example to us in the matter of those things that might tend to make us
feel exalted above measure and in drawing strength from the Lord in
AIM: That we
might consider that which we have received by faith and know ourselves
to be privileged but to recognize that our lot in life may keep us
anchored in humility.
of this passage are often quoted in that it emphasizes the present
reality of Heaven while calling attention to a good example in dealing
with suffering and trial.
1. Much that is believed concerning Heaven
is a matter of speculation, but here some precious aspects of it are
here set forth.
2. There is also much speculation as to the nature of
Paul’s thorn in the flesh – men love to turn things stated into clues –
Paul stated what it was.
3. The message to us is one of seeing that
there is reason to feel exalted as we consider the wonders of salvation
and attachment as citizens of the Kingdom and heirs to Heaven and
earthbound sufferings that promote humility and a patient waiting for
THESIS: As did Paul, we
are to strive to behold the glory of Christ in any circumstance while
recognizing that the lot we are appointed in life has the effect of
properly involving the grace of God in all ways – even suffering.
I. A reason to glory not claimed (vv. 1-4)
1. The experience that
Paul related and its dual purpose
1) A matter of no expediency (for
him personally) but serving the purpose of God in relating it.
uncertainty as to his state when this occurred
3) Some clues as to
Heaven and its accessibility
i. The third Heaven indicating the
dwelling place of God and the heavenly host.
ii. Contrasted with the
“airy” heaven and the “starry” heaven.
2. It is important to note
that he acknowledges that it was in Christ that this happened and that
he doubles the statement as to his own uncertainty.
3. He did sense
1) He knew it was paradise
2) He knew that he had
an identity with it in that it was in Christ
3) He knew that it was
infinitely far removed from the manner of fallen human existence
He knew that the language spoken and understood was not compatible with
5) He sensed the presence of God.
i. We are
reminded that Christ had audibly spoken to Paul at his conversion and
ii. At Corinth the Lord had spoken to him and assured him
of his presence
iii. And it may have been the Lord that appeared to
him as the man of Macedonia.
II. A God-honoring desire expressed
1. The experience had left a lasting effect that was
expressed in his desire to depart and be with Christ which was far
better – “For to me to live is Christ, but to die is gain…”
would have been easy for him to dwell on the fact that he had been so
3. But, he chose to rather direct attention to that
which could be common to all.
1) His infirmities and the manner in
which he dealt with them would be readily understood by all and
especially by them that suffer.
2) He, like others was able to
celebrate that he had been counted worthy to suffer for his Lord.
So, he would suppress the tendency to remind himself and others of that
precious experience for fear that some might think him as anything other
than the man they saw him to be (Paul was horrified at Lystra when some
perceived them to be gods).
5. His intent was to be heard as he
delivered up the Gospel and exalted Christ above all else.
divine method for humbling (7-8)
1. God’s ways are often not those we
would have chosen but they are far more effective:
1) It was not a
put down for Paul that the Lord so dealt with him – it was to protect
Paul from being diverted away from his devotion to Christ and the Gospel
2) It was not that this thing was forced on him; it was rather perceived
by Paul as a gift!
i. Many have conjectured as to what this “thorn”
was, thinking it to be some debilitating disease of infirmity.
Paul calls with what it is regardless of the form it was “the messenger
of Satan” to buffet him. Paul spoke, in other places, of his own
iii. Surely he was reminded at this time of the
thorns that our blessed Lord wore as He went to the cross and Paul’s
only glorying was in the Cross!
2. It accomplished the purpose of
driving Paul to prayer and the privilege of coming “boldly to the throne
of Grace” far outweighs any suffering here. He knows our limits and
IV. A faith enhancing and securing experience (vv.
1. The answer to Paul was all encompassing as it should be to
1) That Lord’s grace is sufficient is not limited to fleshly
2) This is that which has been procured and secured by the
blood of Christ
3) It not only insures our identity with all that is
in Christ and our heavenly home but all that lies between.
4) He is
after all the God of all Grace (But the God of all grace, who hath
called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have
suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 1
2. The reaction of Paul is exemplary as he was enabled
to take pleasure in the things that men dread and consider a curse.
1) He saw them as being for Christ’s sake and
2) He saw unbelievable
strength in weakness!