2 Corinthians 12:1-21
1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:
2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.
6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
11 I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.
12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
13 For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!
14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.
16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!
17 Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you?
18 I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?
19 Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.
20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;
21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.
This passage that Paul talks about the thorn in his side has become such a popular verse when talking about why God wants you inflicted.
When I read this, it’s the promise of God that I see. Paul couldn’t make that messenger of Satan, the thorn, be removed on his own power. He had to lean into the power of God where His strength, His name and His authority is translated into power for Paul!
There is still a contention against those who would vie for the influence of the Word by exalting themselves through spiritual demonstrations and giftings. While Paul surely had the greatest of spiritual resumes that he could have flouted to make a personal impression, he recognized that no flesh could glory in the thing that God alone is responsible for. It’s never that God is getting blessed by our greatness, but rather, that He is being magnified by His ability to utilize the things that are least in us. The truth of the Gospel is never in need of our great packaging but is much more glorified through transparency of the humanity we are apart from Him. Paul had this constant reminder that no matter the degree of God’s working through him, it could never be him that was exalted. He would always be merely a vessel that required the revelation of God for its purpose.
He was having some opposition to a financial offering they had given through his helpers, and he is sarcastic in suggesting that they were missing out on the excellence of being burdened by supporting him, while he was surely deserving of it. All of this conflict of personalities and obligations is put into perspective with a much greater overall purpose in living transformed lives reflecting the reality of their professed beliefs. What would impress or offend us is of no consequence whatsoever if there is no reflection of the righteousness and holiness that is a new life in Christ.