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” (vv. 3–4).

Paul the Apostle was born and raised a Jew (Phil. 3:4–5), and his Jewish heritage comes out in today’s passage. The Apostle’s opening benediction in 2 Corinthians 1:3–7 is similar in form to the benedictions used in the Jewish synagogues during the first century. These benedictions, like the one Paul pronounces, offered blessings to God for His great mercy. That is no surprise, because the Old Testament frequently highlights the merciful nature of God (e.g., Ex. 34:6). However, Paul does not merely repeat the Jewish benediction; rather, he makes it distinctively Christian, referring to God as the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1:3).

In the benediction of 2 Corinthians 1:3–7, Paul also speaks of the Lord as the “God of all comfort” (v. 3). Indeed, the idea of comfort from God appears frequently in these opening verses and the rest of this epistle. The Apostle does this intentionally. Isaiah 40–66 highlights the comfort that the Lord will provide when He inaugurates the messianic age, so Paul’s stress on divine comfort is a subtle reminder that believers are living in the messianic age. Although the fullness of this age awaits the return of Christ to bring the new heavens and earth (see Rev. 21:1–22:5), we are in the era of His salvation even now and should expect to receive great comfort from the hand of God.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that the comfort of God comes to us “in all our afflictions.” Here, “afflictions” refers to the inner turmoil and trouble we feel from external difficulties, particularly those difficulties that we face from a world that is hostile to Christ. As we will see, the false apostles who troubled the church at Corinth called Paul’s Apostleship into question because of his suffering for the sake of Jesus (11:1–12:10). Paul will later expand on the idea that suffering actually demonstrates the validity of his Apostolic call, but here the idea that the Lord comforts believers in their afflictions is a reminder that suffering for the gospel is part of true Christian discipleship. Moreover, note that the comfort promised is for the inner turmoil we experience when we suffer. God never promises to free us from suffering entirely. Instead, He promises to be with us in our suffering to comfort us and to give us the grace to endure (Deut. 31:8; 2 Cor. 12:8–9).

Suffering is a gift from God. It is not that pain in itself is a good thing; rather, as we share in Christ’s sufferings—as we suffer for His name’s sake—we are granted the privilege of sharing in God’s comfort. This, in turn, allows us to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:5–7).

Coram Deo

John Calvin comments on today’s passage that “The riches of the Spirit . . . are not to be kept by us to ourselves, but every one must communicate to others what he has received.” God allows us to suffer for Christ so that we may encourage others who are suffering for Christ. This means that our suffering can actually be used for the benefit of others.

For Further Study