2 Cor 11:30-12:10 chiastic structure:
1a) 2 Cor 11:30-33, Paul’s boast in infirmites + God’s protection:
1) 2 Cor 11:30, If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity;
2) 2 Cor 11:31, God knows that I am not lying;
3) 2 Cor 11:32-33, Paul’s danger/ God’s protection in Damascus;
1b) 2 Cor 12:1a, It is not profitable for me to boast;
1c) 2 Cor 12:1b, I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord;
central axis) 2 Cor 12:2-4a, Three part theme repeated twice:
1.1) 2 Cor 12:2a, I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago;
1.2) 2 Cor 12:2b, Whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows;
1.3) 2 Cor 12:2c, Such a one was caught up to the third heaven;
2.1) 2 Cor 12:3a, And I know such a man;
2.2) 2 Cor 12:3b, Whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows;
2.3) 2 Cor 12:4a, How he was caught up into Paradise;
2c) 2 Cor 12:4b, I heard inexpressible words;
2b) 2 Cor 12:4c, It is not lawful for a man to utter;
2a) 2 Cor 12:5-10, Paul’s boast in infirmities + God’s grace:
1) 2 Cor 12:5, Of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities;
2) 2 Cor 12:6, For I will speak the truth;
3) 2 Cor 12:7-10, Paul’s thorn in the flesh/ God’s grace.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
Paul begins by describing someone he knows (probably himself) who had this amazing vision or maybe even was transported bodily, to Paradise, and heard and saw awesome things. Paul is the one the LORD revealed much of the theology of the New Testament to, that was always present in Torah, but hidden till the proper time – that salvation was by grace through faith, and so on and so on. Most of Jesus’ disciples were uneducated fishermen. Paul, on the other hand, was a Pharisee, taught in the Law, and educated in the school of the most preeminent Torah scholar of his day. He saw the Messiah in Torah and understood the theology of the entire Scriptures the way no one else has, because God increased revelations to him (2 Cor 12:7).
But then Paul says that in order to keep him walking in humility in this life, God allowed a thorn in the flesh to afflict him. We don’t know what the thorn was – a physical ailment of some kind? Paul performed miracles everywhere he went, because God was showing everyone else that Paul’s message was anointed and ought to be listened to. But Paul did not get his own miracle, even though God was perfectly able to do it for him.
God hedged Paul in by his thorn, whatever it was, to protect him from going outside the boundary of humility and be ensnared by pride. God knew to do this for Paul, because God knew his going out and coming in – He knew his strengths and weaknesses, and what strategies the enemy would employ to try to cause his downfall. God winnowed certain things out of Paul’s path, and left certain things in Paul’s path.
God then told him to be content with the grace that he had already received from the LORD, and to stop seeking him to be free of his thorn. Then God says something very significant: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God gives us what is sufficient for us. If we struggle with a weakness in our lives – not a weakness of character, but a weakness of the flesh – an illness, or poverty, or a circumstance we live with that cramps or confines us – it may be there because God has allowed it to be there.
But we are not alone in living with that weakness. God is with us, and when we overcome, and God works supernatural and amazing things through us, it is more clearly seen to be God that did it, and not us, because we are too weak to display such strength and power.
And one day our weaknesses and our afflictions, all thorns of the flesh, will be removed from us!