Comfort: The Work of the Holy Spirit: Part I
A Necessity for the Christian
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Introduction: This two-part series: Comfort: the work of the Holy Spirit: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 unpacks a commonly misunderstood word and ministry of the Spirit. Comfort: what a word! It sounds, well, comforting. But what is it really and how does one get it? Is it simply a “feel-good” word in the face of trouble? Is it necessary that a person be in trouble in order to be comforted? Can anyone comfort another?
We begin with Scripture the only place to receive divine truth. Paul addressed the subject in his most personal letter, 2 Corinthians. Consider verses 3-4 of chapter1:
v.3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort,
v.4: who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
A dictionary defines comfort as a verb: giving aid, relieve, soothe, calm, ease, reassure, assist, encourage, advocacy, and help. These English words convey part of the rich meaning of this term in the Greek language. In the original language (paraklesis-noun, parakelo-verb) the word comfort has a relational aspect as well as an experiential aspect. The prefix – para – has the idea of alongside of – and the root means to call. The word then means to come alongside of for a good purpose. The coming may be in response to a request or may be initiated solely by the comforter.
In these verses, Paul brings together the vertical and horizontal aspect of comfort in this life. Vertically, comfort refers to the Provider and Giver of comfort. God is Creator and Controller and therefore He is the Comforter. The receiver of the comfort is the believer. Only the believer has been changed by God and has the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore only he can be comforted. This fact clarifies the fact that comfort is relational.
There is also an experiential aspect of comfort. The believer is the only one truly comforted because only he has the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Comfort usually comes in the midst of trouble. The word Paul usually translated as trouble covers a multitude of situations expressed by various terms such as hard times, misery, affliction, and unpleasantness. The one comforted actually “tastes” –experiences –the reality and goodness of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit and the use of His sanctifying grace (Psalm 34:8; 2 Corinthians 5:7).
In verses 3-4, Paul sets forth the true circle of life similar to what John did with love (1 John 4:7-12). Both love and comfort begin with God, His very Person. Those loved and comforted by God in response to God’s action in and for them get busy. At some point, they move from being loved and being comforted to functioning as a lover and a comforter. Specifically, Paul completes the cycle of comforting. It begins with the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, moves to the comfortee (the believer) who then becomes a comforter – the believer functions as a comforter to other believers. To the degree that the believer is enamored about God’s comforting activity, is the degree that the believer comfort others.
This same principle was taught by Jesus in regards to forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50). The lady had been forgiven much and she loved much in contrast to Simon who did think he needed much forgiveness. The one who has experienced God’s comfort will comfort.
For the lady in Luke 7:36-50, loving much flowed from a right view of God’s forgiveness of her. The lady believed her in own sinfulness and God’s forgiving grace. She had been forgiven much and she displayed her understanding of God, self, and forgiveness by loving much. She directed her love to Jesus.
The one comforted has been comforted. Comfort is more than feelings. Comfort is the result of and the response to God’s truth delivered to and applied by the one in trouble. The comfortee has a growing awareness and thankfulness of his relationship with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. If there is no Holy Spirit, there is no union with Christ, and there is no comfort – only the fear of misery in this life and fear of hell in the next.
God is the God of all comfort. It is His comfort. His comfort: the work of the Holy Spirit, never fails and is given in the context of biblical truth and relationships. One result of being comforted is given in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. Paul was passed finding out. Humanly speaking he had no prospect of deliverance. He was simply stating a fact. Death seemed imminent for Paul and Timothy given the circumstances and their lack of resources. They did not die. God had them right where He wanted them – in trouble in order that they might not rely on (trust in) themselves. Paul and Timothy were comforted not because they were removed from the circumstances but because they grew in faith in the context of the circumstances.
1. Define comfort.
2. How does your definition with the New Testament’s teaching on the subject?
3. What does it mean to come alongside of?
Comfort: The Work of the Holy Spirit: Part II
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I return to the definition of the word comfort. The word does not mean good feelings anytime or especially when the circumstances are hard. It is an energetic word. God has poured Himself into it. The word captures God as He is and what He does. Two points stand out:
First, all of Scripture is a paraklesis, an admonition, an exhortation, and or an encouragement for the purpose of strengthening every believer in faithfulness and hope (Romans 15:4, 13; Philippians 2:1; Hebrews12:5; 13:22). Comfort is coming alongside of someone. Picture a boat which pulls alongside of another boat in distress. It offers help in the form of safety and security. To truly comfort data must be collected but general principles suited for any event can be given as part of simply loving the other person. The comforter meets people where they are given their spiritual maturity and willingness to be comforted.
Comfort: the work of the Holy Spirit, is relational and revelational. It flows from God’s relationship with the believer. The believer is able to come alongside of another because of relationships: God to the comforter, God to the believer to be comforted, and the relationship between the comforter and the comfortee.
Scripture is God’s self-expression in which He reveals Himself, His plan, His purpose, and His power. Scripture, as is Christ, is the revelation of God’s very Being (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15-18; Hebrews 1:1-3). If the believer is united to God in Christ by the Holy Spirit, he has received the greatest gift that can be given in heaven or on earth. Union with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit is one proof that God has invested Himself in the believer. That in itself is comfort and comforting. One result of the Spirit’s indwelling is the competence and confidence of believers to engage themselves and other believers in ministering biblical truth to themselves and others for the purpose of growth (Romans 15:14).
Second, in John 14-16, Jesus promised to send another Counselor (Parakletos) to the apostles once He left earth. That come-along-side Counselor and Helper was one of the same kind as Christ was while on earth. The Holy Spirit was to be sent by the Son and the Father (John 14:15-16, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15). Jesus pointed to Pentecost and the official outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit indwells individual believers and the Church (1 Corinthians 3; 1 Corinthians 6; 2 Corinthians 6; 1 Peter 2:4-10). Therefore both are fully-equipped and gifted to fulfill the great commission – love one another from the heart beginning with believers and moving to those outside of the Church (Matthew 22:37-40; John 13;34-35; 5:43-48; Matthew 28:18-20). There is no better comfort than receiving and presenting biblical truth in a loving manner.
The word comfort is a powerful word. It guarantees reality and truth. The world’s philosophy and the people in it are at their core self-pleasers. Even believers continue to function as if they are still in Satan’s family and kingdom. Consequently, unbelievers, always and completely and believers, incompletely, suppress and resist truth. They protect themselves by attempting to create their own virtual reality. Christ broke into this existence at His first coming. He was rejected (John 1:4-5). Misery reigned and there was no light at the end of the tunnel expect a physical messiah. Mankind and Israel in particular refused to be comforted. Jesus experienced rejection after His inaugural sermon recorded in Luke 4:18-22. Yet He stayed the course in order to please the Father (John 6:37-43), Therefore, He remained on the cross, in the grave, and on the earth until it was time to ascend. This was the greatest act of comfort known to the world! Jesus completed the course and finished the race. Jesus had the fullness of the Holy Spirit as do believers. Jesus knew and acted upon the truth that God is comfort by the Holy Spirit. The Bible adds that the believer is in Christ. God has given the Church and believers Himself. No wonder Paul praised God (2 Corinthians1:3-4). What more could be needed!
God is most glorified as the God of comfort when the believer comforts others in the same way as he has been comforted and enjoys it! The believer comes alongside of fellow brothers and sisters as one who has received help and direction. The believer gives purposefully and lovingly not based on experience but based on biblical truth. The God of all things has supplied every believer with what he needs to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). The Lord’s comfort is the key; it is not similar experiences that qualify a person to be a comfortee. True help and comfort comes as one receives and applies biblical truth acknowledging God’s grace for its use
1. Review your understanding of comfort.
2. Compare 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and 1 John 4:7-12: what do you learn?
3. What is God’s comfort in one word? How is that comfort?