Tuesday, February 19, 2008


2 Corinthians 1 “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal”

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother: To God’s church at Corinth, with all the saints who are throughout Achaia.
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
4 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.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so our comfort overflows through Christ.
6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in the endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer.

7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort.
8 For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in the province of •Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life.
9 However, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.
10 He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us; we have placed our hope in Him that He will deliver us again.
11 And you can join in helping with prayer for us, so that thanks may be given by many on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.

There is an old story about a New England church that was suffering though time of dissension and backbiting. The people were constantly involved in petty feuds. One day, the people came together and consulted a former pastor as to how they could resolve their differences. The pastor agreed to think on the matter and send them a letter soon detailing his judgment.

A few days later, the pastor sat down and wrote his letter to the people, full of advice on how to make peace in their church. At the same time he wrote a letter to a farmer friend of his with advice about farming and especially about the trouble he was having with one of his bulls. Then the pastor called up two messengers, gave them the two letters, and sent them on their way.

You can guess what happened. The pastor accidentally mixed up the letters. The message for the church got sent to the farmer friend. The message for the farmer friend got sent to the feuding church.

An elder stood and read this letter to the congregation: "You had better see that your fences are put up well in the first place. Plow your ground deep; and sort your seed; be careful not to sow foul seed; and take care of that great, ugly bull. I think you had better poke him. The rest I will tell you when I come."

The church folks sat in silence for a long time, contemplating the pastor's strange message. Finally, one man stood and attempted to interpret it. The putting up of fences must refer to the rules of discipline in the church. The people had neglected these rules of discipline for too long. And plowing up the ground must be another way of saying the people need to open their hearts, to allow the good seed of brotherly love to be sown. The warning against foul seed was obvious: the members had an obligation to sort the truth from the untruth, and not believe every morsel of gossip they heard. And the great, ugly bull could only symbolize the devil, who had come into their midst and stirred up so much strife among them. The people realized this was the most wonderful letter they had ever heard.

The people were so moved by the pastor's advice that they began confessing their sins and offering forgiveness to one another. They opened up their hearts to one another and prayed for each other. And peace reigned in the once-feuding church. The story doesn't relate what the farmer thought when he got his letter.

The situation was something like that when the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to Corinth. In the letter of 1 Corinthians, we find Paul writing a letter to a divided church. When we read the rest of this letter, we discover that this was a church with problems with a capital P.

It really does remind me of that wonderful song from The Music Man where Harold Hills says:

"Ya got trouble, Right here in River city! With a capital 'T'

And that rhymes with 'P' And that stands for Pool.

We've surely got trouble! Right here in River City!"

It was something like that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians because they had a member living in incest, they had people speaking in tongues, they had people getting drunk at the Lord's Supper, they had people who did not believe in the resurrection, they had terrible divisions in the church, they had people who were proud of their spirituality and thought their gift was better than anybody else's. This was a church with trouble with a capital T and problems with a capital P.

When he returned to Ephesus, word reached him of a major collapse among the believers in Corinth. We can only imagine how much it must have hurt him to hear that his dear friends and partners in the gospel were now abandoning their calling, their convictions and even compromising their character.

1. Division within the Church

We already described the divisions in the church in our preliminary studies of events in Corinth, but those divisions pitted believer against believer, people Paul knew and loved fighting against each other. Division is always painful, but especially so when it occurs between people you care about deeply.

2. Degradation among the People

Beyond the divisions, he heard about blatant, unchecked, ungodly and immoral practices right there among believers in the church family, degrading practices being condoned among those made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ!

The amount of damage done by such behavior had to excite the indignation of Paul who knew how destructive the free reign of sin can be in the life of a community of faith.

3. Distrust of the Apostle

But as much as those things were grieving his heart and weighing him down, yet another burden was born by Paul…the hard-hearted challenges of his authenticity as an apostle. Word reached Paul that there were some who had come to Corinth and tried to convince the church that Paul was a fake, a fraud, a false apostle—and people were buying it and instead of defending him were joining in the accusations.

Five days a week the postman calls at our house between 1 and 2 o'clock and pushes through the letterbox a handful of mail. I pick them up and check the envelopes. Some of the letters are unsolicited, and most of them are unexciting. I check to make sure that each one is actually for us. In the mail the rare hand-written envelopes are the most enthralling. Do I recognise the writing? Where does the letter come from? Who has been writing to me, and why?

Those are the sort of questions one might ask in reading a New Testament epistle. Who wrote this letter? Why and when did he write it? To whom is it addressed, and what does it say? Do I have a right to read it? If so, is it just for antiquarian interest, or am I somehow involved in its encouragements and warnings? These questions are answered in the opening verses of this letter. The writer is the apostle Paul, and the readers are members of a European city congregation plus many others. Every Christian in the area is being invited to read this letter too. "To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia" (v.1). In other words this is an open-ended invitation to every Christian to heed this epistle. It contains such matters as principles of conduct, teachings about who God is and how people can become disciples of Jesus Christ. It presents to every Christian the possibility of learning much that is helpful - almost 2,000 years after it was written.

It brings to us some of the clearest parts of the Bible on such themes as handling difficulties and trials, and on how Christians should use their money and possessions in the service of God. It also tells us how to exercise a vibrant and God-honouring ministry.

This letter has been a source of comfort, strength and guidance for my life in many deep and important ways. It ahs helped me grapple some of the most difficult issues of my life. I am sure you will find strength and comfort from the study of this letter.

Can I say, this letter is the epistle I have MOST desired to preach through for you.

It has taken us 11 years to get here. And I will count this year the most important year of our ministry amongst you as we study this epistle together.

This letter more than any other reveals to us the heart of its writer, Paul the Christian. You will get an insight into this apostle’s heart and how it ticks and how it feels. You will be confronted with His passion, and his heart.

This epistle is about your experience.

John 16:33 "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

An average view of the Christian life is that knowing Christ means deliverance from trouble. Wrong! It means deliverance in trouble, which is very different.

You will never get out of trouble.

Job 14:1 "Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble." We go from one tragedy to another. Life is not fair, but God is. Winston Churchill said "Success in life is often nothing more than going from one failure to the next with undiminished enthusiasm." Trouble is a basic need for spiritual growth.

1. Go To the Person Who Brings You Comfort

Psalms 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.

Psalms 118:5-6   From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place. 6 The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?


The first great fact that Paul draws to our attention is the nature of the living God.

He is "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." We can never move an inch in the Bible without meeting its teaching on the Triune God. No comfort for huimanity is found outside of Christ. If you would have comfort in your trials, the only way that comfort can come to you is through the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul knew this as his own personal experience: Paul explains for us the transformation of this man who once was a vehement adversary of Jesus Christ who became his most resolute servant and herald. Only a miracle of divine mercy and regeneration could do this! This epistle touches the heart of what it means to be born again, because it touches the heart of Paul’s experience of the living God. As Dr Machen once wrote of the change wrought on the Damascus road, "All of Paul's life crumbled away beneath him. In miserable blindness he groped his way into Damascus, a poor, wretched, broken-spirited man! All his zeal had been nothing but rebellion against the King of Israel. Yet Jesus had appeared to him, not to put him to shame, but to save him. The poor, bewildered, broken-spirited rabbi became the most influential man in the history of the world!" (J.Gresham Machen, "The New Testament. An Introduction to its Literature and History", Banner of Truth, p.82).

Paul came to know Jesus Christ. And if you would know God’s comfort you must know Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. There is no comfort for you apart from Christ. You must close with Christ. When you do close woth Christ, then God becomes your Father. Is Jesus Christ your Lord? Then, and only then, the one God there is also becomes your Father.

And couldst Thou be delighted with sinners such as we
Who when we saw Thee, slighted and nailed Thee to a tree?
Unfathomable wonder, and mystery divine!
The voice that speaks in thunder says, "Sinner, I am thine."

5 For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so our comfort overflows through Christ.
Then He will delight in giving you the comforts that are promised in this passage. But if you are outside of Christ, then you will never know His comforts. Oh you may say a few nice things about Jesus, but that is not surrendering your whole life to Him, turning from all your sins and letting Him be your Saviour and Lord. I know some who want to have a foot in both camps. Sundays they’ll be for Jesus, but other days they’ll be for the pub, or the desires for money and pride and prestige, or their mates.

You will have comfort when you get the first step right, surrender to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

How many times have I had to consult with people who say “Christianity doesn’t work” It doesn’t work for them because they have never truly become Christians! Surrender to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and you’ll know God as your Father, and you’ll experience His comfort.

He is "the Father of compassion:"

To the Jewish people, the phrase father of means "originator of." So Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) because lies originated with him. God is the Father of compassion because all compassion originates with Him. God in His grace gives us what we do not deserve, and in His mercy He does not give us what we do deserve.

Go to God your Father for compassion. He knows and cares for you deeply.

Psalm 103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

Lamentations 3: 22 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Psalms 56:8 Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Thy bottle; Are they not in Thy book? But on other occasions, He actually intervenes before the tears come and rescues us just before the grief overcomes us.

Psalms 116:8 For Thou hast rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling.

He is "the God of all comfort."

He puts strength into our hearts so we can face our trials and triumph over them. Our English word `comfort' comes from two Latin words meaning "with strength." The Greek word means "to come alongside and help." It is the same word used for the Holy Spirit ("the Comforter") in John 14-16. God encourages us by His Word and through His Spirit, and usually does so through other believers who give us the encouragement we need (2 Cor. 2:7-8; 7:6-7). When you find yourself discouraged because of difficult circumstances, look to the Lord and realize all that God is to you. "I will lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from?" asks the psalmist. "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2). So when suffering comes, and it will, remember what God is to you.

There is no possible trouble for which he is not able to provide the most perfectly suited comfort. Different trials need different comforts.

God assures us that our suffering is not unexpected.

"We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The Christian nurse, Florence Nightingale, said it all so starkly when she wrote in her diary in May 1851, "My life is more difficult than almost any other kind. My life is more suffering than almost any other kind. Is it not God?"

Come ye disconsolate where’ever ye languish;

Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.

Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal

Psalms 77:1-2   My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; My soul refused to be comforted.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714), from his commentary on Psalm 77 – “Days of trouble must be days of prayer; in days of inward trouble, especially when God seems to have withdrawn from us, we must seek him, and seek till we find him. In the day of his trouble, (the psalmist) did not seek for diversions of business or recreation, to shake off his trouble that way, but he sought God, and his favor and grace. Those that are under trouble of mind, must not think to drink it away, or laugh it away, but pray it away.”

Matt 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Warren Wiersbe says, "The important thing is to fix your attention on God and not on yourself. Remember what God is to you ---'the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort' (2 Corinthians 1:3). Remember what God does for you---that He is able to handle your trials and make them work out for your good and His glory. Finally, remember what God does through you---and let Him use you to be an encouragement to others."

2. Gather The Purpose For Which You Are Comforted

a. God Comforts us To Comfort others

4 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.

2 Cor 7: 6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 6 But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the coming of Titus,


God comforts us in assuring us that even the most senseless and unjust suffering can have a purpose.

One of Elisabeth Elliot's long-time friends had cancer surgery and its aftermath was an incision that had to be scraped and cleaned daily for weeks. She wrote to Elisabeth, "It was so painful that Diana, Jim, Monica, and I prayed while she cleaned it, three times and some days four times. Monica would wipe my tears. Yes, Jesus stands right there as the pain takes the breath away, and my toes curl to keep from crying out loud. But I haven't asked, Why me Lord? It is only now that I can pray for cancer patients and know how the flesh hurts and how relief, even for a moment, is blessed" (Elisabeth Elliott, "On Asking God Why," Fleming H. Revell, 1989, p.16). Her own sufferings and the divine comfort received have made her a comforter.

b. God comforts us model perseverance

6. if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in the endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer.

i.e. A pastor friend has endured much over many eyars. I look at him and know I can endure what he has endured, because the same Lord who has been faithful to him will also be faithful to me.

c. God comforts us to draw us to Himself and away from ourselves

8 For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in the province of  Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. 9 However, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.

What is the source of your spiritual strength? Is it your strong will? Is it your effective self- discipline? Or is it the Lord Himself?

Dave Dravecky, the major league pitcher who lost his arm to cancer, told of such an experience in his book entitled, When You Can't Come Back. "Looking back," he said, "my wife, Jan, and I have learned that the wilderness is part of the landscape of faith and every bit as essential as the mountaintop. On the mountaintop, we are overwhelmed by God's presence; in the wilderness we are overwhelmed by God's absence. Both places should bring us to our knees. The one, in utter awe; the other, in utter dependence."

d. God comforts us by blessing us with the hope of heaven.

10 He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us; we have placed our hope in Him that He will deliver us again.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Roms. 8:18). Paul wrote that as one who had known immense suffering. Put in the balances the sufferings of today and then the glories of eternity. There is no comparison.

Eric Barker, a missionary from Great Britain, spent over 50 years in Portugal preaching the Gospel -- often under adverse conditions. During WWII, the situation became so critical that he was advised to send his wife and eight children to England for safety. His sister and her three children were also evacuated on the same ship. While his beloved relatives were forced to leave, he remained behind to carry on the work. On the Sunday following their departure, pastor Barker said to his congregation, "I've just received word that all my family have arrived safely home!" He then proceeded with the service as usual. Later, the full meaning of his words became known to his people. He had been handed a wire just before the meeting, informing him that a submarine had torpedoed the ship and everyone on board had drowned. He knew that because all were believers, they had reached a safer shore than England. Although overwhelmed with grief, he managed by the grace of God to live above the circumstances. The certain knowledge that his family was enjoying the bliss of Heaven comforted his heart.

e. God comforts us by driving us to prayer.

11 And you can join in helping with prayer for us, so that thanks may be given by many on our behalf for the gift that came to us through [the prayers of]many.

Not a burden we bear, Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay; Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross But is blessed if we trust and obey.

The Arabs have a saying, "All sunshine makes a desert." The danger of prosperity is it encourages a sense of false independence. It makes us think that we are okay to handle life alone. I like what Abraham Lincoln said: "I have often been driven to my knees in prayer because I had no where else to go." Often, it's in times of misfortune that we find out who our friends are and we find out who God is and what God is able to do—just how dependable God really is.

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