2 Corinthians 1:1-11 – Salutation and Doxology

The God who raises the dead addresses desolation with consolation through the suffering and victory of Jesus the Messiah.

Salutation (2 Corinthians 1:1-2)

Like most letters in the ancient Greco-Roman world, 2 Corinthians begins with an identification of the sender and its recipients. In this case, Paul is the sender and the church at Corinth is the recipient.

The interest, however, is wider than simply Paul and Corinth. Timothy, who was Paul’s envoy to Corinth and had recently returned from there, is also a sender, and Achaia, which is the Roman province in which Corinth is located, is also a recipient. A wider community has a stake in the reconciliation of Paul and Corinth. Paul and Timothy address all of God’s holy ones (“saints”) in Achaia.

We, too, are part of this wider community as we read 2 Corinthians. As we overhear this letter, we enter into Paul’s narrative of gospel ministry to understand the dynamics of the ministry of reconciliation and what that means for our lives. Though the letter is not specifically written to us (it was written in Koine Greek, for example), we are nevertheless addressed in the sense that we share a common identity with these early believers: we are children of God of Israel, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.

Like the Corinthians, we also live in, under, and through the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

Significantly, Paul’s self-description stresses his apostolic standing. He is an apostle of Jesus the Messiah by God’s will. In other words, (1) his ministry did not arise out of his own imagination but by God’s calling, (2) he was sent (apostle) to represent Jesus the Messiah, and, consequently, (3) his ministry is not self-interested or ego-driven. His apostleship (his “sent-ness”) is grounded in and is pursued for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation. Paul identifies his sacred calling in the first line of the letter, and the significance of this calling—apparently questioned or perhaps contested by some—appears again and again throughout the letter.

Doxology (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)

Immediately after the formal opening of the letter (“Dear Saints”), Paul breaks out in praise of God (“Blessed be . . .” in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7), and then specifically locates this praise in a particular and recent circumstance in his own life (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

Paul praises God for the consolation that God gives amidst moments of desolation.

I am reminded how Ignatius of Loyola counseled that we ought to pay attention to both our desolations (what stresses us, or what sucks the life out of us) and our consolations (what pours joy into our hearts, or what gives us life). It is a way, spiritually speaking, to pay attention to our own heartbeats.

Life is filled with both desolation and consolation, and Paul’s praise is that though we often experience desolation, the God who raises the dead also provides consolation.

Blessed be God (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

We bless God because the God of Israel is “the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction.”

Typically, Paul follows his salutation with a prayer of thanksgiving, but in this case, he offers a doxology (like in Ephesians 1:3-14). It seems rather strange, however, that Paul’s doxology is focused on desolation and consolation. For example, the Ephesian doxology (Ephesians 1:3-14) focuses on God’s act of redemption and adoption through Jesus in the power of the Spirit. The topic is God’s saving work.

Here, however, the topic is affliction or suffering (used seven times in five verses) and God’s comforting response (used nine times in five verses). But how are desolation and consolation the topic of praise or God’s blessedness?

Perhaps Paul highlights affliction or suffering because this is a major point of contention between Paul and the “super-apostles” he identifies later (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11). The latter boast in their victories, but Paul boasts in his sufferings. Those sufferings are not marks of shame for Paul. On the contrary, they are marks of the suffering of Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11). Moreover, they are enriching experiences that yield opportunities for and empower the ministry of reconciliation.

In this light, the suffering of the Messiah is a pattern for our own suffering. When we suffer, we suffer with the Messiah and participate in his suffering. Our suffering, therefore, is not meaningless or pointless. Rather, through suffering, we participate in the ministry of Jesus, which is the ministry of reconciliation. Moreover, we participate in each other’s suffering as well.

Also, our desolations and the subsequent consolations equip us to minister to others in their desolations because we are enabled to console others with the consolation we have received by the mercy and comfort of God’s work in our lives. This consolation is rooted in the work of Jesus whom God comforted and through whom God promises to comfort us with that same consolation God provided to Jesus.

There is a connection between suffering and comfort. Just as Jesus suffered for our sake, so his consolation is for our sake as well. In a similar way, Paul’s suffering for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation is for the sake of the Corinthians, and his consolation is for their sake as well. Just as Jesus and Paul have the hope of consolation in their suffering, so the Corinthians have that same hope when they suffer for the sake of the ministry of the gospel.

God consoled Jesus in his suffering, and that is also the promise that God will comfort us in our suffering. When we suffer, we share (commune with) both the suffering of Jesus and the suffering of fellow believers, and this means we will also share in the consolation of Jesus and the comfort of other believers. God pours comfort into the hearts of the afflicted so that the afflicted might pour that comfort into the hearts of others who are afflicted.

Suffering empowers us because God comforts us. And this is why we say,  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction.”

The Corinthians Need to Know (2 Corinthians 8-11).

While Paul offers a broad doxology concerning suffering and comfort, he apparently has a recent experience in mind. He wants the Corinthians to more fully understand his experience as they seem to have already been aware of it. They prayed for Paul; so, they must have known something about his circumstances.

Unfortunately, we don’t know much about it other than what is written here. We can glean that Paul was uncertain whether he would live through the experience or not. Perhaps it was an illness. Perhaps he was imprisoned and in danger of a death sentence while in Ephesus (the capital of the province of “Asia”). We do know that, at times, Paul encountered severe hostility in Ephesus (see Acts 19).

Whatever the specifics, it was a dire instance of “affliction” due to his commitment to the ministry of reconciliation. The depth of his despair included a sense that he might not live through it or perhaps that his ministry would come to an end, though Paul never despaired of the significance and importance of his ministry. Though sometimes perplexed in the midst of his ministry, he never despaired over the task and its meaning (2 Corinthians 4:8).

What is particularly important about Paul’s statement is not so much the reason for his despair and alarm, but the reason for his consolation. What is the source of consolation when we are filled with dread and under the sentence of death (whether external or internal)?

The doxology actually answers that question, and it is important to see the connection between the two sections (vv. 3-7 and vv. 8-11). We bless God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who raised Jesus from the dead. We bless the God who raises the dead.

We trust in the rescue of God from trouble, or the redemption our bodies from death, because we believe in the God who raises the dead.

This is Paul’s identifying marker for God. His joy, confidence, and hope rests in this God, the God who raises the dead. This theological affirmation—the God who raises the dead—undergirds Paul’s apostolic ministry. The ministry of reconciliation does not make sense without it; it is the ground of salvation and hope.

God is the God of all mercies and comfort because God raises the dead. Specifically, the God of all comfort is the God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who raised Jesus from the dead. Further, just as we participate in the abundance of the sufferings of Jesus, so also we will participate in the abundance of his consolation. This means that, though we, too, will die, the God of all comfort will raise us from the dead just as God raised Jesus from the dead.

But this rescue is not only about resurrection from the dead. While that is the ultimate rescue, there are smaller graces of comfort in our lives in the midst of suffering.

Paul’s affliction did not end in death; he was recused from it. Paul attributes this rescue to the prayers of the Corinthians. Through their prayers, many give thanks to God for the comfort God poured out on Paul through a divine rescue from his affliction in Ephesus.

Corinthian prayers—their participation in the ministry of reconciliation—resulted in thanksgiving to God by others. God rescued Paul through their prayers by which thanksgiving rose to God from other believers. Prayer, apparently, was a powerful instrument that contributed to Paul’s rescue.

Somehow God and the Corinthian prayers cooperated in Paul’s rescue. God works with our prayers and through our prayers for the sake of God’s people and God’s mission. Prayer is no addendum to the Christian life but a powerful means by which God works for the sake of the people of God.


Paul is an apostle of Jesus the Messiah, which means he follows Jesus into his ministry. Suffering is no surprise because the Messiah suffered, and we participate in that suffering with him. Suffering is a mark of authentic ministry.

In this context, we bless the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah who is the God of all mercies and comfort. Though we suffer, God is at work in our suffering to console us, empower us, and make-meaning in our lives through our participation in the life, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus.

Every particular moment of affliction shares in the suffering of the Messiah, and every suffering carries with it the hope of God’s rescue because the God we confess is the God who raises the dead!

The God who raises the dead is the God of all mercy and comfort in conformity to the life, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

Leave a Reply