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Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. –2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NASB 95

 

The word comfort is used ten times in verses 3-7. We should know what that means. We think of comfort in terms of a comfortable couch or comfortable clothes, but it means far more than that. Think of the word comfort. It’s made up of two words com and fort. Look at the first half of the word, com or con, which is the same word. It means with or together. Think of a Mexican restaurant. Chili Con Carne is what? Chili With Meat. Or the word reconcile, which is used several times at the end of chapter 5, means to bring back together again. You see the con in the middle of that word. How about the second part of the word comfort, fort. It literally means strength. What do we think of when we hear fort? A military base, Fort Henry or Fort Robinson or Fort Benning or Fort Knox. A stronghold or fortress is how we see it translated in the Old Testament. Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress, is based on Psalm 46. Verse 7 says the God of Jacob is our refuge in the King James, but the NASB says stronghold. The ESV says fortress. So, comfort is far more than a cozy bed. It is being with strength, and the only true source of strength is our Might Fortress, the Triune God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This God is worthy of praise..

 

Blessed be God, from verse 3, means all praise goes to Him, the Father who sent the Son to be our substitute, the Father of all mercies. Every mercy you have ever experienced has been from the Father. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the Father is the mean God, and Jesus is the nice God. Our Triune God is singular in nature, essence and purpose. The Father of all mercies loved you dear Christian, not because of any goodness in you, but out of pure unmerited favor. His love is an everlasting love which He showed by sending the Son to live, die, and rise on your behalf. The love of the Father is why the Son came, for you dear Christian. Here we see the first occurrence of the word comfort, the God of all comfort on into verse 4 who comforts us in all our affliction. Why? Why allow affliction at all? Let’s read all of verse 4. We are comforted by God so we can comfort others. We can give real genuine comfort. Why? Because we can comfort with the same comfort that God has comforted us.

 

That hard thing you’ve experienced, whatever it is, a wayward child, illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a fight with your spouse, the list could go on and on, but these things are not meaningless. You and I deal with loss, disease, depression, and hardships of all kinds, in order to point us to Christ, and to minister to others by pointing them to Christ.  Take comfort, Christian. Everything under the sovereign God has meaning. We may not see it immediately. We may not see it on this side of glory, but it has meaning. Your suffering has purpose, your pain, your affliction is for your benefit and for the benefit of others. You’ve experienced cancer. You can minister to someone with cancer. You’ve lost a job. You can minister to someone who has lost a job. You don’t have to have experienced the very same situation to minister, but when you have, God is using that to glorify Himself. God is glorified in your suffering, Christian. It is never meaningless.

 

John 13:16 says, “a slave is not greater than his master.” Do you think that you are above suffering? Do you think that you are above your Master, the Lord Jesus. Our King suffered on our behalf. Our King is the only one who did not deserve suffering, but He took it voluntarily to redeem a people for Himself. 4th Century theologian, Augustine, said, “God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” If we have been joined to Christ by faith alone, then we receive all of the benefits of sonship, but never think trials or persecution or suffering are not part of being a child of God. Christ’s life from the womb to the grave was suffering. We can think that just the beating and crucifixion were His suffering, but remember the King of glory left His throne to become man, a real man, a genuine man, so He could represent us and redeem us from the fall of Adam. Question 26 from Spurgeon’s Catechism asks, “What does Christ’s humiliation include?” The answer, “Christ’s humiliation includes His being born, being born in poor conditions, being made under the law, experiencing the miseries of this life, coming under the wrath of God and the curse of death on the cross, and being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time.” Yes, the cross was the culmination of His suffering, but Christ suffered His entire life. Our King as an infant. Our God taking on humanity. Our God growing up with younger siblings. But as verse five says, even as our suffering is abundant, so is our comfort. Abundance in Christ, comfort in Christ, knowing that this is not all there is, looking forward to that heavenly home prepared by the Son of God Himself. We are comforted by our Mediator. Remember, His work as Mediator was not just in His death, but also in His life. He is worthy of praise. The Father treated the Son as if He was you so you can be treated as if you are Him. That is comfort. That is the grace and mercy of God. Wrath due us poured out on the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. If that doesn’t comfort you, nothing will.

 

Our Savior not only comforts us, but He has sent the Comforter. The Holy Spirit is our indwelling Comforter. John 14:16-17 says, “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate, that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him. You know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” The word  Advocate is also translated as Helper or Counsellor, but the King James translates it as Comforter. It has the same Greek root as the word we see in First Corinthians ten times as comfort, the Paraklete. Have you heard that term before. It means the one who comes along side. How does the Holy Spirit comfort us? He teaches us, He testifies of sin, righteousness, and judgment, He testifies to our spirit and with our spirit that we belong to God in Christ. Our Elector, the Father; our Redeemer, the Son; and our Sanctifier, the Spirit comfort us in Salvation.

 

As the Lord Jesus shared in suffering and comfort, we Christians share in each other’s suffering and comfort. What does the beginning of verse six say again? “But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation;” Just as we have a sympathetic Hight Priest in Jesus according to Hebrews 4, we can sympathize with each other through our union with Him and with each other. But how is our suffering for your salvation as we read in verse 6? We see how Christ’s suffering is salvific, but not our suffering. Our affliction and how we endure is a witness to the lost world. No, we don’t always handle affliction perfectly, but sanctified endurance in the name of Christ is a witness to the world. Read the rest of verse 6 again. We suffer together as the body of Christ. We endure together, we comfort together. When you miss the gathered worship service, the whole body is missing a piece. Remember the word comfort means “with strength” or “strength together.” We are in this together as those who have been born again by the Spirit of God. We have a Mighty Fortress who protects us and comforts us in affliction.

Read verse 7 again. Paul’s hope for Corinth is not found in them. They were a very troubled church with sin and turmoil and false teaching, but Paul states where his hope for them was resting, in the Mighty Fortress that is the Lord Jesus. His hope for them was firmly grounded in the Rock of Ages. Lamentations 3:24 says, “The Lord is my portion says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.

 

Our comfort is only in Christ, the God-Man, the Mediator of the New Covenant. It is only in Him that we can rest in tumultuous times. Only in Him, can we endure when hardships come. How does the lost world deal with trials, they double down on their sin, they thumb their nose at God, they attempt to soothe their conscience with a bottle of pills or a bottle of alcohol or a needle in their arm. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. You have a better way. You, Christian, have a Savior who can sympathize with your every weakness, but He did so without sin. He lived so you can live.  He died as a substitute for you, Christian. We have a Comforter, we have a Mighty Fortress, we have that togetherness that we see a small picture of when we partake of the Lord’s supper.

And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us

We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us

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