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Paul's Thorn in the Flesh (2 Corinthians 12,13)

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The Messenger Of Satan 2 Corinthians 12:7

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2 Corinthians 12

Paul speaks of the great revelations given to him
I must go on boasting (though there is nothing to be gained by it). I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ, 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 person was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man (whether in the body, or apart from the body, I do not know; God knows), 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 On behalf of such a one will I boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, save in my weaknesses. 6 For if I wanted to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be speaking the truth. But I will not boast, lest anyone should account me above that which he saw me to be, or hears from me. 7 By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, that I should not be exalted too much. 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 power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.

The motives for Paul’s planned visit to Corinth
11 I have become foolish. You compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you. For in nothing was I behind the super apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were done among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For in what way were you made inferior to the other churches, except that I was not a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong.
   14 Behold, this is the third time I have been ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you. For I do not seek your things, but you. For the children ought not to save up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less by you because of this? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, you say I was crafty, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 But did I really take advantage of you by any one of them whom I have sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go and I sent the brother with him. Did Titus take any advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?
   19 You think all this time that we are excusing ourselves to you. But in the sight of God we speak in Christ. All things, beloved, are for your upbuilding. 20 For I fear, lest by any means, when I come, I should find you not as I would wish, and should myself be found by you such as you would not wish. Lest by any means there should be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality and sensuality that they have practiced.


12:2 Paul speaks of himself as a "man in Christ"; he had the ability to see himself from outside of himself.

12:2 The third heaven- 'Heavens and earth' is sometimes used in the Bible to mean 'a system of things'. The first 'heaven' was the Mosaic system; we are now in the heavenly places of Christ (Eph. 1:3 2:6); the third heaven may therefore refer to the Kingdom age after Christ has returned. Paul was given a special vision of the Kingdom- "paradise" (v. 4), the Kingdom of God on earth when the original state in the garden of Eden will be restored.

12:6 If people have too high an opinion of us, we should inform them of our weakness, as Paul did.

12:7 Thorn in the flesh- This could refer to a physical weakness in Paul, maybe a speech impediment (10:1,10; 11:6). Or the reference to "flesh" could suggest a moral weakness in Paul- worldly women were 'thorns' to God's people in the past (Num. 33:55; Josh. 23:13). The 'satan' / adversary to Paul's work which was associated with his "thorn in the flesh" was however clearly the Jewish opposition to him, involving a group of false teachers following him around trying to get his converts to turn against him and return to the Jewish system.

12:8 This recalls the triple prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane that the cup of suffering would pass from Him.

12:9 There are things we too repeatedly ask God for, convinced that our service of Him will be enhanced if He hears our prayer. But the answer is the same for us as it was for Paul- the fact we have His grace and acceptance should mean that we ultimately lack nothing (Ps. 23:1; 34:10). The other part of the answer is that God loves to work through the broken, the small, those who think they aren't good enough or smart enough.

12:14 Paul saw his converts as his spiritual children. We can go through all the same emotions if we bring others to Christ.

12:15 Love that is unresponded to is one of the hardest human experiences. But it is what God and Jesus go through more than any; for the more we love and are prepared to love, the harder is the rejection.

12:21 I may have to mourn- He means, he may have to discipline them. But such discipline was motivated by true sadness.