Sunday, April 12, 2020

Kingdom Pledge of Allegiance


I pledge allegiance (Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:10, Luke 14:26, 33)
to the throne (Isaiah 9:7, Luke 1:32-33, Hebrews 1:3, 8)
of the risen King, Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 15:20, 2 Timothy 2:8, Romans 1:3-4)
to obey His commands, (Genesis 49:10, Matthew 28:20, John 14:15)
until He comes, (Luke 12:42-44, 2 Peter 3:11-12, Titus 2:11-13)
with people from every nation, (Revelation 5:9, John 11:51-52, Romans 1:5)
adopted by God, (John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-17, 1 John 3:1)
citizens of His kingdom, (Philippians 3:20, Colossians 1:13, Revelation 5:10)
where grace and peace are multiplied to all. (1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2, Jude 2)

He is risen, indeed!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

To Believe *On* Him

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
James 2:19
"That ye believe on Him" not, that ye believe Him.  But if ye believe on Him, ye believe Him; yet he that believes Him does not necessarily believe on Him.  For even the devils believed Him, but they did not believe on Him... For, "to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness."  What then is "to believe on Him"?  By believing to love Him, by believing to esteem highly, by believing to go into Him and to be incorporated in His members... Not any faith of what kind soever, but "faith that worketh by love."  This cannot happen unless hope and love are added.

--St. Augustine
Scripture's axiom in regard to the relationship between faith and love is clear: "faith without love is nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2); "love believes all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7); and "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6).  Scripture teaches through these and other passages that one must love God in order to truly believe on Him.  Loving God for who he is compels the true seeker to believe in him, even though he cannot see him and even though he may be surrounded by circumstances that tempt him to deny God's love and integrity.  Unless love of God is the basis of faith in him, the mental effort required to believe firmly is simply too much for the individual mind to sustain.  The mental exercise of raw faith, without love, results in a distortion of and revulsion towards the personality of the thing believed.

--Robert Sungenis, Not by Faith Alone, p. 552-553

Monday, October 21, 2019

Suffering: How God's Kingdom Advances on Earth

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, ESV)
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. (Philippians 1:12–13, ESV)
In my own life I have found that times of intense suffering for the gospel have led to a greater harvest of souls and more severe damage to the strongholds of Satan.

There are many ways the Lord may lead a Christian during his or her life, but I'm convinced that the path of every believer will sooner or later include suffering.  The Lord gives us these trials to keep us humble and dependent on Him for our daily sustenance.

Don't be afraid of suffering, for it is how God's kingdom advances on earth!  The Bible instructs us in 1 Peter 4:1 that "since Christ suffered in the body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin."

How we mature as a Christian largely depends on the attitude we have when we're faced with suffering.  Some try to avoid it or imagine it doesn't exist, but that only makes the situation worse.  Others try to endure it grimly, hoping for relief.  This is better but falls short of the full victory God wants to give each of His children.

The Lord wants us to embrace suffering as a friend.  We need a deep realization that when we're persecuted for Jesus' sake, it is an act of God's blessing to us.  This is why Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven" (Matt. 5:11-12).

I have found over the years that many of the most fruitful times of ministry for the Lord have come at the same time as great opposition and persecution.  There seems to be a direct correlation between effective work for God and intense opposition.  The apostle Paul experienced this too.  He wrote, "A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me" (1 Cor. 16:9).

We can grow to such a place in Christ where we laugh and rejoice when people slander us, because we know we are not of this world, and our security is in heaven.  The more we are persecuted for His sake, the more reward we will receive in heaven.

When people malign you, rejoice and be glad.  When they curse you, bless in return.  When you walk through a painful experience, embrace it and you will be free!  When you learn these lessons, there is nothing left that the world can do to you.

God is my witness that through all the tortures and beatings I've received, I have never hated my persecutors.  Rather, I saw them as God's instruments of blessing and the vessels He chose to purify me and make me more like Jesus.

When a child of God suffers, you need to understand it is only because the Lord has allowed it.  He has not forgotten you!

When I hear a house church Christian has been imprisoned for Christ in China, I don't advise people to pray for his or her release unless the Lord clearly reveals we should pray this way.  Before a chicken is hatched, it is vital that it is kept in the warm protection of the shell for twenty-one days.  If you take the chick out of that environment one day too early, it will die.  Similarly, ducks need to remain confined in their shell for twenty-eight days before they are hatched.  If you take a duck out on the twenty-seventh day, it will die.

There is always a purpose to why God allows His children to go to prison.  Perhaps it's so they can witness to the other prisoners, or perhaps God wants to develop more character in their lives.  But if we use our own efforts to get people out of prison earlier than God intended, we can thwart His plans, and the believer may come out not as fully formed as God wanted them to be.

The Lord told the apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).  This led Paul to declare, "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The kingdom of God advances through suffering.

--Brother Yun, Living Water, p.204-206

Monday, February 25, 2019

Leeman and Dever on Paying Pastors: A Brotherly Rejoinder

Last week, Jonathan Leeman and Mark Dever published a podcast in which they discuss the biblical validity of paying pastors in the local church: https://www.9marks.org/interview/episode-76-on-pastoral-pay/

I consider these men not only sincere brothers; I look up to them as men who have taught me much and whom I greatly admire.

But, having listened to this recording twice and re-listened to a couple of segments in particular, I don't believe the biblical texts they mentioned can validly be used as a basis for paying local pastors/elders in the church. So in this post I want to offer a brotherly/friendly rejoinder by briefly looking at each passage Leeman and Dever mentioned and pushing back on its applicability to paying local pastors/elders in the church.  I do so in the spirit of Acts 17:11 and my prayerful desire is that we all who bow to Jesus Christ as Lord would do the same.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Acts 17:11
Luke 10:7 - In the context, Jesus is sending out *traveling* apostles. We know their stay in any particular town is temporary because they return to where they began in v.11. Furthermore, Jesus is saying they should have food/drink and housing provided for them, not wages literally. The phrase "the laborer is worthy of his wages" is a metaphor that we aren't meant to apply literally. In the same way that a worker should receive wages, a traveling apostle should receive housing and food/drink. How do we get from this to local pastors/elders who are permanently based in a location receiving literal wages?

1 Corinthians 9:13 - In the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul is talking about apostles. He mentions apostles/apostleship explicitly 4 times in the first five verses and once implicitly in v.5 when he speaks of "taking along" or "being accompanied by" a believing wife, which implies traveling.  This is what the apostles did as "sent ones"(apostle literally means "sent one" as it comes from the verb apostéllein which means to send off). In the wider context of Matthew 10/Luke 10 where Paul quotes Jesus from, Jesus is speaking to apostles who are traveling. Nowhere in chapter 9 (or all of 1 Corinthians for that matter) are local pastors/elders mentioned. And when Paul says that "those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel" (v. 14) the word translated as "proclaim" is katangello, which in the New Testament is never specifically applied to pastors/elders. It either applies to apostles (e.g. Acts 4:2) or all Christians (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:26).

Galatians 6:6 - This verse seems to be a poorly translated one in all modern English translations. A better translation to suit the context would be: "Let the one who is taught participate in all good with the one who teaches." The "things" that comes after "good" in all modern English translations isn't in the original Greek, but has to be inferred based on the context. To talk about paying a teacher seems to be oddly placed in the context. In the first 10 verses of chapter 6, Paul is telling the Galatians to watch over and minister to one another and to persist in doing this kind of good to all people, especially to the household of faith. In this context, the "good" that Paul is telling the Galatians to give themselves to is good *works* rather than giving good *things* to a teacher. The point is: don't expect the teacher to do all the watching over and ministering to the saints but you all should be participating in those good works *together with* the teacher. To see paying local pastors in this text makes little sense of the larger context.  James Beaty unpacks this helpfully.

2 Timothy 4:3 - In multiple places in the New Testament, the apostles imply that there are people who are greedy to use the Word of God as a means of gain. For example, Paul tells Titus that elders shouldn't be greedy for gain (Titus 1:7). Peter tells the elders that they shouldn't do their work for shameful gain (1 Peter 5:2). Paul tells the Corinthians that there are *so many* who are wrongfully peddling the Word of God (2 Corinthians 2:17), which at the very least applies to the "super"/false apostles in the context of 2 Corinthians. To point to the fact that the New Testament indicates that there are people who are wrongfully making money from teaching the Word of God in no way proves that paying teachers is what God intended and that the church should rightfully be doing. One could argue that it actually proves that paying teachers is precisely what the church shouldn't be doing because of the dangers that are associated with it.

2 Corinthians 11:8 - Paul speaks of "robbing" one church (he specifically mentions the church in Macedonia here) in order to serve a church in a different location (specifically the church in Corinth here). First of all, Paul is applying this to himself as an apostle who is traveling, and not to a local pastor/elder who is permanently in one place. Second, he is speaking of church A funding the ministry of an apostle at church B. This has nothing to do with our modern way of paying pastors which happens by church A funding the ministry of a pastor/elder at church A.

Philippians 4:16-19 - This is similar to 2 Corinthians 11:8. Here Paul speaks of how the Philippians (Macedonians) funded his ministry while he was serving in Thessalonica. Again, he's speaking as a traveling apostle and church A (Philippians) funding the ministry of an apostle at church B (Thessalonica). Not related to pastors/elders permanently located in one place.

Hebrews 13:7,17 - Dever argues that to respect leaders and to let them do their work with joy and not groaning not only implies paying pastors but has "direct implications" on how you pay pastors. With all due respect, I don't believe this is exegesis. I think this is reading something into the text (eisegesis) that simply isn't there.

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 - These verses clearly indicate that apostles have a right to food and drink. But, first, notice that it's talking about apostles, as developed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 when talking about the same right apostles have. Second, he isn't talking about apostles being given money. He's talking about apostles being given food (bread) without paying money for it (v. 8). As traveling apostles, what they needed was food/drink and housing/lodging for the temporary stay that they would have in any given town, not wages/a salary. This is why places in the New Testament like 2 John 10 speak of not receiving into your house or offering a greeting one who brings false doctrine.

Acts 6 - In this chapter, deacons are appointed to distribute food so that apostles can devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Dever acknowledges that it's not stated in the text but that the way they were able to give themselves wholly to prayer and the ministry of the Word is by being financially supported. I agree, as mentioned in the above passages, that apostles were provided with food/drink and housing. But I don't think this means a salary and this isn't talking about local pastors/elders.

1 Timothy 5:17-18 - Essentially all interpreters conclude that the honor Paul mentions is money in large part because of Paul saying that "the laborer deserves his wages." I think there's another way to read these verses. I've never heard anyone say that we should give pastors/elders grain. And rightly so. Because we understand that Paul is using a metaphor when mentioning not muzzling an ox. I think he does the exact same thing with the use of a laborer and his wages. The logic would go like this: in the same way that an ox should be free to eat grain as it treads and in the same way that one who is hired as a laborer should receive his agreed upon wage, so the elder should receive honor/respect for the kind of work he does. In the immediate context, one form of this honor is that we shouldn't admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses (v. 19). Further supporting this way of understanding honor as only literal honor/respect in the immediate context is just a couple of verses later Paul says that slaves are to regard masters as worthy of all honor (6:1). I don't think anyone argues that slaves should give their master money/wages since a slave wouldn't have any. So if this honor doesn't mean money/wages in 6:1, then is it too far-fetched to suggest it doesn't mean money/wages in 5:17? I think Paul means literal honor/respect, not money, in 1 Timothy 5:17 and that he makes the exact same point with different words in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.

One text Dever and Leeman didn't mention that has bearing on this conversation is Acts 20. Beginning in verse 17, Paul is addressing elders/pastors from Ephesus specifically. As he wraps up this address in verses 33-35, Paul reminds the elders how he ministered not only to his own necessities but to those who were with him. And then he instructs the elders that by working hard *we* must help the weak and, as Jesus taught, be those who seek to give rather than to receive. This is an address to elders only. Paul appears to be telling them that, just like him, they should work hard and seek to give *materially* to the needs of others rather than expecting others to *materially* meet their needs.

Many of the passages mentioned above by Leeman and Dever to support paying pastors/elders are directly talking about apostles and are indirectly applied to pastors/elders.

This final passage in Acts 20 which seems to speak against paying pastors is directly making reference to local pastors/elders.

How did we end up creating a system/tradition of paying pastors that seems to ignore the latter and focus on the former?

Friday, December 14, 2018

Rethinking Galatians 6:6

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
Galatians 6:6
There is one other passage of Scripture that is claimed as authority for the payment to teachers of a salary by the congregation taught.  Because a salary is a "good thing," therefore Paul enjoins amongst other "good things" the giving of a salary, contracted for, arranged and understood beforehand; so that, if it is not given afterward willingly, it can be forced by law.  It does not matter to some people how interpretations represent one Apostle to contradict another, or even the same Apostle to contradict himself, so long as a point is gained or an argument apparently answered.  The "Harmony of the Gospels" has been a fruitful theme, and has exhausted much learning in establishing the fact that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, harmonize.  A very useful work might be written in answer to those who claim to be friendly to apostolic inspiration, but who have misrepresented them by erroneous translations or interpretations of the apostolic teaching, and have made one Apostle appear at variance with another, or an Apostle at times at variance with himself.  This ought to be avoided.  That kind of interpretation and translation has encouraged sceptical tendencies, and is the last thing the friends of truth ought to be guilty of.

The passage referred to is Gal. 6:6: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate with him that teacheth in all good things."  We would translate as follows: "Let him that is taught in the word participate with the teacher in every good work."  There are two important words different in these translations.  The word "communicate" changed to "participate," and the word "things" to "work."  The word "participate" represents koinoneito in the original.  The word "things" stands for no distinct word in the original.  Agathois is translated "good things" in the Common Version.  I translate it "good works."

Now, if this passage is held to mean, as is commonly claimed, that the person taught is to pay his teacher, then Paul contradicts himself when it is compared with Acts 20.35; and Paul contradicts Peter, who wrote also to the Galatians (1 Peter 1.1), when this is compared with 1 Peter 5.3.  Such a result should be a reminder that something is wrong somewhere; not in the Apostles certainly.  Where then?  Why in the Apostle's translator or interpreter!  The translation we present makes everything and every person harmonize; and it is also in harmony with the context, and all other Scripture.  Koinoneo is "to have a thing in common, have a share of a thing with another, to take part in a thing, to go shares with, have dealings with a man"--to do an act in common with another.

Participate is a better translation in this place than "sharing" would be, and exactly represents the original.  It is not "sharing" when one gives one thing, and another some other thing in return as an equivalent.  When two or more jointly and unitedly give, they "share" in giving; when two or more jointly or unitedly receive, they "share" in receiving; but when one "gives," and another "receives" what is given, and at the same time the giver becomes a receiver of something as an equivalent, then it is not sharing in giving or receiving, for each does only one thing relating to one subject; but in sharing, two or more persons are joint in one action, do the same thing, and for one and a common object or purpose.

The word translated in the Common Version "communicate" has two ideas resulting from its use--based always on the ground idea of "sharing;" one is to "participate," the other is to "contribute;" both always in common.  The participation is a common or united partaking, and the contribution is a common or united giving.  The context has to determine which word is to be used, depending on whether something is bestowed or something is received, enjoyed, or participated in.  If the taught is to "share" with the teacher "in all good," not "of all good," the teacher is to contribute his "share" as well as the taught, and the idea commonly attached is reversed or modified.  To say the taught is to "contribute" "in all good" is not very sensible; but to say that the taught is to "participate" "in all good" is quite reasonable and in harmony with the context.  The original word is in the Common Version translated distributing (Rom. 12.13) and once communicated (Phil 4.15).  In all other instances it is partakers (Rom. 15.27; 1 Tim. 5.22; Heb. 2.14, 1 Peter 4.13; 2 John 11).

The other word is "good," something which must also be determined by the context.  The context in this instance is "burdens," verse 2; "work," verse 4; "burden," verse 5; "doing well," verse 9; and "do good" (agathon), verse 10.  "Agathos, good; since agathos merely denotes good in its kind, it serves as an epithet to all sorts of nouns, as opposed to kakos, bad in its kind.  In Homer, usually persons, especially with the action of brave.  Hence it became the usual epithet of heroes, and later was used pretty nearly equal to noble, opposed to baseignoble.  But in Attic, more usually in moral signification, goodvirtuous."  The words are en pasin agathois; "in all good," not "of all good."  The translator, with the view of supplying the noun to which the word agathois "serves as an epithet," should look to the context and not to his imagination; and the natural world to supply is "works," and not "things."  It is "work"--"doing" something that is spoken of--which is in fact the governing idea both before and after, and should therefore be supplied.  Is it better to say "do (agathois) good" things, or to say "do good works"?  Hence the person taught is not to let the teacher do all the good; but he is to share or participate with the teacher "in every good work."

The common idea is foreign to the subject and the context, and the text is made to do duty in supporting a practice otherwise plainly condemned in the Scriptures.  The form of the word is not agatha, but agathois.  The words ta agatha, as a technical expression, are explained to mean "the goods of fortune, wealth, advantages," or "good fare, dainties."  Ta agatha are said to mean "good things" (Parkhurst).  Literally, ta agatha means "the goods."  The article ta makes all the difference in that connection; like the article hoi in hoi polloi, or the English article the, in "the deep," when we intend to express sea or ocean, by that form of words; but without the article the it would simply be "deep" something, to be determined by the context, as polloi without the hoi would simply be "many" something, not the technical expression "the many," the crowd, the multitude.

Let the reader turn to Gal. 6.10, and read it with "things" or "works" or "deeds," and see which would make the better sense.  Turn also to Luke 12.18, for an instance of ta agatha; and see if the words, as well as the context, do not settle their meaning.  "I will pull down my barns and I will build larger ones; and there I will store all my produce, and my good things."  Turn also to Matt. 12.34, where we have agatha without the ta, and say whether it can be there translated "benefits" or "goods of fortune," or, strictly speaking, even "good things."  Is it not accurate to say, "How can you, being evil, speak good words"?    Words are what are spoken.  "Ideas" are expressed by words; or even "thoughts" would be a more appropriate term than "things" to supply, because of the context.  We have the very word (agathois) under discussion in 1 Peter 2.18: "Let servants be subject to their masters with all respect, not only to the (agathois) good (things) and gentle, but also to the perverse."  How perverse it would be to insist on "things" being supplied instead of "masters," the subject of observation as shown by the context!  One translator translates: "Let him that is instructed in the word share with his instructor in all good things" (Anderson).  Does that not enjoin on the teacher the obligation to allow the taught to "share" with him "in all good things," or "in all good things" which the teacher possesses?

But if it is said: "Let him that is instructed in the word share with the teacher in all good works," is it not intelligent and intelligible?  That is, the teacher should not be asked to do all the "good work," and the taught do nothing; but the person taught should unite with the teacher, or participate with him "in every good work," and not throw all the labour or burden on "visiting the widows and fatherless in their afflictions," or in visiting the sick, the needy and distressed in general, on the teacher's shoulders, but the taught ones should do their share, should work in common in this service, and not leave one, and that one the teacher, to do all.  This is largely the practice of modern times.  The people pay a man to teach them, and he is expected also to do nearly "every good work" besides: except raise the money to pay himself.  Even that work has to be done by the poor pastor at times.  Read carefully the first ten verses of Gal. 6, with this translation included, and judge whether it does not better suit the surroundings than the old one.  The words, however, expressing the injunction are to determine what it means; and do they not, as we have been at pains to show, clearly express a law different from one to support teachers.  We think they do; and doing so, they are in harmony with all other Scripture.  But "all good things" cannot be said to mean money only; although Solomon says "money answereth all things."  The taught ones ought to reciprocate, and amongst the "good things" given to the teacher, give him the lessons we have ascertained the Scriptures teach on this important subject.  They cannot do better.

--James Beaty, Paying the Pastor: Traditional and Unscriptural, p.75-80

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Very Heart of Faith in Christ

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9–10
It should now be clear that when Paul speaks in this way he is not merely making a virtue out of the necessity of his bodily and spiritual sufferings, nor is he simply attempting an ad hoc defence against the attacks aimed at his person.  What he says is to be understood in terms of the very heart of his faith in Christ, which is faith in the Crucified; and it is on this basis that his words define the fundamental meaning of his existence as Christian and apostle.  Life in Christ is life in hope, and can be comprehended only as the very antithesis of all earthly satisfaction, just as the Cross is the sign of divine life only in antithesis of all the glamour and glory of the world.  Christ's glory and the glory of this age, the wisdom of God and the wisdom of men, boasting of one's natural powers and boasting of one's weakness, are things that can never co-exist nor be made, so to speak, compatible with one another.  Paul consciously holds fast to this truth not only as a man but also in his role as an apostle; it characterises his mode of operation. 'If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ' (Galatians 1:10).  Paul carries out his work 'in weakness and in much fear and trembling' (1 Corinthians 2:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:2), and explicitly refuses to commend his testimony by means of the glamour of bewitching rhetoric or of supposedly higher wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, 13).  It is by suffering for his congregations that he brings about their salvation (2 Corinthians 1:6).  Only so can he remain truly the apostle of his Lord, the crucified Christ, who is to the Jews a scandal and to the Greeks foolishness, but who in this human nothingness at the same time reveals to both of them the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

--Hans von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power, p. 41

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Jesus: Alive to All Our Sorrows

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.
Proverbs 14:10
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and knowing grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 53:3
The history of the soul is only fully known and felt by the conscious subject.  Each knoweth his own bitterness, deep, interior.  The most poignant sufferings often arise from causes, which cannot be told to our dearest friend.  No two of us are framed alike; and this diversity of mind and character precludes a perfect reciprocity even in the warmest glow of human sympathy.  Each only knows where the heart is wrung.  Each therefore must in a measure tread a solitary path, and in that path often submit to be misunderstood.

...

But think of Him, who made himself "a man of sorrows," that he might be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." (Isaiah 53:3, Hebrews 4:15).  This is not the common love to the whole family, but an individual interest of fellowship, as if each had his whole heart, and each was loved alone.  The heart's bitterness is experimentally known, and effectually relieved. (Isaiah 50:4-5)  Man--very man as he is even on the throne of God--he is alive to all our sorrows.  (Isaiah 63:9) None of his members are too low for his highest and most endearing thoughts.  Into this bosom we may pour the tale of woe, which no ear besides can receive.  We may not be able to comprehend it.  But he will make us feel, that his sympathy with sorrow is no fiction, but a precious reality.  My Saviour!  Has my heart a bitterness, that thou dost not know, that thou dost not feel with me, and for which thou dost not provide a present cordial and support?

--Charles Bridges, Proverbs: Geneva Commentary Series, p.175-176
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16