2 Corinthians 1.
What a happy thing it is to be encouraged and strengthened by the God of resurrection at the very moment when the sentence of death is felt!
It was at a time of deep tribulation in the apostle's history that the consolation* of the God who raises the dead made itself felt in his soul. God was present in His own blessed character of "Him who encourages those that are brought low" (2 Cor. 7:6); and it is a good thing to pass through deep sorrow (as Paul and his companions here) where death makes itself felt, in order to be cheered by the living God, and, instead of fainting, to go on with fresh vigour. God's power - the power of resurrection - is felt in this path, and His compassion known.
*The word in the fourth verse, "the God of consolation," is not merely expressive of tranquilizing comfort, but of cheering and encouragement, so that the afflicted ones felt fresh force and bravery to go on.
And is it not to be desired in our day that each one of us may know more of the living God, each in his own proper path? We have been allowed to enter into the most wonderful truths in connection with God's glorious counsels. What we have before us now is the knowledge of God Himself in our present path, where we have to learn each day what death really is, and where we learn, at the same time, the true character of the Father of compassions and God of all encouragement.
It will be said, perhaps, that in 2 Corinthians 1 it is especially apostolic service that is in view, and, no doubt, that is the case; but there is no doubt either that we all - believers - in our life of service here have to learn the same lesson. Without having to go through the extreme persecution and trial which happened to the apostle and his companions in Asia, we have to learn not to trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead.
I shall never forget, many years ago, hearing an old servant of the Lord say about someone who was acting with great energy and driving forward in the cause of the gospel with a zeal worthy of Jehu himself: "It is magnificent, but it is not death and resurrection!" There is something analogous to this in this beautiful passage, for how different was all the service, the demeanour, and the perseverance of this broken man, who despaired even of living, from that which he had once been when he was Saul of Tarsus! . What a change! Here is one fully identified with God's interests on earth; the sufferings of the Christ abounded towards him; he was literally exposed to death every day; there was nothing but tribulation; the proud spirit of the Pharisee had disappeared, and in the midst of the crushing events that happened to him he went forward in no self-confidence, by a power that was not natural, cheered by the very God whose power kept him. I have often thought that no insurance company would ever have cared to insure the life of Paul; it was really worth nothing as the world sees things.
He affirms that all other Christians are partakers of the sufferings. And in our day, though there be no outward persecution, we have each one to learn daily, and not without deep sorrow, what trial, suffering, and death mean to us who are identified with Christ; and it is in this path that the God who encouraged Paul the apostle in all his tribulation will cheer and fortify our souls.
The thought of entering the glory and of meeting "no stranger-God" is very blessed.
"There no stranger-God shall meet thee
(Stranger thou in courts above)."
It is now that we learn to know Him whose heart is made known to His own in the very valley of the shadow of death.
But there is another thing. The apostle was encouraged in all the tribulation so as to learn to encourage all those who were passing through trial.
We have to learn by the very means used by God to cheer us how to lend a helping hand to those in deep trouble. And is there anything more beautiful than to see a hand stretched out in real sympathy to those who are ready to perish? Of all the pictures I have seen it is this that I think the fairest: a hand stretched out to help the afflicted.
Whether in tribulation, it was for their encouragement and salvation; or whether they were encouraged, it was to the same end. And the end of the long struggle was not doubtful. He who had raised the Lord Jesus should raise them also with Jesus, and present them with the Corinthians.
All should end in triumph and resurrection glory; and He who should bring in this final victory was leading them on with resurrection power. It was in this path that the depths of His compassions were known; and He who shall bring in eternal blessing in divine power could cheer and strengthen His afflicted servants by the coming of Titus.
So He cheers, so He strengthens us each day, beloved brethren, on our way to eternal glory. May we know more and more of His consolation! E. L. Bevir.
We have the privilege of forgetting self and living to Christ. Living to God inwardly, is the only possible means of living to Him outwardly. All outward activity not moved and governed by this is fleshly, and even a danger to the soul. . . . I dread great activity without great communion. J. N. Darby.
When Christ went up to heaven, was He not competent to keep a people here separate from the world, in spite of all that Satan would do? But how are they kept? By what is earthly? No, but by the Spirit of God using truth connected with Christ in heaven. It is heavenly truth that keeps His people. G. V. Wigram.