7th Sunday after Pentecost | July 8, 2018
2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
5 That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. 6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:2-10 | New Living Translation (NLT)
This is an interesting passage. I don’t know why, but I had never seen these two parts together before. We have skipped ahead in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. Paul has been recounting his trials. Earlier in the letter he wrote about having treasure in these jars of clay. Paul is receiving some opposition, but that doesn’t keep him down. As this section of the letter begins, it almost seems if Paul is going to go over the edge and start boasting – even in the opening lines it sounds like that – then Paul turns it around and says it doesn’t matter what happened in the vision. That doesn’t make me any better of a person and if I go ahead and boast about it, I’m lowering myself to the level of the false apostles that he was warning the church about.
Paul writes that he could boast about his vision and the way God is working through him…in fact, it is worth boasting about – BUT – I will only boast about my weaknesses. Boasting is only foolishness – after all the only thing worth boasting about is the cross of Jesus Christ. He wants his life to speak for itself. Paul wants people to see God working through him – and he has no need to defend himself or boast about what God is doing. In fact, he says that he will only boast about his weaknesses.
It is here that we get involved with Paul’s thorn in the flesh. We have no idea what it is – many have had their educated guesses, but the important thing here is, it was something that allowed Paul not to become proud.
Paul even prayed to God to take away the thorn, but God said no. Instead he responded, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Wow. I like how Paul puts it as he wraps up this section. “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am week, then I am strong.