May 10 – Trials’ Lessons: True Comfort

“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.”

2 Corinthians 1:3–4


God entrusts comfort to us, often through trials, so that we may comfort others.

The nation of Ireland is nicknamed the “Emerald Isle” for good reason—it contains some of the greenest countryside of any location on earth. In visiting there I have noticed that abundant mist and fog, which often shroud the rolling landscape, help produce the rich green grass and trees. That phenomenon is much like the Christian life. Many times when our life is obscured by the sufferings and sorrows of trials, it has a refreshing beauty of soul that is not always readily seen. As the apostle Paul’s life demonstrates, sensitive and merciful hearts are the products of great trials.

Difficulties beset us so that God might bestow much comfort on us. But such comfort is not merely for our own benefit. The Lord entrusts His comfort to us that we might share it with others, as verse 4 of today’s passage indicates. And He comforts us in direct proportion to the number of trials we endure, which means the more we suffer, the more God comforts us; and the more He comforts us, the more we can comfort others who are hurting.

When we do experience real comfort in the wake of a trial, perhaps the most precious result is the sense of Christian partnership we feel. If God’s comfort helps us to comfort others, then it’s clear that other believers are positively affected by what we learn from our trials. The entire process lifts us beyond ourselves and shows us that as part of a local fellowship or the greater Body of Christ we are not alone and do not have to undergo various trials in a vacuum.

The comfort we receive and the sense of partnership that results is a great incentive for any of us to be encouraged through trials and sufferings, knowing that such experiences enable us to minister as integral parts of the Body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:26; 2 Cor. 1:6–7).


Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His unlimited supply of comfort.

For Further Study: Read Isaiah 40:1; 49:13; 51:3; 61:2. What promise does each verse have in common?[1]

The Person of Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (1:3)

After the salutation Paul began the body of his epistle with the affirmation that God is to be blessed. Eulogētos (blessed) is the root of the English word “eulogy” and literally means, “to speak well of.” The Old Testament frequently refers to God as the “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (e.g., Ex. 3:6, 15, 16; 4:5; 1 Kings 18:36; 1 Chron. 29:18; 2 Chron. 30:6). But the New Testament identifies Him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 11:31; Rom. 15:6; Eph. 1:3, 17; 1 Peter 1:3), since “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:1–2).

Unlike Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Old Testament prophets, Jesus Christ is the same essence as the Father; “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus shocked and outraged the Jewish authorities by boldly declaring, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). To His equally obtuse disciples Jesus stated plainly, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Paul wrote to the Philippians that Jesus “existed in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6), and to the Colossians, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) and, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). The New Testament teaching that Jesus is God in human flesh is the central truth of the gospel (cf. John 1:1; 5:17–18; 8:58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20), and those who reject it cannot be saved (John 8:24).

Some may wonder why, since they are fully equal, the Father is referred to as the God … of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mark 15:34; John 20:17). In His deity Jesus is fully equal to the Father, but in His humanity He submitted to Him. Paul’s statement reflects Jesus’ submission to the Father during the Incarnation (cf. John 14:28), when He voluntarily gave up the independent use of His divine attributes (Phil. 2:6–7; cf. Matt. 24:36).

The title Lord Jesus Christ summarizes all of His redemptive work. Lord describes His sovereign deity; Jesus (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Yeshua; “God saves”) describes His saving death and resurrection; Christ (“anointed one”) describes Him as the King who will defeat God’s enemies and rule over the redeemed earth and the eternal state.

Paul further described God using two Old Testament titles. He is the Father of mercies to those who seek Him. Faced with a choice of punishments, David said to Gad, “Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great” (2 Sam. 24:14). In Psalm 86:15 he wrote, “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” “The Lord is compassionate and gracious,” he added in Psalm 103:8, “slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” Later in that same psalm David further praised God’s mercy, compassion, and lovingkindness: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.… The lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him” (vv. 13, 17). The prophet Micah described God’s mercy and compassion in forgiving sins:

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18–19)

The New Testament also reveals God’s mercy. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke of “the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us” (Luke 1:78). To the Romans Paul wrote, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). Later in that epistle he declared that “the Gentiles [would] glorify God for His mercy (Rom. 15:9). In Ephesians 2:4 he described God as “being rich in mercy.” It was “His great mercy [that] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

The Old Testament also reveals God to be the God of all comfort. In Isaiah God said of suffering Israel, “ ‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God” (Isa. 40:1). In Isaiah 49:13 the prophet exulted, “Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.” “Indeed,” he confidently asserts, “the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody” (Isa. 51:3; cf. 52:9; 66:13).

In the New Testament Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2 Thess. 2:16–17).

Paul had experienced much pain, suffering, and heartbreak, particularly because of the false teachers at Corinth. They slandered his character to discredit him in the minds of the people and, even more painful to the apostle, sought to deceive the Corinthian church with lies about the gospel. But in God’s merciful comforting of him he received the strength he needed to carry on. For that Paul was deeply grateful and blessed God.

The Promise of Comfort

who comforts us in all our affliction (1:4a)

God comforts His people not only because He is by nature a merciful comforter but also because He has promised to comfort them. The Lord is a “friend [who] loves at all times” (Prov. 17:17); “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), who promised, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5; cf. Deut. 31:6, 8; Ps. 37:28; Isa. 41:10).

The apostle Paul knew this blessed truth not only by divine revelation but also from his experience. Later in this epistle he wrote, “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Cor. 7:6). In Romans 8:31–39 he wrote,

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Having paid the ultimate price to redeem believers, the death of His Son, God will be with them to love, strengthen, protect, and comfort them in every extremity. Paul previously had reminded the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). To the Philippians he wrote, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). It is God’s sovereign plan to be with His children and comfort them.

Affliction translates the Greek word thlipsis, which literally means, “pressure.” Throughout all the stress, persecution, and trials he experienced in his turbulent life, Paul experienced God’s comforting, strengthening presence. The apostle’s life was thus an amazing juxtaposition of affliction and comfort, a seeming paradox he expressed later in this letter:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (4:7–11)

Because God constantly comforted and protected him, Paul was indestructible until the time came in God’s sovereign plan for him to die. Though his enemies repeatedly tried to kill him (cf. Acts 9:23; 14:19; 20:3; 21:30–31; 23:12–13), they were unsuccessful, because “there is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30). The promise to all believers is that God will faithfully sustain and strengthen them as long as they are obedient to His will, until His appointed time to bring them to Himself.[2]

  1. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.
  2. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

After the initial greeting, Paul bursts out in joyful praise with a Jewish benediction: blessed be the God. This is a liturgical formula frequently uttered by God’s people in worshipful praise and prayer. Doxologies in the five books in the Psalter, for instance, direct praises to God (Ps. 41:13 [40:14]; 72:19 [71:18]; 89:52 [88:53]; 106:48 [105:48]; 150:6). Paul voices a blessing or a eulogy that is identical to any Jewish benediction addressed to God (compare Luke 1:68). In nearly all his epistles, he utters praises and thanksgiving directed to God on behalf of the addressees. In verse 3, Paul expresses a benediction in which he urges the people to praise and to thank God (see Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:3; and 1 Peter 1:3). The expression blessed be the God is in the passive voice; the passive connotes that the agent, the Christian community, together with Paul, blesses God the Father.

Paul links the Christian formula of our Lord Jesus Christ to the nouns God and Father. R. C. H. Lenski interprets this correlation as follows: “For Jesus in his human nature God is God, and for Jesus in his deity God is his Father; his God since the incarnation, his Father from all eternity.”11 Moreover, through Jesus Christ all believers may freely address God as God and Father. On Easter Sunday Jesus instructed Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). Amplifying a familiar Jewish blessing with a Christian formula, Paul invites the recipients of his epistle to join him in praising God the Father.

  1. “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” The two nouns God and Father are now reversed and supplied with descriptive modifiers. With the phrases Father of compassion and God of all comfort, Paul alludes to the Scriptures (Ps. 103:13, 17; Isa. 51:12; 66:13) and to a Jewish liturgical prayer, Ahabah Rabbah, offered in synagogue worship services. He stresses the love of the Father, who, by granting mercy to his erring children, sets them free.

Compassion is God’s love that seeks out, extends to, and transforms the sinner. Out of compassion flows God’s comforting love. God has tender love for those who are hurting and he comforts them in their hour of need. Notice that Paul writes “the God of all comfort.” This means that God is always ready to comfort those people who call on him. Whatever the hardships may be, God proves to be near to his saints and reassures them with his all-encompassing support (compare Rom. 15:5; 1 Cor. 10:13).

A last remark: The two phrases the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort fittingly introduce Paul’s discussion on comfort, trouble, hardship, and deliverance (vv. 4–11).

  1. He comforts us in all our affliction to enable us to comfort those in any kind of affliction through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
  2. “He comforts us in all our affliction.” Paul notes that the God of all comfort continually comforts him and all others who are suffering. Paul uses the first person plural pronoun three times in this verse. Does he employ the pronoun editorially? Is he referring to himself and his co-workers, including the recipients of this epistle? Although scholars present arguments that support either position, the immediate context is determinative. It points to Paul’s sufferings in the province of Asia (1:8–9; compare also 11:23–29). Thus we assume that the apostle is speaking primarily about himself. Nonetheless, we surmise that at times the Corinthian believers, like those in Macedonia, especially Thessalonica, faced suffering for the sake of Christ (see 8:2; 1 Thess. 2:14; 3:3). Following Jesus Christ inevitably elicits suffering for him in some form or other. A more inclusive use of the personal pronoun, therefore, cannot be ruled out. And this fact is evident from the second part of this verse.
  3. “To enable us to comfort those in any kind of affliction.” If anyone could empathize with Christians who had to endure affliction, it was Paul himself. He had experienced and continued to experience hardships because of his calling to proclaim Christ Jesus. He and Barnabas strengthened the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch and instructed the Christians to remain true to Christ. They said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

With the words in any kind of, which translate the Greek pas (all), Paul uses an expression that covers any and every affliction the Corinthians may encounter. He is able to testify that affliction produces perseverance, character, and hope (Rom. 5:3). He has learned that allowing affliction in the lives of believers is part of God’s design to save sinners. Paul knows that God not only comforts and sustains him in his distress, but also gives him both the ability and the task to comfort others who suffer hardship.

  1. “Through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In the last part of this verse Paul draws a parallel with the love of God. That is, as recipients of God’s love we are obliged to lose our fellow men. Similarly, the comfort we receive in our affliction must be extended in turn to fellow believers who also endure difficulties. By being encouragers we are able to help effectively those around us when we ourselves have been recipients of God’s comforting care. This text, then, speaks of the corporate responsibility we have toward our fellow men.[3]

1:3 From verse 3 through verse 11, the apostle bursts forth into thanksgiving for the comfort that has come to him in the midst of his distress and affliction. Undoubtedly, the comfort was the good news which Titus had brought to him in Macedonia. The apostle then goes on to show that whether he is afflicted or comforted, all turns out for the eventual good of the believers to whom he ministers. The thanksgiving is addressed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the full title of God in the NT. No longer is He addressed as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, or the God of Jacob. Now He is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. This name, incidentally, implies the great truth that the Lord Jesus is both God and Man. God is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ; this refers to His relation to Jesus, the Son of Man. But God is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; this refers to His relationship to Christ, the Son of God. In addition, God is described as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. It is from Him that all mercies and comforts flow.

1:4 In all Paul’s afflictions, he was conscious of God’s comforting presence. Here he gives one of the many reasons why God comforted him. It was so that he in turn might be able to comfort others with the very same comfort with which he was comforted by God. To us, the word “comfort” usually means consolation in time of sorrow. But as it is used in the NT, it has a wider meaning. It refers to the encouragement and exhortation that come to us from one who is beside us in time of need. There is a practical lesson in this verse for us all. We should remember when we are comforted that we should seek to pass on this comfort to others. We should not avoid the sick room or the house of death, but rather fly to the side of any who are in need of our encouragement. We are not comforted to be comfortable but to be comforters.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 18–22). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 41–43). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1820). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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