II Corinthians 1:3-11
There is a gap in time of approximately one year between 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 issues that the apostle had addressed in his first epistle.
In the opening verse of the text before us, 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 employed “Father of mercies” and “God of all comfort” in his opening address of the second epistle. That reason is found in verse 4 and in the 19th chapter of Acts.
The tribulation which the apostle cites in verse 4, and further elaborates upon in verses 8 and 9, is recorded in Acts 19. 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. What Paul experienced, however, was the comfort of God. 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 which He gives to them. God has given His love to all believers such that we might declare it and share it.
In verse 5, Paul shares with the Corinthians (and us) the interaction between suffering and comfort that believers should know and understand. The apostle states that as the sufferings of Christ abounds in us, the consolation (comfort) which we have in Christ also abounds. Throughout His ministry, Christ suffered misunderstanding and rejection. On the cross, He suffered pain and physical death. He suffered all for the sake of others. The sufferings of Christ abound in believers when we suffer without cause as He suffered without cause. Christ gave comforting assurance to them whom suffer as He suffered that He has chosen us for His purposes (see Jn. 15:19). God gives comfort in a measure that exceeds all need.
The apostle makes what seems to be a counterintuitive statement in verse 6. He states that both the affliction and the comfort which he and others experience is for their benefit (the Corinthians). The affliction and the comfort of which the apostle speaks are poles apart. From a perspective common to the world, 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 how his suffering is beneficial: it is helpful to others who find themselves in similar situations.
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 is a testimony of strength that prepares all to be tested in like manner.
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.
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. God responds to our prayers. Paul’s delivery from death is 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 supply abounding comfort to them who trust in Him. God hears and answers the prayers of them who call upon Him.