Many of us are familiar with the verse in 2 Corinthians which says:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 2:9)
To understand this verse more deeply, let’s study it in context.
The context of this verse begins with 2 Corinthians 10:1 and goes through 2 Corinthians 12:13.
In these verses, as well as other verses in 2 Corinthians and even 1 Corinthians, Paul is verbally attacked and slandered.
He is accused of being weak, unimpressive, and not a good speaker.
His authority to teach is questioned (2 Corinthians 3:1-6).
He is compared to other “super apostles”, as the Corinthians called them, and some of the Corinthians said he did not measure up to these “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 12:5; 13:11).
Some of the Corinthians condemned his message of the new covenant of grace (2 Corinthians 3:1-6).
Paul defended the truth of the new covenant in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6-2.
There were also false apostles presenting themselves as teachers of truth (2 Corinthians 11:13), which gave Paul great concern for the Corinthians.
The false apostles preached a different gospel and a different Jesus than Paul (2 Corinthians 11:4).
Paul said they were servants of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:15).
The gospel they preached was not that of the new covenant of grace found in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6:2 where God is not counting our sins against us and where Jesus became sin for us so we would become righteous.
They did not teach, as Paul did, that the old covenant of the law of Moses is gone, along with its ten commandments, condemnation, and death sentence, and the new covenant of grace had come, bringing forgiveness, righteousness, eternal life, and the Spirit of Jesus to live in our hearts.
Paul had to defend himself and his message.
He felt very uncomfortable defending himself...yet he was very confident in defending the new covenant because God made him competent (2 Corinthians 3:1-6).
In addition to the verbal attacks about Paul and his message of grace, his body endured daily difficulties as he delivered grace to people (2 Corinthians 4:8-18; 11:22-27).
He daily felt concern for all the churches he planted, wondering if they were surviving the attacks of false teachers seeking to destroy his message of grace (2 Corinthians 11:28).
Like others, he too “burned with sin”, meaning sinful temptations and desires (2 Corinthians 11:29).
He admitted his weaknesses.
He agreed with the Corinthians that he was weak (2 Corinthians 11:30).
Adding to his weakness was a messenger of Satan sent to torment him (2 Corinthians 12:7).
This messenger of Satan tormenting him was probably one of the false apostles who was attacking Paul and his message everywhere Paul went.
This messenger of Satan was like a thorn in Paul’s flesh, constantly seeking to inject pain into his life and destroy his message and ministry (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Three times he asked Jesus to take away the thorn in his flesh...to remove this messenger of Satan who was criticizing him at every turn (2 Corinthians 12:8).
This messenger of Satan, combined with all the other attacks Paul experienced and the adversarial conditions he endured daily, left him weak.
In Paul’s weaknesses, Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The very grace the messenger of Satan was criticizing, the very grace Paul was experiencing difficulty in delivering to people, the very grace Paul defended was the very grace Paul needed to be strengthened in his sufferings.
The grace that changed Paul, was the same grace that would sustain Paul.
Therefore Paul said:
“I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
In summary, the Corinthians accused Paul of being weak.
Paul agreed with them.
He was weak.
He then told the Corinthians that it was his weaknesses, which they criticized him for, that made him strong.
He told the Corinthians that he became strong in his weaknesses because the power of the grace of Jesus rested upon him in his weaknesses.
He also told the Corinthians that he delighted in those things which made him weak, because in his weakness he was made strong through the grace of Jesus.