…God of all Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
Three Observations from verse 3
Let’s look at verse 3,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…
1. God is to be Praised!
Notice that Paul begins praising God. It is important to note that this entire section is the overflow of Paul’s love for and joy in and thanks to God.
Notice that Paul begins the defense of himself as a true minister of God, not by looking to himself, but by looking to God. Truly it is the character of God the shapes and defines Christian ministry. What Paul will describe and rejoice over in this section flows from God and so it is God who is worthy of Praise.
2. The Father of Jesus Christ
It is important to know that the beginning of this section seems to be taken from the first of the nineteen synagogue benedictions that were being used in Paul’s day. The first synagogue benediction went like this:
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, great, mighty and fearful God, most high, who bestowest abundant grace and createst all things and rememberest the promises of grace to the fathers and bringest a Redeemer to their children’s children for thy name’s sake out of love. O King who bringest help and salvation and who art a shield. Blessed art thou, Lord, Shield of Abraham. (Quoted in E. Schemer, Jewish People and cited by Paul Barnett’s The Second Epistle to the Corinthians)
It seems pretty clear that Paul was making use of this synagogue blessing but notice what Paul, the New Covenant minister, does with this benediction. Where the typical benediction spoke of the “Lord our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob…” Paul, speaking of this same God says, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
I think we have a tendency as 21st century Christians to pass right over Paul’s defining of God in terms of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as if that were an unimportant detail or just a generic title without a lot of meaning.
I think too we can be guilty of missing Jesus Christ in our own thinking about God – as crazy as that may sound. For example: when we pray how often do we acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that we have access to God only through Jesus Christ? Yes, we often end our prayer “in Jesus’ name” but even then doesn’t it so often roll of the tongue without thoughtfulness. We can only approach God in Jesus’ name. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Paul is in fact emphasizing our Lord Jesus Christ as being definitional of God, who is His Father. Yes, God is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob but we now know more because God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob find their yes and Amen in none other than Jesus Christ. And so God is most importantly the God of Jesus Christ.
And as Paul says here God’s relationship to Jesus is of a unique quality – He is the God of Abraham but He is the Father of Jesus Christ. And Paul emphasizes the Lordship of Jesus the Christ – He is the King who brings help and salvation and who is the Shield to Abraham. Jesus Christ is the promised Redeemer sent by God ‘for [His] name’s sake’ and ‘out of love.’
We cannot over estimate the importance of our Lord Jesus Christ in the teaching of Paul. And as we will see as Paul unfolds New Covenant ministry, it is all about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our King and Savior.
3. Father of mercies and God of all Comfort
This overflowing praise to God is produced in Paul by the fact that God [who is the Father of our Lord] is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Paul is rejoicing over the character of God.
He is the Father of mercy, that is the Father of compassion. And here we are to thing of compassion or sympathy or mercy as originating from God. God is a God of compassion and pity. He is in fact the Father and source of it.
- When you think of God, do you think of compassion and sympathy and pity?
- Do you think of mercy?
- God is the Father of mercy. He loves to be merciful and compassionate.
Paul goes on to say that God is the God of all comfort. He is the source of all comfort. If there is comfort (relief, encouragement, strengthening) to be had it will come from God who is the father of mercy and the God of all comfort.
- Do you know God to be the source of all comfort?
- And do you seek Him as such?
- When you look for relief, when you look for comfort and strength in your life, do you know that God is eager to show compassion and to extend comfort?
- There is no true relief unless we find it in God Himself.
And allow me to emphasize again that this compassion and comfort comes only through Jesus Christ. In a moment we will come to v.5 and we will see that Paul explicitly says that through Christ we share abundantly in the comfort of God – who is the father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
Five Observations from verses 4-6
Now as we come to verses 4 to 6 Paul explains how this God [the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercy and God of all comfort] extends and supplies compassion and comfort to His saints. Again, remember that this is Paul overflowing with love for and joy in and thanks to God for His mercy and comfort and Paul is doing that rejoicing as he now describes how God brings that mercy and comfort, which is so much a part of His divine character, to His saints in Christ.
Now, some, I think, try to get too specific with the application of this section claiming that Paul is describing here what God is doing in the lives of His apostles and then through them in the lives of the community of faith. But I believe instead that Paul’s description here should be applied to all God’s ministers. And As I said last time that is every single one of us in some way. All of us in the body of Christ are to be equipped for the work of the ministry.
So as Paul speaks about how God brings His compassion and comfort to His saints I am going to be making application to all of us as ministers.
1. God comforts His ministers in all their affliction with the Gospel
The beginning of verse 4 it says,
…who comforts us in all our affliction…
The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, comforts who? The “us” here is in fact His ministers (the most immediate application is Paul, but again, Paul is laying down a ministry dynamic not merely for apostles, but for all His ministers, that is all His saints, the kingdom of priests).
So Paul is saying, God is to be praised because He comforts us as ministers in all our affliction. I think we need to rest on this simple statement. Paul is confident that there is comfort being given from God in all our affliction.
- I wonder if we believe this?
- Did you know that God is actively comforting us in all our affliction?
I’d like to tease out just how God comforts us in all our affliction. We are afflicted, that is experiencing pain and sufferings, but Paul says in all our pain and suffering God comforts us. I’d like to ask, How?
The seeds of an answer come, again, in verse 5 where Paul says that we share abundantly in comfort through Christ. That is we each in all our affliction have available to us comfort from God: the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The promises of forgiveness and peace and life and joy evermore come by faith in Christ Jesus.
- I hope that each of us learn to make application of Paul’s statement that he as a minister of God is comforted by God in all his affliction.
- There is comfort directly available to each one of us in Christ no matter what affliction we experience.
2. Our Comfort intended for others
But in verse 4 Paul does not stop simply in saying that God comforts us in all our affliction. He says,
…who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Here we come to an incredibly important ministry dynamic. The comfort/relief/strength that we receive from God in the gospel is not intended to terminate in us. The comfort we receive in all our afflictions is intended to make us able to comfort others in their afflictions.
As you live your Christian life and God teaches you of Christ and brings you strength and joy in the Gospel of your salvation that intimate knowledge of Christ and His work which has so strengthened you is intended by God to equip you to be able to bring that comfort to others who are struggling and suffering and comfort them with the very gospel that God has used to comfort you.
Whether God is strengthening you by personal study and meditation upon His Word as you more and more understand the depths of His love for you in Christ or by the Word of the Gospel preached to you on a Sunday or by the ministry of another saint who has the Word of Christ dwelling richly in them speaking the Word to you, God is doing it for the good of others.
We should follow the example of the collage janitor who, while trimming the hedges as I passed, said, “brother, I am rejoicing that I am the blessed man in Romans 4” and them he quoted Romans 4:7-8, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” I thank God that he did not keep that word to himself.
God comforts and strengthens us in all these differently ways with the Gospel – but here is the point: He does so, not simply for your progress and joy, but for the progress and joy of others.
3. Christian ministry shares abundantly in Christ’s sufferings AND comfort
Now, in verse 5 Paul says,
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
Here, again, is an incredibly important truth we need to understand about being a Christian. If you have come to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior you have come to have an abundant share in the ministry of Christ. This is amazing.
Pauls indicates here, as he says elsewhere in the NT (for example: Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24), that to be a Christian minister (and I believe that includes every Christian – though of course in different ways) is to join Christ in suffering and affliction. Paul does not unpack this here, but he does assume that as Christian ministers we do indeed share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ.
This does not mean we carry on Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Our sufferings do not pay for anyone’s sins. But there is a very important gospel dynamic that we ignore to our own peril. The going forth of the gospel into the world and the gathering in God’s people from every tribe and tongue and people is carried out through by a people who are following Christ on the Calvary road. That is people who have come to share in Christ’s suffering being rejected by the world, not accounting their lives of any value nor as precious to themselves if only they can testify to the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
But his point is this: just as we share abundantly in Christ’s suffering, so through Christ we also share abundantly in the comfort of Christ as well. And I believe this has two meanings: 1. We ourselves are comforted by the Gospel, but 2. as he just said in verse 4, this comfort that we receive is intended to be spread and given to others.
To be a Christian minister is to share and participate abundantly in the sufferings of Christ and it is also too share and participate abundantly in the comfort God is extending to His people through Christ.
4. We are afflicted FOR the comfort and salvation of others
Now in verse 6 Paul makes an amazing statement about suffering and Christian ministry. He says,
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation…
It is remarkable that Paul here says that if we are afflicted it is for something. So often I think we tend to suffer with the feeling that it is useless and meaningless. Or at least appears to be. When we feel real pain I think we often ask, “Why?!?” We want to know why God has allowed this suffering in our lives.
Well here Paul lets us in on a wonderful fact, if you are afflicted (caused to suffer), it is for a purpose and that purpose is the comfort and salvation of others.
5. We are comforted FOR the comfort of others in their afflictions
And Paul says that at the end of verse six,
…and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Again Paul’s thought is this: Christian ministry involves participating abundantly in Christ’s sufferings and abundantly in His comfort as well and so your suffering is not your own and your comfort is not your own. If you suffering it is intended by God to equip you to strengthen others who suffer and if you are comforted that comfort is not intended to terminate on you but to overflow from you to others who then will be able to patiently endure the sufferings shared by the community of Christ being comforted by the gospel.
Each one of us is being equipped to minister to others. One of the means that God is using to extend compassion and comfort to others and to bring them to glory is your suffering and your apprehension of the gospel as it overflows from you to others.
Paul was confident in verse 7 that the Corinthians would share in the comfort of the gospel if they shared in the sufferings of Christ.
Verse 7 says,
Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
Will we trust God to be the Father of mercies and the God of comfort? Will we trust with confidence that if we suffer with patient endurance for the sake of Christ we will share in the very comfort of God in Christ?
Being Mindful of Others
Is that how you think about your life? If you are a Christian you are a minister. Is this how you think about your walk with the Lord and about all your suffering? Isn’t it true that when we suffer we tend to think about ourselves? We think things like, why me at this time and in this way?
Well, this passage teaches us that our focus should be,
‘What does the Lord what to teach me about His compassion and mercy fully available in Christ. What comfort is the Lord extending to me – because I know that He is.’
But then to ask,
‘Who else does the Lord what me to bring this gospel comfort to?’
That is why we are here. That is why we are suffering so that we might comfort and strengthen others in Christ. This is God’s design to to save and strengthen His people until Christ returns.
Does all this move us to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Remember the Paul is overflowing with praise that this is how God is loving and caring for us. Does this ministry dynamic cause use to want to praise God for His compassion or to dread tomorrow?
Many of you know that I worked in a secure psychiatric hospital/prison for a number of years. And I have to tell you the longer I worked there the more miserable I became. I will spare you the list of sufferings that accompanied that time of life, but I will say that I was not living daily in the truth of this passage (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
First of all I was not satisfied with the comfort abundantly, richly given in the gospel. Yes, I said I believed the gospel to be true, but I wasn’t living as if it was all my hope and comfort. I wanted relief from the pain of this life.
- I don’t know if you caught it, but Paul does not say that the God of all comfort will take your pain away in this world.
- We are not promised that affliction will cease.
- What Paul promises here is not that affliction will cease but that God will comfort us in all our affliction (v. 4).
It got to the point at the prison that I absolutely dreaded tomorrow. Everyday had a dark cloud because all I could see in my future was pain. As long as I had to go back to that place it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing – I was miserable.
- Have you ever been through a season of life as a Christian, where you were just absolutely miserable?
- I mean unable to join Paul’s exuberant love for and joy in and thanks to God?
- When you felt frustrated, discouraged, vulnerable, and like all the pain of your life was a waste? pointless?
What I needed and need and what each of us here need is to come to grips with God’s design to extend His compassion and comfort to His beloved people.
- We need to know that God is a God of infinite compassion and is at work for our abundant good in Christ Jesus. Do you believe this?
- We need to know that in every moment the comfort of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in fact God’s great demonstration of His infinite compassion and love for you. Do you believe this?
- We need to know that to be a Christian is to share in Christ’s sufferings – we are to expect difficulty and pain as part of God’s good plan. Do you believe this?
- We need to know that everything painful has a purpose: to equip us to be more effective ministers to others with the good news of God’s compassion.
- We beed to know that we are intended to ask, “who else, Lord?” Who else is this suffering and comfort intended to help? Are you asking who else?
May the Lord equip us to be good ministers for Christ in this place.