Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Paul’s prayer began his second letter to the Corinthians. Prayers at the beginning of Paul’s letters generally reveal the theme of the entire letter.
What do you do when you have to sternly correct someone with whom you still want to work? That was Paul’s situation in Corinth.
In the first letter he used every “tool” available to correct the gross errors of leading men and women in the church. He doesn’t want to cast the church aside and begin anew.
Instead, he wants to win their hearts and correct their behavior at the same time.
Clearly, Paul isn’t the only person who has to correct people with whom they desire to work. Almost everyone can learn from his example.
Consolation for Affliction
Within Paul’s prayer are several words that will be repeated frequently in the letter. Let’s look at the next verses and provide definitions for the words.
— 2 Cor. 1.3-4 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation,
Who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
(1) Father of mercies – God has deep feelings about the difficulties or misfortunes that people experience. He shares in our pain and “feels” with us.
(2) God of all consolation – The Hebrew word that describes consolation or compassion sounds like the painful wail that a mother camel makes in sympathy with her baby camel as it cries during the weaning process.
(3) Who consoles us in all our affliction – God feels deeply for us when we are pressed down by affliction, distress, oppression and tribulation.
(4) We bless God because it is his nature to actively care for us when we are afflicted. The way God works with us allows us to extend his love and support to others who are in distress.
Before we go further into Paul’s prayer, let’s apply these verses to our lives.
A few weeks ago, our grandson was distressed. He wanted me to pick him up and hold him. I picked him up, rubbed his back, and spoke loving words to him.
How much more does our loving heavenly Father want to do that for us? When we are oppressed, distressed, or afflicted, we have an open door to his presence. Let’s run to him and ask him to pick us up and help us in our pain.
How many people in our lives need a “listening ear” and a compassionate friend. They may not need our advice, but they certainly need a friend to help lift their troubles.
We bless God for his consolation, and we join God in giving others the support they need in times of trouble.
Jesus Our Example
With regard to suffering and consolation, Jesus is our example. Notice how Paul describes Jesus suffering and care for people.
— 2 Cor. 1.5-7 – For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.
6 If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering.
7 Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.
Isaiah 53 is frequently quoted, because it captures the suffering of Jesus on the cross in graphic form. Here are two sample verses from that great chapter in the Bible.
— Verse 3 – He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
— Verse 7 – He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
The Greek word for consolation in verse 5 means “called along side.” Imagine Jesus, our Savior who knows affliction and suffering like no other person to walk the face of the earth.
See him motioning you to his side. Imagine him embracing you in his loving arms and telling you that he is there for you.
We may need to get a picture of this in our mind, but the reality is no phantom. It is an absolute reality. Our suffering Savior is ready and willing to bring us to his side for comfort.
In Paul’s instance, he was afflicted by the behavior of the Corinthian church. As we examine the second letter to the Corinthians, there are at least three ways that Paul was pressed down with difficulties.
(1) Leading members of the church had turned away from the faith. Paul founded the church and it certainly disturbed him to see leading members participate in events at pagan temples.
(2) Paul did not accept the patronage of wealthy church members. He worked as a tent-maker and did not accept the support of a patron or patrons.
In Corinth the acclaimed teachers all had patrons. It was probably an embarrassment to some in the church for Paul to refuse the patronage method of recognizing teachers.
This may seem trivial to modern readers, but it was a serious issue in Paul’s day.
(3) Paul had to contend with false teachers. They claimed to be Christians, but they didn’t proclaim the good news of Christ in a proper manner.
We can read this passage as that of a parent who must correct their child and saying, “This hurts me more than it will hurt you.”
The letters to the Corinthians are strong and persuasive words of correction. Paul wants the church to know that he is both afflicted and comforted by their behavior.
He doesn’t want to hurt them, but he must by all means correct them.
Parents and leaders of every kind know that to give correction is quite difficult. A balance of empathy and accountability is necessary.
Even God, who is more compassionate than any other being, must correct us when we stray. I am sure it pains him to do so, but it is necessary for our own good.
As we begin this second letter to the Corinthians, let’s emulate Paul’s honest approach and also his gracious care.
May We Pray for You?
Maywood Baptist Church’s prayer team is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. We will pray for you.