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The Meaning Of Biblical Comfort
(2 Corinthians 1:1-6) 

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus to the church of God in Corinth Praise be to   the God of all comfort, 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". (2 Corinthians 1:1-4)  


The words "church" and "comfort" are key words in this passage.  If you understand "church" as it is often misunderstood today, you'll miss what Paul is saying here.  If you only associate "comfort" with warm fuzzy feelings and a pat on the back, you'll misunderstand Paul even more. 


To be hermeneutically honest, we must understand the words "church" and "comfort" as Paul understood them, not as we think we understand them.  Paul wrote using 1st century Greek.  We read what Paul wrote in 21st century English.  The two can be miles apart.  Surprisingly, the corresponding Greek words for "church" and "comfort" are linguistic limbs, stemming from the same Greek root. 


Try to think this through with me.  Both "church" and "comfort" are translated from the Greek root word "klesis".  "Klesis" means, "call, called, or, to call", depending on whether it's used as a verb or a noun.  The only difference between "church" and "comfort" in Greek are their prefixes, that is, the letters in front of the root word "klesis".  That's why they're linguistic limbs, stemming from the same root.  The two words are closely related.  


Our English word "church" is translated from the Greek word "ekklesia".  "Ekklesia" is made up of "ek", meaning, "out of", and, "klesis", meaning, "call or called".  Thus,"ekklesia", or "church", when applied to people are those who "are called out of ".  Note the similarity between "ekklesia" and "paraklesis".  Our English word "comfort" is translated from the Greek word "paraklesis".  "Paraklesis" is also made up of two Greek words.  They are, "para", meaning, "alongside", and "klesis", meaning, "call or called".  Thus, "paraklesis", or "comfort", means, "to come alongside". 


In simple terms, "church" (ekklesia) is comprised of people whom Jesus has "called out of" (ekklesia) the world and placed "alongside" (paraklesis) other "called out people". 


Paul didn't view "church" in terms of "going to church", a Sunday morning meeting, a building, or, a well financed ecclesiastical system.  He viewed church as people, people whom Jesus rescues "out of the world" and then places "alongside" other rescued people for the purpose of serving Him in ministry.    


In the process of serving Jesus "alongside" others, we endure some difficulties.  Paul knew all about difficulties, and so did the "called out of the world" Corinthians.  He told the Corinthians that he had been sufficiently "comforted" by Jesus that he was able to "comfort" them.  In other words, Jesus "comforted" Paul by coming "alongside" him, supporting him in whatever way was needed.  Paul was more than willing to come "alongside" the Corinthians with the necessary support. 


Once coming "alongside" others, Paul would wisely determine what kind of "comforting" support was needed.  It wasn't always soothing words, fuzzy feelings, a pat on the back, or a quick "God bless you".  Sometimes it was a swift kick in the butt.  Other times it was soothing words and a pat on the back.  More often than not, it was firm words of admonishment, instruction, counsel, and direction.  As a matter of fact, the latter is the New Testament definition of the word "comfort".  It goes far beyond feeling warm and fuzzy as we might understand "comfort" today.


In the King James Bible, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the "Comforter". (parakletos - John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26)  Interestingly, the  NIV translates "parakletos" as "Counselor", not "Comforter", thus downplaying the aspect of warm fuzzy feelings.         


The New Testament teaches us to put our words into action.  For example, unless our words of love are put into action, we don't love. (1 John 3:18)  Unless our words of faith are put into works, we have no faith. (James 2:17)  In like manner, unless our words of "comfort" are demonstrated by practically supporting those Jesus has placed us "alongside", we don't comfort.   


If you can dig your way beneath our English text, into the world of 1st century Greek language and culture, you'll understand what Paul is getting at when he uses the word "comfort" in the context of "church".  Comfort has little to do with hugs, kisses, and warm fuzzy feelings.  It has everything to do with being placed "alongside" others in the Body of Christ and doing whatever is necessary in helfing others to fulfill God's will for the church.  The word  "comfort" as defined in Biblical terms is more related to the word "church" than it is to what we might think it means today. 


Consider my translation of the passage I began with.   "Paul, one who is sent (apostle) by Christ Jesus to the called out of this world people of God (church) in Corinth Praise be to  the God of all loyalty who comes alongside us in our troubles with wisdom, correction, counsel, direction, and admonishment, (comforts), so that we can do the same (comfort) for those in trouble with the same loyal support (comfort) we ourselves have received from God". (2 Corinthians 1:1-4)   

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