Paul concludes his eulogy with the statement Our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort (v. 7). Suffering is not incidental or even accidental to the Christian life. Paul does not say that the Corinthians may share in his apostolic sufferings—they will share in them. This, however, results not in despair but rather in hope—a hope not in the Corinthians' ability to weather hardship but in God's ability to sustain and strengthen them (compare v. 3). This is why Paul can refer to this hope as firm, a term that has the sense of a legally guaranteed security. There is a note of warning here as well—a warning against placing confidence in our own spirituality. For it is those who consider themselves particularly spiritual who are most prone to fall when faced with hardship. But for those who trust in God, Paul expresses the certainty that they who share Christ's sufferings will also share God's comfort.
So this eulogy carries forward the theme of apostleship introduced in the opening greeting, an apostleship that is essentially characterized by hardship and affliction. Paul also seeks to strengthen his relationship to the Corinthians by showing how their lives are inseparably bound to his. For the church, this means recognition that the lot of those who proclaim the gospel includes suffering. Yet, there is in this the promise of God's comfort.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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