“The God of All Comfort” Is With Us
“Blessed be . . . the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.”—2 CORINTHIANS 1:3, 4.
1, 2. At 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, what did the apostle Paul say about comfort in times of tribulation?
JEHOVAH is “the God of all comfort.” The apostle Paul knew this from personal experience. Thus, for the encouragement of fellow Christians, he wrote these heartening words:
2 “Blessed be . . . the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation. . . . Now whether we are in tribulation, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we are being comforted, it is for your comfort that operates to make you endure the same sufferings that we also suffer. And so our hope for you is unwavering, knowing as we do that, just as you are sharers of the sufferings, in the same way you will also share the comfort.”—2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
3. (a) Why did Paul know Jehovah as “the God of all comfort”? (b) On what basis can fellow Witnesses be comforted and encouraged to endure tribulation?
3 Yes, Paul knew Jehovah to be “the God of all comfort.” He had experienced his heavenly Father’s comforting and tenderly merciful dealings with him, especially when he was suffering “for righteousness’ sake.” (Compare Matthew 5:10.) The apostle could, therefore, comfort others and encourage them to endure tribulation. Surely, by their example of faithfulness and their expressions of trust in Jehovah, Christian witnesses of Jehovah who have endured tribulation provide encouragement that prompts fellow believers to remain faithful to God. And in the enduring of sufferings Paul was exemplary.
A Record of Faithful Endurance
4, 5. (a) When did Paul write Second Corinthians? (b) How was Paul equal to Corinth’s “superfine apostles,” but how was he superior to them?
4 About 55 C.E. Paul wrote his second inspired letter to Christians in the city of Corinth. There he was opposed by those whom he sarcastically termed “superfine apostles.” He courageously defended his apostolic position, not for his own sake, but “for God,” that is, to save the congregation belonging to Jehovah. (2 Corinthians 11:5, 12-14; 12:11; 5:12, 13) The apostle showed that he was equal to his opponents genealogically and then pointed out that he was superior to them in labors, sufferings, travels, perils and hardships as a ‘minister of Christ.’ He wrote:
5 “Are they [his opponents] ministers of Christ? I reply like a madman, I am more outstandingly one: in labors more plentifully, in prisons more plentifully, in blows to an excess, in near-deaths often. By Jews I five times received forty strokes less one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I experienced shipwreck, a night and a day I have spent in the deep; in journeys often, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from highwaymen, in dangers from my own race, in dangers from the nations, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers among false brothers, in labor and toil, in sleepless nights often, in hunger and thirst, in abstinence from food many times, in cold and nakedness.”—2 Corinthians 11:21-27.
6. (a) Where do we find a record of some features of Paul’s Christian life before his writing Second Corinthians? (b) How will we benefit from reflecting on Paul’s record of faithful endurance?
6 The Bible book Acts of Apostles (9:3 to about Ac 9:3–20:4) mentions some of the foregoing features of Paul’s life from the time he became a Christian until he wrote Second Corinthians. Now let us reflect on his record of faithful endurance. No doubt this will encourage us to endure tribulation with confidence that “the God of all comfort” is with us.
‘More Plentiful Labors and Imprisonments’
7. (a) What work is meant by Paul’s ‘more plentiful labors’? (b) According to the apostle’s words to the “older men” of the Ephesus congregation, how did he carry on his ministry? (c) What spurred Paul on in vigorous labors for the good news and Kingdom interests?
7 In labors more plentifully: As a proclaimer of the “good news,” Paul “worked much harder” than his opponents. (2 Corinthians 11:23, Today’s English Version) He, of course, had engaged in the preaching work for a longer time and often in very difficult territory. For instance, in Ephesus, where the pagan goddess Artemis was worshiped and Paul was the victim of mob action, his efforts in the ministry and in behalf of fellow believers were very strenuous, sometimes even heartrending. But fine spiritual fruitage resulted. Later, he could appropriately say to the “older men” of the Ephesus congregation: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:17, 20, 21, 31; 19:1-41) So, then, before these men who were now elders had become Christians, the apostle Paul had taught them the basic truths of Christianity in the “house to house” preaching activity. It was the operation of Jehovah’s Word and holy spirit on Paul’s heart that spurred him on to labor vigorously in spreading the good news and promoting Kingdom interests. (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Romans 10:8-10) In such vigorous activity the apostle set 20th-century Christians an excellent example.
8. (a) Why could Paul say he had been “in prisons more plentifully” than the “superfine apostles”? (b) Doubtless, in what did Paul and Silas find comfort while imprisoned at Philippi, and what did they do when freed by an earthquake? (c) What encouragement can be drawn from Paul’s prison experiences at Philippi?
8 In prisons more plentifully: Clement of Rome, writing toward the end of the first century C.E., says that Paul had been imprisoned on seven occasions. Before the writing of Second Corinthians he had already been in prison more often than the “superfine apostles.” The record in Acts tells of one such imprisonment—in the Macedonian city of Philippi. Obviously Paul and Silas were happy to suffer “for righteousness’ sake,” for while imprisoned there they prayed to God and praised him with song. They found comfort in reflecting on the Scriptures as well as in the realization that God heard their prayers and was answering them. (Psalm 65:2; 119:52) When freed by an earthquake, they did not make a fast getaway, but, rather, “spoke the word of Jehovah to [the jailer] together with all those in his house.” The result? Why, the jailer and his household became Christians! (Acts 16:16-40) Truly, this account encourages imprisoned witnesses of Jehovah today to accept persecution with godly joy, to be prayerful, to meditate on God’s Word and to speak about it boldly!—Acts 4:29-31.
Undaunted by Beatings and Near-Deaths
9. What is indicated by the words “blows to an excess”?
9 In blows to an excess: Paul had been beaten excessively. It is also stated that he was often “at death’s door.” (2Co 11 Verse 23, The Twentieth Century New Testament) This may indicate that during certain beatings the blows were so severe that he was practically beaten to death.
10. (a) How had Paul experienced “near-deaths often”? (b) What apparently sustained the apostle when “at death’s door”?
10 In near-deaths often: This would not necessarily pertain only to certain beatings. Earlier in the same letter Paul had said: “Always we endure everywhere in our body the death-dealing treatment given to Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11) The apostle had been in life-threatening peril or even deathly pain at Damascus, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Thessalonica and Beroea. (Acts 9:23-25; 13:49-51; 14:1-6, 19, 20; 17:1, 5-9, 13, 14) In fact, he may have been exposed to the death-dealing dangers of the Roman games, in view of his reference to ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus.’ (1 Corinthians 15:32; compare Acts 19:23-41; 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.) Having his life imperiled so often, the apostle could certainly say: “Daily I face death.” (1 Corinthians 15:31) Undoubtedly, the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit and Paul’s faith in God’s precious promises sustained the apostle when he was often “at death’s door.”—2 Corinthians 1:20-22.
11. What was the nature of Paul’s beatings by Jews?
11 By Jews I five times received forty strokes less one: Paul indicated that five beatings he experienced “for righteousness’ sake” were carried out by Jews, perhaps in their synagogues. (2Co 11 Verse 24; Matthew 10:17) The Mosaic Law provided for beating by stick or rod, with the judges determining the number of strokes according to the misdeed. But the punishment humanely was restricted to 40 strokes, and the Jews reduced them to 39 so as to avoid exceeding the legal limit by mistake. (Deuteronomy 25:1-3) Such beatings were very painful. But “the God of all comfort” strengthened Paul to bear this treatment with faithful endurance.
12. (a) Evidently, to what treatment did the apostle refer when he said “three times I was beaten with rods”? (b) With what help can beatings “for righteousness’ sake” be endured?
12 Three times I was beaten with rods: Evidently these three severe beatings were administered by rod-bearing Roman officers. (2Co 11 Verse 25) These beatings with the rod were carried out after the victim had been stripped of his outer garments. As a Roman citizen, Paul was legally exempted from such beatings. However, that did not save him and Silas from receiving “many blows” before their imprisonment as proclaimers of the good news at Philippi. (Acts 16:19-24, 33, 35-40) Such beatings could be quite brutal, but with the help of God’s spirit Paul faithfully endured this harsh treatment “for righteousness’ sake.” And with similar divine support, many present-day Christians have maintained integrity to God despite comparable physical abuse.
13. Where was Paul stoned, but did that stop his ministry?
13 Once I was stoned: At Lystra fanatical Jews “stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, imagining he was dead.” Of course, that stoning had death as its objective. (Compare Leviticus 20:2; Acts 7:58-60.) But “when the disciples surrounded him, he rose up and entered into the city,” resuming his ministerial travels the very next day.—Acts 14:19-22.
Shipwreck and Peril at Sea
14. What shipwreck experiences did Paul mention, and what effect did they have on his travels in behalf of the good news?
14 Three times I experienced shipwreck: The book of Acts records only one shipwreck, and that occurred after Paul wrote to the Corinthians. It happened when Paul was en route to Rome. (Acts, chapter 27) However, prior to this the apostle often traveled aboard seagoing vessels, and it was not uncommon for shipwrecks to occur during coastal voyages. Hence, although the Scriptures provide no details regarding the three shipwrecks here cited, it is evident that the hazards of voyages on the Mediterranean did not cause Paul to curtail his travels in behalf of the good news.
15. (a) What did Paul mean when he said “a night and a day I have spent in the deep”? (b) How did “the God of all comfort” help Paul in the foregoing case, and what confidence should this give us?
15 A night and a day I have spent in the deep: Of course, the apostle did not say that he miraculously endured a 24-hour period under water. As a shipwreck victim, he may have spent those perilous hours partly struggling to swim in turbulent waters or clinging to floating timber or debris from the wrecked vessel. Even if he was on a raft, this harrowing experience (not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures) called for courageous endurance until the apostle was rescued or made it to land. Surely, Paul ‘cried out to Jehovah in his distress, and out of the stresses upon him God brought him forth.’ (Compare Psalm 107:23-31.) That same “God of all comfort” can answer our prayers too.—Compare 1 John 5:13-15.
Our God Provides Unfailing Comfort
16, 17. Why can it be said that the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit is invaluable when we are suffering “for righteousness’ sake”?
16 We have noted some sources of comfort that helped Paul to remain faithful to Jehovah despite tribulation. These merit emphasis, for they will help present-day witnesses of Jehovah to endure sufferings “for righteousness’ sake.”
17 The help of Jehovah’s holy spirit is invaluable. Especially during tribulation should we pray for the spirit, yield to its direction and manifest its fruitage. (Luke 11:13; Psalm 143:10; Galatians 5:22, 23) Jehovah’s spirit operating on our hearts makes us conscious of his love, and this comforting assurance will help us to endure tribulation.—Romans 5:3-5; 8:35-39; 2 Thessalonians 3:5.
18. During tribulation as Christians, how can faith in God’s precious promises comfort us?
18 Faith in God’s precious promises, as set forth in the Scriptures, will also comfort us. (Romans 15:4) Remember, “for the joy that was set before [Jesus Christ] he endured a torture stake.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2) Even if we should suffer to the point of passing through “death’s door,” there is the marvelous prospect of a resurrection and of endless life in God’s new order, whether our hopes are heavenly or earthly. (Matthew 10:28; Luke 23:43; John 5:28, 29; 17:3; 1 Corinthians 15:53; 2 Peter 3:13) How “momentary and light” tribulation is when we have eternity in view!—2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
19. How does prayer bring us comfort amid tribulations?
19 God’s providing us peace of mind and strength in answer to our prayers is also a great source of comfort during tribulation. (See Luke 22:32; Acts 4:23-31; James 5:16-18.) Jesus earnestly supplicated and petitioned Jehovah, “who was able to save him out of death, . . . and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” Yes, Jehovah sent an angel to strengthen Jesus in a time of trial. (Hebrews 5:7; Luke 22:43) Surely, when we see that Jehovah is answering our prayers amid tribulations, we are comforted.
20. We will next consider what other ways in which Paul surpassed Corinth’s “superfine apostles”?
20 If we are earnestly striving to endure faithfully as Christian witnesses of Jehovah, “the God of all comfort” will be with us, even as he was with the apostle Paul. So far, we have considered Paul’s labors and sufferings. But his defense as a ‘minister of Christ’ shows that he also surpassed Corinth’s “superfine apostles” in travels, perils and hardships. What can we learn from these experiences?
Do you recall these points?
□ Why did the apostle Paul know Jehovah to be “the God of all comfort”?
□ How may Christians who have endured tribulation encourage fellow believers to remain faithful to Jehovah?
□ What work was included in the apostle’s ‘more plentiful labors’?
□ How can we benefit from Paul’s prison experiences?
□ What are some ways in which Jehovah God provides unfailing comfort?
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Paul often suffered imprisonment, as he and Silas did in Philippi
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Four times in the course of his ministry Paul experienced shipwreck