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What does it mean that God is the Father of mercies (2 Corinthians 1:3)?

Father of mercies

The epistles (or letters) of the apostle Paul overflow with heartfelt encouragement for the early church. A particularly touching passage is found in 2 Corinthians 1:3, where Paul extols God as the “Father of mercies” (ESV). This title reveals a core aspect of God’s nature and provides comfort to the Corinthians—and Christians today—amid the challenges of life. Through a simple yet thoughtful analysis of 2 Corinthians 1:3, we can uncover the richness of the expression Father of mercies.

Try, if you can, to imagine the sweetness of the words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3). To declare that God is “blessed” is to declare that He is worthy of praise, adoration, glory, and honor. David expresses the same idea in Psalm 145:

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
(Psalm 145:1–3, ESV, emphasis added)

In this psalm, David sings of God’s inherent greatness, His generosity toward underserving creatures, and His magnificent qualities. In 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul builds on these themes and relates them to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the conduit of the Father’s mercy to sinners: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, ESV). The Father does not have mercy. He is mercy. The proper response is to bow our knees before Him and send up a song of praise.

To truly appreciate the profundity of the phrase Father of mercies, we should understand what was happening in the Corinthian church. The Corinthians faced hardships, difficulties, and afflictions of various kinds. For this reason, Paul sought to remind them of God’s ever-abiding presence and exhort them to fix their eyes on the Father, who is the source of all mercy. Even in their tough times, the Father is right beside them, reassuring them that they are not alone in their struggles (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5).

Now, let us connect this idea to other portions of Scripture. The image of God as a Father who gives mercy is found in both the Old and New Testaments. In Psalm 103:13–14, we read, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (ESV). The Lord is merciful, compassionate, and patient toward His children.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells a story of a wayward son who is met with open arms by his forgiving father (Luke 15:11–32). This symbolizes that God, the Father of mercies, does not withhold mercy or compassion, regardless of how far we might have strayed away from Him.

The title Father of mercies is not only about comfort; it is about transformation. When God extends mercy to us, it is not just a nice gesture. It is a powerful force that radically changes our disposition. Let us think about Romans 12:1, where Paul urges us to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship” (ESV). As recipients of God’s mercy, we ought to think, act, and live as a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

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Questions about 2 Corinthians

What does it mean that God is the Father of mercies (2 Corinthians 1:3)?
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This page last updated: September 18, 2023