Unity Through Humility & Sacrifice
Paul’s Visions and His Thorn
I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visionsand revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught upto the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. AndI know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the bodyI do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may notutter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except ofmy weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would bespeaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he seesin me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassinggreatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan toharass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lordabout this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, formy power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of myweaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, Iam content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when Iam weak, then I am strong.
Concern for the Corinthian Church
I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For Iwas not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of atrue apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wondersand mighty works. For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, exceptthat I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!
Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seeknot what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, butparents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love youmore, am I to be loved less? But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, yousay, and got the better of you by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of thosewhom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus takeadvantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?
Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is inthe sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find menot as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander,gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me beforeyou, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have notrepented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.