the art of consoling others is often learned in the school of suffering.
The Sufferings of Christ
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too,” (v.5)
Paul, in his thinking, writing, preaching and living – never left Christ out! Christ was always central to everything in the mind of Paul. And everything Paul taught to Christians had this centering in Christ.
Now let’s work on this phrase, “the sufferings of Christ.” First, there isn’t any question Jesus Christ suffered. He was persecuted, reviled, hated and finally punished by death on the cross. Not only His body! Also His emotions; He was hurt by how people were treating His Father. He was deeply disturbed by how people were mistreating each other.
He often wept over the sin that was behind all the injustice, dishonesty, corruption and immorality. He suffered, and that suffering led to His death.
But, the sufferings of Christ did not stop when He died. That suffering continued in the experiences of His people. And Jesus actually said – it would be this way.
Jno. 15:20 – “…if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you!”
So the suffering Christ endured did not stop when He died. That suffering continued in the experiences of His people. Thus, when Paul suffered – when he experienced opposition and persecution – He said, this is “the sufferings of Christ … abounding in us.” What started with Christ (and was expressed in His life in fullness), continued in the experiences of His disciples. Everybody suffers, but not everyone suffers for Christ or with Him. Paul and every faithful disciples suffers, to some extent, persecution and hardship directly resulting from the expression of faith.
But, as soon as Paul said that – he had to say something else: “so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” We suffer because of our attachment to Him. But we are consoled by our attachment to Him!! It is all connected.
This passage is about the comfort God supplies to His suffering people. As the world had despised, ostracized and crucified Jesus without just cause – so it would mistreat His follower. But the comfort from God would be more than sufficient to console those being persecuted.
Suffering To Help
New Century Version: “If we have troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we have comfort, then you also have comfort. This helps you to accept patiently the same sufferings that we have.”
I get from this something very simple; and we’ve already mentioned this - - When God’s people suffer, they help each other; the comfort God supplies is shared, is spread. Received and transmitted.
It is clear to me – When God’s people suffer, they help each other – they receive help and strength from God, and help each other. Now let me bring something else up about this verse – that may seem to be subtle or simply inferred, but valuable for us to study. The Apostle Paul had this healthy, mature perspective. His attitude was – When I suffer, it affords me an opportunity to help others who are suffering!!
Paul’s viewpoint was (look at verse 6) - “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation…” Isn’t that a refreshing, en-couraging attitude? His idea was – If I must suffer, I can help others! That attitude is worthy of our imitation.
“Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort,” (v.7)
If you know somebody is suffering, and they have no help – no comfort or consolation – you tend to be pessimistic about the outcome. But if you know somebody is suffering, and you know there is more than adequate help for them – your hope for them is steadfast. Paul knew there were faithful people in Corinth who were suffering – but he entertained no despair, because He knew they had God’s comfort.
Albert Barnes: It is evident from this, that the Corinthians had been subjected to trials similar to those which the apostle had endured. It is not known to what afflictions they were then subjected; but it is not improbable that they were exposed to some kind of persecution and opposition. Such trials were common in all the early churches; and they served to unite all the friends of the Redeemer in common bonds, and to make them feel that they were one. They had united sorrows; and they had united joys; and they felt they were tending to the same heaven of glory. United sorrows and united consolations tend more than anything else to bind people together. We always have a brotherly feeling for one who suffers as we do; or who has the same kind of joy which we have.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.9; September 2013