The twelfth chapter of 2 Corinthians is known because it references Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Debate continues about what the thorn was and countless words have been dedicated to the idea. Trying to figure out what the thorn is causes us to miss the point of the passage. God’s Word is sufficient so if He left it out then it’s not by accident. But that is a post for later. Paul introduces us here to a theology of weakness. Here is an excerpt 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Now the majority of us probably have not had great revelations and visions of heaven. Paul had been taken to heaven, in bodily form or just in his mind we do not know. Paul was given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan. Most likely from the context of 2 Corinthians it was a physical ailment that was persistent. Paul, three times pleaded with the Lord to remove it or be healed. God’s answer was no I will leave it for my glory and your good.

A few things to notice. In verse 7 even though Paul recognizes that the thorn is from Satan and a result of the fall he attributes the meaning behind it to God. Paul thoroughly understood the sovereignty of God and recognized His ability to use the thorn for Paul’s sanctification. Paul sees the bigger picture. He sees the spiritual world overlaying our physical one.

God says in verse 9 that His grace is sufficient in Paul’s weakness. In 2 Corinthians Paul writes to battle false teachers and false apostles at the church in Corinth. These false men boast of their greatness and ridicule the weaknesses of Paul. Paul is physically unappealing and his style of preaching is not pretty. So Paul begins to boast of the grace of God.

Paul boasts of God’s grace in his weakness, the thorn. Paul says God allowed the thorn so that the gospel may go forth. Paul recognizes that God will be more glorified by leaving the thorn than if he healed him. He embraces their insults about the weakness and proclaims how God has used it for the gospel. We usually attack back when insulted.

How often do you boast of your weakness? We are taught from a young age to cover up our weaknesses or to emphasize our strengths. Our weaknesses often bring us shame. This passage teaches us that God’s power is greatly revealed in our weaknesses. Our weaknesses are no accident and God desires to use them for His glory.

How can God use your weakness to further the gospel? How can he use your weakness to look more like Christ? Our weaknesses illuminate our humanity, our fragility, and the limits of our ability. When we are strong we are much more likely to operate out of our own capacity. God can be glorified in our strengths. God used the strengths of Paul.

You are weak for the glory of God and your own good. Pray and ask God how He wants to proclaim the good news through your weakness. Your weaknesses are not for your shame, but for the glory of God.

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