Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

Paul was accused by the super-apostles and their followers in Corinth of being an inferior leader.

If the people turned from Paul’s message, they would not only turn from Paul, but also from Jesus. This issue was so serious that Paul strongly stated his qualifications.

2 Corinthians 12.1-4It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows.

And I know that such a person — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows — was caught up into paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

Paul’s credentials involved a heavenly vision so profound that he was unable to discuss it. The super-apostles had letters of recommendation, but Paul had a powerful personal experience of the Lord.

It is one thing to listen to someone who is a good student of the Bible. It is quite another experience to hear someone who has a deep relationship with Jesus in addition to a good scholarship.

People like Dallas Willard, Henry Blackaby, and Richard Foster fit in the latter category. Our lives are always richer when we combine good Bible study with a genuine love relationship with God.

Paul’s Boast

Paul had experiences with Jesus that few persons have ever had. Yet, his boasting was in his weakness.

2 Corinthians 12.5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.

Let’s recall the hymn in Philippians 2. Paul knew the best way to live was to have a mind that was aligned with Jesus.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,

But emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human,
He humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2.5-8)

Jesus trusted the Father’s love and plan to such a great extent that he was willing to release all heavenly glory and privilege to live according to the weakness of a human servant.

Paul understood the life of Christ and modeled his life after Jesus. We do well to adopt that lifestyle too.

God’s Help

God helped Paul live a humble and dependent life by allowing a thorn from Satan to afflict him.

2 Corinthians 12.7-10Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Many people wonder about the nature of Pau’s “thorn in the flesh.” The real issue, however, is not the nature of the thorn but Paul’s reaction.

Paul’s boast of weakness was more than rhetoric; it was quite genuine.

(1) In living a cross-like life (weakness), God’s grace was more evident.

(2) Weakness allowed the power of Christ to live more fully in Paul’s life.

(3) The right appropriation of weakness resulted in strength. It was not the strength of an individual but the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Please spend some time thinking about the Philippians 2 passage I have included in today’s article.

If Jesus saw humility and servanthood as the best life possible, should we not surrender the direction of our lives to God?

If this surrender leads to humility and weakness, can we trust God enough to expect his strength to be present?

The only way we can know this is to surrender and do things God’s way.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. Please visit the Bob Spradling channel for the video.

Please email your prayer requests to and the Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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