Friday, August 1, 2014

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 3, 2014

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DOES ANYONE CARE?
(Comfort one another as we are comforted by GOD)
(2 Corinthians 1:3-11)

In A.D. 57, while visiting in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, which was put together to raise money for the financially ailing central Church at Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul sat down and penned a second letter to the Church at Corinth.
Paul’s earlier letter to the Church had not quite settled all of the issues and problems that the Church had been faced with during the difficult days of its infancy. Then too, for reasons not all explained in this letter, the Corinthian Church had apparently developed deep suspicions about Paul, regarding the true legitimacy of his proclaimed authority in CHRIST as a chosen apostle. And so, it was with much grief and anguish that Paul wrote this second letter, which he also intended to use to try and re-establish his authority as one chosen to lead others to CHRIST, and to also, lead them in the faith, as Christians.
In this doctrinal letter, Paul also covers some of the more practical matters, such as supporting believers in other parts of the world who may have fallen on hard times, and then, reviving them to a state of being viable, fruit-producing branches in the newly formed Christian network.
The motif of this letter is “triumph over adversity”, as Paul can clearly be viewed as one who loves his people, but, at one and the same time, we can also see him as being one who is hurt by the Corinthian’s unwarranted suspicions of him. As Paul makes a list of his life experiences, and the intricacies, or nature of Christian service, we can see GOD assisting him in his efforts, bringing good from the opposition of satan, that was intended for evil.
GOD is the source of all mercy and comfort. When HE lifted up CHRIST JESUS to complete HIS suffering on the cross, HE also lifted mankind up from the permanency of the grave. GOD comforts us in all of our troubles, so that when we receive the opportunity, we can take great joy in comforting someone else. The more we suffer for CHRIST, the more GOD showers us with HIS comfort through CHRIST (v.5). And so, when we as Christians are weighed down with troubles for the sake of CHRIST, it can be seen as being to the benefit and salvation of those who would otherwise be lost (v.6). When GOD comforts us, it is always so that we can, in turn, be of encouragement to someone else.  
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “comfort” is “parakaleo” (par-ak-al-eh-o), and it means “to call near for the purpose of consoling, or encouraging”. It is a word that the Apostle Paul uses 8 times here in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, verses 3-7. The point that he is trying to make in this passage is that, our own suffering enables us to identify with the sufferings of others, and vice versa. We can also sense the comfort of GOD, and at one and the same time, find our own comfort in HIM. Whenever our weaknesses are exposed, the strength of GOD is revealed.
In verses 8-11, Paul makes reference to his second missionary journey (Acts 16-18) when he reflects back;

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.  And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.  And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety” (NLT).

It’s always easy for any of us to point to our own strengths as a way to defend ourselves against negative attacks and criticism. But here, we see Paul freely and openly sharing his “weaknesses”, as he often did. To be in pressure situations that take us beyond our ability to endure, or extricate ourselves, is when we realize most earnestly that we need GOD in our lives to sustain us.
Paul already knew full well that he could not force people to respond positively to his authority in CHRIST (you can’t make grown folks do nothing), and he has to be patient and wait on the power of GOD to change hearts. We as Christian are all involved in a ministry that ultimately leads to changes in the hearts of men. However, those changes don’t occur through anything that we do in our own personal strengths. GOD gives us assignments that only HE can complete, as we are just vessels that HE uses to carry HIS message to someone else.
We must be able to know, through spiritual discernment and communication with GOD, just how far HE wants us to go, before we pause to let HIM finish the transforming work that will ultimately save a person’s soul from condemnation in the last days. It is not the duty of a Christian to show others how important they are, but rather, it is the duty of a Christian to show the world, through their behavior, that Christianity produces the best men and women, and, to ultimately expose to the world, the importance of GOD, to the lives that HE created, here on earth.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  





                                 
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