Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 26 2013 - 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 – The God of all comfort

After the greetings in the opening verses of this letter, Paul immediately pitches into a hymn of praise:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort... (2 Corinthians 1:3)

The God who has revealed himself in the Lord Jesus Christ is not the unmoved mover of the philosophers; he is not the impassive observer of his creation. Rather, he is the Father of compassion. He is moved by the plight of those he has made and who bear his image – those created to share fellowship with him. He hears the cry of those who call out to him and his heart is moved to help and heal and save. It is part of his very nature to have mercy.

And this compassion results in comfort for those in trouble; he is the God of all comfort. Paul goes on to use the word comfort (or its cognates) again and again in the verses that follow (ten times in all in verses 3-7 if my count is correct).

What is this comfort that Paul speaks of? The hint may come in verse 5 where Paul writes “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” The sufferings Paul speaks of would seem to be those that arise from being joined to Christ. As the letter goes on to make clear, these may be of many kinds: threats and persecution from those opposed to his message; trials and difficulties of travel such as shipwrecks; the constant care for the churches... All of this is not merely suffering for the sake of Christ; it is sharing in his sufferings for the sake of the kingdom. In the same way, therefore, the comforts of which Paul speaks are those which come to him through being joined to Christ. He shares in the very comfort of Christ (if we may put it that way), even as he shares in the sufferings of Christ. He shares in the comfort of acceptance with God, adoption into his family and being an heir of glory. He enjoys the very presence of Christ by his Spirit, the presence of the Paraclete, the Comforter.

All of this is ours also in Christ. In Christ, the Father has had compassion upon us. Christ who is risen and exalted in the heavens gives us the comfort that is poured into our hearts by his Spirit – the knowledge that we are his and that nothing in life or in death can separate us from his love. And this comfort is given us that we might minister it to others also; God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Out of the trials and joys of his own experience of following Christ, Paul is able to minister encouragement and comfort to others facing similar trials. Because of his own experience, his ministry has an authenticity and sympathy that enables him to be an effective minister of the comforts of God.

Whatever our experiences may have been, each one of us who has come to trust in Christ has received immeasurable blessings – overflowing comforts – from the God of all comfort. Let’s make sure that we are marked by compassion and a readiness to bring comfort to others who are in trouble. Let’s make sure we reflect the likeness of Father God; we were made to bear his image.

Father of compassion and God of all comfort, we pray today for our brothers and sisters around the world who are facing all manner of troubles, threats and dangers. By the presence of your Spirit, be their comfort, strength, wisdom and encouragement this day. May both we and they learn to rely daily, not on ourselves, but on you, the God who raises the dead.

Peter Misselbrook