2 Corinthians 12:8
For this thing I sought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) For this thing I besought the Lord thrice.—We are reminded of our Lord’s three-fold prayer in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36; Luke 22:42-45). Was St. Paul himself reminded of it? There also the answer to the prayer was not compliance with its petition, but the gift of strength to bear and to endure.

2 Corinthians

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

2 Corinthians 12:8-9This very remarkable page in the autobiography of the Apostle shows us that he, too, belonged to the great army of martyrs who, with hearts bleeding and pierced through and through with a dart, yet did their work for God. It is of little consequence what his thorn in the flesh may have been. The original word suggests very much heavier sorrow than the metaphor of ‘a thorn’ might imply. It really seems to mean not a tiny bit of thorn that might lie half concealed in the finger tip, but one of those hideous stakes on which the cruel punishment of impalement used to be inflicted. And Paul’s thought is, not that he has a little, trivial trouble to bear, but that he is, as it were, forced quivering upon that tremendous torture.

Unquestionably, what he means is some bodily ailment or other. The hypothesis that the ‘thorn in the flesh’ was the sting of the animal nature inciting him to evil is altogether untenable, because such a thorn could never have been left when the prayer for its removal was earnestly presented; nor could it ever have been, when left, an occasion for glorifying. Manifestly it was no weakness removable by his own effort, no incapacity for service which in any manner approximated to being a fault, but purely and simply some infliction from God’s hand {though likewise capable of being regarded as a ‘messenger of Satan’} which hindered him in his work, and took down any proud flesh and danger of spiritual exaltation in consequence of the largeness of his religious privileges.

Our text sets before us three most instructive windings, as it were, of the stream of thoughts that passed through the Apostle’s mind, in reference to this burden that he had to carry, and may afford wholesome contemplation for us to-day. There is, first, the instinctive shrinking which took refuge in prayer. Then there is the insight won by prayer into the sustaining strength for, and the purposes of, the thorn that was not to be plucked out. And then, finally, there is the peace of acquiescence, and a will that accepts--not the inevitable, but the loving.

I. First of all we see the instinctive shrinking from that which tortured the flesh, which takes refuge in prayer.

There is a wonderful, a beautiful, and, I suppose, an intentional parallel between the prayers of the servant and of the Master. Paul’s petitions are the echo of Gethsemane. There, under the quivering olives, in the broken light of the Paschal moon, Jesus ‘thrice’ prayed that the cup might pass from Him. And here the servant, emboldened and instructed by the example of the Master, ‘thrice’ reiterates his human and natural desire for the removal of the pain, whatever it was, which seemed to him so to hinder the efficiency and the fulness, as it certainly did the joy, of his service.

But He who prayed in Gethsemane was He to whom Paul addressed his prayer. For, as is almost always the case in the New Testament, ‘the Lord’ here evidently means Christ, as is obvious from the connection of the answer to the petition with the Apostle’s final confidence and acquiescence. For the answer was, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness’; and the Apostle’s conclusion is, ‘Most gladly will I glorify in infirmity,’ that the strength or ‘power _of Christ_ may rest upon me.’ Therefore the prayer with which we have to deal here is a prayer offered to Jesus, who prayed in Gethsemane, and to whom we can bring our petitions and our desires.

Notice how this thought of prayer directed to the Master Himself helps to lead us deep into the sacredest and most blessed characteristics of prayer. It is only telling Christ what is in our hearts. Oh, if we lived in the true understanding of what prayer really is--the emptying out of our inmost desire and thoughts before our Brother, who is likewise our Lord--questions as to what it was permissible to pray for, and what it was not permissible to pray for, would be irrelevant, and drop away of themselves. If we had a less formal notion of prayer, and realised more thoroughly what it was--the speech of a confiding heart to a sympathising Lord--then everything that fills our hearts would be seen to be a fitting object of prayer. If anything is large enough to interest me, it is not too small to be spoken about to Him.

So the question, which is often settled upon very abstract and deep grounds that have little to do with the matter--the question as to whether prayer for outward blessings is permissible--falls away of itself. If I am to talk to Jesus Christ about everything that concerns me, am I to keep my thumb upon all that great department and be silent about it? One reason why our prayers are often so unreal is, because they do not fit our real wants, nor correspond to the thoughts that are busy in our minds at the moment of praying. Our hearts are full of some small matter of daily interest, and when we kneel down not a word about it comes to our lips. Can that be right?

The difference between the different objects of prayer is not to be found in the rejection of all temporal and external, but in remembering that there are two sets of things to be prayed about, and over one set must ever be written ‘If it be Thy will,’ and over the other it need not be written, because we are sure that the granting of our wishes _is_ His will. We know about the one that ‘if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.’ That may seem to be a very poor and shrunken kind of hope to give a man, that if his prayer is in conformity with the previous determination of the divine will, it will be answered. But it availed for the joyful confidence of that Apostle who saw deepest into the conditions and the blessedness of the harmony of the will of God and of man. But about the other set we can only say, ‘Not my will, but Thine be done.’ With that sentence, not as a formula upon our lips but deep in our hearts, let us take everything into His presence--thorns and stakes, pinpricks and wounds out of which the life-blood is ebbing--let us take them all to Him, and be sure that we shall take none of them in vain.

So then we have the Person to whom the prayer is addressed, the subjects with which it is occupied, and the purpose to which it is directed. ‘Take away the burden’ was the Apostle’s petition; but it was a mistaken petition and, therefore, unanswered.

II. That brings me to the second of the windings, as I have ventured to call them, of this stream--viz. the insight into the source of strength for, and the purpose of, the thorn that could not be taken away. The Lord said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee. For My strength’ {where the word ‘My’ is a supplement, but a necessary one} ‘is made perfect in weakness.’

The answer is, in form and in substance, a gentle refusal of the form of the petition, but it is a more than granting of its essence. For the best answer to such a prayer, and the answer which a true man means when he asks, ‘Take away the burden,’ need not be the external removal of the pressure of the sorrow, but the infusing of power to sustain it. There are two ways of lightening a burden, one is diminishing its actual weight, the other is increasing the strength of the shoulder that bears it. And the latter is God’s way, is Christ’s way, of dealing with us.

Now mark that the answer which this faithful prayer receives is no communication of anything fresh, but it is the opening of the man’s eyes to see that already he has all that he needs. The reply is not, ‘I _will_ give thee grace sufficient,’ but ‘My grace’ {which thou hast now} ‘is sufficient for thee.’ That grace is given and possessed by the sorrowing heart at the moment when it prays. Open your eyes to see what you have, and you will not ask for the load to be taken away. Is not that always true? Many a heart is carrying some heavy weight; perhaps some have an incurable sorrow, some are stricken by disease that they know can never be healed, some are aware that the shipwreck has been total, and that the sorrow that they carry to-day will lie down with them in the dust. Be it so! ‘My grace {not shall be, but} _is_ sufficient for thee.’ And what thou hast already in thy possession is enough for all that comes storming against thee of disease, disappointment, loss, and misery. Set on the one side all possible as well as all actual weaknesses, burdens, pains, and set on the other these two words--’My grace,’ and all these dwindle into nothingness and disappear. If troubled Christian men would learn what they have, and would use what they already possess, they would less often beseech Him with vain petitions to take away their blessings which are in the thorns in the flesh. ‘My grace is sufficient.’

How modestly the Master speaks about what He gives! ‘Sufficient’? Is not there a margin? Is there not more than is wanted? The overplus is ‘exceeding abundant,’ not only ‘above what we ask or think,’ but far more than our need. ‘Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not _sufficient_ that every one may take a little,’ says Sense. Omnipotence says, ‘Bring the few small loaves and fishes unto Me’; and Faith dispensed them amongst the crowd; and Experience ‘gathered up of the fragments that remained’ more than there had been when the multiplication began. So the grace utilised increases; the gift grows as it is employed. ‘Unto him that hath shall be given.’ And the ‘sufficiency’ is not a bare adequacy, just covering the extent of the need, with no overlapping margin, but is large beyond expectation, desire, or necessity; so leading onwards to high hopes and a wider opening of the open mouths of our need that the blessing may pour in.

The other part of this great answer, that the Christ from Heaven spoke in or to the praying spirit of this not disappointed, though refused, Apostle, unveiled the purpose of the sorrow, even as the former part had disclosed the strength to bear it. For, says He, laying down therein the great law of His kingdom in all departments and in all ways, ‘My strength is made perfect’--that is, of course, perfect in its manifestation or operations, for it is perfect in itself already. ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ It works in and through man’s weakness.

God works with broken reeds. If a man conceits himself to be an iron pillar, God can do nothing with or by him. All the self-conceit and confidence have to be taken out of him first. He has to be brought low before the Father can use him for His purposes. The lowlands hold the water, and, if only the sluice is open, the gravitation of His grace does all the rest and carries the flood into the depths of the lowly heart.

His strength loves to work in weakness, only the weakness must be conscious, and the conscious weakness must have passed into conscious dependence. There, then, you get the law for the Church, for the works of Christianity on the widest scale, and in individual lives. Strength that conceits itself to be such is weakness; weakness that knows itself to be such is strength. The only true source of Power, both for Christian work and in all other respects, is God Himself; and our strength is ours but by derivation from Him. And the only way to secure that derivation is through humble dependence, which we call faith in Jesus Christ. And the only way by which that faith in Jesus Christ can ever be kindled in a man’s soul is through the sense of his need and emptiness. So when we know ourselves weak, we have taken the first step to strength; just as, when we know ourselves sinners, we have taken the first step to righteousness; just as in all regions the recognition of the doleful fact of our human necessity is the beginning of the joyful confidence in the glad, triumphant fact of the divine fulness. All our hollownesses, if I may so say, are met with His fulness that fits into them. It only needs that a man be aware of that which he is, and then turn himself to Him who is all that he is not, and then into his empty being will flow rejoicing the whole fulness of God. ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness.’

III. Lastly, mark the calm final acquiescence in the loving necessity of continued sorrow.

‘Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ The will is entirely harmonised with Christ’s. The Apostle begins with instinctive shrinking, he passes onwards to a perception of the purpose of his trial and of the sustaining grace; and he comes now to acquiescence which is not passivity, but glad triumph. He is more than submissive, he gladly glories in his infirmity in order that the power of Christ may ‘spread a tabernacle over’ him. ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted,’ said the old prophet. Paul says, in a yet higher note of concord with God’s will, ‘I am glad that I sorrow. I rejoice in weakness, because it makes it easier for me to cling, and, clinging, I am strong, and conquer evil.’ Far better is it that the sting of our sorrow should be taken away, by our having learned what it is for, and having bowed to it, than that it should be taken away by the external removal which we sometimes long for. A grief, a trial, an incapacity, a limitation, a weakness, which we use as a means of deepening our sense of dependence upon Him, is a blessing, and not a sorrow. And if we would only go out into the world trying to interpret its events in the spirit of this great text, we should less frequently wonder and weep over what sometimes seem to us the insoluble mysteries of the sorrows of ourselves and of other men. They are all intended to make it more easy for us to realise our utter hanging upon Him, and so to open our hearts to receive more fully the quickening influences of His omnipotent and self-sufficing grace.

Here, then, is a lesson for those who have to carry some cross and know they must carry it throughout life. It will be wreathed with flowers if you accept it. Here is a lesson for all Christian workers. Ministers of the Gospel especially should banish all thoughts of their own cleverness, intellectual ability, culture, sufficiency for their work, and learn that only when they are emptied can they be filled, and only when they know themselves to be nothing are they ready for God to work through them. And here is a lesson for all who stand apart from the grace and power of Jesus Christ as if they needed it not. Whether you know it or not, you are a broken reed; and the only way of your ever being bound up and made strong is that you shall recognise your sinfulness, your necessity, your abject poverty, your utter emptiness, and come to Him who is righteousness, riches, fulness, and say, ‘Because I am weak, be Thou my strength.’ The secret of all noble, heroic, useful, happy life lies in the paradox, ‘When I am weak, then am I strong,’ and the secret of all failures, miseries, hopeless losses, lies in its converse, ‘When I am strong, then am I weak.’ 2 Corinthians 12:8-11. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice — All kinds of affliction had befallen the apostle, yet none of these did he deprecate. But here he speaks of his thorn in the flesh, as above all the rest one that macerated him with weakness, and by the pain and ignominy of it, prevented his being lifted up more, or at least not less, than the most vehement headache could have done, which many of the ancients say he laboured under. That the Lord to whom the apostle prayed was Christ, is evident from 2 Corinthians 12:9. It is supposed by some, that in praying thrice he imitated his Master’s example in the garden. But perhaps his meaning is only that he prayed often and earnestly. That it might depart from me — Hence we see that it is lawful to pray for the removal of bodily pain, weakness, or any peculiar trial; yea, to be frequent and fervent in prayer for it. But he said to me — In answer to my third, or often-repeated request; My grace is sufficient for thee — Namely, to support thee under these trials, though I permit them to continue. How tender a repulse! Probably Christ appeared to his apostle and spake to him. At any rate, it was another revelation of the Lord, which his subject led him to mention, though his modesty did not allow him to insist on it directly. “This example of prayer rejected ought to be well attended to by all good men, because it shows that they neither should be discouraged when their most earnest prayers seem to be disregarded, nor discontented when they are rejected; because in both cases their good is designed and effectually promoted.” My strength is made perfect in weakness — That is, is more illustriously displayed in the weakness of the instrument by which I work. Therefore will I glory in my infirmities — Rather than my revelations; that the power of Christ may rest upon me — Greek, επισκηνωση, may pitch its tent over me, or cover me all over like a tent, and abide on me continually. We ought most willingly to accept whatever tends to this end, however contrary to flesh and blood. Therefore I take pleasure Ευδοκω, I am well pleased with, or take complacency in, infirmities — Of the flesh, bodily weaknesses of whatever kind. In reproaches — Suffered on that account; in necessities — The various wants which I suffer in the execution of my office; in persecutions, in distresses — To which I am exposed; for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak — Deeply sensible of my weakness; then am I strong — Through the power of Christ resting on me; and my ministry is then most successful, the Lord working with me in a peculiar manner. I am become a fool in glorying — As I have done above, but consider where the blame lies; ye have compelled me — To do it, even against my will. For I ought to have been commended by you — Or vindicated, when my character, as an apostle, was attacked by the false teachers. For in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles — As ye well know: he means Peter, James, and John, whom he calls pillars, Galatians 2:9. Though I be nothing — In the account of some, or of myself, without the aids of divine grace; not would I assume to myself any glory from what grace hath made me.12:7-10 The apostle gives an account of the method God took to keep him humble, and to prevent his being lifted up above measure, on account of the visions and revelations he had. We are not told what this thorn in the flesh was, whether some great trouble, or some great temptation. But God often brings this good out of evil, that the reproaches of our enemies help to hide pride from us. If God loves us, he will keep us from being exalted above measure; and spiritual burdens are ordered to cure spiritual pride. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan which he sent for evil; but God designed it, and overruled it for good. Prayer is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady; and when we are afflicted with thorns in the flesh, we should give ourselves to prayer. If an answer be not given to the first prayer, nor to the second, we are to continue praying. Troubles are sent to teach us to pray; and are continued, to teach us to continue instant in prayer. Though God accepts the prayer of faith, yet he does not always give what is asked for: as he sometimes grants in wrath, so he sometimes denies in love. When God does not take away our troubles and temptations, yet, if he gives grace enough for us, we have no reason to complain. Grace signifies the good-will of God towards us, and that is enough to enlighten and enliven us, sufficient to strengthen and comfort in all afflictions and distresses. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Thus his grace is manifested and magnified. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace.For this thing - On account of this; in order that this calamity might be removed.

I besought the Lord - The word "Lord" in the New Testament, when it stands without any other word in connection to limit its signification, commonly denotes the Lord Jesus Christ; see the note on Acts 1:24. The following verse here shows conclusively that it was the Lord Jesus to whom Paul addressed this prayer. The answer was that his grace was sufficient for him; and Paul consoled himself by saying that it was a sufficient support if the power of Christ implied in that answer, should rest on him. He would glory in trials if such was their result. Even Rosenmuller maintains that it was the Lord Jesus to whom this prayer was addressed, and says that the Socinians themselves admit it. So Grotius (on 2 Corinthians 12:9) says that the answer was given by Christ. But if this refers to the Lord Jesus, then it proves that it is right to go to him in times of trouble, and that it is right to worship him. Prayer is the most solemn act of adoration which we can perform; and no better authority can be required for paying divine honors to Christ than the fact that Paul worshipped him and called upon him to remove a severe and grievous calamity.

Thrice - This may either mean that he prayed for this often, or that he sought it on three set and solemn occasions. Many commentators have supposed that the former is meant. But to me it seems probable that Paul on three special occasions earnestly prayed for the removal of this calamity. It will be recollected that the Lord Jesus prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane that the cup might be removed from him, Matthew 26:44. At the third time he ceased, and submitted to what was the will of God. There is some reason to suppose that the Jews were in the habit of praying three times for any important blessing or for the removal of any calamity; and Paul in this would not only conform to the usual custom, but especially he would he disposed to imitate the example of the Lord Jesus. Among the Jews three was a sacred number, and repeated instances occur where an important transaction is mentioned as having been done thrice; see Numbers 22:28; Numbers 24:10; 1 Samuel 3:8; 1 Samuel 20:41; 1 Kings 18:44; Proverbs 22:20; Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 22:29; John 21:17.

The probability, therefore, is, that Paul on three different occasions earnestly besought the Lord Jesus that this calamity might be removed from him. It might have been exceedingly painful, or it might, as he supposed, interfere with his success as a preacher; or it might have been of such a nature as to expose him to ridicule; and he prayed, therefore, if it were possible that it might be taken away. The passage proves that it is right to pray earnestly and repeatedly for the removal of any calamity. The Saviour so prayed in the garden; and Paul so prayed here. Yet it also proves that there should be a limit to such prayers. The Saviour prayed three times; and Paul limited himself to the same number of petitions and then submitted to the will of God. This does not prove that we should be limited to exactly this number in our petitions; but it proves that there should be a limit; that we should not be over-anxious, and that when it is plain from any cause that the calamity will not be removed, we should submit to it.

The Saviour in the garden knew that the cup would not be removed, and he acquiesced. Paul was told indirectly that his calamity would not be removed, and he submitted. We may expect no such revelation from heaven, but we may know in other ways that the calamity will not be removed; and we should submit. The child or other friend for whom we prayed may die; or the calamity, as, e. g., blindness, or deafness, or loss of health, or poverty, may become permanent, so that there is no hope of removing it; and we should then cease to pray that it may be removed, and we should cheerfully acquiesce in the will of God. So David prayed most fervently for his child when it was alive; when it was deceased, and it was of no further use to pray for it, he bowed in submission to the will of God, 2 Samuel 12:20.

8. For—"concerning this thing."

thrice—To his first and second prayer no answer came. To his third the answer came, which satisfied his faith and led him to bow his will to God's will. So Paul's master, Jesus, thrice prayed on the Mount of Olives, in resignation to the Father's will. The thorn seems (from 2Co 12:9, and Greek, 2Co 12:7, "that he may buffet me") to have continued with Paul when he wrote, lest still he should be "overmuch lifted up."

the Lord—Christ. Escape from the cross is not to be sought even indirectly from Satan (Lu 4:7). "Satan is not to be asked to spare us" [Bengel].

For the removal of this affliction, (of what nature soever it was), for the taking of this thorn out of my flesh, I prayed often. It is lawful for us to pray for the removal of bodily evils, though such prayer must be always attended with a due submission to the wisdom and will of God; they being not evils in themselves, but such trials as God intendeth for our good, (as it was here in Paul’s case), and which issue in our spiritual advantage. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice,.... With respect to the thorn in the flesh, the messenger Satan, who gave him so much continual disturbance. This sent him to the throne of grace, to request of the Lord,

that it, or rather, "he might"

depart from me: this request greatly confirms the above sense, for it can hardly be thought the apostle would be so importunate about the removal of a common bodily affliction; and he knew that the corruption of his nature would remain with him as long as he was in the body; and as for afflictions, reproaches, and persecutions for the Gospel's sake, he was well apprized they would abide him wherever he went; but that so troublesome an adversary might depart, as it must be greatly desirable, so it was a very proper request: and it is made to a very proper person, to the "Lord" Jesus Christ; who in the days of his flesh had such power over the devils, as to dispossess them from the bodies of men by a word speaking, and held them in subjection, and in a panic fear of him; and when upon the cross, he spoiled principalities and powers, and in the latter day will bind Satan with a chain, and shut him up in the bottomless pit for a thousand years. This request was made thrice, not with any view to the three persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit; nor to the three usual times of prayer in a day, morning, noon, and night; nor is any exact number of times intended; but the sense is, that he frequently besought the Lord on this account.

For this thing I besought the Lord {h} thrice, that it might depart from me.

(h) Often.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 12:8-9. Ὑπὲρ τούτου] in reference to whom, namely, to this angel of Satan. That τούτου is masculine (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:3), not neuter (Vulgate, Luther, Flatt, Osiander, and others), is evident from the fact that ἵνα ἀποστῇ ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ follows without any other subject. On the latter, comp. Luke 4:13; Acts 5:38; Acts 22:29.

τρίς] is taken since Chrysostom’s time by many as equivalent to πολλάκις; but quite arbitrarily, and not at all in keeping with the small number! No; Paul relates historically, as it really happened, leaving it withal undetermined what intervals had elapsed between these invocations. At his first and second appeal to the Lord no answer was made; but when he had made a third appeal, the answer came. And that he thereupon did not entreat again, was understood of itself from his faithful devotion to Him, whose utterance he had now received. According to Billroth, τρίς is intended to intimate a thrice-repeated succumbing to that pain, a thrice-repeated utter dejection, which, however, is sheer fanc.

τὸν κύριον] not God (Calvin, Neander, and others), but Christ (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), who is, in fact, the heavenly advancer of His kingdom and mighty vanquisher of Satan.[376]

εἴρηκέ μοι] The perfect, which Rückert finds surprising, is what is quite commonly used of the continued subsistence of what has been done: he has spoken, and I have now this utterance abidingly valid. Accordingly the evil itself is to be regarded as still adhering to the apostle. How he received the answer, the χρηματισμός (Matthew 2:12; Luke 2:6; Acts 10:22), from Christ (by some kind of inward speaking, or by means of a vision, as Holsten holds), is entirely unknown to u.

ἀρκεῖ σοι ἡ χάρις μου] there suffices for thee my grace, more thou needest not from me than that I am gracious to thee. In this is implied the refusal of the prayer, but at the same time what a comforting affirmation! “Gratia esse potest, etiam ubi maximus doloris sensus est,” Bengel. Rückert (comp. Grotius) takes χάρις quite generally as good-will; but the good-will of the exalted Christ is, in fact, always grace (comp. 2 Corinthians 13:13; Acts 15:11; Romans 5:15), and made itself known especially in the apostle’s consciousness as grace, 1 Corinthians 15:8-9, and often. A special gift of grace, however (Chrysostom: the gift of miracles), is arbitrarily importe.

ἡ γὰρ δύναμίς μου κ.τ.λ.] for my strength is in weakness perfected. The emphasis lies on δύναμις: “Thou hast enough in my grace; for I am not weak and powerless, when there is suffering weakness on the part of the man to whom I am gracious, but exactly under these circumstances are my power and strength brought to perfection, i.e. effective in full measure.” Then, namely, the divine δύναμις of Christ has unhindered scope, not disturbed or limited by any admixture of selfish striving and working. The relation is similar in 1 Corinthians 2:4 f. Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:7. With the reading without μου (see the critical remarks), which Hofmann too prefers, there would result the quite general proposition: “for power there attains to its full efficacy, where weakness serves it as the means of its self-exertion” (as Hofmann puts it)—a proposition, which is only true when the δύναμις is different from the ability of the weak subject, and can work with all the less hindrance amidst the powerlessness of the latter. Hence, for the truth of the proposition and in keeping with the context (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:9), the specification of the subject for ἡ δύναμις cannot at all be dispensed wit.

ἥδιστα οὖν μᾶλλον καυχήσομαι κ.τ.λ.] the altered tone proceeding from that answer of Christ. Grotius[377] and others, including Emmerling, join ΜᾶΛΛΟΝ with ἭΔΙΣΤΑ, although ΜᾶΛΛΟΝ is used to heighten the comparative, but not the superlative (see on 2 Corinthians 7:13). Estius (comp. previously, Erasmus) finds in μᾶλλον: “magis ac potius, quam in ulla alia re, qua videar excellere;” Bengel and Billroth: Ἢ ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἈΠΟΚΑΛΎΨΕΣΙΝ; Rückert: more than of what I can (my talents and performances); comp. also Ewald. But against all this is the consideration that Paul must have written: ΜᾶΛΛΟΝ ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἈΣΘΕΝΕΊΑΙς ΜΟΥ ΚΑΥΧΉΣΟΜΑΙ. As the text stands, ΜᾶΛΛΟΝ belongs necessarily to ΚΑΥΧΉΣΟΜΑΙ (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:7), not to its object. And the reference of μᾶλλον is furnished by the context. Previously, namely, Paul had stated how he had prayed the Lord to take away his suffering. Now, however, after mentioning the answer received, he says: With the utmost willingness (maxima cum voluptate, comp. 2 Corinthians 12:15) therefore will I, encouraged by the word of the Lord which I have, only all the more (comp. on 2 Corinthians 7:7) glory in my weaknesses; all the more boldly will I now triumph in my states of suffering, which exhibit me in my weakness; comp. Romans 5:3; Romans 8:35 ff. More than would have been otherwise the case, is the courage of the καυχᾶσθαι ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις increased in him by that utterance of the Lor.

ἵνα ἘΠΙΣΚΗΝΏΣῌ Κ.Τ.Λ.] Aim of the ΜᾶΛΛΟΝ ΚΑΥΧΉΣΟΜΑΙ Κ.Τ.Λ. And the Lord’s answer itself has, in fact, placed this goal before his eyes, and assured him of his reaching it. The ἘΠʼ ἘΜΈ is conceived of as: may take its abode on me, i.e. may come down before me and unite itself with me for abiding protection, comfort, strengthening, etc.[378] The choice of the word ἘΠΙΣΚΗΝ. leads us to conclude that he has conceived of the case as analogous to the Shechinah (comp. on John 1:14; John 14:23). The direction from above downward is not withal implied in ἐπί by itself, which rather indicates direction in general (comp. Polyb. iv. 18. 8 : ἘΠΙΣΚΗΝΟῦΝ ἘΠῚ ΤᾺς ΟἸΚΊΑς, to go into quarters in the houses), but is given in the context. Comp. Psalm 104:12.

[376] The invocation of Christ has reference also here to the intercessory work of the Lord. Comp. on Romans 10:12; Rich. Schmidt, Paul. Christol. p. 127 f.

[377] Grotius and Emmerling expressly, but many others, as also Flatt and Olshausen, tacitly, by leaving μᾶλλον untranslated.

[378] That is the holy ἐνδυναμοῦσθαι by means of Christ to the ἰσχύειν πάντα (Php 4:13) in its forms of ever-renewed heightening and exaltation (Php 4:16). Comp. 2 Corinthians 6:4 ff.; Romans 8:37 ff.2 Corinthians 12:8. ὑπὲρ τούτου τρὶς κ.τ.λ.: concerning this thing (or “this angel”; for ὑπέρ = “concerning” see on 2 Corinthians 1:8) I besought the Lord, i.e., Christ (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), thrice that it (or “he”) might depart from me. “Thrice” seems to point to three special occasions, when his prayers for the removal of his trial were specially urgent. Like Another who prayed thrice that the cup of suffering might pass from Him (Matthew 26:44), St. Paul did not receive the answer his spirit longed for. But he did receive an answer abundantly sufficient to strengthen and to console.8. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice] Literally, Concerning this. For the word translated besought see ch. 2 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 8:6, and 2 Corinthians 12:18 of this chapter. With St Paul’s prayer here compare Matthew 26:39-44 and the parallel passages in the other Gospels. It is not wrong to offer such petitions, or our Lord would not have done so. But humanity in its weakness often shrinks from trials which God in His wisdom knows to be best for it. The only requisite for such prayers is that they shall be offered in a spirit of submission to a Higher Will. Dean Stanley remarks on St Paul’s vivid sense of a Personal Lord, to Whom all difficulties may be taken, and Who never fails to answer such appeals.

the Lord] Jesus Christ. We may compare St Paul’s invocation of his Master with that of St Stephen. See Acts 7:59, and cf. St Luke 23:46.

that it might depart] Or he might depart. See above.2 Corinthians 12:8. Τούτου, for this) Demonstrative. He had forgotten his exaltation.—τρὶς) thrice, as the Lord Himself did on the Mount of Olives. Paul presented his three requests, I know not at what intervals. Then he patiently endured the thorn, when he saw, that it must be borne; he does not seem to have been without the thorn, even then when he wrote these things and so long as he was liable to exalt himself: comp. what follows.—τὸν κυρίον, the Lord) Christ; see the next verse. Satan is not to be asked to spare us.Verse 8. - For this thing. In reference to this or "to him," the angel of Satan. The Lord. That is, Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3). Thrice (comp. Matthew 26:44). For this thing (ὑπὲρ τούτου)

Rev., concerning this thing. But it is better to refer this to messenger: concerning this or whom. For, of A.V., is ambiguous.

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