2 Corinthians Sermon Series--Sermon #1
Finding Comfort in an Afflicted World
by Robert J. Young

Finding Comfort in an Afflicted World
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Text: 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:11

The second letter to the Corinthians is a great book, overlooked, unstudied. We want and need to grow in our appreciation for this letter. Thus we plan a special sermon series for this fall. This book must not be treated as the third verse of our songs. At OCC in the late '60s, I took a class called 2 Cor.-Gal. Other colleges have a class titled Corinthian correspondence. At OVC today, we study 1 Corinthians, but the class for 2 Cor. is selected Pauline epistles and we may get to 2 Corinthians, but we may not.
I want us to see this book. It contains great theology, great teaching, great preaching materials, and largely, it is unappreciated, unknown.
In this lesson, we will introduce, set foundations for understanding the book and for our future studies, and gain wonderful applications to life.

Two great themes resound again and again in life: (1) problems, afflictions, persecutions, rejection, and (2) comfort. This is the story of our world. These are in tension, opposite poles and experiences. We also see two counterpoints: this world of affliction is ruled over by the God of comfort. This presents a problem for many: does God allow suffering? But real understanding is in a correlative pair of facts: a world of sin is ruled over by a God of grace. If affliction springs from sin, the source of comfort is grace.
The first part of the book may be outlined with three points:

Hard to know whether to start with source, as does Paul, or with need as experienced in our world today. They are intertwined throughout this section. I have chosen to begin with culture and move to the word of God which answers and correlates to that contemporary experience. We will begin by surveying the great need, then affirm the source of all comfort. Finally, our hope springs from our comfort, even in the midst of affliction. Our world demands comfort, which God supplies, so that our hope is secure and steadfast.

In this first section, we learn that Paul's life as it has intertwined with that of the Corinthians is an example of the tension between difficulties and deliverance, rejection and redemption, conflict and comfort.

Thus Paul urges Corinthians to leave trust in self in order to trust in God as the only source of hope.

With our outline in mind, I call your attention to three more themes that are interwoven in the fine tapestry of this section: life's problems, God's providence, man's penitent response . These do not present a perfect division, for all three themes appear throughout this section. These are correlations to our outline. The problems of life point to the need for comfort. The providence of God is the source of comfort, and man's penitent response is the result of comfort.

I. First consider the need for comfort. Our own life's experiences, those of the Corinthians, and those of Paul all accentuate this need, 1:8-22.
Despite his sufferings, Paul is confident because of the God who delivers. Sufferings in our world are to be expected. Sufferings and difficulties are experienced in every enterprise, even in excellent endeavors. Sufferings are often part of rendering higher service to others. Their experience is often a blessing to the sufferer. We all know the trauma of life, the fact of sin's impact.
Paul has suffered, but he does not sorrow in that suffering. He has God's pledge, promises, proofs, precedents of the past. God's past acts and deliverances are declarations of the kind of God we serve. Ps. 107.

II. This urges us, second, to look more closely at the God who is the source of comfort. The God of Deliverance, the God of Salvation, 1:3-11
2 Corinthians is first and foremost a book about God. This is theology at its finest, even if it lacks some of the soteriology or other themes we seek to understand. This is defense, apostolic authenticity, relationships--all this is true. But the foundation of all is God. God is the subject.
Can you conjugate the verb, "deliver"? Has delivered, delivered, delivers, will deliver. Always subject is God. We are slow to learn this simple truth, so God gives us plenty of practice.
Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ, the doxology blesses the God and Father. Here is the world's redeemer, the father of mercies, the God of comfort. This theme almost overwhelms the first section of 2 Corinthians.

III. Finally, consider the result of such comfort in the human experience, if you will, in the experience of sinners--the Corinthians, the sinful man (1:23-2:11), and by extension, in our own lives.
Paul's approach teaches us much--Paul's heart is in view in his treatment of the Corinthians and his urging on behalf of the now penitent man. We can be confident only with the support of the Christians around us, who can be confident only because of the God who delivers. We are building a structure with a solid foundation. This is a reflection of the true nature of Christianity.
Paul urges sympathy and understanding in grief and joy. This is the spirit of Christ and of Christianity. This is discipline with discretion that brings about repentance and restoration. This is the temporary sorrow of faithful love. The relationships of life are characterized by tears, care, sensitivity, reluctant discipline and correction.

Paul will move on in 2 Corinthians from this introductory treatment of comfort, to think about life under the new covenant, the light of the glorious gospel, and perseverance in the ministry of reconciliation. But the basic themes--problems in life, provision from God, and promises for the future, will surface again and again in future weeks: God, Christian experience, God, the situation of those lost and in need of the gospel. This is Paul's missionary heart. This is Paul's zealous life. Regardless of afflictions, problems, difficulties, challenges.

As we conclude, let us summarize:

Our hope springs from our comfort, even in the midst of affliction. Today, we hope that you know that hope. We wish for you hopefulness that leads to our eternal home. If you life is troubled, we wish for your the comfort of the God of heaven. We wish for you relationship that grows out of repentance and restoration.
We are confident, because of our own experience, that such is available only in Christ.

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Last updated September 11, 2000