Paul begins his second letter to the Corinthians (this was probably his 4th letter in actuality: 1 Corinthians 5:9, Acts 18:1-17 & 2 Corinthians 2:3–4) with a warm greeting: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” HCSB.) Paul used a wordplay common to Christians at the time: “the Greeks greeted with “Hello” (Gk. charein), however Christians with “Grace” (Gk. charis.) This letter was most likely written about a year after 1 Corinthians. Paul is no doubt the author. Some question the authorship of 6:14–7:1 but Paul was most likely compiling scripture. There is no reasonable doubt that the epistle is Pauline.
Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. VS 3-11
VS 3-11 offer an incredible insight into the theology of comfort. I use the term theology because comfort comes from God. Though the word empathy is never used in scripture it is indeed described quite adequately, especially here. To sum it up: I was hurting, God comforted me, I can comfort you with the comfort I received from God. Christians can feel for others they way a non-Christian cannot.
VS 5 says it quite well: “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.“
This passage also dismantles a contemporary sentiment: “God won’t let you go through more than you can handle.” That statement is not true. Nowhere are we taught this. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says we won’t be tempted beyond what we are able. Here Paul actually said he and his companions “…were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength —so that we even despaired of life. However, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves…” VS 8b – 9a. This sounds to me as if they were overwhelmed beyond their human ability. Paul was driven to a deeper trust in God. Even the Apostle Paul needed to learn afresh to not trust himself but in God who raises the dead.
We also learn that we can help others through prayer (VS 11.) It’s amazing that if we cannot be there in person our prayers to God for them cause us to both join them in their work and help them.
Paul’s godly boast. VS 12-14
Paul was not one to boast in himself even though he had the ability to. It was Paul who taught by the Spirit that love is not boastful. However, here Paul’s boast is this: “..the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves…..with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God’s grace.” All one needs do is read 1 Corinthians to see how open, loving but stern, & honest Paul was toward them.
“Yes” has come about in Him VS 15-24
Paul uses his travel plans to teach an important message. Paul considers it mere human (fleshly, in step with the sinful nature) “..to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” [simultaneously].” VS 17b
Paul’s honesty, however painful to him at times, was a reflection of God’s character. Paul isn’t merely teaching to be honest, he is declaring God’s faithfulness in all things. God can be trusted (this point was punctuated with the reminder that He even raises the dead in VS 9.) What God has promised He will fulfill.
God’s message is not “Yes and no.” He doesn’t change His mind the way we may. The coming of the promised Messiah is God’s ultimate promise fulfilled. In fact all God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, our ultimate source of life and satisfaction.
Amen means “So be it.” or a resounding “YES!” in context of God’s promises. Paul teaches says that “”Yes” has come about in Him (Jesus Christ).” VS 19b.
Paul will address this further (his meek handling of them) but he concludes chapter 1 by letting him know the delay was to spare them from a severe rebuke (VS 23 NLT). According to VS 24 Paul was not interested in dominating them (as often is the practice of leaders who follow the flesh) with his teaching. His desire was sincere: to work with them which will lead to full joy. We stand firm by our faith in Christ.
What does this mean for us today?
- Do not despair when you go through hardships. God is working in you (perhaps with “trust issues”.) God will use you to comfort others with the comfort you received through Him.
- Boast in God alone. Be sincere & holy in your Christian walk and you will have no reason to be ashamed.
- Like God let your yes be yes and your no, no. Be steadfast in your faith-walk. This is a reflection in your life that God does not change. Remember that God keeps His promises. All the Father’s promises are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is our well of living water, salvation, satisfaction, healing, & risen Lord.
Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture is taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.