Chapter 1:1-4 (ESV) - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Question to consider: How does the mercy of Christ compare with the gods of this world?
If you followed this study through 1 Corinthians, the context was Paul’s response to some information he had received from Stephanas about divisions in the church along with answers to some of the questions from Corinth related to a previous letter Paul had written which probably included the response of the Jerusalem church related to circumcision, sexual immorality, and meat sacrificed to idols. It will be apparent that there was an additional letter from Paul before he wrote this one when we get into the next chapter, but both 1st and 2nd Corinthians were written in 55 AD with the 1st being around Pentecost and the 2nd before winter.
At the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul had asked them to welcome Timothy, and by the writing of this letter, it appears that Timothy had already been there for a bit. Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians and the other saints in that region of the island of Greece. I think it’s worth noting that despite the issues that Paul addressed in these letters, he considered them to be brothers and sisters in the faith. We can be quick to question the faith of others by their actions, but just as we are all different members of the body of Christ with a variety of gifts and talents, we all differ in our struggles with sin. Thankfully, we worship the Father of mercies and God of all comfort and have a high priest who understands our weaknesses.
The gods of the surrounding nations were not known for their mercy and comfort. In fact, many would consider the God in whom we worship as weak, especially considering He died for our sins. People today question how the God of the Old Testament can be reconciled with the God of the New Testament. I’d argue that the gods made by men were a reflection of the wrath of God demonstrated against Cain, in the flood, the destruction of the tower of Babel, and the judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah. Instead of repenting of their sin against the one true God, they fashioned for themselves gods whom they could manage and appease while providing an outlet for their passions.
In truth, the Old Testament more accurately demonstrated the mercy and long-suffering of God whose wrath only came after years of injustice and rebellion. Even so, this picture of the holiness and justice of God is an important one, for it shows us the fullness of God’s wrath that Jesus experienced on the cross for our sins and what we can expect for ourselves if we ignore the merciful gift of salvation which Jesus has offered us. It’s not that Jesus ignored our sin. He paid the penalty for it.
Now that we are in a right relationship with God, Jesus can bring us comfort in our afflictions as we still encounter the effects of sin and death in the world. In Christ, our afflictions also serve a purpose in bringing others to faith and being able to extend the comfort we’ve received to others in their suffering.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for Your mercy in sending Jesus to fulfill Your holy justice. Thank You for comforting us in our afflictions as we await Christ’s return to fully and finally bring an end to sin and death. As You lead us through times of darkness, please help us to comfort others with the comfort You have given us. Amen.