Read - 2 Corinthians 12v6-10
Message - Scott Woodburn
Paul has been boasting about his experiences as an apostle of Christ. That sounds entirely negative but Paul isn't like a proud parent at the school gate boasting of their little one. He plays the fool to show the boastful and foolish false apostles for what they are. Yet, if Paul actually wanted to boast, to boast properly and seriously, he wouldn't be a fool because he would be speaking the truth (v6a). His opponents only had exaggerations and lies. Paul could honestly speak of being taken to heaven and hearing awesome things (v2-4).
But he still doesn't base his ministry on boasting. He refrains from it (v6b) so that no one will be obsessed with Paul but instead look to Christ (v6c). Paul seems so grounded that it is hard to imagine him becoming conceited and yet he realises the danger (v7). He has been given surpassingly great revelations (v7a) the scale of which could drive any single one of us to sinful pride and arrogance. But he has also received a "thorn in the flesh" (v7b) in order to keep him from becoming conceited (v7c).
Paul's thorn is a much debated topic. Some argue that the false apostles were the thorn. Others tie the mention here of Satan as evidence that Paul's thorn was the constant attacks and fiery darts of the enemy. Still others say that Paul's thorn was a physical weakness (perhaps his eyesight) that caused him agony day and night. Just as we cannot be sure about what Paul heard in heaven, so too we cannot be sure about his thorn.
Nevertheless we know that it was a torment and he pleaded with God three times for it to be removed (v8). The Lord did not answer Paul's prayer with the removal of the thorn but instead with His Word saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v9a).
God speaks to Paul of His grace. The road ahead for the apostle will be hard, indeed at times awful with Paul's life taken from him in the city of Rome, but through it all, God's grace would be enough. So Paul will continue to boast of his weakness (v9b). Humanly speaking he didn't match up to his opponents, but he had come to realise that there was power in weakness (v9c). He knew that in weakness, he was in fact strong (v10b) and so he endured all things, including his thorn for the sake of Christ (v10a).
Charles Hodge says that verse nine should be written on the palm of every believer. We will never be called up to heaven like Paul at the beginning of his ministry, but I suspect each of us could well speak of a "thorn". Tragedy, broken relationships, depression, anxiety, fear, scorn, poverty...and more...all of these are sometimes unwelcome but constant companions in a Christian's life. Beloved of the Lord, if your prayers for relief seem to go unanswered and if tears seem to constantly flow, then may the Lord speak. I do not offer this to belittle or patronise but the Lord has said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Look unto Jesus, look unto Jesus for "those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed." (Psalm 34v5)
Q30 How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ? The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.