Thorns, grace, power tools

In II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul asked God to remove a “thorn in the flesh” three times. He called it a “messenger of Satan,” given to him because of the revelations he’d received. Given to him by whom? For what?

Messenger = angelos, translated angel in all but three places in the New Testament, and those are all in the gospels quoting an Old Testament verse that applied to John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus.

Every other place angelos refers to an angel. Like Gabriel. Like the angel that delivered Peter from prison. Like the angels in the book of Revelation.

In the Old Testament thorns in the flesh were always pagan people that vexed God’s people. See Numbers 33:55 and Judges 2:3. Never does that word describe anything other than a person or personality. Angel of Satan. Demon-possessed person or demon itself.

Why does an evil personality harass a believer? In John 10:10 Jesus tells us. To steal, kill and destroy. This satanic angel came to steal Paul’s attention, sidetrack his ministry or undermine his influence with the community. Preventing his ego from being inflated, yes, but interfering with his confidence in Christ too.

Read Acts 16:16-19 about the woman at Philippi who had a spirit of divination. Following Paul around, she said the right things but she had a wrong spirit. Paul tolerated it for some days, then finally cast it out.

So, did the “thorn,” the evil personality succeed? No, he didn’t. Paul performed many signs, wonders and miracles – KJV says mighty deeds (dunamis). (See verse 12.)

Notice God’s response to Paul, a simple statement: My grace is sufficient for you. He didn’t say no, he said you already have the tools you need to get rid of that thing.

Grace = charis, gift, favor, gratuity; something Paul already had. Spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit’s tool kit. God’s power tools. Were they enough for the job? Certainly. More than sufficient for Paul to complete his mission.

Jesus had told him, My strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul said he would rather glory in his own weakness, then, so the power (dunamis) of Christ could rest on him. And it did indeed. His testimony in Chapter 11 is proof of that, all by itself.

Here’s the point: If a man could perform signs, wonders and miracles in his own strength, then he could get the glory for them.

But if he could perform signs, wonders and miracles despite his weakness, then God would get the glory for them. It’s not complicated.

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