2 Corinthians 12:6-8

In 2 Corinthians 12:6-8 Paul reinforces that he really has something to be able to boast about if he wanted to. He just made a very compelling argument to that fact as he finished the last chapter with a very long list of things he had experienced for the sake of speaking the truth of the Gospel. But he also makes it clear that while he had plenty of experiences that he could focus on in his own life, it is Jesus he wants to talk about. “Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.” He doesn’t want to dwell on his past resume, but on the Gospel.

Paul knows he is not immune to the danger of pride.  No one is. Poole wrote “The best of God’s people have in them a root of pride, or a disposition to be exalted above measure, upon their receipt of favours from God not common to others.” As humans, we’re all prone to fall into pride. God had chosen to give Paul a ‘thorn in the flesh’ to keep him grounded. Paul reveals the real reason for telling of his heavenly vision: not to glorify himself, but to explain his thorn in the flesh. “So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.”

Paul understood that this great trial related to a thorn was actually a gift.  Spurgeon wrote that “Paul does not say, ‘There was inflicted upon me a thorn in the flesh,’ but ‘There was given to me.'” Kruse explains that in the ancient Greek the word skolops (thorn) shows “something which frustrates and causes trouble in the lives of those afflicted.” When we think of a thorn, we think of a somewhat minor irritation.  But the root word Paul uses for thorn here describes a tent stake, not a thumbtack! In a strange way, the thorn was both ultimately given by God, but it was also a tool of Satan.

Paul wanted it gone. Satan undoubtedly jumped at the chance to afflict Paul to attempt and take him off the path of obedience to Jesus Christ and his mission to share the gospel. But God had a purpose in it and although Paul was frustrated and even beaten by the continual ‘thorn’ in his life, God chooses to leave it in place to assure Paul doesn’t fall to the temptation of pride as the false teachers of the Corinthian church were continually doing themselves. Paul definitely wants it gone – “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” It is not just an aggravation, it was a pain and Paul continued to pray that God would remove it.

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