2 Corinthians 12:1-10
In What Should the Christian Boast?
Having listed his qualifications as an apostle, which Paul seems to think has less to do with his nativity and heritage and more to do with his labors and sufferings, he tells us of a divine encounter he had, which is yet another personal experience from the life of the great Apostle of which we would have no information had it not been for these wayward Corinthians and their preference for show over substance. Only this time, Paul speaks not of his sufferings but of a tremendous revelation which God graciously gave him, so breathtaking in fact that Paul still couldn’t tell whether he was in the body or out of the body (in the spirit) when he was caught up into (the third) heaven. But as was with recounting his sufferings, he is reticent to relate this event and so employs the third person as he writes, partly out of humility, partly because it was such a rapturous experience that it still, no doubt, seemed to him while it was happening as if he were on the outside watching himself rather than being the very same man who was raptured. Regardless, in proof of his apostleship, Paul moves from sufferings he had experienced to revelations God had granted him.
And yet, he still doesn’t want to boast in that wonderful blessing. Indeed, Paul relates an ongoing affliction God used to keep the Apostle humble, a “thorn in the flesh.” Paul never tells us what that thorn was. Some have surmised from his letter to the Galatians that Paul suffered from some chronic eye ailment (4:12-15), while others wonder about some kind of demonic harassment (“messenger of Satan,” ESV Study Bible, 2238). We shall never know. But that is unimportant. What is important according to Paul is what God said to him when he pleaded with the Lord to take it away: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So Paul concludes that he is content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, for it is then that the power of Christ rests upon him, for it is when he is weak that he is then strong.
I don’t like these words; they scare me. I can imagine a lot of awful things that could happen to me that our increasingly pagan society might soon dish out. But God seems to prefer me weak; he likes it when I’m driven to my knees. He wants me to rely solely on Him and not on a President, a court, or a nation. He wants me to scorn the arm of flesh and grasp hold of the arm of God. Pagans will always rely on the flesh and the world where they can manipulate matters to their chosen ends; they are naturals at that game (Luke 16:8). Don’t envy them; our power is greatest when we are weakest.