Summary: In the previous chapter Paul’s focus of attention has been on earthly, physical experiences in the gospel. In order to avoid exalting himself he describes these experiences in the third person.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PASSAGE:
To seek to earn, merit, or purchase salvation is to insult the Giver. Imagine yourself invited to a banquet in the White House by the president of the United States. You are seated at a table that is filled with the choist foods. Every effort is made to give you a most enjoyable evening. At the end of a lovely visit, the president stands at the door to bid you good-bye. What do you do? As you leave do you press a dime into his hand and say, “Thank you very much for your kindness. I realize it has cost you a lot of money, and I want to help you pay for the meal.” Is that the proper response to his kindness? On the contrary, it would be a very rude and insulting gesture. So it would be with God’s grace. (William MacDonald, The Grace of God - Swindoll’s Book of Illustrations, p. 250.)
In the previous chapter Paul’s focus of attention has been on earthly, physical experiences in the gospel. In order to avoid exalting himself he describes these experiences in the third person.
1. The revelation (vv. 1 6) Fourteen years before the writing of this letter Paul had been caught up into the very presence of Christ in heaven (v. 20). Paul was not quite sure whether God had taken him bodily to heaven, or whether his spirit had left his body. Possibly this was when he was stoned and his broken and bruised body lay in the dust near Lystra (Acts 14:19). At any rate Paul had kept quiet about this experience for 14 years. If he had been seeking honor for himself, he would have immediately told what had happened and would have become famous. Instead, he exercised discipline and told his experience to no one.
2. The thorn in the flesh (vv. 7 10) The Lord knows how to balance our lives. If we have only victories and blessings, we may become proud; so He permits us to have burdens as well. For this reason he permitted his dear apostle to have a "thorn in the flesh." We do not know what it was except that it was some annoying, painful and persistent source of suffering. Some Bible scholars think it was an eye affliction of some kind (Galatians 6:11). Three times Paul asked the Lord to remove it but instead He just gave him the grace to endure it.
God did not give Paul any explanations but instead gave him His grace. When I face obstacles, it is only by His grace and His power that I will be made effective to do a work that has everlasting value.