II Corinthians 1:1-11
There is a gap in time of approximately one year between the writing of Paul’s two epistles to the church at Corinth. The two epistles were written from different cities. II Corinthians was written from somewhere in Macedonia while I Corinthians was written from Ephesus. It is apparent from the content and tone of the second epistle that the church had received and had responded to the things that the apostle had addressed in his first epistle.
In verse 3, Paul praises God as the Father of mercies and as the God of all comfort. This is the only epistle of the thirteen which Paul is known to have written that opens with these descriptive terms of God. There is a reason that the Apostle Paul uses “Father of mercies” and “God of all comfort” in this address. That reason is revealed in verse 4 and further elaborated upon in verses 8 and 9. Paul and those with him were the focus of a major civil disturbance in Ephesus in which the worshippers of the goddess Diana were ready to do them harm because Paul taught that there were no gods that are made by the hands of men. Paul’s reference to tribulation is rooted in that which occurred in Ephesus.
What happened to Paul and those in his company was life-threatening. Miraculously, the out of control mob was quieted and dispersed peacefully. Paul did not experience fear, he experienced the comfort of God. In the text before us he was moved by the Holy Spirit to praise God for His comfort and to state the reason that God had given it.
God gave His comfort to Paul and those with him for the express purpose that it be shared: “. . . that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (v. 4). Paul knew what God wants all men to know. Paul knew that God wants believers to share all that with He gives to them. God gives us His love such that we might declare it and share it.
In verse 5, Paul shares with the Corinthians (and with us) something else which God wants men to know of His comfort. The apostle states that as one’s suffering for the sake of Christ abounds, the consolation (comfort) one has in Christ also abounds. God gives that which is needed in the measure that fulfills that need.
The apostle makes what seems to be a counter intuitive statement in verse 6. He states that both the affliction and the comfort which he and others experience is for their (the Corinthians) benefit. The affliction and the comfort of which the apostle speaks are poles apart. From a perspective common to man, affliction is bad and comfort is good. Paul writes from God’s perspective. With God all things are possible. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The apostle explains a manner in which his suffering is beneficial: it can be helpful to others who find themselves in similar situations. The manner in which believers deal with affliction bears witness of a power and strength that is given to us by God. We bear witness of that which He has given.
Paul’s statement can be extended to those who suffer for the sake of Christ in every era, including today. Today, the Apostle Paul writes on behalf of suffering Christian minorities which live under the threat of death in nations dominated by Islamic jihad. Their suffering, like the suffering that Paul endured, is of benefit to fellow Christians. Their suffering produces a testimony of strength to other believers who are or will be tested in like manner. Their suffering is notice to those who do not suffer that it is by His grace and grace alone that they are spared from affliction.
In verse 9, the apostle identifies God as the source of his comfort: “. . . that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raised the dead.” Paul does not minimize the despair which he experienced (see v. 8). It was beyond his strength to overcome. Paul, in facing death, found comfort because his trust was in Him who raised up the dead.
The apostle makes it known in verse 10 that the God who delivered him and those with him from death “doth deliver” (present tense) and “will yet deliver” (future tense). What God has done in the past is evidence of that which He does in the present and what that He shall do in the future. God is faithful to His every promise. Our trust is in the God who raises up the dead. Death has no hold upon them who trust.
While Paul recognized that his delivery from death was of God whom he (and those with him) trusted, the apostle also cites the power of the prayers that were offered on his behalf. The “helping together by prayer” were prayers of support for Paul’s ministry. Prayers of support make one part of that for which prayer is offered. Paul’s delivery from death is the result of answered prayer and is the cause for many prayers of thanks.
The words of this epistle were preserved as scripture for the benefit of all who would ever read them. God is faithful to them who trust in Him and faithful to answer the prayers of them who call upon Him for need.