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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

A THORN IN THE FLESH

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

In the preceding chapter 11, Paul defended his apostleship. Even though it was not his nature to speak boastfully about himself, it was, under these circumstances, necessary to do so, because the congregation at Corinth was being undermined and led astray by false teachers. In order to gain their following, these teachers were attacking the character of Paul, trying to convince these Christians of Corinth, that he was not an apostle of Christ, and by doing so, trying to convince the members of the body of Christ that Paul's teaching was not the inspired word of God.

To speak in glowing terms about himself was not Paul's desire. Glory, for things he accomplished by proclaiming the cause of Christ, belonged to God, and not to himself. Yet he felt it necessary, at this time, to defend himself in order to convince the Christians at Corinth to accept, believe, and obey the word of God that he brought to them through his preaching. Because of his humble nature, Paul spoke of himself in the third person in the opening six verses of the subject chapter of this letter. He knew the man in Christ, referred to in verse 2, because the man was Paul, himself, as verse 7, of the lesson text reveals. The event referred to that happened to him fourteen years ago is not fully revealed anywhere else in the word of God, other that in this place. It appears to have been a divine experience that confirmed Paul to be an apostle, chosen by God, through Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel message of salvation throughout the world. Paul could have boasted of this event to prove his apostleship, however, he chose not to do so lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me (Vs. 6). He preferred to let his conduct of life and the truths found in his preaching, testify of him to be an apostle of Christ.

In the lesson text, Paul gives us another reason he was kept humble. He said that he there was given to me a thorn in the flesh ...lest I should be exalted above measure. What this was has been the source of much speculation. Certainly the false prophets (messenger(s) of Satan)could, figuratively, have beenthe thorn in the flesh,which buffeded Paul.Also, at every remembrance of his past sinful life, could have been a mental thorn in the flesh to him. Skolops is the Greek word from which thorn is translated, and it means something that is sharply pointed. From this language the thorn, referred to here, could also have been some painful, physical problem Paul experienced. What ever the thorn was, this we know; it was given to make Paul a humble servant of God. Three times Paul prayed to God that it might depart from me, and this is the answer God gave to him: My grace is sufficient for thee.

From this example, all servants of Christ can learn much, whether you are an elder, deacon, preacher, teacher, or simply a member of His body, the church of Christ. We learn about fervent prayer. Paul besought God in prayer; he pleaded and begged God repeatedly to remove this thorn from his flesh. Although Paul did not receive the answer he asked for, he did receive an answer with which he was contented - My grace is sufficient for thee. Servants of Christ are to pray fervently, and repeatedly, for God's blessings, but we are to accept His answer, always realizing Thy will be done (See Luke 11:2). Sometimes God's answer is "No," and we must accept His answer. The reason God did not remove the thorn from Paul's flesh, what ever it might be, was to keep him humble. However God gave Paul a much greater blessing - He gave him the strength to endure it. Paul said my strength is made perfect in weakness. Rather than complaining about the thorn, he gloried and took pleasure in (his) infirmities. Servants of Christ are to understand, from this example, that God does not always deliver us from trials and tribulations, from pain, or from many other afflictions, but He promises something even greater - He promises us that He will deliver us though them; to be able to bear them. Satan uses many different "thorns" to weaken a servant of Christ. God uses them to make Christians stronger!