Today we start the book of 2 Corinthians! – This what God gave me today in his word:
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. (2 Corinthians 1:5-8)
Wait, what happened to what you just said in your last letter Paul? What about the whole, “God wont let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”? You said yourself, “you despaired of life itself,” in this passage. – Is Paul contradicting himself?
First, is Paul actually contradicting himself? …
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:9-10)
No, he isn’t contradicting himself. What he’s describing, for starters, isn’t a temptation. Except maybe to doubt God and clearly that isn’t happening. So what is he saying? He’s saying exactly what he says. At the moment, he’s being persecuted severely. To the point that he doubts he’ll make it out alive. But his point, the thing he wants the Corinthians to understand, is that in suffering in Jesus’ affliction, he also shares in his comfort. However this doesn’t mean that we should start beating ourselves senseless in order to share in Jesus’ comfort… At all.
So then, what does it mean to share in Christ’s afflictions? Well what exactly where Christ’s afflictions? First and foremost among them all, he was crucified on our behalf. But surely Paul wouldn’t be writing this if he even a small share in that. So that means that Paul must and this fits with his current situation, is, “sharing in Christ’s suffering,” when he went out his tours of Galilee (and other such places). What were those again? Well, they include being scorned, a couple assassination attempts (trying to throw him off a cliff, etc). Mocking, scorn, temptation, being called a demon. All part of the package.
So, if this is what Paul was referring to, what’s the point of it? By that I mean, what’s the point in telling the Corinthians that he was afraid for his very life, I would think the only thing that could accomplish is to scare them!
Second, what’s the point of Paul sharing his troubles? … It doesn’t seem very nice of him.
just as you did partially acknowledge us–that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. (2 Corinthians 1:14-15)
His hope was that they would be given grace to help them endure what they were hearing. Alright, that’s not so bad as just telling them what was going on to get it off his own shoulders. But, what could we learn from this? We can learn from this the same thing Paul wanted the Corinthians to learn from this.
As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, (2 Corinthians 1:18-21)
Now this, is Paul’s real point. Not so much to have them share in the comfort Christ was giving him (Paul) because of his trails, not so much to inform them that being a Christian didn’t mean a life of ease. More than all of that, it was to remind them of the most important thing. That in every situation you find yourself in, no matter how horrible, all God’s promises are yes in Jesus. We will be saved? Yes and amen. God makes those as good as dead (or even those dead) alive again, whether he wants to do it Spiritually or physically. Yes and amen.
Paul wants them to remember his suffering, but more than that he wants to point them to Christ’s suffering that made them free. The suffering that made every promise Yes in Christ.
You are Loved!