2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Weak, Yet Strong

by | Apr 11, 2023 | 2 Corinthians, New Testament

I. Paul’s Reluctant Boasting

A. Boasting Of Super Apostles

1. The Judaizers/False Apostles boasted about their “letters of commendation.” 2 Cor. 3:1

2. They loved the praise and recognition of men.

B. Paul Had Legitimate Reason To Boast-Visions From God

1. Paul had multiple, direct visions from God. Acts 9:3; 9:12; 16:9; 18:9, 10; 22:17; 23:11; 27:23

C. Revelations From God

1. Paul was given deep understanding into the mysteries of God.

2. Ephesians 3:2,3 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation…

D. Paul’s Vision/Visitation Regarding Heaven Vs. 1-4

1. Paul truly had something to boast about.

2. God greatly honored Paul by taking him up to heaven, and then sending him back.

3. Jewish rabbis spoke about themselves in the third person.

4. Paul adopted this method, in order not to seem to exalt himself.

5. We don’t know exactly how it happened, or what happened.

6. Paul was transported to heaven, either in his body, or simply in his spirit.

7. Some believe that it was when he was stoned and left for dead in Acts 14.

8. Paul called this place “the third heaven,” or “Paradise”, where God dwells.

a. 1st heaven- the clouds.

b. 2nd heaven- where the other planets are.

c. 3rd heaven- where God dwells.

9. Paul says he heard divine revelations, which are unlawful for man to utter.

a. And in all of this, Paul did not make it a practice to speak of this experience.

b. How different from many who have “bright light” experiences and write books.

c. They speak so freely and sometimes casually.

d. Paul saw and heard things that God would not permit Paul to repeat.

II. How Paul Responded To These Experiences Vs. 5-10

A. Paul’s Humility Vs. 5, 6

1. The Judaizers loved to boast about themselves.

2. Yet none of them could match this experience that Paul had.

3. They followed Moses, who had met God on Mt. Sinai. Paul met God in heaven.

4. Yet in all of this, he would not boast about his experiences.

5. He would only speak of his weaknesses, showing that the results came from God.

6. Example- Look what that carpenter built with only a hammer and a handsaw!

a. The carpenter gets the glory for doing so much with such primitive tools!

b. Paul was a primitive tool that God built churches with.

7. Paul sought only to relate what God had done in his life.

8. Even then, he was reluctant, lest it seem that he was trying to promote himself.

B. Paul’s Thorn In The Flesh Vs. 7, 8

1. V. 7- thorn- a sharp stake used for torturing or impaling someone.

2. Some type of physical affliction was put upon Paul.

3. The aggressor was Satan, and Satan afflicted Paul only through God’s permission

4. buffet- to beat, to strike with the fist. Either constant or recurring.

5. Possibly an eye disease, or physical ailments due to a stoning or being beaten with rods.

a. Galatians 4:13-15 13You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.

b. God permits and even uses evil to bring about godly results in his children.

6. This type of affliction made ministry very difficult. Traveling, letters, preaching.

a. But more importantly, it made Paul very dependent upon God.

7. V. 8- Paul pleaded with God to remove this, but God left Paul that way for his own good, and for the good of the ministry.

C. Paul’s Conclusion Vs. 9, 10

1. Paul Sought God. He prayed for healing He was willing to accept God’s answer.

2. Paul Shifted His Thinking. He quit praying for removal, and accepted this “gift”.

III. What Are Our Conclusions?

A. Man’s Evaluation Vs. God’s Evaluation

1. Men would have evaluated Paul the Pharisee as being usable based on knowledge and commitment to Judaism.

2. Men would have evaluated Paul the Apostle as being usable based on visions, knowledge

3. God determined that Paul would be most usable by suffering so that he would not depend upon his God given giftings, but on God’s presence and strength.

4. Paul was so gifted and experienced that pride could have ruined him.

5. God’s remedy was to bring affliction into his life to keep him humble and usable.

B. Regarding Suffering & Being Usable

1. Our view of suffering can be reduced to this: “If only….”

2. We believe that if only something, someone, or I were different, then I would find happiness, I could serve God, I would have joy, etc.

a. If I wasn’t suffering, God could use me…

3. Thorns/suffering are the “If onlys” of life.

4. Paul discovered that his “If only” was actually a gift from God, sent to benefit him.

a. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was given to him to keep him from the sin of pride.

b. To have gone to heaven and then come back could really puff you up.

5. Not wrong to pray for God to take suffering away. That is natural.

a. But do you want your will or God’s will?

b. Your response to God’s response will reveal what you really want.

c. If God takes your thorn away, then you go on happily.

d. But if He doesn’t, will you still worship, fellowship, serve?

e. In fact, can you take your thorn and allow God to make it something beautiful?

C. God’s Answer-Grace

1. The answer that Paul received from God was the message of grace.

2. God’s provision of our every need when we need it.

3. Sufficient grace- No shortage of God’s strength when and how we need it.

4. Strengthening grace- My power is being made perfect in your weakness.

5. Paul prayed for substitution; instead, God gave him transformation.

a. Paul prayed for health instead of sickness, deliverance instead of pain and weakness.

b. Sometimes God does answer through substitution. (Relief for suffering)

c. Other times He meets the need through transformation. (Suffering brings maturity)

6. Paul’s suffering wasn’t a tyrant working against him, but a servant working for him

God and Satan are both interested in your pain, in your burden, in your thorn.
God wants to see you purified by it.
Satan wants to see you destroyed by it.

God doesn’t give us grace just to endure our sufferings, but to rise above them.

Paul was able to do more than endure his hardship.
Many unbelievers can simply endure hardship.

God’s grace would cause to rise above endurance, but see God’s work through them on our behalf.
Paul was able to boast in his sufferings and trials.
He knew that they would build the strength of God in Him, if he would continue to seek the Lord, and depend upon God.

God wants to see you surrender to Him, and trust Him.
Satan wants you to give up hope in God and in life.

Through rightly seeking God, and receiving an answer from God…
1. Paul experienced the power of Christ in his life.
God transformed Paul’s weakness into the strength of God.
2. Paul was able to glory in infirmities.
3. Able to turn infirmities into assets.

P.T. Forsyth- It is a greater thing to pray for pain’s conversion, than for it’s removal.