2nd Corinthians 1:1-7
“…it says “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”
Paul writing to this Corinthian church. He had come there, in the Book of Acts, from Athens. Athens had seen its day, it was on the decline, it was dwindling, he had little success there with the philosophers that remained, some people believed. And as he comes to Corinth he comes to a city with over ten times the population of Athens, he comes to a city that is alive, but it’s alive with insanity, worshipping the god Bacchus, which is the god of wine. There were a thousand temple prostitutes that came down into the city every night to fare their trade. You think we have a problem with pornography, the Corinthians would have laughed at pornography, they had the real thing every day, they didn’t need pornography, pictures, ‘We got babes,’ you know, ‘and guys,’ just, you know, it was insane. And yet when Paul is there, and he’s preaching, God says to Paul ‘Fear not, no man’s going to lay any hurt on you Paul, because I have much people in this city.’ It was Las Vegas, it was the worst city in the Mediterranean. If you were immoral and you were depraved, they said you were Corinthianized, you know. [Corinth was a “sailor town,” a major commercial shipping port.] And God says to Paul, Paul didn’t know them yet, they weren’t saved yet, but God said to Paul, ‘I have much people in this city.’ So Paul labored there for nearly two years, over 18 months, and he saw results, people being saved. And then as he leaves he writes the first Epistle to the Corinthians, which is corrective. Here’s a church where he had labored for almost two years, but in spire of all Paul’s ground-work they’re suing one another, they’re going to civil courts, they are divided, saying, ‘I’m of Paul, I’m of Apollos, I’m of Peter…’ They are getting drunk at the Communion table [the Christian Passover. See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm], they’re famous for immorality. The church is a mess. And he writes them this long corrective letter [1st Corinthians]. And in the end he says ‘I would present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,’ and if I was Paul I’d have picked any church in the New Testament but this one to say that about. And he has great consolation, God says to him, ‘I have much people in this city.’ Now, over a year later, he’s writing his second letter to the Corinthians, he’s in Macedonia, evidently he’s been ill, he’s going through something very difficult, he’s waiting for word on what’s happening in Corinth. And finally it seems Titus gets to him, and he hears that many of the people of Corinth [in the Corinthian church] have taken heed to his counsel, they’ve exercised church discipline against a particular man that was in sin. They’ve settled down the civil lawsuits and so forth, and Titus tells Paul there’s been a great response, so he’s encouraged. But they also tell him, ‘There are a number of ‘critics’ there, still, that are criticizing you, largely influenced by Judaizers from Jerusalem, saying that you’ve left the Law, that you’ve left the Torah, you’ve left Moses.’ And they’re bringing in this other doctrine, and trying to malign Paul’s character and so forth. And Paul will then write this second letter to the Corinthians. Unlike the first one, which was corrective, he pours out his heart in this letter, probably even more than 2nd Timothy. There probably isn’t any of Paul’s epistles where he is as transparent and he pours out his own feelings to this church. And he says, ‘These guys, are you kidding me, these guys are criticizing me saying I’m weak, I’m sickly, there’s nothing to my bodily presence? let me tell you something, when we came into Achaia we were pressed out of measure, yea, we despaired of life itself, that’s how difficult it was.’ He said, in fact, ‘We realized, though, the Lord said though our outward man was perishing, we need to be renewed day by day, but we’re longing to put off this body and put on our new body, which is eternal in the heavens.’ He’s going to tell them, ‘You know, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to buffet me,’ but he said, ‘but God’s grace enables us to go onward.’ In chapter 11, he’s gonna say this, ‘That which I speak, I speak not after the Lord, I’m not trying to be spiritual, but as it were foolishly. See all these guys bragging there? let me brag. In this confidence of boasting,’ he says, ‘seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also, for you suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise,’ he’s being cynical, ‘for ye suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face, I speak as one concerning reproach, as though we had been weak, howbeit insoever any is bold, I speak foolishly, I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they of the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ, I speak as a fool, I am more. In labours more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in prisons, more frequent, in threats of death more often, of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one, thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck,’ we only knew of one, ‘a night and a day I’ve been in the deep.’ that’s a heart-attack for me, floating in the ocean for a day and a half with fins swimming around me, I’d be out there hearing the Jaws music, ‘In journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils’ he says, ‘by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, perils at sea, perils amongst false brethren, in weariness, in painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger, in thirst, in fastings, in cold, in nakedness, and besides all of these things without, there cometh upon me daily the care of all the churches.’ So Paul said, ‘Are you kidding me, these guys? They’re bragging? They’re saying I’m weak, let me tell you what life is really like, let me tell you my experience, let me tell you…’
“Paul, an apostle by the will of God”
And as he begins, you know, he says “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” This came on a scroll, so instead of signing last (because you’d have to unroll the whole scroll to see who it was from) it was kind of an epilogue, a postscript that comes in the front, and thirteen of the Epistles in the New Testament start this way with Paul, we’re so glad that this man wrote. And he identifies himself here as an apostle. His three favorite titles are “Paul, a bondslave,” “Paul a prisoner,” or “Paul an apostle.” “Paul an apostle” is the one he says most often. It is that he is sent, he’s ‘a sent one by Jesus Christ.’ And he says ‘I’m an apostle by the will of God…you know, your friends can brag, they can say anything they want to say, I’m in the position I’m in not because I wanted to be here, I was drafted, I was on my way to Damascus to destroy the Church, and God knocked me off my high horse, and he drafted me, and I’ve been in his service ever since. And the day he saved me there in Damascus he told me that I would go to the Gentiles, I would speak to kings and so forth, and that I would suffer many things for his name’s sake,’ Paul says, ‘all of this by the will of God…my apostleship, by the will of God, shipwrecked three times by the will of God, beaten five times, by the will of God, fastings, thieves, all of this, by the will of God. And the authority that I stand in right now, by the will of God.’ He said, ‘You got guys pointing the finger at me, griping and complaining, critics, have at it, you want to be an apostle, here are my sandals, put them on.’ [Comment: Every congregation seems to have their “critics,” those who do this, or like to get up on their soapboxes and teach ‘something else.’ Not everyone who comes in the ‘church doors’ is called of God, a genuine believer. And it seems Corinth had it’s share of these. These would be the tares amongst the wheat that Jesus talked spoke about, false brethren. They can be false simply because they don’t have the indwelling Holy Spirit, or they can be false as well for actively or secretively promoting heresy. But they can be spotted by their critical attitudes toward the established teaching of the church they’re in, it’s a dead giveaway.] He’s been through all of these things. But what he’s going to say is borne out of that, and we’re going to look at that this morning. He said, ‘In all of these things, the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort becomes real to us, and in our sufferings and in our difficulties’ and I’m going to say this right off the bat, I’m not good at suffering, I am a wimp, I just want to remove all doubt. You know I look at Kalem M., this beautiful little ten-year-old girl we have here whose battled with cancer half of her life. And I listen to her talk about it, and read Psalm 40, and I realize it’s way more to her than it’s ever been to me, and I’m ashamed, that a ten-year-old can take ahold of the depth of those things, and they get under her and they hold her up in God’s graciousness. So I’m not speaking from like I’m the best sufferer, I’m speaking this is the Word of God, and I know that. And pray for me that when I get in these circumstances, because we all will. My wife always says ‘You need to go to the doctor, you need to go to the doctor, you need to go to the doctor.’…And eventually we all end up at the doctor, that’s the stop before the undertaker. We’re all going to the doctor sooner or later, so stop worrying about it. But we’re all going to go to that place, and these things, we want them to be real to us when we’re in those difficult, difficult times. And Paul says, ‘Realize I’m in the position I’m in, it’s because of the will of God,’ he says to this church that he loves, writing to them from himself ‘and our brother,’ whose not an apostle, ‘Timothy,’ “to the church of God which is at Corinth”, notice, “with all the saints”, the holy ones, the called out ones. Imagine that, at Corinth, that are in the whole area of Achaia, the whole region.
Grace & Peace, A Paternal Blessing
And this is how he begins, the greeting to them is this, “grace be to you and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace and peace, always his greeting. You know, he would write to the Jew first, then to the Gentile, so it seems like it should be “shalom” then “grace” [charis]. But theologically it never works that way. Theologically if you don’t know God’s grace, you will never have peace. You all know Christians who have been believers for a long time, and they’re still struggling with condemnation, still struggling with things from their past, they love God, they want to serve God, ‘But does he love me, I don’t measure up.’ Get over it, you won’t measure up, you ain’t worthy, and you ain’t never gonna be worthy, it’s grace. You know the acronym ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense,’ G.R.A.C.E., it’s grace. And once we take hold of that, that we don’t deserve it, that we’re never going to deserve it, we can’t earn it, God lavishes it upon us because of the completed work of his Son, and we receive it, we’re receiving grace, then we will have peace, then we will have peace. And you think, what an interesting kind of way to greet one another. ‘Hey, the blessings that you don’t deserve, upon you today, and peace.’ I guess there’s two ways you can say that, ‘Hey, Bub, you know, I pray that all God’s blessings on you that you don’t deserve be on you today.’ There’s one way you can say that, that does your heart good, another way you can say that, that you really don’t want to hear it. ‘Hey, grace, all of the blessings you don’t have or deserve, let them be on you today! and peace.’ What a wonderful way to speak to one another. And he says all of that flows from, notice, “God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” He says this is a paternal blessing. And all through the Old Testament he’s the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It says Abraham was the friend of God. I have friends. Seems the older I get, fewer and fewer. But I have friends. And being the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that’s pretty cool, God’s friend. What could top that?---except God our Father. I have sons and daughters. You may be my friend, but my sons and my daughters are something different. They’re the only humans on the planet that I will ever get to hear this word out of their mouth, ‘Dad.’ I’ll never hear from anybody but those four, “Abba, Dad.” And they will never hear from anybody else on the planet but me, “son, Sweetheart, daughter.” That’s in time and eternity. This is a paternal God. You know, not Molech, not Ashtoreth, not the gods of the pagans where they sacrifice animals or sacrifice their kids or try to appease some angry god, or where you have to fly into buildings, you know. No, this is God our Father, it is a paternal comfort that he gives to us. Isn’t it amazing? He’s all powerful, he’s all knowing, he’s omniscient, and he portrays himself as a father. ‘Grace, everything you don’t deserve and never could, let it be lavished upon you, and peace, from God our Father,’ Paul says, “and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” And “Blessed be God,” blessed is to eulogize, you know you go to a funeral, there’s a eulogy, you’re saying the last things about someone respectfully, in public. But logos is the word “eul” is to speak well of, “eulogy” is to speak well of, to bless. He says “Blessed be God”, ‘speak well of God, speaking well of this God, even the Father,’ now it was our Father, now it’s ‘our Lord Jesus Christ,” He says, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” Look, nobody understands God the Father in some respects other than our Lord, he lords over our hearts, he’s our Lord. But he’s the one who said, when he was twelve years old, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?’. He’s the one who said to us, ‘When you pray, pray this way, Our Father who art in heaven.’ He’s the one who came to us and said, ‘I’m going to send the promise of the Father upon you,’ he has re-enforced so much in our lives that we are brethren. ‘I send unto my God and their God, tell my disciples and to their Father.’ And look, I understand many of you, between three services have come out of an abusive home. You’ve come out of a situation where when you hear the word “father,” some of you just kind of wince. But we have a Father in heaven whose all powerful, whose all loving, who can overcome that. Raul Reese grew up in an alcoholic home, his father was abusive. He hated his father, wanted to kill him, and he led his father to the Lord before he died. Damian Kiel, his mother went from man to man to man to man, and he said the man she stayed with the longest was the one I hated the most, was abusive. Greg Laurie, I heard his story, his mom went from man to man to man to man to man. Mike McIntosh, his father an alcoholic, drank away everything. He said “In the winter they turned the gas off, we’re in the house freezing, and he came home drunk, violent, we’re freezing cold, had nothing to eat.” And all of them have taken ahold of their heavenly Father and have changed the lives of thousands. That can happen. Paul’s going to talk about that.
Why Christians Suffer---Several Reasons
There is a paternal love, there is a paternal consolation that comes to us, and he says it comes from, he said, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” who notice “is the Father of mercies, and he’s the God of all comfort.” Mercies are born from him. There was no mercy until he created the worlds, the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, he knew that man would sin, he is the Father of mercies. Whatever mercy there is or whatever has been shoots forth from him. And it says then, that ‘he is the God of all comfort.’ Your translation may say that he’s the God of 83 percent of all comfort, it’s wrong. It’s a bad translation. You know what the Greek word for “all” is? “All”, like the detergent, you’re right, it’s exactly what it means. He’s not the God of 95 percent of comfort. The way this is written in the Greek, he has a strict monopoly on comfort. You know, you might feel good when you get a note from the doctor, ‘oh your test came back negative’ , ‘wheh!’ But they’re coming back positive sooner or later. You might feel good when this works out, but it ain’t working out sooner or later. I mean, there’s temporary relief, that’s an aspirin commercial. [or that ad, “How to you spell relief, R.O.L.A.I.D.S.”] He is, he has the monopoly on every measure of comfort which comes to us in our affliction. It doesn’t necessarily remove the suffering or the affliction, but it lifts us up and it strengthens us in the midst of it. It is something that he shoots forth that comes from no other source, “he is the God of all comfort.”
Reason Number One: To humble us
And Charles Spurgeon said it’s so important for us to learn these things, here’s what he said, about sickness or suffering being important, he says, “A soap bubble has a scant measure of material in it for it’s size. And most of us are after the same order. It is greatly for our good to be reduced to our true dimensions.” I have to read it again, because it’s great, because I thought through it all last night. I’ll give it to you again. What he’s saying, a soap bubble goes “pop!”, it looks real big, but he said there ain’t really much there. And he said that’s good for us, because we get reduced to our true dimensions. Here, listen carefully please. He says, “A soap bubble has a scant measure of material in it for its size. And most of us are after the same order. It is greatly for our good to be reduced to our true dimensions.” Because when something comes in our life like that, your heart goes out of rhythm. If somebody close to you passes away, something life-changing, life-shattering, life-threatening, and all of a sudden you realize ‘I ain’t everything I thought yesterday when I was healthy and everything was good. I thought I was so important, and today I realize I’m mortal, I’m frail, I’m fragile, I just got here, I ain’t staying long.’ I need to get things in perspective. And he said it’s like that soap bubble busting, and you get a real measure of how much material’s really involved there. He says sickness does this, he says the reigns, like somebody riding a horse, “the reigns drop from the driver’s hands, the plowman forgets the furrow, the seedbasket hangs no more on the sower’s arm, and this experience cuts us loose from earthly shores. And it provides us with a dress-rehearsal for when our life’s work will be ended, and we shall be no more.” He said it’s practice. Because, you know, the deal is, we see life in the context of the visual and the tangible, and we measure it, because we’re caught in it. But when God looks at life, he sees this short little space here, and then eternity beyond that, where our inheritance is undefiled and incorruptible, it fades not away. He sees us in glory, he sees the ultimate issue of why he saved us, and he paid the price---why Corinthians can be called saints. He sees the huge picture. And what Charles Spurgeon is saying, sometimes when our mortality is touched in one way or another, all of a sudden it focuses us, our vision becomes much clearer.
Reason Number Two: “That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
And Paul is saying that here, he says ‘our God, he’s the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he’s the Father of mercies, to any mercy that exists, he gives birth to it, it issues forth from him, and he is the God, he has the monopoly on all genuine comfort.’ And he says here, Who comforteth us in all our tribulation.” Not some of it, “in all our tribulation”, there’s a reason, he gives a reason, “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (verse 4) He says here that he comforts us in all of our tribulation. If he is the source of all comfort, then he’s the only one that can comfort us in our tribulation. Now the word “comfort” from verse 3 to 7 is used 10 times. It’s paraclesis, parakletos, it’s the same word that Jesus uses in John 14 when he says ‘I will not leave you comfortless’, that word is orphanos, ‘I won’t leave you as orphans, but I will send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Parakletos.’ That’s one who comes alongside to help. It was sometimes in the Greek language used as someone in the courtroom who came alongside you to plead your case. But more often it was someone who comes alongside to help. Ten times in verses 3 to 7 the word “comfort” parakletos, paraclesis is used, and speaking about help that comes alongside of us. Not just comfort theoretically, but something that really happens. Now look, God may use another Christian when you’re hurting and you’re suffering [and he uses other Christians to reach out to the lost world, individuals in it, when they’re hurting, through ‘good works’ projects, whether individual or group. See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/wearesalt.htm]. Not the Christian who comes alongside and says ‘Hey, all things work together for the good.’ He ain’t been through anything yet. He’s going to go to the woodshed, just pray for that guy. But somebody whose been through something, and they know the comfort they were comforted with. You know, when my dad went on to be with the Lord, I thought, I’ll never be the same at the funeral of somebody’s mom or dad again, now that I’ve been through this. I’ll never be the same. So it may be a Christian that God brings to your side. And often, by the way, the best counselor is the best listener. Sometimes when somebody’s going through something horrendous, and it’s much worse than anything you’ve gone through, just being there and not saying anything, means the world to that person. So, the one who comes alongside to help, the paraclesis, that may happen with another Christian, it may certainly happen with God’s Word, all of a sudden something comes to life off the page. I have Christians in our church tell me in their suffering, great difficulties, “Joe, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” And I’m thinking ‘I would.’ But they’re saying “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Because the depth of my relationship with the Lord, the way his Word has come alive. Chuck Smith, my pastor, years ago, I said “Chuck, when you’re really going through it, where do you read in Scripture?” He said, “I go to the Psalms, and I just start to read.” And he said “I may not get anything for two or three days, but at some point all of a sudden that Psalm is rising off the page, and I hear David saying ‘How long O LORD will my soul be cast down? All thy waves and thy billows are going over me.’” And he said, “All of a sudden I have the Lord speaking to me.” So he said “The first thing I do is I go to the Psalms.” And it may be the Scripture that comes alongside, and certainly, paraclesis, parakletos, all the different words, it may be the Holy Spirit, wonderfully, who comes alongside of you in your suffering. Understand this though, you can respond in two ways when that suffering comes, and that difficulty. If it isn’t sanctified, if it isn’t brought under the influence of the Holy Spirit, you can have however many PhD’s you want, all the training, all the seminary graduations you want, if the Holy Spirit doesn’t ignite the truths that are involved here---because it doesn’t say, this is not book-learning. Paul didn’t learn this in the school of Gamaliel. You hear the list of stuff he’s gone through. That’s where he’s learned to be a compassionate servant of the Lord. It’s life experience, not just book-learning. That’s important, we should do that. But when you go through difficult times, you can either become bitter, ‘Why God, why me?’, you can ‘Why-God to death.’ ‘Why this? why’s this happening? what’s happening to me, if you love me?’ I complain when I get a flat tire. I see people suffering in church with horrendous things. I get a flat tire, ‘Lord, this is what you’re doing to me?’ You’re a pastor, somebody drives by and sees me with a flat tire, it’s bad for your reputation, ‘you treat your pastor this way?’ I’m such a wimp. But in real suffering, real difficulty, we can either grow bitter, or we can start a pity-party, and invite everybody whose going to say ‘Awhh’, if you’re not going to say that, don’t come, it’s my pity-party, I have rules. Or, if it’s sanctified, if it’s unto the Lord, he puts it in a perspective that says here ‘that you may be able to comfort others that are in any trial.’ Yeah, the most wonderful thing in some ways is to see an addict whose saved, washed and cleansed, being able to talk to another addict, because there’s something visceral, they can feel one another. But it doesn’t say you have to have been an addict to minister to an addict. It says you have to have suffered and received consolation and comfort from the True and Living God in order to be able to speak to anybody, whatever their circumstances. For it to be life, you have to received life, you have to be contagious to give somebody the measles, you’ve got to have it yourself. And to speak to somebody of the Good News of God, his faithfulness, his healing power, his comfort, that has to be real in your life---then you can speak to anybody, it says, in any trial, in any trial. We love to have someone whose been through an abusive situation ministering to somebody in abuse. We love to have somebody whose marriage was on the brink of divorce and now God has done a great work, to talk to people. But in all those contexts, these are people who realize “This is God, it ain’t me, I’d have blown it. He’s been gracious, he’s done this in our life.” But so can a dozen other people that have been through terrible things. Jonie Eriksson is going to sit here and minister to all kinds of us no matter what we’re going through, sitting there paralyzed in that wheelchair, telling us all how wonderful God is, and she’s just getting over cancer by the way, telling us all how wonderful and powerful our God is. She’s going to minister to all of us. And Paul says this, ‘He’s the one who comforts us in all of our tribulation.’ The Greek word there is interesting, it’s thlipsis or thlipsihere, and it means pressure, it means weight. [Strongs #2347: Greek thlipsis, ‘pressure’ :---afflicted, anguished, burdened, persecuted, tribulation, trouble.] The Latin word is tribulum, which is the threshing sled. The tribulum was that big wooden threshing sled that was drug across the grain to crush the grain, to separate the wheat from the chaff. [Comment: persecution can act as a spiritual tribulum, separating false and fair-weather Christians from the real ones. God is bringing us all nearer to that period of time, the tribulum is being readied.] And so often tribulation will do that in our lives, it seems crushing but it separates the wheat from the chaff in our lives. But interesting, the word thlipsis, the Greek word, also, the Roman soldiers used this word for tribulation when they took somebody, you know in our modern struggle with terrorism we know this term ‘waterboarding.’ Well the Romans had ‘stoneboarding,’ where they would put a board on your chest and lower a huge boulder on that board, and then add more weight, until you could hardly breath, you would rapidly get fatigued, and you’d be trying not to breathe out, because every time you breathe out the board would sink down lower, and you’d get air-starved, you couldn’t breathe back in, you began to panic. And the Romans would use that to get information from people. And Paul’s saying, ‘Hey, those days may come, where you feel like God is grinding you, separating the wheat from the chaff, the days may come where we feel we can’t even breathe, there’s so much pressure that you can’t even breathe.’ And in those days God, who is the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort…[tape switchover, some text lost]…And if you will go to him, and you will allow him to be real in your life, not a theological concept, the real true living God. Then what it does, he says, ‘he will minister to you, not just to minister to you, but that you might then be contagious, that you then might be able to minister to other people and give them comfort with the same comfort you received when you were in your affliction.’ That’s what he says here.
The Consolation Becomes Part of Our Lives---We’re Being Trained to Relinquish Things on the Horizontal So That We Can Take Hold Upon the Vertical
Verse 5 says, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” Listen, in the Greek there’s a contrast between “for as” and “so also.” It should be written this way, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also our consolation aboundeth by Christ.” And we do, everybody in this room, if you’re going to stand up for Jesus, there are sufferings, there’s heat, there’s pressure that’s going to come. If you believe in Creation, there’s pressures that are going to come. If you even believe in marriage these days is between a man and a woman, pressure is gonna come. If you want to raise your kids in the Lord the right way, pressure’s going to come, from them, from everybody else. If you want to take a moral stand, pressure’s gonna come. If you don’t want to get paid under the table, pressure’s gonna come. You want to do the right things, pressure’s gonna come. Anybody watch Ben Carson, he’s been on the news lately?, and spoken at the prayer breakfast on the 4th? He was supposed to speak at a major university and do the opening commencement speech, and people at the university found out he believed in Creation, that he was a man of faith, and they threw him out. They wouldn’t let him come. They invited a professor from Princeton who believes that you can abort babies up to a year old. ‘They’re not really human till they’re a year’ he believes in infanticide. [According to this creep from Princeton] you can kill babies up to a year old, and he believes that incest between parents and kids, siblings, and bestiality is healthy for young kids. They threw out Ben Carson and they invited this guy to the commencement speech. [see: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/29/students-want-ben-carson-replaced-as-commencement-speaker-after-gay-marriage/?test=latestnews] That’s the world we’re living in. That’s where we are. But the darker it gets, the brighter the light will shine [out of us, God shining through us]. And whatever pressure comes to you because of your faith, whatever pressure comes to you because of sickness or some circumstance that’s contradicting what you think a God of love should do, well however those pressures might come, he says here, “as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also the consolation aboundeth by Christ.” [Pastor Joe’s grammatically corrected version J ] That word to “abound” there is an interesting word. It means “super abundance”, there’s a super abundance given to us in regards to consolation. It’s used when Jesus fed the 10,000, with the loaves and fishes, and it says they gathered together above and beyond, over and above it says, which is the same word here, “over and above.” When the prodigal son was out in the far country, he thought ‘There’s bread enough in my father’s house’, which means there was an abundance of it. That’s the same word here. He says, ‘Yes, whatever sufferings abound, consolation also’, there’s a contrast, ‘aboundeth by Christ.’ “And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation,” we’re learning things that we give to you, and your salvation, not just in the sense of conversion, but the whole salvation and redemption experience, “which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer:” Then you’re able to go on and understand. “or whether we be comforted [when God comforts us], it is for your consolation and salvation.” (verse 6) He says, verse 7, “And our hope [Paul, Timothy] of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” Isn’t that interesting, the Corinthian church? This is a guy who saw the beauty of the Bride, not by her performance, but by the completed work of Jesus Christ. She was white and spotless, not by her performance, but by her Saviour’s completed work. Paul says, ‘our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings,” that’s life’s experience, “so shall ye be also of the consolation.” It doesn’t say the suffering is removed, he says the consolation becomes part of our lives, it’s woven in. Look, again, I’m not a depresso. OK? I love my wife, love my kids, love my grandkids, love the Eagles, it’s futile, but I love the Eagles [Philadelphia Eagles], I love the Sixer’s, just pray for me. I love even a good restaurant, I love laughing, I love watching a good movie, I’ll even watch a Hallmark movie with my wife once in a while…Look, I love life. But here’s the truth, life is a pilgrimage of loss. You loose your childhood, you lose your innocence, you lose friends, you lose parents, you lose your hearing, you lose your teeth, you lose your hair, you lose your memory (so you don’t care about what everybody’s saying about you). This life is a journey of loss. All of that is causing us again to set our affections on things above, and not on things of the earth. In all of that, our Father in heaven, is the, strictly the source of comfort. He’s the Father of mercy. And it is boot camp, we are being trained to relinquish things on the horizontal so we can take hold of things upon the vertical. You’re way richer for those around you, in the process of doing that. You’re way more valuable to the Church of Jesus Christ [i.e. the Body of Christ, overall] when you have perspective of the vertical and not just of the horizontal. And Paul begins this amazing letter by saying, ‘Look, this is the deal. People want to brag, criticize me for being weak in bodily stature, my voice.’ He says, ‘This is how I’ve been beat up, this is what I’ve gone through.’ He doesn’t tell any of this in any of his other Epistles, only here to the Corinthians, whom he loves. And it’s his heart, he’s deeply hurt. I understand that. He’s deeply injured, and he says ‘Look, my apostleship is by the will of God. When he revealed himself to me on the road to Damascus, one of the first things he told me in that process was that I would go to kings, to the Gentiles, to the rulers, and suffer many things for his name’s sake, and I had to leave Damascus in a basket, to get down the wall without getting beat there. And it’s been that way ever since. And here’s all the other things I’ve gone through. My apostleship is by the will of God. Caesar has a temporary influence, mine is eternal and powerful. Caesar has the prince of the power of the air behind his throne, I have the God of all comfort and the Father of all mercy behind mine.’ And he says, ‘He’s your Father also.’ Any mercy there is comes forth from him. He’s given birth to it. And any comfort that matters, he has a monopoly on it. And when you guys are in pressures where you feel like you’re suffocating, can’t even breathe, it’s so much you’re being ground to powder, he says, ‘He comes along, he’s there, like a parakletos, he comes alongside,’ he may use a Christian, he may use the Bible, he might use the Holy Spirit, but he gives consolation, ‘so that you then are enriched, and you might be able to infect others that are suffering, with the same thing you received.’ There’s a purpose in it. And he said, ‘Yes, sufferings abound, but the consolation abounds so much more.’ ‘Us,’ he says, ‘as we suffer, we realize it’s for you guys, so that when you suffer, we can coach you along this path, this pilgrimage, this earthly journey.’ And he says, “And our hope in you is stedfast,” that’s an amazing thing to say to the Corinthian church. ‘Our hope in you is stedfast…we know that as you will be partakers of sufferings, you will also be partakers of consolation.’ It doesn’t say you will be removed from hard circumstances, it says ‘in the middle of them, you’re going to be strengthened, you’re going to be consoled, because our God is faithful.’ Why don’t we do this. I’m going to have the musicians come, we’ll end. You stay seated. But let’s do this. As we sing this last song, if you are here this morning, and you feel, “You know what? I need this, maybe it’s not real in my life, I need to…I’m broken right now, I feel like I’m suffocating, I can’t even breathe, there’s so much pressure in my life, I’m ready to just blow my stack, I need prayer.” If that’s you, and you’re inclined, as we sing this last song, I’m going to ask everybody else to stay seated, I’m going to ask you to stand. And then, as we begin to worship, if you see someone whose standing, and the Holy Spirit puts it on your heart to pray for that person, then I want you to go lay hands on them. Don’t ask them ‘What’s going on?’, and just say “Father, you’re the Father of all mercies, you’re the God of all comfort, would you comfort, would you show mercy here? Would you do what no human could do, Lord. From your great treasure trove and resources of consolation, would you bless my brother, bless my sister?” Guys, would you want to do that? Let’s do that, let’s worship. If you need prayer, you’re broken down today, you think ‘This is for me,’ I’m going to ask you, if you’re inclined, as embarrassing as it might be, just to stand where you are. And then I’ll ask the folks, don’t just run over ‘I’m a pray-er’, no, no, if the Holy Spirit tells you, go pray for them. Let’s worship…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on 2nd Corinthians 1:1-7 given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116]
How did Paul evangelize, and what was the early Church like? See:
How can we reach out to the lost and hurting in the world? See: