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Paul's Thorn in the Flesh: God Doesn't Wink at Sin
Something To Think About
I recently had someone direct me to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. You know how it is; once you notice something, you see it everywhere. Well that’s what seems to be going on here. Some have misunderstood this passage to be a license to sin . Believing that, Paul’s thorn in the flesh, was some kind of sin that he couldn’t overcome. They are under the impression that God was telling Paul not to worry about this sin because His Grace is sufficient.
I suspect they are trying to say God loves us despite our sin, that He will forgive us when we fail. However, when we use this passage to illustrate that principle, it becomes a problem. This passage is not addressing sin in Paul's life. It is quite the opposite, these scriptures are explaining how God kept him from sin.
I have taken a few moments to jot down my most basic understanding of this verse. This is not intended to be a detailed explanation, but a quick and simple clarification to those who might have misunderstood this passage. May the truth of God’s Word bring you life more abundantly (John 10:10).
Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh
2 Cor. 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."
There has been a great deal of speculation as to how the thorn was manifested in Paul's life, Sadly, we do not have enough information to say for sure; but I believe we can safely rule out some kind of sin or temptation to sin. Paul describes this thorn as being 1. Sent by God to keep him humble, 2. As a messenger of Satan that buffets him. The word buffet plants a picture in our minds of a source of pain, like sandpaper rubbing against skin. 3. As an infirmity, some kind of Physical or mental weakness. Judging by these descriptions, he was dealing with some kind of physical issue that caused him pain or embarrassment.
After searching the scripture for clues, some have suggested that Paul had a speech impediment or possibly some kind of disfigurement from being beaten and stoned. Perhaps it was a consequence of some kind, from his life before Christ. A ghost of his past, as it were. I don't know. But consider that Paul asked that this thorn, what ever it was, be removed three times, but God said leave it, my grace is sufficient for you. Please consider that one of Paul's common themes is the power of God over sin. I don't believe God will wink at our sin by saying, "That's OK, don't worry about it, I got ya covered."
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
I believe that God's grace is both mercy and power. Grace is God's enabling presence in our lives. Not a license to sin.
1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
What I believe Paul would have us take from this passage is, sometimes, God’s grace is seen in our infirmities and weakness. Paul would have became arrogant had he not had been reminded of the frailty of his mortal body on a regular basis. He had come to see his “thorn in the flesh” as God’s grace, preventing him from sin.
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