2 Corinthians 1:1-7
God of All Comfort
Moving from 1 Corinthians to 2 Corinthians seems, well, seamless, but that’s not actually the case. As related in previous devotions, since sending that letter to Corinth, Timothy had visited and found matters worse than before. Then Paul visited the church in hopes of bringing them back into the fold but was treated shamefully by them (2:3). He left and then sent a painful and agonizing letter to them, again with prayers for their repentance (2:1-4). Then much to Paul’s relief, he received news from Titus that the letter he had sent had the desired effect as many were genuinely longing to see Paul again (7:5-9). But while all that was going on in Corinth, causing the Apostle great distress, his concern for the health of the churches being such, he was in danger of life and limb in Asia in the city of Ephesus where the gospel was so well-received that believers were forsaking the idols—much to the chagrin of the silversmiths (1:8-11; Acts 19:21-41). That led to riots and hence, even more distress for Paul and the church in that city.
So we pick up 2 Corinthians with the great Apostle having been through the ringer. And what theme does he pick up in the first few verses of the letter? Comfort. In the midst of all of his distress, all of his suffering, all of his anxiety and misery, he had drawn closer to the “God of all comfort.” But Paul further understands something more: that God has not comforted him for his own good but for the good others, that is, that he may comfort others. He writes this truth of the faith: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.” As Christians, we suffer more deeply than others, for we understand why we suffer. We understand the brokenness of the world, of human beings, of ourselves. We mourn for our sins and the sin we see around us. And, sometimes we suffer for being Christians. But as Christians, we also experience comfort more deeply than others. We know the God of all comfort, we know the conqueror of death and the grave, and we’ve read the Book and know how the story ends—which is really just the beginning. And with this knowledge, we are able to comfort our brothers and sisters. We are even able to comfort unbelievers if we will not shy away from sharing with them the gospel of the One who is the source of all comfort. And therein we discover as did Paul the wonderful truth that as we share in the sufferings of Christ, so we share in the comfort.
Suffering with Christ and receiving the comfort of Christ and sharing that comfort with others. This is how we learn Christ and experience him in us.