God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed Be

We begin today where we left off last time: with Paul’s benedictory doxology. It is Paul blessing God. But it is also Paul praising God. After Paul greets and graces his siblings the Corinthians, he can’t help but break out in a short doxology, a word of praise to his God. May God be blessed! Yes, and amen. God is worthy of being blessed. The word “blessed” is from where we get our English word “eulogy.” Similar to what a person does in commendation of the deceased at a funeral, Paul is speaking well of God. But God’s not dead! He’s very much alive.

Father of Mercies, God of All Comfort

And as our living Father, he gives us mercy and comfort. Or rather, mercies and all comfort. He is the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort (v. 3). The word for “mercies” here refers to God’s compassionate heart for his people. When used by God’s people, it’s used as an appeal to God to have pity and show grace to them in their times of affliction.

What does “comfort” mean? The etymology of “comfort” is helpful to bring us closer to the idea than how we typically use the word nowadays in the sense of consolation. The English word “comfort” comes from two Latin words: cum (“with”), and forte (“strength”). The person who comforts another, therefore, is coming alongside the afflicted and becomes a source or means of strength, of firmness. God, then, as the God of all comfort, comes to his people with his strong presence, and strengthens us during our times of affliction, in the midst of our weaknesses, and he gives of his omnipotent self. What a comfort…literally.

Moreover, God is the God of all comfort. If there is to be any comfort that anyone ever receives, its origin is God. Its source is the God of all comfort. God gives all comfort, and he gives it generously. You get the impression of God comforting his people liberally and abundantly. You will never lack the comfort you need from God. God doesn’t run out of comfort, so you, his child, never cease being comforted. That’s one truth that Paul makes crystal clear in this letter. Indeed, working with just 2 Corinthians (moving from chapter to chapter), I compiled a list of truths that ought to be used in an effort to comfort believers. And in my estimation, I identified at least 64 statements or truths. I doubt the list is even exhaustive. If I were to outline 2 Corinthians around the theme of comfort, here’s how I’d structure it:

Chapter 1: Comfort in affliction

Chapter 2: Comfort from forgiveness and triumph in Christ

Chapter 3: Comfort from the New Covenant

Chapter 4: Comfort from the gospel and those in jars of clay

Chapter 5: Comfort from reflecting on our heavenly dwelling and being reconciled to God by God

Chapter 6: Comfort only in the temple of the living God

Chapter 7: Comfort and joy in affliction, because God comforts the afflicted and gives repentance

Chapter 8: Comfort through the generosity of God’s people for his people

Chapter 9: Comfort because of the cheerful Christ, who gave himself for us, that we might give of ourselves to others

Chapter 10: Comfort from God’s gift of true apostleship

Chapter 11: Same as chapter 10

Chapter 12: Comfort in thorns, suffering, and weaknesses

Chapter 13: Comfort through self-examination, from one another, and from God’s presence

Those are broad categories, but we’ll see specific statements of comfort in the coming weeks as we work through the letter. Admittedly, there’s some overlap with the statements, and some are not as readily perceived to be passages of comfort as others, but still: 64! And that’s just 2 Corinthians. What about the other 65 books of the Bible? The Word of God, the revelation from the God of all comfort, is a big book about comfort.

Since comfort is a theme in 2 Corinthians, it’s helpful to have a definition, and one that can be used both of God and his people, since the letter speaks of God comforting others, and of us comforting one another. We end today’s entry, then, with a working definition, albeit long. Think on each of these aspects of God’s comfort to you. To comfort is to strengthen, embolden, encourage, and console someone with appeals to God’s strong presence, perfect providence, holy character, and infallible Word; and by extension with one’s very life that has been changed by the transformative work of God in Christ through the Spirit.