7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
And with respect to the superabundance of the revelations, in order that I may not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to the end that he might constantly maltreat me lest I be exalted overmuch. Concerning this three times I begged the Lord that he might depart from me. And He has said to me, and His declaration still stands, My grace is enough for you, for power is moment by moment coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness. Therefore, most gladly will I the rather boast in my weaknesses in order that the power of the Christ [like the Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies of the Tent of Meeting] may take up its residence in me [working within me and giving me help]. Wherefore I am well content in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, and in circumstances under which I am subject to extreme pressure on behalf of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am filled with ability and power. — Wuest, pages 435-436.
exalted (v.7) = conceited, lifted up by oneself, to raise oneself above measure
buffet (v.7) = lit. “to strike with the fist,” striking with something sharp and painful, sticking deeply in the flesh so it remains there, to treat with violence
I think it’s interesting that Paul repeated the phrase “lest I (should) be exalted above measure” twice in one short sentence (v.7). I wonder if he did that to remind himself of the danger of conceit.
sufficient (v.9) = enough, be content
infirmities (v.9) = weaknesses
reproaches (v.10) = insults, mental injury
Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was some kind of bodily weakness or disease; possibly it may have been an eye affliction (see Galatians 6:11). [Perhaps] the reason that its particular nature is not disclosed is so that Paul’s consolations may avail for all to whom any type of “thorn” is given. — Scofield, page 1262.
When I was younger, my dad, probably because of his own blindness, leaned toward the idea that Paul’s thorn was an eye problem. It’s now become popular to doubt that. Paul doesn’t say, so of course there’s no way to know. But because Paul wrote about his eye problem in Galatia (Galatians 4:13-15) and seemed to be saying it was continuing when he wrote the letter (Galatians 6:11), I still think it’s possible (although unimportant).
Williams makes a connection between Paul’s three prayers to have his thorn removed and the Lord’s three prayers in the garden to let the cup pass from Him (see Matthew 26:36-44).
Being in the third heaven and seeing and hearing unutterable (both inexpressible and “unlawful” for man to utter) things would not provoke one to pride, but rather to humility. But having had this experience is another matter. Indeed, Paul himself was now tempted to boast, so that the Lord had to give him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. Exactly what this thorn was we are not told, so do not need to know.
Verse 7 explains why this affliction was called for, but the rendering” “the abundance of the revelations,” can hardly be correct. It was not the number of the revelations that tempted Paul to pride. [The word] has been variously rendered: “excellence,” “magnificence,” “per-eminence,” “transcendency,” “exceeding greatness,” “marvelous character,” etc., but the Greek word is hyperbole [which can be best translated] … “surpassingness.”
This thorn was given to Paul by God, who directed Satan to send a messenger to “buffet” him. It must have been painful indeed, added to the many sufferings he was already bearing. It reminds us of the words of Christ to Ananias at Paul’s conversion: “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).
But this was in addition and might, in Paul’s view, prove a hindrance to his ministry. The Lord knew better, however. On an earlier occasion it had been “infirmity of the flesh” that had detained Paul among the Galatians, and this had not hindered his ministry there. Consider Galatians 4:13-14: “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation [lit., “testing”] which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.”
And he adds in Galatians 4:15: “I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.”
Paul’s thorn in the flesh must have been painful, however, for he says: “for this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me.” … But the Lord answered him in a beautiful way regarding this painful affliction that he must bear, perhaps, for the rest of his life. “And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9).
What a glorious revelation: not merely that God will strengthen Paul when he is weak, or work for him when he is weak, but that God’s own power is “made perfect,” or best demonstrated in Paul’s weakness. — Stam, pages 224-226.