The words of our title are twice used by the apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:3, and Ephesians 1:3; they are also used by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:3.
In each case they express divine praise from a heart that has been deeply moved by the sense of God's grace. The features of grace are quite distinct in each, but the source is the same, and the initial words of the outburst of praise and adoration are identical.
The apostle Paul has been greatly troubled about the condition of the assembly at Corinth and had faithfully written to them sending the epistle by the hand of Titus.
While awaiting the return of Titus, he had passed through very deep exercise of soul. He wrote of this, "In Asia, we were excessively pressed beyond (our) power, so as to despair even of living. But we ourselves had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not have our trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:8-9).
Added to the tribulation, there was the suspense of waiting to see what would be the result of the letter to the assembly at Corinth.
Of this he says, "Now when I came to Troas for the (publication of the) glad tidings of the Christ, a door also being opened to me in (the) Lord, I had no rest in my spirit at not finding Titus my brother; but bidding them adieu, I came away to Macedonia" (2 Cor. 2:12-13).
Coming to Macedonia, there was still trouble for the faithful servant of the Lord, even as he writes, "For indeed, when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but (we were) afflicted in every way; without combats, within fears" (2 Cor. 7:5).
Then came the answer from Corinth and from God: "But He who encourages those that are (brought) low, (even) God, encouraged us by the coming of Titus; and not by his coming only, but also through the encouragement with which he was encouraged as to you; relating to us your ardent desire, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I the more rejoiced" (2 Cor. 7:6-7).
This is the background of the outburst of praise from Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3. The pressure has been removed, and he turns to God in praise and thanksgiving for the encouragement in the midst of his tribulation for Christ's sake. He does not refer the encouragement here to the coming of Titus with the good news from Corinth, but to "The Father of all compassions, and God of all encouragement."
Nor does the apostle think of the divine consolation as for himself alone; it is ministered by God in view of others. This is indeed true of God's ways with us all: what we pass through has not only our blessing in view, but the good of all with whom we come into contact. It is only as we have known the comfort and encouragement of God in our own trying circumstances that we can enter sympathetically into the circumstances of others, and minister to them the consolation we have ourselves experienced.
Although the opening words of praise to God in Ephesians 1:3 are the same as in 2 Corinthians 1:3, the reason for them is very different. The heart of the apostle is deeply moved, in different circumstances, and with other thoughts in his mind.
Now he is a prisoner for Christ's sake; he is not in the midst of difficult labors, or without rest in his spirit. True, he is still suffering, and he still has the care of all the assemblies; but his spirit is at rest, and he is free to contemplate the eternal purpose of God with all that purpose involved for the glory of Christ and the blessing of His own.
He is about to stand before the tyrant Nero in the defense of the Gospel, but he is not troubled in the contemplation of this, for his one desire is that Christ might be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death.
Paul's heart is filled with the sense of the sovereign goodness of God as he repeated the words of 2 Corinthians 1:3, "Blessed (be) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." He is not thinking of God now as the Father of mercies, ministering comfort and encouragement for our journey through this world, but of God as the source of the divine blessing that has been brought to us according to His counsels, blessings that flow from what He is as the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle looks back into eternity, away from his circumstances, and from all that belonged to him and to us as passing through this world, and his heart and mind are filled with the sense of the great love that planned to have men in richest blessing, along with God's own Son, in an eternal scene of rest and bliss, sharing the place of relationship, nearness and affection that Christ as Man had now entered. His spirit overflows with praise as he thinks of the sovereign love that has even now blessed the saints in the heavenly places in Christ.
Then the apostle Peter, in the opening of his first epistle, uses the same words in praise to God.
He is not thinking of consolation in the service of God, or for the pilgrim pathway; nor has he the eternal counsels of God, that have given us such rich blessing, before his mind; he is contemplating the "great mercy" that "has begotten us again to a living hope through (the) resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead."
How rich is God's mercy in bringing us into His family.
As belonging to Adam's family, we were without hope; and even Israel, as a chosen people, had lost almost all that God had given them, and were about to be driven from the land. We had no part whatever in our blessing; it was God's great, sovereign mercy, that wrought in our hearts, giving us a new nature, and bringing us into relationship with Himself. In this new relationship, although passing through this world, we have a living hope, because the One in whom our hope is lives for evermore, having passed through death.
The resurrection of Christ focuses our attention on the scene where all our hopes are in Him.
As born of God, our portion is in "an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance, reserved in (the) heavens." Adam was expelled from Eden; Israel was about to be expelled from their inheritance; but the inheritance of the children of God was secure; it was in heaven, not in Eden or in Canaan.
Israel had corrupted and defiled their inheritance with their idolatries; but the Christian's portion is in a land that Satan cannot enter, as he entered Eden, or where man in responsibility can fail and defile.
Whether we think of the wonderful compassions of God for us in passing through this world, or of the sovereign grace of God in giving to us eternal, spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, or of the great mercy of God in bringing us into His family, and giving to us such a blessed heavenly inheritance; it is surely becoming that our spirits in the realization of His great love, should break forth in the praise of the apostles Paul and Peter, and say, "Blessed (be) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."