From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield

Thorn in my Flesh

 Paul has written:-

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”  2 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV)

What could this thorn in Paul’s side actually be?

What did Paul receive from Satan? In fact what does everyone get from him? Satan committed the very first sin and from him sinfulness was passed on to the demons, those angels who decided to follow him. Then when Adam and Eve ate from his tree which represented his way of life, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they too became sinful. Sinfulness was passed onto the rest of humanity with one exception; of course Paul has to be included with the rest of us as the exception is someone else.

Just because Paul had received his wisdom through a direct revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12) does not mean he was any better than any other, it just means that he understood the truth of his situation. Paul with his greater understanding of the Gospel was more aware of his sinful condition and therefore of all the sinners he considered he was the chief. (1Timothy 1:15)

We get an inkling of why Paul had such a low opinion of himself because in Romans 7:7-9 he explains how the Law killed him. Had it not been for the 9th commandment he would have continued in his self-righteousness considering himself to be alive in the service of God, but that commandment demonstrated he was no better than those around him as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Paul’s sinfulness produced in him certain covetous desires which he was unaware of until he realised the implications of the 9th commandment. “do not covet”.  (NIV)

I know people that don’t have a covetous bone in their bodies, they are jealous of no-one; they have no desire to have something belonging to another. Are the better than Paul?

The answer is no; their sinfulness expresses itself in another area totally different to that of Paul’s.

Everyone has areas of strength and areas of weakness, in the case of Paul it would appear his was jealousy, while for others it could be another weakness entirely.

Paul was aware of his area of weakness and if he combined this with his revelation from Jesus Christ, he can teach the principle of how to overcome it through personal experience.

I would imagine Paul was in fellowship with God more than most because of his tremendous insight, he understood how God works through believers. However just to make sure Paul knew his personal situation; God would not take away his sinfulness even though he had asked God to remove it three times. Paul’s superior knowledge did not mean he received special favors from God. Paul had to deal with his sinfulness just like the rest of us. Of course the great advantage Paul had was his faith in God which was enhanced by his knowledge and for that reason alone he stood to gain a great deal.

Knowledge of God and the way he deals with mankind did not make Paul a better person. But Paul’s understanding of the need for him to be filled with the Spirit made it possible for him to live a better life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, ect. is the fruits of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22 and all of them were within Paul’s reach because he understood the principle.

At the same time Paul was obviously not always in fellowship with God, as he did not always apply his knowledge because in Romans Chapter 7 he talks about the struggle he has with his sinfulness.

“For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing”. (Verse 19) (NIV)

So Paul by his own admission is no better than, let me think, why he is no better than you or me!

However Paul was a wise person, and the reason we know this is because:-

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.. A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. (Proverbs 12:15+16) (NIV)

Paul had the righteousness of God to contrast with his own life and could easily see he fell well short of God’s standard, therefore he knew when he was wrong. Because he was sinful there was a degree of being unable to help himself, but he did not consider he was right when his sinfulness controlled his life, and therefore he covered his shame.

When Paul requested the thorn be removed, God replied that his grace was sufficient as his power was made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The issue that is settled in our lifetime is not how good or bad we turned out to be, but how faithful we were.

It must be remembered that the sins we commit have no effect on God what so ever. Satan committed the first one and became sinful, other angels followed him and then they became sinful too. Mankind accepted Satan’s policy of “Good and Evil” and now we are also sinful. Everyone who accepts salvation through faith in Jesus Christ will go to Heaven, but by then our sinfulness will be destroyed along with our sinful bodies. With the righteousness of God we received at the point of our salvation we are no longer sinful at the point of death so our only option in Heaven is perfection.

The sins everyone commits is down to Satan and as part of ruling the world he has sort them out. The part sins play in the believers life is they indicate we are functioning from our sinfulness and therefore we are out of fellowship with God, because God can have nothing to do with sinfulness.

Does God care if Paul is functioning from his sinful nature? The answer is no! What God was interested in was Paul’s reaction when he realised his condition.

Paul’s strength was in his weakness, because when he was weak then he realised he had get back in fellowship to be strong again.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12 9) (NIV)

Trevor Topsfield


Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.


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