Lesson One – Christian’s Fellowship of Suffering and Encouragement

Christian’s Fellowship of Suffering and Encouragement

Lesson Text:  II Cor. 1:3-11.


The title of this lesson flies in the face of our present world of buttons and pills.  A load needs to be moved; somebody has built a machine to lift and move it.  Even if it is a little load, we can purchase a little machine.  For big loads we now have earth movers controlled by hydraulic arms.  This sounds like work.  No, no you just push these little buttons.  Ok, it sounds like a painless job; I’ll take it if the cab of the earth mover is air conditioned and equipped with stereo sound.

Did you say you developed a pain from pushing those buttons?  So sorry, see your doctor.  Where is the pain located?  Right here doctor between my index finger nail and the first knuckle.   Alright, go to the lab down the hall and then take the elevator to X-ray and we’ll see you tomorrow.   In the meantime take two of these pills every four hours and one of these if the pain persists.  And so next day, the doctor says this is a rare case.  They heard what the doctor said in the secret laboratories of those researchers who are waiting for the announcement of a new pain.

Next morning news; we have a new pill for finger pain!  Side effects: This pill could cause the loss of the finger nail as well as the stiffening of knuckles.  Of course, there are a variety of specialists for finger nail and knuckle diseases who offer special medications – Yes, the pills are more expensive.


Can you imagine a church attempting to evangelize a world culture loaded with buttons and pills under the banner of the title of this lesson?  The Apostle Paul, a preacher and teacher, sent by Jesus to Achaia could – and did.  Because of our “avoid pain at all cost” culture, we need to make sure we attain the best reading for our text.  The aim of this lesson is to understand how suffering and encouragement is the essence of the fellowship of the church of God.  Sharing in suffering and encouragement is for each Christian’s personal growth, so the body of Christ will be energized to stand as God’s temple on earth.  Members of this church are Jesus’ “salt and light” for the community.   The following are Greek words and definitions from W. E. Vines Greek dictionary translated to English.  It is an NIV text.

  • II Cor. 1:3.  Father of compassion.  Greek, oikteiro, to have pity, a feeling of distress through the ills of others.  God listens and feels distress when His children calls for His help (I John 5:14).
    God of comfortParaklesis, (para – beside, kaleo – to call) a calling to one’s side.  Hence, either an exhortation, or consolation.  Jesus is Christians paraclete (advocate,  I John 2:1).  God’s Spirit gives life for Christians “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  II Cor. 3:18. 
  • 1:4.  Who comforts us in all our troubles. Thlipsis, (II Cor. 7:4) sufferings due to the pressure of circumstance, or the antagonism of persons.  NIV translated sufferings in Rom. 5:3.  KJV, ASV, tribulations.
    So we can.”  Dunamai, be of power. “Comfort (paraklesis) those in any trouble (thlipsis) with the comfort (paraklesis) we ourselves received from God.”
  • 1:5.  For just as the suffering (of Christ).  Pathema, something undergone; that is, hardship, pain.
    “Flows over.”  Perisseuo, abounds, be in excess, have more.  “Into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort (paraklesis) overflows (perisseuo).
  • 1:6.  If we are distressedThlibo, to suffer afflictions.  (This is a root for thlipsis in 1:4).  “it is for your comfort (paraklesis).
    And salvation. Soteria, denotes deliverance, preservation, safety.  “If we are comforted (paraklesis) it is for your comfort (paraklesis), Which produces.”  Energeo, effectual (fervent), be mighty in, work (effectually in).
    Patient endurance.  Hupomone, a remaining under.  Endure, means to abide under, to bear up courageously (under suffering).  “Of the same suffering (pathema) we Suffer.  Pascho, to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful).  Passion.
  • 1:7.  “And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you …” ShareKoinonos,  fellowship, sharer, associate in, companion, partner.   “Our suffering, (pathema) so also you share (koinonos) in our comfort (paraklesis).

The foregoing is a description of love flowing from God to Christians.  This same quality of love flows as the circulatory system of life in the body of Christ (Rom. 12:9-13).  God’s forgiveness and fellowship stimulates our love (Luke 7:40-48).  The love we exercise within our church family is how Christians are “being rooted and established in love.” Eph. 3:17.  Love gradually becomes the base for our personality and character development.  We will know we are developing love when we “turn our hand over” – when we quit taking and start giving (II Cor. 8:8).  Love can only be developed in Christians by God’s compassion and encouragement and our personal practice of “doing love.”  We extend our “self” to include an individual or a group of people for the purpose of benefitting them.  Our only intent for personal gain is to develop love in our “self” and glorify God in this exercise.  We, as an individual, love our “self” and we want to fix what is wrong.  If we discover we do not love, something is wrong with our “self” and it needs to be fixed.

Love of this quality is not dependent on an external response, as it does with friendship love (Gr. phileo); that is, brotherly love requires a response (Rom. 5:6-8).  God’s comforting presence energizes (see 1:4, dunamia – power) us to be able to join Jesus’ mission to “seek and save the lost.”  Luke 19:10.  It is a suffering and comforting exercise.  Like Paul told Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live
a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  II Tim. 3:12.  Peter added, “Since Christ suffered in His body, arm your “selves” also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  I Pet. 4:1.  The following is Paul’s rendition of the spiritual activity inherent in the preaching of the kingdom of God to people who have been outwitted by Satan (II Cor. 2:11).

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?  II Cor. 2:14-16

The answer to “who is equal to such a task?” is, “Christians who have the love of God.”  In the text of this lesson, Paul started his prayer according to standard form but then, as he often does, he introduced the solution to the problem he wanted to correct.  Love was not binding the churches in Achaia together as the body of Christ and he, specifically, was being excluded from sharing in their suffering and encouragement.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.  We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.  As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.  II Cor. 6:11-13

Paul wanted the church to share in the suffering and comforting program he and his evangelism team were enjoying.  Also, he wanted their prayers (II Cor. 1:7, 11).  We will need to keep this dramatic drama in mind as we study the first seven chapters of II Corinthians.  Paul had sent Titus to know if his concern was legitimate; however, he wrote, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by his (Titus) coming but also by the comfort you had given him.  He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.”  II Cor. 7:6, 7.

As we learned in our exegetical work, Paul probably knew they had accepted him as an apostle, even while he was writing as if he did not know.  However, the Corinthians, perhaps because of the people who were taking advantage of their spiritual weaknesses, needed to hear what Paul said in II Cor. 3:1-7:5.  At this point in his letter he had not clearly exposed the “false apostles” as he did in chapters ten through thirteen.  Again, please read Part II, Lesson Five.

Our aim in this lesson is to understand the principles Jesus has prepared for us by the Holy Spirit in our text.  As Paul said, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God.”  I Cor. 2:14.  To personally accept God as the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” requires Christians to have a spiritual relationship of Father/sons and daughters now in Christ.  We get out of bed each morning crying, “Abba, Father” because God’s Spirit has come to abide with us (Gal. 4:6).  We are Christians, who have been “baptized by one Spirit into one body whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – we were all given one Spirit to drink.”  I Cor. 12:13.  We are people who believe God is love and we know we are not; albeit, we want to be love.  We want to be like God.  The only thing we need to do is accept the peace of God in Christ and start loving somebody who may not respond in love (Rom 4:25; 5:1).

Yes, we desire to grow in our spirits to the point where we forgive and love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).  But the desire to love is not enough.  We must do it.  Love happens as the result of being endowed with a “will to act.”  Our wills are brought under the control of what we decided to do in our minds (I Cor. 7:37).  When the decision we make in our minds to love takes control of our will to act, our desire to love will happen.  “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”  II Cor. 9:15.  Christians need to make up our minds to walk by faith in God’s principles.  We need to repent if we have not made up our minds.  The big decisions are made in our minds.  Because of the compassion and comfort of our Father, we can keep our minds in control of our wills to act.  We can love.  It is a rational decision.

“God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us.”  Rom. 5:5.  We are His temple and He lives with us because His Spirit is with us in our bodies (I Cor. 3:16, 17).  This happened because Jesus suffered for us by showing us God while living in an “Adam type body” with the knowledge of good and evil.  He lived a holy and righteous life and suffered death on the cross while in His earthly body (II Cor. 5:21).  The suffering of Christ and the shedding of His blood on the cross has cleansed Christians in our new birth.  Our faith in His sacrifice continues to cleanse us in justification by faith – so God can be our “God of comfort.”  We have peace with God.  We can walk in the light as He is in the light.”  I John 1:5.  Our faith in the foregoing will allow God to “comfort us in all our troubles.”

Armed with faith that “God is alongside us” in our afflictions and our keen awareness of the suffering of Christ that made it all possible, we rejoice in our tribulation.  In godliness we practice righteousness (I Tim. 6:11-16).  Paul’s message to Timothy is the same message that is recorded in our text for all Christians.  Lest we reason that all the painful business of serving others was only for Paul and perhaps some other special Christians, we need to understand this is our spiritual growth program.  No program, no growth; no growth no moving our lives from glory to glory.  Attempting to live a painless life “in Adam” after he and Eve broke covenant is a myth.  Life is not easy.  Adam and Eve became aware.  Thus they had to learn what is good and evil by suffering.  Learning is not an easy task (Heb. 5:14).  In most cases it is less painful to suffer the pain of fixing a problem right “up front” than it is to try to work around it.  The problem we are concerned about is what is broken in us.  The sequence is suffering and then comfort.  Work now rest later (Heb. 4:9, 10).

Certainly, Paul, having been selected as an apostle, had some responsibilities we do not have; however, the principles of life he incorporated into his life are the same principles by which we live.  Like he said; “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”  I Cor.11:1.

The point we want to catch from our text is how suffering and comfort cannot be separated in the Christian religion.  In fact, they cannot be separated in the life of all human beings, if we will develop higher than the animal level of life.  Parents are often quick to point this out to our children.  The church of God is the family of God and the principles working in His family are clearly understood by the study of a healthy human family.  Healthy children learn how suffering and comfort co-exist in their lives.  They may not like it but they accept the principle.  In fact, in growing up, mature people learn suffering often precedes the comforting process.  People who try to avoid suffering may be encumbered with “a lot of suffering and little comfort.”

God suffered while witnessing the abuse of Jesus Christ by the people He created to be His children.  Jesus suffered while teaching God’s will to His Father’s wayward children.  Jesus suffered the pain of the cross because God is the Father of compassion.  He feels pity for the lost, but He also has pity for His children when we must suffer while growing.  “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.”  Rom. 11:32.  He is the God of all comfort.  He wants to console us when we cry.  He abides with faithful Christians by His Spirit.  All God asks is that we remember the suffering of Jesus and let the principle of suffering work with our desire for comfort.  Paul exhorted the members of the church to let the principle of being comforted flow over to others who need comforting.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does the present world culture demand a clear under-standing of the text for this lesson?
  2. Explain the dynamics; that is, source of power and its benefit, in the text for this lesson.
  3. In Part IV, Lesson Three, we understand how the Greek word “koinonia” has its root in a word meaning common.  We found the concept of “common” was related to many doctrines in the Christian religion.  How does “share” relate to the action in the text?
  4. How does patience fit into the dialogue in this text?
  5. What are some prerequisites a person must experience before his or her “door of faith” will be opened to Paul’s introduction of God as the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort?”
  6. When a Christian decides they want to truly be like God; what is the goal they must embark upon in their spiritual growth program?
  7. Explain how a Christian’s mind, along with their will and desire to love, relate to loving someone who may not return love.
  8. How does God get close enough to a person to comfort her or him, according to the definition of comfort in the text?
  9. How does the life in an average family become a model for a Christian’s understanding of the text for this lesson?
  10. How did the fact that God is the “Father of compassion” relate to Jesus’ suffering on the cross?

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