Text: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Christians are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. However, we live in a sin-filled world that hates Christ. Thus, the world will seek to persecute Christians and undermine their testimony for Christ. In these difficult times, Christians may become discouraged. They may be tempted to murmur and complain. They need comfort in the midst of suffering and tribulation.

The Source of Our Comfort

The Corinthian Church was a church that was beset with problems. In 1 Corinthians, Paul had to deal with various problems including schisms, fornication, lack of church discipline, eating food offered to idols and abuse of the Lord’s Supper. By the mercy and grace of God, the Corinthian church responded positively to the admonishment of the Apostle Paul. However, as the Corinthian Christians strived to obey the Word of God, they faced increased persecution from the world. They needed encouragement and consolation to press on in the work of Christ.

How did Paul comfort the suffering saints? Not by directing them to entertainment, family or friends, nor to wine or drugs, but to the God of all comfort. He is called thus because He is the primary source of all true comfort.

In this passage, we see two persons of the triune God comforting the saints. The first is the Heavenly Father, “the Father of mercies” (v.3). Mercy refers to how the Lord had not dealt with us after our sins, nor re-warded us according to our iniquities (Ps. 103:10). This term is written in the plural to express the richness, majesty, greatness, wonder and fullness of God’s mercy. How great is the mercy of God in redeeming us who in times past were His enemies, deserving eternal condemnation in the lake of fire!

The second person of the Godhead also comforts the saints (v.5). We find great comfort in Christ as our Mediator, Substitute, Atonement and Advocate. His complete work on the cross of Calvary assures us that our salvation is secured in Him.

John 14:16 teaches us that the Holy Spirit also comforts the saints. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16 KJV). The adjective “another” is translated from ἀλλος (allos), referring to “another of the same kind”. The Holy Spirit is God, just like the Heavenly Father is God and His only begotten Son is God. He will bring to remembrance the Holy Scriptures, and encourage us with His Word. He will also strengthen us to handle the various temptations and trials that we may encounter in life.

The comforting work of God is aptly expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism Question 1 – “What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong un-to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.”

In the midst of our sufferings for righteousness’ sake, who do we turn to for comfort? Let it be God and His Word, for God’s grace is sufficient to see us through our trials. “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:5)

The Fruit of Our Comfort

The comfort of God helps us endure our various trials, and this enables our faith in Christ to mature. James exhorts us, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

However, this comfort is not only for our benefit, but for other saints as well. Verse 4 tells us that the experience of comfort through our various trials enables us to comfort others. Having gone through these trials, we have experiential knowledge of how God has comforted us through our difficult times, and thus we are now able to empathise with other suffering saints who go through similar challenges, and comfort them through God’s Word and prayer.

In verses 5-7, Paul shares how his patience in the midst of persecutions, imprisonments and other challenges has emboldened others in their stand for the faith. Similarly, when members testify during prayer meetings of how God’s Word encouraged them through difficult times in their places of work, it will strengthen others in their walk with God. When young Christian men refuse to kowtow to peer pressure and the temptations of the world, other youths will also be encouraged to do likewise. Those who are comforted by God will also be of comfort to others.

The God of All Comfort Comforts Us

Dear reader, are you going through suffering for the sake of Christ? May you find comfort in God’s Word and not in the things of the world! A pastor once encouraged his congregation to read the Psalms in the midst of their sufferings. This is good advice for many of the psalms were writ-ten by saints who were comforted by God in the midst of their sufferings. How well do you know the Psalms?

Let us be comforted that our trials have a purpose. Not only do they serve to perfect our faith, but God can use us to comfort and encourage others to persevere in their sufferings for His sake. We can be powerful instruments in the hands of God. Let us then be comforted in our triune God, and live faithfully as witnesses for Christ.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew