May 6 – Abundant Comfort

Just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:5, nasb

When we suffer, Christ is with us to comfort us during our heartache. The degree to which He has already experienced the same suffering, and even more, is the reason He is able to comfort us.

The test of your character is your response to the severest times of suffering and persecution. When suffering becomes too intense, the easy response is to get angry and blame God. When persecution becomes too severe, the easy way out is to compromise your faith. To respond in either manner will cause you to miss out on the richest fellowship available to you. That’s because the deepest moments of spiritual fellowship with the living Christ are the direct result of intense suffering.

Suffering always drives us to Christ because we find in Him our merciful high priest who sympathizes “with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15) and who “is able to aid those who are tempted” (2:18). So view your sufferings as opportunities to be blessed by Christ as you find comfort in His fellowship.[1]

The Parameters of Comfort

For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (1:5)

Though God is the God of comfort who comforts His children, there is an important condition for receiving that comfort. God does not promise comfort to those who suffer for their unrepentant sin, but to those who suffer for Christ. Those who experience the sufferings of Christ … in abundance will find that God’s comfort is abundant through Christ. Thus, God’s promised comfort extends as far as believers’ suffering is for the sake of Christ.

Peter stated the conditions for receiving God’s comfort in 1 Peter 4:12–16:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

Believers will receive comfort in this life and rewards in eternity “to the degree that [they] share the sufferings of Christ.” When they “are reviled for the name of Christ, [they] are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God” will strengthen and comfort them. But then Peter cautions, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler,” since the promise of divine comfort does not extend to such people. Sinning Christians can expect God’s chastening instead of His comfort (cf. Heb. 12:5–11).

Paul counted it a privilege to share the sufferings of Christ. He wrote later in this epistle that

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. (4:8–12)

He reminded the Galatians, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). To the Colossians he wrote, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24). In Philippians 3:10 he expressed his longing to “know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (cf. Rom. 8:17). That believers will suffer for Christ is a constant New Testament theme (cf. Matt. 10:22; Luke 14:27; John 15:18–20; Acts 5:41).[2]

1:5 The reason Paul can comfort others is that the comforts of Christ are equal to the sufferings that are endured for Him. The sufferings of Christ here cannot mean the Savior’s atoning sufferings. These were unique, and no man can share them. But Christians can and do suffer because of their association with the Lord Jesus. They suffer reproach, rejection, hostility, hatred, denial, betrayal, etc. These are spoken of as the sufferings of Christ because He endured them when He was on earth, and because He still endures them when the members of His Body experience them. In all our afflictions, He is afflicted (see Isa. 63:9). But Paul’s point here is that there is a rich compensation for all these sufferings, namely, there is a corresponding share in the consolation of Christ and this consolation is abundantly sufficient.[3]

5 This verse supplies the reason (hoti, “for”) why suffering equips the Christian to mediate God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others the divine sympathy. “The sufferings of Christ” (cf. Gal 6:17) cannot refer to the atoning passion of Christ that Paul regarded as a historical fact, a completed event (Ro 5:8–10; 6:10). They probably included all the sufferings that befall the “person in Christ” (12:2) engaged in the service of Christ (cf. 4:11–12). These sufferings endured in union with Christ and for the sake of Christ apparently included both physical afflictions (Ac 14:19; Gal 6:17) and spiritual suffering (2 Co 11:28). They are Christ’s sufferings not simply because they are similar to his, but because they contribute to the fulfillment of the suffering destined for the church as the body of Christ (Ac 14:22; Col 1:24) or because Christ continues to identify himself with his afflicted church (cf. Ac 9:4–5).[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 143). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 24–25). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1820–1821). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 441). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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