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2 Corinthians 12:7-14

2 Corinthians 12:7-14

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Sermon: Thorn in the Flesh and Grace of God
Bible Passage: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I. Background

1. Apostle Paul defends his apostleship from the attacks of his critics by highlighting a few points of boasting:

a. About his heritage (11:22)
b. About his accomplishments (11:22-23)
c. About visions and revelations (12:1-6)
d. About the miracles (12:11-13)

2. Though Apostle Paul has many points to boast about, he does not do it because:

a. There is a tendency in him and human being in general to become spiritually and morally arrogant (verse 7a)
b. God does not want him to become arrogant (verse 7a, b)
c. Therefore, God has placed in him a “thorn in the flesh” (verse 7b)

II. The expression “thorn in the flesh” (12:7) is a metaphor that most likely came from Num 33:55

1. It could mean a simple “thorn” in one’s body that may be easily removed
2. It could also mean a disadvantage that limits one’s ability to freely move and that causes continuous discomfort—a metaphor
3. The word “torment” in verse 7 signifies an ongoing debilitating discomfort
4. It was God who gave it to him so that he would not become “arrogant”

a. Because of his heritage, accomplishments, and spiritual experiences, Paul might tend to “exalt himself” or become “arrogant”/“prideful”
b. It will also to protect the Corinthians from placing Paul on a “high pedestal”

III. Two conclusions about the “thorn in the flesh”

1. For Paul, living with the thorn was not a pleasurable experience
2. The thorn was used to buffet Paul and it was a constant cause of pain and embarrassment
3. However, there was a positive side to the thorn, i.e., it prevented Paul from becoming “arrogant” (verse 7)

IV. Paul’s take on the “thorn in the flesh” (vv.9-10)

1. Paul asked the Lord to remove it from his life (verse 8)
2. Instead of removing the thorn, God chose to let Paul live with it (verse 9)
3. Paul views his thorn from the perspective of God’s grace
4. i.e., God not only allowed it, but also helps(ed) him in his pain (verse 9)
5. Paul’s painful, negative situation became a platform for God to demonstrate his power (verse 9)
6. The thorn humbled Paul (verse 9)
7. As much as Paul acknowledged his own pain, so much he acknowledged God’s grace (verse 9-10)
8. Despite the continued presence of the thorn, Paul could continue to carry on his work for the Lord (verse 9) [i.e., he learned to live with it]
9. In other words, the thorn ceased to be his focus, but God’s grace became his focus (verse 10)

V. Observations

1. Admitting pain, weaknesses, and relying on God’s grace is essential for Christian living and service (not living in denial)
2. God’s grace is the only way a Christian becomes and remains Christian
3. Quality of our life is not in the absence of “thorn,” but it is our complete reliance on the grace of God
4. Perfection in Christian life is not moral behaviour, but Christ’s power, which fills where there is a weakness [it is not the legalism, but grace of Christ
5. The fulfilment of God’s power comes not necessarily in heavenly visions and ecstatic demonstrations, but in earthly weakness
6. One needs to focus on God rather than focusing on the pain and embarrassment caused by the thorn

Take Away

Allow God to use your weaknesses as instruments to let you experience His grace

Speaker: William J. Subash

Born and raised in south India, William J. Subash became a follower of Jesus Christ in 1983 at the age of nineteen. After a brief career in a tea and coffee plantation, Subash decided to spend rest of his life to preach about Jesus and his life-transforming message of God, which is popularly known as “the Gospel.” Subash teaches New Testament Studies at two institutions: SAIACS in India and Liberty University Online, VA, USA. Currently, Subash serves as the chief point person for GROW Gospel Initiatives and the Lead Pastor of the Crossroad Church, Bangalore. Write to him at wjsubash@crossroadbangalore.org