What does God mean when He says His grace is sufficient for us in our weakness?
This question is a reference to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 — and it’s a verse that often gets pulled out of context. So, let’s take a closer look.
In the previous chapter, we see Paul demonstrating his credibility as an apostle as well as the lack of credibility of false teachers who were attacking his apostolic ministry. He mentions his physical presence with the Corinthians as being weak and also refers to his lack of oratory skills in 2 Corinthians 10:10 (although he wasn’t unskilled in knowledge).
His bodily weakness is attributed to the innumerable occurences of physical, mental and emotional persecution endured at the hands of fellow countrymen, Gentiles, robbers etc. Also, his daily concern and his anxiety for all the churches has made him physically weak (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
With all of these weaknesses coming to him as part of working for God and His kingdom (Acts 9:15-16), Paul chooses to boast and speak at length about these same weaknesses (11:30, 12:1) in the background of a vision and revelation that he had from the Lord 14 years prior to the writing of 2 Corinthians (probably in AD 41; the events recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:30-33 date somewhere around that time).
Back then, Paul was in the early stages of his Christian life and ministry, where he didn’t have the persecution that he now recounts. He heard things that could not be told or uttered. God chose Paul to be the medium through whom believers would receive the majority of the New Testament revelation. With such a privilege that God gave in the form of the greatness of the revelation, God also gave a thorn in the flesh — a messenger from Satan to harass Paul.
Back then, Paul was in the early stages of his Christian life and ministry, where he didn’t have the persecution that he now recounts
I believe this ‘thorn in the flesh’ is a reference to all of the physical, mental and emotional persecutions recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. God had previously told Ananias too, in Acts 9:15-16, about how He would show Paul how much the apostle would suffer for Christ (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Given this context, we see Paul making the following conclusions:
In answer to the petition that he put three times before God, we see God’s reply:
Paul recognises that God allowed this specific weakness to keep him from being conceited on account of the great revelations he’d received
All of the weaknesses that happen in our life because of our walk with God, and the resulting persecution that comes as part of this calling, are brought in by Satan to hinder God’s work. As believers, we can take comfort in three facts:
The result of God’s grace being sufficient for our weakness is that he brings a different perspective to our weaknesses and helps us see them in a different light. Instead of praying to remove it (which is ultimately His choice), we depend on God to take us unscathed in our faith through these weaknesses.
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