Bible Answer

Understanding 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Can you please expound on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Does Pastor Armstrong have a teaching on this chapter?

While Pastor Armstrong has yet to teach 2 Corinthians, he has commented on that passage in the course of other teaching. The passage reads:

2Cor. 12:6 For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.
2Cor. 12:7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me — to keep me from exalting myself!
2Cor. 12:8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
2Cor. 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
2Cor. 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Pastor Armstrong notes that Paul clearly did not want to reveal the nature of his ailment specifically because the Lord gave it to Paul to keep Paul humble. Therefore, it would be counter-productive for us to seek to know the mystery of his condition, since the Lord (and Paul) desired to keep it from being known. The only thing Paul revealed was that his condition was ordained by God and involved the agency of a demonic spirit (i.e., messenger of Satan). 

Beyond that we do not know what Paul suffered, and Paul did not tell us because he did not want to exalt himself by inviting our pity, which would be an act of pride on his part. Therefore, Pastor Armstrong teaches that God intended that Paul's condition remain unknown and so we should not speculate either. Instead, we simply recognize the danger of human pride knowing that even the great Paul needed a counterweight for his pride. 

Furthermore, whilst Paul prayed to the Lord seeking to have this malady taken away, the Lord refused to do so stating that God’s grace to Paul was sufficient. The grace that the Lord is referring to is our salvation in Christ and all that comes from it. The Lord was reminding Paul that his salvation in Christ was sufficient (i.e., enough) satisfaction and preparation to face anything, since it meant Paul would one day be taken away from all suffering. 

In the meantime, episodes of suffering work to bring God glory, because “power is perfected in weakness,” which means that Paul’s opportunity to glorify God would be increased by Paul’s weaknesses. The Lord brought Paul his difficulty so that Paul would not think himself inherently powerful or capable, thus forcing Paul to rely all the more on God for help. Paul’s weakness made it clear to Paul and everyone else that the great things Paul did were the product of God’s power, not his own. In that way God would receive more glory in Paul’s work (rather than Paul receiving the praise for himself). 

So Paul applies the lesson of this truth in v.10: a Christian should be content in weaknesses and difficulties because we have our salvation, which is enough, and in those moments we show God to be strong working through us. Meanwhile, we take satisfaction in knowing His grace to us in Christ is sufficient to deliver us from sin and death one day. Therefore, our weaknesses do not need to be taken away by God in order for us to have hope and joy. We find those things knowing We belong to God and He can accomplish much through us despite weaknesses.