I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Paul has labored to turn the boasts of the opponents upside down. They boast in their triumphs, so he has boasted in his sufferings. Now he is in an awkward position. The opponents boast of visions they have received. The opposite of this would be boasting in the fact that he has not received visions, which would be lying. Paul received a vision of paradise that was exceedingly great, and if he were to boast in that vision, he would not be a fool but would be telling the truth. Paul is able to turn this boast on its head, however, by showing that the greatness of the vision created a pride problem in Paul that God had to address. The structure of verse 7 is masterful. The middle of the verse describes a thorn in the flesh. This thorn is a messenger from Satan designed to torment Paul. But God has a purpose for the thorn. The verse begins and ends with God’s design to humble Paul. What Satan intended for evil, God turned to good. Paul responds to the painful torment of the thorn in a natural way: he asks the Lord to remove it. But he received an unexpected answer in another vision. Jesus did not take away the thorn; Jesus gave Paul more of himself. God’s solution to earthly suffering is not take away the trials to make earth a paradise. His answer to suffering is to give us more of himself and his all-sufficient grace so that we have enough to endure the trials. This response totally changes Paul’s perspective. He goes from praying for the removal of the weakness to boasting in the weakness. How do weak people boast? They boast that Jesus is strong enough for anything they face. The surpassing power belongs to him and rest on us.
Today’s Bible Readings:
Judges 13-14, John 1:29-51, Psalm 102:1-28 and Proverbs 14:15-16
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