We’re saved by God’s grace to help others

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry & Bluemont Churches
June 18, 2023
2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Sermon recorded at Mayberry on Friday, June 16, 2023

At the beginning of worship:

Why are we saved? Too often people think salvation is personal. We’re so good God wants us to fill a hotel in the sky. Hopefully, you don’t think that way and if you do, it’s my prayer that by the end of the service, you’ll reconsider. We’re saved, not for our benefit, but for God’s glory and to do God’s work in the world.[1]

Before reading the Scriptures:

We begin our journey through 2nd Corinthians today. Paul opens this letter almost identically to how he began 1st Corinthians. This was a familiar style in the era without envelopes to identity to whom the letter is for and who sent it. Paul’s audience is not only to the church in Corinth, but also believers around Corinth. It’d be like us receiving a letter for this congregation along with other believers in Patrick, Carroll, and Floyd Counties.[2]

In both letters Paul doesn’t just say he’s an Apostle. He makes it clear that his Apostleship wasn’t his doing. He’s an Apostle onlyby God’s will. God called him. He didn’t volunteer for this task; he was chosen. 

One difference in this opening verse is the person with Paul when he pens the letter. In 1st Corinthians, Sosthenes accompanies him. Now, he’s with Timothy.  

“With Me” principle

Paul understood the “with me” principle. Those of you who attended Stan Ott’s discipleship workshop may remember it.[3]Don’t do anything by yourself when you can do it with someone else. It’s more fun with two people and it’s a way of building disciples. By having Timothy along, Paul can help disciple him as he becomes a more important leader within the community. 

Paul’s benediction:

After a blessing, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul does something different. Generally, he would next give thanks for those to whom he’s writing. This was common with Greek letters of the era. But in 2ndCorinthians, Paul provides a benediction. He draws on his Jewish heritage. His wording is like the Jewish benedictions of the day, except Paul Christianized it. The traditional Jewish benediction, even today, will begin something like, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob…” Paul changes this. Instead of focusing on the patriarchs of the past, he focuses on God as Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.[4]

Suffering and consolation 

After the benediction, Paul discusses the sufferings endured by the disciples and what they might learn from it. In speaking of suffering and consolation, Paul draws heavily from the center of Isaiah, beginning with the 40th chapter, which we read earlier in the service.[5]

Now that you have an idea of what’s coming, follow along in your Bibles and you can see the different parts of this passage.

Read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

One miserable night: 

I remember a miserable night in the fall of ‘71. The Order of the Arrow lodge held a campout for its members in the dunes behind the beach near New River Inlet. Saturday had been wonderful. The fall weather was nice. We saw the hermit who lived in a World War 2 bunker just to the south of where we camped. He’d become something of a celebrity and none of us knew he’d be murdered the following spring by someone thinking he buried a fortune under the trash around his camp.[6] We were told to stay away from him, but fourteen-year-old boys are curious. In the sunshine, we roamed the beach and the marshes south of Fort Fisher, a Civil War fort. 

The storm and the search:

David Williams and I tented together. After dinner, stormy weather blew in and we retreated to our four-person tent. We felt like kings, two of us having that big tent with so much room. We had staked out the fly to give us maximum ventilation. As we prepared to turn in for the night when one of the adult leaders summoned us to gather. A sheriff deputy had stopped and asked for help in finding a boat in trouble. 

We were sent off in groups to comb the beach and, with our flashlights, scan the surf. The wind howled, and in no time, we were wet. Ponchos, which was all any of us had for rain, are useless in the wind. It’s like wearing a sail. But we did our part. Nonetheless, it was miserable, and we didn’t find anything. After a while, the search was called off, as the missing man on the boat had swum ashore and walked to get help. The next morning, we could see the overturned bow in the surf.[7]

Campsite wrecked by the gale:

We headed back to our campsites. David and I were happy to see our tent still standing. Most of the tents had blown down. People began to crawl into cars for the night. We went to our tent, where we discovered that we were not so lucky after all. The fly over the door had ripped in the gale and flapped in the wind. Inside, our sleeping bags and everything we had floated in two inches of water. As the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.”[8]

We searched for a dry place… All the cars were filled. We ended up in the back of an equipment trailer. It was a long night. Somehow my nine-volt transistor radio survived the flood. We listened as we tried to get some sleep in our wet clothes. Rod Stewart’s ballad, Maggie May, was on the top of the charts.[9] I bet we heard that song a dozen times that night and even today, I can’t hear it without thinking about trying to sleep while soaked and on the hard floor of a trailer.

Misery loves company, sometimes…

They say misery loves company. In a way, suffering with others like we did, was a bonding experience. Together, the night wasn’t as long as if it would have seemed if I was by myself. We got through it. And with the morning, the storm had passed. Some of the adult leaders got up early and fixed us all hot chocolate and scrambled eggs. 

My dad picked David and I up late that morning. We wanted to brag on our misery, only to find out Dad had just as good of a story. He’d gone fishing that evening on Masonboro Island. The storm came and the tide was out. There was a half-mile of mud flats between my dad, his boat, and the mainland. He spent a few miserable hours waiting for the tide to rise enough to float the boat so he could get home.  

Paul begins this letter talking about comfort in affliction… His message is simple. God can comfort us in our suffering, and if we experience such comfort, we’re to be a comfort to others.

 Suffering for Christ: 

Of course, the suffering Paul refers to wasn’t spending a wet night during a storm. Suffering like that is something everyone experiences. It’s part of the human condition. We fall off a bike, or hit our thumb with a hammer, or experience a car accident. Some of our suffering we caused ourselves. Abusing our bodies for a lifetime, then getting ill as an example. At other times, we suffer when caught in nature. A tornado strikes our side of the road. Or maybe we’re laid off when a company downsizes. Such events are not limited to a particular religious group.

Paul’s example of affliction: 

In this letter, Paul’s afflictions are brought on because he follows Jesus. In other words, by taking seriously Jesus’ teachings and commandments, people want to shut him up. It started right after Paul’s conversion. If you remember, Paul had to be slipped out of Damascus because of a group saw him as a traitor to his faith.[10] And it didn’t get any easier.

We can help others because of what we’ve endured:

But Paul gains a unique insight from his afflictions. God who consoled him, prepared him to console others. One of the first books assigned for us to read in seminary was Henri Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer. Nouwen’s thesis, from what I remember of the book, is that through our wounds we gain the ability to help others. Our woundedness provides a ready-made connection, for on some level we’re all wounded.[11]

The 12th Step in Alcoholics Anonymous captures what Paul teaches. Through a spiritual awakening while working the steps, the addict gains some control over his life and then can help others. 

As Paul says, “our affliction is for your consolation.” God helps us and then expects us to help others. As I said at the beginning, salvation isn’t just a personal individual experience for our own benefit. We’re to use our experiences to glorify God and help others. 

Paul’s example of affliction: 

Paul speaks of an affliction he had when in Asia. At this time in history, Asia was what’s today known as the country of Turkey. In the letter he doesn’t go into detail of the type of suffering. Perhaps it was the riot Paul experienced in Ephesus, the leading city in Asia at the time.[12]  Whatever it was, Paul felt he was going to die. He could only trust God, but his hope is in the God who raises the dead. Such a God is worthy of our trust.  As Paul wrote to the Romans: “if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.[13]


I want to make one last observation on this text. Notice that Paul doesn’t writes in the singular here. Look at the pronouns. You don’t see an “I” or a “me.” It’s all “us” and “we” and a plural “you.” If this was translated by a Southerner, it’d be “y’all.” My point, as I have been trying to vocalize more and more in my preaching, our faith is lived out in a community. While there are individual aspects in Christianity, we develop our faith within the church where we console one another. 


What should we take from Paul’s letters. If we are suffering because we are striving to follow Christ and find ourselves in trouble, we shouldn’t be overly concerned. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ, not on the worldly demands we face. He’ll give us the strength we need to get through. And then, if we find another believer who is suffering, we can come alongside him or her and offer hope. Remember, the Christian faith is about community, about supporting one another in their afflictions.  Amen. 

[1] See Presbyterian Church USA, Book of Confessions, “Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter XVI (5:1115) and “The Westminster Confession of Faith, 6.088-6.089.

[2] Paul may have identified these Christians as Saints instead of the churches of Achaia because they had not yet been constituted into a congregation. See Ernest Best, Second Corinthians: Interpretation, A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1987), 8. 

[3] I spoke about this before in sermons. See https://fromarockyhillside.com/2022/11/27/advent-1-a-call-to-be-a-blacksmith/

[4] Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 65, 67. 

[5] Paul draws on Isaiah 40-55 according to Barnett, 72 (see pages 71-76). 

[6] For the story of the Fort Fisher hermit see: https://www.ourstate.com/fort-fisher-hermit/

[7] From what I remember, there were two men fishing. They’d run out of gas. They brought the boat close to shore, anchored it, while went to get gas. When he returned, the weather had changed. He couldn’t find the boat. The other man, once the boat capsized, also swam to shore. They’d missed each other in the dark.  

[8] While this saying is not in scripture, I think it should be in the book of Ecclesiastes. However, there is a close quote in the non-canonical (according to Protestants) book of Sirach 20:16.

[9] Maggie May was released in July 1971 and was at the top of the charts by October. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbI_awR4CKE

[10] Acts 9:23-25. 

[11] Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society (Doubleday, 1972). 

[12] Acts 19:21-41. If this was the affliction Paul refers, he was in more danger than we’re told in Acts (where his friends shielded him). C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (1973, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 64. 

[13] Romans 14:8. 

Photo taken before sunrise of Buffalo Mountain with the haze of smoke apparent
Happy Father’s Day (it appears the smoke is back with us)

6 Replies to “We’re saved by God’s grace to help others”

  1. Belated Happy Father’s Day Wishes.
    Sorry to see the smoke is back.

    Take care, my good wishes.

    All the best Jan

  2. It’s interesting how music can take us back to a specific moment in time.

    I like Henri Nouwen and The Wounded Healer was the first of his books I read.

Comments are closed.