2 Corinthians 12:7-11
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…
I. THE DANGER TO WHICH THE APOSTLE FELT HIMSELF EXPOSED, is that of being "exalted overmuch," or lifted up by pride. In one aspect of the case it seems that of all mere men St. Paul was the least likely to "fall into this snare of the devil." He was not accustomed to "boast of things without measure" (2 Corinthians 10:12, 13). "I have learned, in whatsoever estate I am, therewith to be content," etc. (Philippians 4:11-13). The life he lived, the suffering he bore, and the shame and reproach that were cast upon him, are not the things which generally cause men to be "puffed up." But, in another aspect, it is easy to discover in the apostle a disposition to "think of himself more highly than he ought to think." His spirit, though patient, serene, and humble, when under the influence of God's grace, was naturally proud and ambitious. His training, too, had fostered this spirit. His educational attainments were in no way despicable. And further, if we think of the manner in which some churches received him — as "an angel from heaven"; the profound respect in which he was held by some of his fellow-Christians, so that "if it had been possible, they would have plucked out their very eyes, and given them to him"; his equality with the chiefest of the apostles, and his almost unparalleled success in preaching the gospel, we shall have little difficulty in conceiving how Paul would be liable to regard himself as superior to most men of his day. This danger arose not from either of the things we have already named, as likely to produce self-glory, but from the abundance of the revelations God had given to him. And is it not so with ourselves? Our greatest successes are our greatest temptations. Failure humbles us.
II. GOD'S DESIGN IN GIVING PAUL "A THORN IN THE FLESH" WAS TO TEACH HIM A LESSON OF HUMILITY. Humility is the antithesis of pride, and it is also its antidote. It is a grace of the gospel of the choicest quality, and its cultivation is obligatory on all Christians. And yet humility is so repugnant to human nature, is a virtue so difficult of practice, that it seldom occupies its proper place, even in the heart of renewed man. Hence God has to humble us oftentimes by some painful trial.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively.