Welcome to 2 Corinthians! Before we dive into a quick thought about 2 Cor. 1, let’s bring some clarity to this second book to the Corinthian Church.
First of all we know that Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth and to the believers throughout Achaia around 55 AD.
Paul wrote this letter to address 3 basic categories of people at Corinth. First, he wrote to encourage the majority at Corinth who remained faithful to him as their spiritual father. Second, he wrote to challenge and expose the false apostles who continued to speak against him personally, hoping to undermine his authority and apostleship and to distort his Message.
Thirdly, he also wrote to reprimand the minority in the church who were being influenced by Paul's opponents and who were resisting his authority and correction. Paul reaffirmed his integrity and Apostolic authority; he clarified his motives and warned them against the future rebellion. 2 Corinthians served to basically prepare the church as a whole for his future visit.
Second Corinthians has three main divisions we can look at. #1, in chapters one through 7 Paul begins by thanking God for his comfort in the midst of suffering for the gospel, he then commends the Corinthians for disciplining a serious offender and defends his integrity in changing his travel plans. Paul shares the most extensive insight in the New Testament on the true character of Christian ministry. He stresses the importance of separation from the world and expresses joy in learning from Titus of the repentance of many in the Corinthian church who had previously rebelled against his authority.
Second, in chapters 8 and 9 Paul exhorts the Corinthians to match the generosity of the Macedonians and contributing to the offering he was raising for the distressed Christians at Jerusalem.
And 3rd, the letters tone actually changes in chapters 10 through 13. Here, Paul defends his apostleship by giving his calling qualifications and sufferings as a true apostle. In doing this, Paul hopes the Corinthians will discern the false apostles among them and be spared further discipline when he arrives again in person. Paul concludes 2 Corinthians with the only trinitarian benediction in the New Testament which is found in chapter 13 verse 14.
Now as we dive into Chapter 1, Paul hones in on God comforting us in times of trouble or distress.
In verse 3 Paul says this:
Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ the father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Now, the word comfort in the Greek (Paraklesis) means to stand beside a person, encouraging and helping him or her in a time of trouble or difficulty. God fills this role by sending his Holy Spirit to comfort us. Paul has learned in his many troubles that no suffering, however severe, can separate us from the care and compassion of God. The reality is, God occasionally does permit or use troubles in our life in order that we, experience His comfort, and in return may comfort others in their troubles as well.
If we jump down halfway through verse six it says:
It is for your comfort, which produces in you, patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.
“Patient endurance.” What does that mean? Well, let’s look at the word endurance. Simplistically, the word endurance means, the ability to keep doing something difficult, unpleasant, or painful for a long time:
So we can read this now as, to patiently keep doing something difficult.
How many of us have ever been in a situation or season of difficulty, where all you want to do is give up or get out? I know I have! But what we see here is an encouragement from Paul, basically saying don’t give up and don’t give in to the difficulties you face. The care and encouragement we receive from God in those seasons and moments are to be used to lift us up, and encourage others when they’re faced with difficulties.
We see this going back to verse 3-4 Paul says:
Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Are you going through a difficult season today? One of the best but difficult questions to ask in times of difficulty is, “Lord, what lessons can I learn in this.” It’s a perspective that has to be chosen because it doesn’t come naturally.
James 1:2-4 says:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
The word patience here is the ancient Greek word hupUmone. This word does not describe a passive waiting but an active endurance. It has the picture of someone under a heavy load and choosing to stay there instead of trying to escape. Faith is tested through trials, not produced by trials. Trials reveal what faith we do have; not because God doesn’t know how much faith we have, but so that our faith will be evident to ourselves and to those around us.
Whatever you may be facing today, know that God is with you. Leading you through, by faith, knowing that He is in control. And when you come out on the other side, find the closest person you can to help encourage and strengthen them through their difficulty as verse 4 tells us, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.