These Earthly Thorns2 Corinthians 12:1-10Theme: Common Suffering.This week’s lessons teach us that God’s grace is all we need to get through life’s hardships. LessonIn the study of Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians, it is necessary to mention that he was dealing with the problem of gnosticism. Gnosticism was a particular Greek heresy based upon a number of Greek philosophical presuppositions. It paralleled the mystery religions that were also current in the Greek world at that time. The mystery religions had certain kinds of hidden knowledge that were communicated to those within the group. Many of these mystery religions expressed salvation in terms of acquiring this particular knowledge that was secret or special to the religion itself.
Now, if ever there was an opportunity for the Apostle Paul to establish something like that in Christianity, it was certainly here at the point of his special revelations. He could have said, “Now if the Gnostics think they have something special to tell you, I certainly have something that is even more special. There was given to me such wonderful insight that if you just give me time, I will come and then I will bring you into this secret, hidden aspect of Christianity.”
From a worldly point of view, that would have been a marvelous approach. Yet, the Apostle Paul does not do that because Christianity is not like that. Christianity does not have special, secret, hidden revelations. We do not have a little club here where, if you get close enough to the center, there is a little something special for you that makes you better than other people.
Our revelation is the Word of God; it is all spread out for everybody to read. Our problem is not that it is secret; our problem is that people do not want it because their hearts are evil. They do not want to come to the Holy God who has revealed himself and unfolded his doctrines before our eyes. Do not let people draw you into some special thing where there is a new emphasis that nobody has ever had before, doctored up in very spiritual language. When someone says, “The Holy Spirit revealed to me…” do not let people draw you into that. The Holy Spirit works through the Word. It may be that the Holy Spirit has revealed something to them. If that is the case, you can say, “Please show me where it is in the Word that the Holy Spirit has given you that understanding. Let us check your revelation by this objective standard,” and they should be able to do that. The Apostle Paul certainly gives us a warning along those lines.
Now why would Paul have had such a special revelation, so private, that he is not even able to talk about it? Most of us are pragmatists and egotistical, so we think that since Paul had the revelation, there must be some purpose in it for us.
I think in Paul’s case, we have a very clear illustration of why God gave him these special revelations. In the section immediately preceding this in chapter 11, Paul describes how he suffered, perhaps more in his ministry for Christ to the Gentiles than any another apostle. I read that and I think, how in the world could anybody live through that? How could one be repeatedly imprisoned, repeatedly flogged, exposed to death, lashed, beaten, in danger of so many kinds and not get discouraged and give up? I think it is at that point that God gave him this special revelation.
In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul revealed something of himself when he wrote in verse 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” If Paul was caught up into the third heaven, into paradise, into the presence of God, he saw the glory that is going to be revealed – glory that he could not communicate in human language. That glory was sufficient to sustain him through all the sufferings that he described in 2 Corin-thians 11.
If you are discouraged in the Christian life – if your responsibilities grind you down–think of the glory that shall be revealed. One day you are going to be like Jesus Christ in all his characteristics and you are going to share in his glory. If you can keep your mind on that, that can get you through the tough times. More than that, it can make you strong and God-honoring in your testimony by how you live your life.
Why didn’t Paul seek to establish his authority through the special revelations he received?
What is the underlying problem that people have with the Word of God?
According to Dr. Boice, what was the likely reason why God gave Paul special revelations?
Further StudyMeditate on the following passages: Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 4:12-14.