The conclusion of second Corinthians illustrates how Paul appreciated that “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated” (verse 7). Who gave it to him? Paul sees this messenger as being part of the will of God.
We cannot be sure what this thorn was. Some disability perhaps – many say it was poor eyesight. In Galatians chapter 6, Paul writes “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” (verse 11), indicating difficulty in writing most likely caused by poor eyesight. This handicap, whatever it was, stopped him from being too elated and so he says, “for the sake of Christ then I am content with weaknesses …”.
Why is it “a messenger of Satan”? This is a figure of speech to describe adversity. Satan, a Hebrew word, is translated in the Old Testament many times as “adversary” and a particular individual is named. It is adversity that brings out the best in disciples! All strengths need to be tested to make sure they are strong enough for the task they are designed for. Peter was a “satan” to Jesus (Mark 8:33) as he tested Jesus’ resolve to do his Father’s will.
In completing his letter Paul expresses the fear that when he comes “I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality and sensuality that they have practiced” (12:21). There is the blunt request (13:5), “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you” (13:9).
The humanistic atmosphere in Corinth seems to have been similar to the world today. More than ever we need God’s word in our thoughts every day as a defence against the fleshly attitudes all around us.
Paul says, don’t you realize Christ is in you? Those who are baptised must realize this – every day. We prove that Christ is in us by becoming more like our Lord and Master in the way we think and act. Note Paul’s conclusion, “Finally brothers (& sisters), rejoice … comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace” (verse 11).