A Thorny Issue

23 08 2012

When circumstances of life have you asking “Why?” read II Corinthians 12:7-10. It is one of God’s most profound truths to the question of suffering and one of the most precious treasures owned by His children. Its simple enough for a new Christian to grasp yet deep enough to arouse the passions of the mature. It is a passage where many wounded hearts have been healed and many discouraged souls have found a new song. For the next few posts, I would like us to pause and breathe deeply the aroma of this beautiful flower.

In context, false teachers were denying his apostleship criticizing him. They did so to lend more credibility to their own authority and ministry. Since Paul never bragged about his own credentials, these false teachers were gaining a following. In order to negate their heresies, Paul cracks the door of his own personal life and experiences. One area of defense is perhaps the cause of his own bodily weakness (II Corinthians 10:10). It involves a vision so humbling that he tells it in the third person and speaks about “a man”. Fourteen years ago, this man was caught up into the third heaven (literally: “An upper region to the heavens”). In verse 4 it is equated with the word “paradise” (literally: “a shady and well-watered place”). In verse 5 this same place is called “glory”. Many believe that when Paul was stoned in Lystra and left for dead (Acts 14:19), he actually died and went to Heaven. Because of that journey to paradise and the words spoken there, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh. This thorn kept him from bragging about this vision like his false counterparts bragged about theirs. (You do not have to read between the lines to figure that the stoning itself could give life-long disabilities). Because of that thorn, Paul is able to connect with our pain as he speaks of his experience. He never bragged about his vision, but he bragged about the weakness that the thorn gave him (verses 5 & 6). Strange.

2Co 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

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