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12. Paul's Vision and His Thorn

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7And 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. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

11I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. 12Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 14Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. 16But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. 17Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? 18I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps? 19Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. 20For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: 21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

9. He said to me. It is not certain, whether he had this answer by a special revelation, and it is not of great importance. 910910     Et aussi il n’est pas fort requis de la scauoir;” — “And besides, it is not greatly requisite to know it.” For God answers us, when he strengthens us inwardly by his Spirit, and sustains us by his consolation, so that we do not give up hope and patience. He bids Paul be satisfied with his grace, and, in the mean time, not refuse chastisement. Hence we must bear up under evil of ever so long continuance, because we are admirably well dealt with, when we have the grace of God to be our support. 911911     Et c’est assez;” — “And that is enough.” The term grace, here, does not mean here, as it does elsewhere, the favor of God, but by metonymy, the aid of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us from the unmerited favor of God; and it ought to be sufficient for the pious, inasmuch as it is a sure and invincible support against their ever giving way.

For my strength Our weakness may seem, as if it were an obstacle in the way of God’s perfecting his strength in us. Paul does not merely deny this, but maintains, on the other hand, that it is only when our weakness becomes apparent, that God’s strength is duly perfected. To understand this more distinctly, we must distinguish between God’s strength and ours; for the word my is emphatic. “My strength,” says the Lord, (meaning that which helps man’s need — which raises them up when they have fallen down, and refreshes them when they are faint,) “is perfected in the weakness of men;that is, it has occasion to exert itself, when the weakness of men becomes manifest; and not only so, but it is more distinctly recognized as it ought to be. For the word perfected has a reference to the perception and apprehension of mankind, because it is not perfected unless it openly shines forth, so as to receive its due praise. For mankind have no taste of it, unless they are first convinced of the need of it, and they quickly lose sight of its value, if they are not constantly exercised with a feeling of their own weakness.

Most gladly, therefore This latter statement confirms the exposition that I have given. I will glory, says he, in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me 912912     The original word, ἐπισκηνώσὟ, properly means, to pitch a tent, or tabernacle, upon. Raphelius quotes two passages from Polybius, in which the verb is used as meaning — to enter into, and dwell in. Τὸ δὲ τελευτασῖον ἐπισωκηνώσαντες ἐπὶ τὰς οἰκίας “and at last, having entered in, and taken possession of the houses.” Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ταῖς οἰκίαις ἐπισκηνώσαντες κατεῖχον τὴν πόλιν — “And after these things, having entered into the houses, they took possession of the city.” — CEcumenius, cited by Parkhurst, considers ἐπίσκηνώσὟ, as employed by the Apostle here, to be equivalent to ὁλη ἐν ὁλω κατοικήσὟ — “may entirely take possession of,me, and dwell in me.” — It is admirably well observed by Dr. Adam Clarke, that “the same Eternal WORD,” (of whom it is said in John 1:14, that he “was made flesh, and made his tabernacle among us, (ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν,) full of grace and truth,”) “promised to make his tabernacle with the Apostle, and gives him a proof that he was still the samefull of grace and truth, by assuring him that his grace should be sufficient for him.” — Ed. Hence, the man that is ashamed of this glorying, shuts the door upon Christ’s grace, and, in a manner, puts it away from him. For then do we make room for Christ’s grace, when in true humility of mind, we feel and confess our own weakness. The valleys are watered with rain to make them fruitful, while in the mean time, the high summits of the lofty mountains remain dry. 913913     Sees et steriles;” — “Dry and barren.” Let that man, therefore, become a valley, who is desirous to receive the heavenly rain of God’s spiritual grace. 914914     Much in accordance with this beautiful sentiment is Bunyan’s description of the “Valley of Humiliation,” in the second part of his “Pilgrim’s Progress.” “It is the best and most fruitful piece of ground in all these parts. It is fat ground, and, as you see, consisteth much in meadows; and if a man was to come here in the summer-time, as we do now, if he knew not any thing before thereof, and if he also delighted himself in the sight of his eyes, he might see that which would be delightful to him.
   ‘Behold how green this valley is! also how beautiful with lilies!’
(Song of Solomon 2:1.)

   I have known many labouring men that have got good estates in this Valley of Humiliation. (1 Peter 5:5.) ‘For God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.’ (James 4:6.) For indeed it is a very fruitful soil, and doth bring forth by handfuls.” — Bunyan’s Allegorical Works, (Glasgow, 1843,) p. 164. — Ed.

He adds most gladly, to show that he is influenced by such an eager desire for the grace of Christ, that he refuses nothing for the sake of obtaining it. For we see very many yielding, indeed, submission to God, as being afraid of incurring sacrilege in coveting his glory, but, at the same time, not without reluctance, or at least, less cheerfully than were becoming. 915915     “Ce n’est point si nayfuement et franchement qu’il faloit;” — “It is not so ingenuously and frankly, as it ought to be.”


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