Wednesday, April 30, 2014



The purpose of prayer is to express our thanksgiving to God the Father. Our prayers are directed toward the first person of the Trinity, in the name of the Son, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is to the Father we are “giving thanks.” The Greek word is eucharisteo, comes from the word meaning to give freely, and denotes gratitude, gratefulness, giving of thanks for what God has graciously given his people.  Notice this word is in present tense, indicating that we are to be constantly giving thanks. We are to live with the attitude of thanksgiving. One of the great characteristics of what a believer is to be is constantly thankful for the work of God. We are to be people who offer up our praise, worship and adoration to the Father for what He has done. At this point we must to look at the word “joyously” at the end of verse 11. While Lightfoot argues the word belongs to verse 11,[1] it is a more natural fit with verse 12—“joyously or with joy giving thanks…” O’Brien tells us, “it preserves the balance of the three clauses in verses 11-12, and is favored by Phil. 1:4.”[2] Paul joyously directs thanks unto the Father. “Amen, blessing, and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, [be] unto our God for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev.7:12).
The prayer is directed to God the Father. In doing so, Paul affirms the reason for thanksgiving is the work of God the Father. He gives this a three-fold work of the Father:
a.         He qualifies us (1:12).
He “who has qualified us” is God the Father. The Greek word is hikanoo meaning to make sufficient, fit, empowered, or able to qualify, authorized. It does not mean to make deserving.[3] The word is in the aorist tense, which means God qualified us in a point of time, i.e. salvation. The qualification is a completed action. He made us fit by His grace, for by nature we are unfit (Rom. 3:23). He does it all. Wuest appropriately points out; “The standing of the believer in Christ is here in view, not his Christian character.”[4] It is the work of the Father based on the redemptive work of God the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is why we are received into His family.
God qualifies us “to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” The word share is from the word merida, means a part, share or portion. The KJV uses the translation of partaker, which is stronger and better than the word share. We partake of a portion or share in the inheritance. The Greek is klerou, meaning an allotted portion; a portion assigned, inheritance. The same form of the word is used in Acts 26:18. This particular word is used in reference to believers only. They have an assigned portion, an inheritance among those who have been justified by faith. This is of special interest and significance to the Gentiles under the dispensation of the mystery—Eph. 1:11. Paul here says “of the saints.” Some take this phrase as holy ones meaning angels, thus we have a share with the angels. However, this is not the likely meaning here.  There are two reasons for this. First, Acts 26:18, which is the only place this specific word for inheritance is used, clearly identifies the inheritance be to those who Christ has sanctified (set apart). Second, it is doubtful that Paul ever uses the word saint for anything but human saints. In Colossians, this inheritance is in the sphere of light (lit. of the light). It is a contrast to verse 13, the “domain of darkness.” Light denotes the environment of the inheritance. It is an inheritance in God. God is light (1 John 1:5).  Christ is light (John 1:9). We are joint-heirs are with Christ and heirs of God (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7). It is clear that our inheritance came not by the Law (Gal. 3:18); rather we have obtained it in Christ (Eph. 1:11). The Holy Spirit has been given to us as a down payment of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14). Our inheritance is eternal (Heb. 9:15), imperishable, undefiled, and reserved for us (1 Peter 1:4).
b.         He transfers us (1:13).
Here is the how God qualified us for our inheritance. The Father does two things, one is negative, the other is positive. First the negative: “He rescued us from the domain of darkness” (1:13a). The word rescued is the Greek verb errusatio in the aorist tense, indicating this was done in the point of time, thus, translated in the past tense. The word depicts the idea of drawing out from, to rescue.[5] This requires a power more powerful than the power which one is rescued from. It is a complete rescue by God. Gromacki notes that this verb form is used only of God in the New Testament (Matt. 6:13; 27:43, Luke 1:74; 11:4; Rom. 7:24; 15:31; 2 Cor. 1:10; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Thess. 3:2; 2 Tim 3:11; 4:17-18, 2 Pet. 2:7,9).[6]  It is always the deliverance by God. He is the one that delivers, and thus it is His exclusive work. Campbell notes, “We must keep in mind that this deliverance was initiated, preveniently effected in time, and ultimately completed by God.[7]
The expression “from the domain of darkness” acknowledges that it is a power that those who are rescue are under. The word domain (exousia) denotes the right to act, meaning authority and the power to exercise that authority. It describes the state of the unregenerate. Dunn says “The implication, therefore, is not so much that the darkness has been already stripped of all its power and banished. Rather, the darkness can be legitimately and authoritatively resisted, as having had its license revoked (Rom. 11:11-14; Eph. 5:8-11; 1 Thess. 5:4-8; 1 Pet. 2:9).”[8] Darkness describes the character of this power and authority, and is the prevailing ethical element. It had its hour at the crucifixion (Luke 22:53), but it was not an hour of victory, but defeat. It is because of this hour that we can be rescued from its darkness of ignorance, sin, and degrading power. The Greek word “from” is ek, meaning out from or out of this domain of darkness.
Now comes the change to the positive—“and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (1:13). The word transferred is the Greek word is methistemi, meaning to change, remove, or to relocate. The background is the wholesale transportation of peoples from one nation to another by a victorious army.[9] A prime example was the 10 tribes of Israel deported and relocated by the Assyrians. The aorist tense of the verb refers to an action taken in the point of time, i.e. the moment of salvation.  We are delivered “out of” one domain, “into” another domain or kingdom. Those delivered are not emigrants, nor simple exiles, but are transferred as citizens of a new kingdom (Phil. 3:20). We are citizens now of the heavenly kingdom of His beloved Son.
c.         He liberates us (1:14).
Some end this section at verse 13,[10] but most end it with verse 14. The major reason for continuing until the end of verse 14 is that verse 13 does not yet complete the thought. Verse 14 is a continuation of the thought of verse 13.
It is in the sphere of “the Son of His love” (literally), that God the Father redeems and forgives us. This is done in union with Christ. “In whom,” is a statement of sphere (1:14). It is where God the Father redeems and forgives. The proposal of redemption began in the heart of God; the action of redemption was carried out by God in Christ. It is the sphere or the union with Christ in which we receive benefit. “We have” is the Greek word echomen, is in the present tense and has a durative force, which indicates a continual procession. It is ours now, and continually. 
What we have is “redemption”. There are three verbs Greek words translated redemption. First, agarazo, it means to purchase in the marketplace.  Second, is exagarazo, the same word as before, but with the prefix ex, which indicates a separation from or out of the market place. Third, is the Greek word lytroo, means to set free by payment. Here we have the noun form of the last Greek word, apolutrosis, denoting a release by ransom. It speaks of not simply buying a slave, but buying back a slave so that he is free; no longer a slave, nor can he be, for he has been set free.  He has complete freedom from slavery. It connotes liberation. As Barclay simple puts it, “redemption is liberation at a cost.”[11] This noun is also found in Romans 3:24, “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” We are brought, redeemed, by His grace through the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7). It is not his birth, his life, nor his example that provides redemption for us. It is His sacrifice on the Cross, which redeems us. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22). He had to spill his own blood for our redemption (Heb. 9:12-14). 
Being redeemed is an act of grace. Grace is unmerited favor, we cannot earn it in any way, shape, or form. Redemption is received, not achieved. It is a gift—a gift received it by faith (Eph. 2:8-10). A definition of redemption is “the forgiveness of sins” (1:14). This phrase is in apposition with redemption, thus further describing the redemption. This is “the essential effect of Christ’s ransoming for all believers.[12] The word forgiveness is aphesis and has a rich background in ancient world. In the Old Testament, it has to do with a release of debt (Ex. 21:2-11; Lev. 25:39-46; Deut. 15:1-18). It was liberation. It cancelled a debt or obligation, thus releasing or liberating one out from under the burden of that debt. In the Greek world, it had the same idea. It was used in remission of taxes, a cancellation of a debt.[13] The debt is a cheriographon, meaning a note of hand or an I.O.U. held over one’s head. The word canceled is exaleiphein, meaning to sponge clean or to wipe away. The word is a compound word meaning “to send away from.” It is in the locative case indicating that forgiveness is in the sphere of Jesus Christ, “with the implication that He alone is able to erase our sins.[14] Gromacki states, “the essence of forgiveness is the sending away of sins from a person who committed those sins.”[15] This is what God has done for us in Christ. Christ took our sin, and gave us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). What a transaction! The great unavoidable fact is that we are under the debt of sin. It is universal and inescapable, except in and by the person and work of Christ. God alone can forgive sin. Christ liberates us from the liability from of our sins and their guilt.

[1]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 140.
[2]  O’Brien, COLOSSIANS, 25.
[3]   Johnson, S. Lewis, “Studies in the Epistles of Colossians: Spiritual Knowledge and a Worthy Walk,” BIB-SAC, October 1961, 344.
[4]  Wuest, COLOSSIANS, 179.
[5]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 37.
[6]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 54.
[7]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 38.
[8]  Dunn, COLOSSIANS, 78.
[9]  Lightfoot,  COLOSSIANS, 139.  Also see William Barclay, THE ALL-SUFFICIENT CHRIST, 72.
[10]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 57.
[11]  Barclay, ALL-SUFFICENT CHRIST, 75.
[12]  Lenski, COLOSSIANS, 44.
[13]  Barclay, ALL-SUFFIECENT CHRIST, 77.
[14]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 41.
[15]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 60.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Thoughts on the PROVIDENCE OF GOD

The providence of God is not spoken of much in these modern times. However, it is still as active as ever. The providence of God is the outworking of His sovereignty in which He overrules in the affairs of men. Grudem defines it as follows:

God’s is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.[1]

Providence works mostly behind the scenes. It is the unseen hand of God that is working out His purpose in history and individuals. He rules and overrules in successes and failures of men (Luke 1:52; 1 Samuel 2:6-8). He is in the accidental and insignificant things of life (Proverbs 16:33). He upholds, puts down, and overrules the destines of man, saved and unsaved (Palms 11:6). All men are in the hands of God's providence.

[1]  Wayne Grudem, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, 315.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


4. Paul’s Present Values—Phil. 3:7-11 (Continued)

At this point, let me point out that verse 8 is part of one large sentence (verses 8-11). The sentence turns on the conjunction “so that” of verse 8. The conjunction hina (that) indicates purpose of counting things lost. From this point on Paul is indicating what gain entails. Hawthorne points out that this phrase points to the motives for counting everything as loss (3:8-10): “They are (1) that he might “gain Christ,” (2) “that he might be found in Christ,” and (3) “that he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”[1] Notice that these are progressive in nature.

The reason and purpose of his conversion is in order to gain Christ (Phil 3:8c). This is Christ Himself, not merely the favor of Christ.[2] On the road to Damascus he realized that Christ was the pearl of great price. He could gain the whole world but never find such value (cf. Matthew 16:26). Everything else is rubbish in relation to gaining Christ. Paul goes on to explain what it means to gain Christ. This is shown by the connector and (kai), which goes on to expand and explain what it means to gain Christ; it is to be found in Him (Phil. 3:9). It is in the aorist passive subjunctive, which indicates that by faith he is already found in Christ. It speaks of our position in Christ as well as our fulfilled expectation and reality in the future. “There is also in this construction the idea of the future, the sense that Paul has both gained Christ and is yet to gain Christ.”[3]

Being found in Him involves righteousness. Paul now contrasts two types of righteousness and their sources and the channel by which true righteousness comes. One is what I term negative righteousness, the other is positive righteousness. Verse 9 breaks down this way:
            Not having      
                        The one out of the law
                                  But the one through faith in Christ
                        The one out of God    
                   Upon faith[4]

The desire to be found in Him is followed by long phrases of contrast. It is a contrast between righteousness through the law and righteousness through faith. The first I call negative righteousness or righteousness because it has no real value. It is righteousness that comes out of the law. This type of righteousness has as its source the Law. Scripture makes clear: “Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 cf. Galatians 3:11). In the book of Galatians, Paul makes clear what the Law cannot do:
·         The Law cannot justify (Gal. 2:16)
·         The Law cannot make righteous (Gal. 2:21)
·         The Law cannot give the Spirit (Gal. 3:2)
·         The Law cannot give an inheritance (Gal. 3:18)
·         The Law cannot impart life (Gal. 3:21)
·         The Law cannot give freedom (Gal. 5:1)
·         The Law cannot give grace (Gal. 5:4)

“Not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law” (Phil. 3:9). Yet, in verse 6 he declared “as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” What gives here? There is righteousness in the Law, however it is not sufficient. It is righteousness of reformation; not redemption. All the Law can do is reform us; it cannot redeem us. That is why Paul counted it as loss. It is insufficient to make us righteous before God, for it has no power to change us. It is not an instrument of inward change, but of condemnation. The phrase “derived from the law” points to the Law as the source or origin of this type of righteousness. Works is the means of this righteousness. The grammar focus is on the quality of this righteousness, i.e. it is Paul’s own.[5] Eadie notes: “His own righteousness was out of the law, or originated by the law, and it was through his own effort that he obtained it.”[6]

But” is a vital word in this text. It is a word of contrast. It reveals or leads us to the channel of positive righteousness in contrast to the negative righteousness of the law. This righteousness comes not out of the law, but “that which is through faith in Christ” (Phil 3:9b). It is in contrast to the righteousness that comes out of the Law. Righteousness in this text is two different types. These two are mutually exclusive. The first is that of moral righteousness achieved by Paul out of obedience to the Law. The second is “out of God,” which comes through the channel of “faith in Christ.” There is some debate as to how to understand this phrase. Is it the “faith of Christ” (KJV) or “faith in Christ.” The Greek phrase is ambiguous.[7] How the phrase pisteos Christou should be translated is one of “the most debated[8] as to taking it as an objective or subjective genitive. Most take it as an objective genitive, making Christ the object of faith.[9] It is the faith of the believer in Christ. Others argue for it being a subjective genitive,[10] thereby making this reference to Christ’s faith or faithfulness. Wallace makes a worthwhile observation that should be pointed out: “the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept…, but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for He Himself is faithful.”[11] However, the debate continues but because of the ambiguity of the phrase it may not be settled by grammar alone. Both views are grammatically are equally possible. At this point, my view is that it is best to uphold the objective genitive view. I agree with Silva that, “Ambiguous grammatical forms should be interpreted in the light of unambiguous ones, and the very repetition of Gal. 2:16 (‘faith in Christ’ twice; ‘we believe in Christ Jesus’ once) support the traditional understanding.[12]

This kind of righteousness has a different origin (from God), basis (the basis of faith), and means of reception (though faith), than the righteousness that comes out of the Law. The “righteousness that comes from God” is the central driving force of the verse. It is a righteousness that God provides. It is an imputed righteousness because we are “made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). It is by God’s doing that we are “in Christ” who “has became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). The essence of verse 9 is that true righteousness comes not by our own effort but by exercising “faith in Christ.” Faith is not simply intellectual assent about Christ, but the act of personal trust alone in the person and work in Christ. This verse gives us the essence of justification by faith alone.

Verse 10 refers back to verse 8, and gives the next aim of Paul in his relation to Christ. In verses 8-9 his aim was to gain Christ and speaks of salvation. The Second aspect of his aim is to know or experience Christ. The emphasis is on the phrase “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:10). Paul moves from the essence of justification (verse 9) to sanctification (verse 10). Tou gnonai (I may know) is an infinitive indicating purpose, which is to have a personal relationship, experiential knowledge. This is more than just knowing about someone or having an acquaintance; that knowledge is just factual. Paul is speaking of a knowledge that comes from a personal relationship. There are three elements to this:
  • (1) To know Him. Gromacki states that “Paul knew that he had salvation; now he wanted to know the Savior.[13] He is speaking of a deeper growing knowledge. Included in this deeper knowledge is further explained by the next two elements: the power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings. O’Brien clearly indicates the apostle intends to explain what is meant by knowing Christ through resurrection power and fellowship of suffering. They are no suggestion of temporal distinction as to time or sequence.[14] Both are equally a part of knowing Christ better.
  • (2) The power of His resurrection. This speaks of experiential power of the resurrection in the life of the believer. Paul continually shows it is an element of Christian living. In Ephesians 1:18-19 he tells that “the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. The power of the resurrection is so we could “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4-5). Morris comments on Romans 6:5—“Paul is primarily concerned with the present moral life of the believer; this is part of his argument that we should not continue in sin so that grace may abound. He is emphasizing that the believer has already risen to new life.”[15]
  • (3) The fellowship of His sufferings. To know Christ better involves not only being resurrected in newness of life, but sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Paul knew what it was to share Christ’s suffering (cf. Romans 8:17; 1 Cor. 2:10-11; 2 Cor.1:5). In Colossians Paul states: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part what which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). By this, Paul does not mean that the suffering of Christ was insufficient nor that he could add to the merit of Christ’s suffering. But rather it is fellowship of suffering with and for Christ. The idea of fellowship is joint participation. “No believer can die for sins as Christ did, but he can suffer for the sake of righteousness as he permits Christ to live out His life through him” notes Gromacki. Peter notes that this suffering involves: [a] Suffering for doing well (1 Peter 2:20); [b] for righteousness (1 Peter 3:14); [c] for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:16); [d] and is according to the will of God (1 Peter 4:19). As we grow in our knowledge of Christ and the power of His resurrection, so will the fellowship of His sufferings.

 “Being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10) modifies the fellowship of His sufferings. Eadie says, “This conformity to His death accompanies the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”[16] The present tense of the word conform indicates continuity of a process, which will not be completed until the final day of his life.[17] Conforming to His death is a process which suffering brings to the believer. The suffering and death of Christ was a continual process which was inseparable from the Cross. Some indicate that the conforming to death indicates martyrdom. However, that does not seem to be the case for two reasons: First, this is not indicated in the text. Second, that is hard to fit in with the present tense. O’Brien’s view of it being a metaphor of incorporation is a better view. It is a part of Paul teaching of our identification with Christ and our union with His death and resurrection. “Paul who was united with Christ in his death on the cross is continually being conformed to that death as he shares in Christ’s sufferings.”[18] The incorporation is clearly indicated in Romans 6:5-6. It’s putting into action our position (Romans 6:11). Silva observes: “The participation of believers in Christ’s death includes not only their definitive breach with sin, but also those sufferings they undergo by virtue of their union with Christ.”[19]

To be continued…

[1]  Hawthorne, WBC:PHILIPPIANS, 139.
[2]  Ibid, 139.
[3]  Ibid, 140.
[4]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS 185; O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 394.
[5]  O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 394.
[6]  Eadie, PHILIPPIANS, 3:9.
[8]  Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 114. See his discussion on pages 114-116.
[9]  These include Lenski, Loh and Nida, Kent, Gromacki, Muller, and Hawthorne.
[10]  These include the Companion Bible; Wallace, Wuest, and O’Brien. O’Brien makes a case for this, see his discussion in WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 398-400.
[11]  Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 116.
[12]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 187.
[13]  Gromacki, STAND UNITED, 150.
[14]  O’Brien, 403.
[15]  Leon Morris, PNTC: ROMANS, 250.
[16]  Eadie, PHILIPPIANS, 3:10.
[17]  O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 408.
[18]  Ibid, 410.
[19]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 191.

Happy Easter

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Tradition on how the Apostles died. All but one died through suffering.They knew experienced first hand the fellowship of suffering (Phil 3:10).
1.      Matthew  -- Suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.
2.      Mark -- Died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by Horses through the streets until he was dead.
3.      Luke  -- Was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous Preaching to the lost. 
4.     John --  Faced martyrdom when he was boiled in huge Basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death.  John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Island of Patmos.  He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully. 
5.     Peter -- He was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross.  According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die In the same way that Jesus Christ had died. 
6.     James  --  The leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller's club.  *This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation. 
7.     James the Great -- Son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus Called him to a lifetime of ministry.  As a strong leader of the church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem.  The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution.  Overcome by  conviction,  he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian. 
8.     Bartholomew -- Also known as Nathaniel was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey.  Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.  
9.     Andrew -- Was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Petrus, Greece.  After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony.  His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.'  He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired. 
10. Thomas -- Was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the Sub-continent.   
11.  Jude -- Was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.  
12. Matthias -- The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded. 
13. Paul -- Was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67.  Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014



James R. Gray

God has not promised us a rose garden. Even if that were true, we must remember that roses come with thorns. Life is a battlefield and war has its victums, which at times we are one of them. People hurt including Christians. Stress and suffering is no respecter of person. One of the greatest needs today is real solid comfort.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, the Apostle Paul deals with God’s comfort. Ten times in these verses the word comfort appears, and is a key word in this chapter. It also appears a number of times in this letter (5:20; 6:1; 7:4,6,7, 13; 9:5; 10:1; 12:8, 18; 13:11). The English word comfort comes from the Latin meaning to strengthen. The Greek word is parklesis, a compound word (Para—beside; kaleo—to call) meaning a calling to one’s side to help or strengthen by means of exhortation encouragement, or consolation. Comfort is not sympathy. Sympathy weakens; to be comforted is to draw strength from another.

THE SOURCE OF COMFORT (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)

The source of all comfort is God the Father. He is the “God of all comfort.” In the title, “Father of mercy,” we see His tenderness; in the title “God of all comfort,” we have His effectiveness.

Because He is the “God of all comfort;” He comforts us. God reaches into the lives of men and brings them comfort, encouragement, and strength. God’s comfort is active in the lives of His people. The word “comfort” at the beginning of verse 4 is a present, active particle, denoting continual action. God continually comforts. Not wonder Peter tells us to cast all our anxiety and care upon Him, “because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The word care is melei, third person singular, signifying that we are the object of His care, “especially the care of forethought and interest.”[1] God’s comfort comes from His personal interest in His children. He is the source of their comfort.

THE PLACE OF COMFORT (2 Corinthians 1:4b)

The place where God comforts is “in all our tribulations.” The preposition is epi denoting the basis upon which comfort comes. It is in tribulation. The word means pressure, stress, or anything which burdens the spirit, either spiritual or physical. The comfort of God does not necessarily remove the pressure or stress (although it is possible); rather it consists of helping one to bear the distress of pressure with failing or fainting. It is a part of God’s enabling grace that strengthens one to endurance. His grace is sufficient in all circumstances (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The channels of this enabling grace are clearly indicated in the Scripture. Included are Christ ( 2 Corinthians 3:5), the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; Acts 9:31), the Word (Romans 15:3), and other believers (2 Corinthians 3:6-7; Colossians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). God’s comfort flows to us through these channels.

THE PURPOSE OF GOD’S COMFORT (2 Corinthians 1:4c)

God’s never-failing comfort has a purpose—“that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” The purpose of receiving God’s comfort is never self-centered. Its purpose is not only for our benefit, but to benefit others as well. By receiving the comfort of God, we are to become channels of that comfort. It is given to be used by passing it on to others. Personal edification and comfort is to be communicated. God comforts us so we can comfort others. Receiving God’s comfort brings indebtedness of service, so we may give His comfort to others. God’s enabling grace is not only to endure; it is also to enabling service. He enables us to endure our circumstance so that we may serve by communicating God’s comfort to others.


After praising God for His comfort, Paul now turns to the application of that comfort in personal experience. In doing so, Paul gives us three facts about God’s comfort.

  1. Comfort abounds in suffering (1:5)

Those who do not suffer do not comfort. It is in our suffering the “sufferings of Christ,” that we find the comfort of God. The suffering of Christ is not a reference to the suffering of our Lord upon the cross. That is a completed event and does not continue in the life of the believer (Romans 5:8-10; 6:10). Only Christ could suffer as a sinless substitute and die (1 Peter 2:21-25). Rather, the sufferings of Christ are those we suffering because of our identification with Christ. Warren Wiersbe says,

There are some sufferings that we endure simply because we are human and subject to pain, but there are other sufferings that come because we are God’s people and want to serve Him.[2]

It is when we suffer because we are God’s people that we enter into the sufferings of Christ.

As the suffering “abounds,” so does the comfort of God. The Greek word is perisseuo  meaning to exceed a measure, to be overflowing. The stress in this text is not in the abundance, but the quantity of the abundance. The suffering never outweighs the comfort or encouragement of God. The greater the suffering—the greater the comfort. Charles Hodge notes:

 This makes the great difference between the sorrows of believers and those of unbelievers. Alienation from Christ does not secure freedom from suffering, but it cuts off from the only source of consolation.[3]

  1. Comfort is activated by endurance (1:6)

Comfort is “effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings.” The Greek word for effective is energeo and is where we get the English word for energy. The preposition “in” (en) denotes the sphere of operation. Comfort operates in the sphere of endurance. Paul is not simply saying that comfort brings endurance, but that comfort is activated by endurance. Those who do not endure do not need comfort: they need forgiveness. To endure may bring suffering, but it also brings comfort. Endurance (hypomane) has the meaning of steadfastness in the face of unpleasant circumstances and pain (2 Corinthians 6:4; Romans 5:3; Colossians 1:11). As we endlure, we find comfort. God has abundant grace for our need, yet He does not bestow it in advance, but at the time of need (Hebrews 4:16). It is in endurance that we find comfort.

  1. Comfort ministers in sharing (1:7)

Part of the price of ministry is exposure to, and sharing in the sufferings of others. Comfort is mutual, never exclusive. What was happening to Paul was for the Corinthians encouragement and welfare. Even as observers they become partakers of God’s comfort and encouragement. It made them mutual partakers of God’s enabling grace. It strengthened, comforted, and encouraged them.

What are your circumstances? Are you finding the comfort of God? If not, is it because you do not know the God of comfort? You can by an act of faith, receiving Christ in your life (cf. John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-10). As a believer, this enabling grace in the time of need comes from the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Reprinted from The Berean Advocate, June 1988.

[1]  W.E. Vine, EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY, (Revell; Old Tappan, NJ: 1981), 1:169.
[2]  Warren Wiersbe, BE ENCOURAGED, (Victor; Wheaton, IL: 1984), 15.
[3]  Charles Hodge, COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS, (Eerdmans; Grand Rapids, n.d.) 7.