While comparing himself to the Corinthian’s “super-apostles,” who were actually “false apostles,”
Paul intentionally lowered himself to self-promotion and boasting so the Corinthians could compare
a true apostle with the false apostles. Paul had boasted extensively in Second Corinthians 11:16-12:6, but did it as a self-proclaimed fool in order to prove a point.
In Second Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul uses an example to show that it is not human greatness or human strength that God needs in order to do his work (although, God can uses great humans
with great human strengths). God works through men, for men and because of men, but men are
not the source of God’s work.
Paul vaguely introduces a great personal weakness he is afflicted with that he merely identifies as
“a thorn in the flesh.” Paul pleaded with God to remove this “thorn in the flesh” on three different occasions. Paul must feel he could be more productive, more comfortable, more focused, and
more blessed if this “thorn in the flesh” were no longer part of his life. Paul might assume that he could be a greater apostle and the Corinthians might be less likely to be drawn towards the false “super-apostles” if only Paul did not have to deal with this “thorn in the flesh.”
Once again, Paul’s greatness and his effectiveness in ministry comes from God’s power, God’s grace, God’s spirit moving though Paul. A greater Paul would not mean a greater ministry.
Indeed, Paul did do great things, work extremely hard and exploited his natural abilities, time and opportunities for his ministry as we read in Second Corinthians 11:16-12:6, but it was God’s power flowing through both the strength and the weakness of the man. The key is God’s power, not the man.
Paul had spent time promoting his own greatness in order to show the Corinthians he was not impressed with the false “super-apostles. Paul now finishes with this point: Just because a man is strong, impressive, captivating, and has people’s attention, does not mean God’s power is there.
Even Paul had to learn this from God when Paul pleaded three times to ask God to remove
“the thorn in his flesh.” God told the Apostle Paul:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”