Paul was suffering when he wrote 2 Corinthians. The whole theme of this letter has to do with his defense of his apostleship. His detractors in Corinth claimed that, because Paul suffered so much in the course of his ministry, the glory of God wasn’t on him.
Paul turned that argument on its head, and he spoke of himself throughout 2 Corinthians as a servant of Christ. He offered a catalog of his sufferings as a sort of resume, especially in chapters 6 and 11.
Paul began 2 Corinthians by using words like affliction and comfort:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also is our comfort abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
He continued to talk about affliction and suffering throughout this book, and he emphasized that the counterpoint to that suffering is the comfort of God.
Comfort in Affliction
God is there with you in your affliction. When we experience the comforts of God in the midst even of affliction, take that as a sign. The comforts and the sense of God’s presence we experience now in the midst of affliction are a sign of the coming vindication that will be ours on the last day. They’re a sign of the resurrection.
We haven’t been raised from the dead yet, but when we experience, in worship or in the midst of suffering, any of those graces or comforts of God, Paul says that’s a sign of our coming salvation, and a sign of the coming destruction that will fall upon those who unjustly afflict us.
Comfort in Philippians
Keep all that in mind as we begin to read Philippians 2 together.
Philippians 2:1: “Therefore,” in the context of the affliction his friends in Philippi were then experiencing, “if there is any comfort in Christ…” This could also be translated “since there is comfort in Christ.” Paul was not questioning whether there is any comfort in Christ, but whether the Philippians were at that time experiencing the comfort that comes from Christ.
Paul continued these first phrases of Philippians 2 with a Trinitarian formula. An expanded reading of Philippians 2:1 would look something like this: “Therefore, in light of your current affliction, if you are experiencing any comfort in Christ, if there is any solace, any consolation of love”—Paul probably implied here that love comes from the Father—“if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if there is any affection and mercy, if there are any mercies and compassions”—the words “compassions” and “mercies” are synonyms here—“here’s how you can make my joy complete.”
This, by the way, is not the only place in which Paul used a Trinitarian formula. Compare this passage with 2 Corinthians 13:14:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
Completing Paul’s Joy
Paul told the Philippians how to make his joy complete (Philippians 2:1). Remember, he’d already told the Philippians that he had joy. He referred to this in Philippians 1:4, “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,” in 1:18, “Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” He went on to say in Philippians 1:25 that he wanted to come see them for their progress “and joy in the faith.” He then emphasized in Philippians 2:1 that they could complete or fulfill his joy “by being of the same mind…”
What does it mean to be of the same mind? I’ll say more about that in a future blog when I’ll continue this study of the book of Philippians.
Thank you for studying along with me. I’d love to hear any thoughts or questions you might have. You can contact me on Facebook, or on Twitter, or at any of the addresses mentioned on my contact page.
The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon featured on Dr. Sloan’s radio program, A Higher Education, on July 24, 2013.