Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh
Read (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)
The gospel provides a proper perspective. The false apostles boasted after their flesh but Paul boasted in his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:9). They criticized Paul for his appearance and speech (2 Corinthians 10:10). So Paul was forced to boast about the nature of suffering he endured for Christ. In this chapter Paul justifies his unparalleled spiritual experiences. The heavenly revelations and the thorns in the flesh are two extreme realities of Paul’s experiences (2 Corinthians 12:4). Fourteen years ago, he was caught up to the third heaven. Paul heard things that cannot be told (2 Corinthians 12:4). That experience is something worth boasting about. But Paul decided not to boast about this unique experience. Paul is reluctant to share too much about his vision because he does not want anyone to think too highly of him (2 Corinthians 12:6). Paul says “To keep me humble, a thorn was given in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me" (2 Corinthians 12:7). This thorn was extremely painful and distressing to Paul (2 Corinthians 12:8). It was given to keep him from getting proud. Three times Paul prayed to remove this thorn from him. But the Lord said to him “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9). Paul gladly boasts in his weakness so that the power of Christ may work through him. Since it was for Christ’s sake, he was quite content in his weakness, insult, hardship and persecution. This did not cause Paul to doubt Christ's faithfulness but joyfully cherished the all sufficient grace of God. When our difficulties become an opportunity to prove the power and sufficiency of Christ, we can say with Paul “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Is it how you handle your weaknesses? Christ radically changed Paul's thinking. Christians life is a transformed life.
Paul’s Concern for the Corinthians
Read (2 Corinthians 12:11-21)
Paul reviews his credentials as an apostle. When the Corinthians failed to defend him against his critics, he was compelled to boast about himself. Paul did not consider him inferior to false apostles. When Paul was with Corinthians, he gave them the proof of his apostleship. He was patient and did many signs and mighty works among them (2 Corinthians 12:12). He loved them so much that he did not ask them to cover his expenses. Paul asks them to forgive him for that. Paul was ready to visit Corinth a third time. Paul knew that he is their spiritual father and obligated to provide for his spiritual children. Paul loved Corinthians so much that he was willing to be expendable for their souls (2 Corinthians 12:15). Paul and his associates never took advantage of them or posed any financial burden on their church. They never used deceptive tactics to benefit them. Their sole desire was to build them up spiritually (2 Corinthians 12:17-18). Paul followed the example of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. He knew that he was accountable to God. Paul was concerned about their spiritual edification. Paul fears that when he visits Corinth, he will find out that they have not repented and will be humiliated among them (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). Paul demonstrated to Corinthians the sacrificial love of Christ. Paul’s example teaches that we should respond to conflict with a generous and loving heart to build up even those who have opposed us.