"Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual." (1Cor. 2:12-13)
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Further considerations of the "thorn in the flesh".
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV)
We immediately assume that this thorn was given to Paul after he received the revelations from Christ. But looking at verse 10, we can see what Paul considers to be the product of the thorn's presence that causes God's strength to become perfect in us; weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; these are indeed the products of the messengers of Satan. They are everything inherent to all human nature since the Spiritual separation from God in Garden.
This thorn is also what separates us from the author of eternal life. Though God may now share his mysteries and power with us, it is Jesus alone who is the anointed one of God. Neither will there be will be any idolatry among men when his eyes and ears have been opened to the truth because his fallen nature, the life he now lives by faith in the Son of God, will always expose us for the clay pot that we are. By this distinction we know ourselves only as brothers and sisters in Christ, by whom Christ is the head.
In the world's system of religion, false Christs run rampant. They are the heads and controllers of communities of people. This is what conceited people do. So, anyone who is actually walking by the Spirit, won't set themselves up as despots unto the church; but more than that, we certainly will be able to identify them for what they are...a man just like us! There comes a time in our walk with God when we no longer desire to be impressed with nor led by people. Rather we long for true fellowship whereby the Holy Spirit is the common Life between us. We follow neither Paul nor Apollos.
In summation, the thorn in the flesh only becomes known by those whom the Spirit has overtaken the will of one's human nature; and the thorn itself is our fallen nature. In this way, we are prevented "from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations."
On a final note. Paul obviously had to know all this. So why was he praying that it be removed from him? There appears to be one particular "thorn" (perhaps a band of mocking super-apostles: verse 11) that was irritating him. Paul had great understanding, no doubt, but he, too, was a man just like us. He just happened to receive a greater revelation than most. (If you yourself have, you know that the persecutions increase greatly on this account.) Paul was not so removed from his flesh that he wouldn't try to rid himself of discomforts. But God revealed to him a greater cause than what Paul felt was important at the time.
We all, at times, would love to walk apart from the perversions of this world, but we have to remind ourselves what the ministry of Jesus looked like; and we were called to follow Him.
"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God." (2 Corinthians 3:4-5)