Buffeted Yes, Never Defeated
By Ronald Graham
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." 2 Corinthians 12:7. One very interesting word in this verse is "buffet". The Greek word is "kolaphizo-" and the complete meaning is even more interesting. I'll get to it in a moment. The word "Kolaphizo-" comes from the Greek root word "kolazo-" which means to curb, check, restrain, to chastise, correct, or to cause to be punished. Understanding these terms makes it easier to identify with Paul's predicament. His thorn in the flesh is the messenger of Satan, the one doing all the buffeting. As Paul traveled he would continually come up against restraints which would hinder him in conveying the message God had assigned to him to deliver. Satan's continual attempt to stop Paul was unsuccessful. Notice God won every round; Satan always loses when he tries to stand toe to toe with the Creator of the universe.
As I said, the literal Greek word used in the verse above is "kolaphizo-" (buffet) which adds a little more to what Paul endured. It means to strike with the fist, give one a blow with the fist, and to maltreat, treat with violence and insults. Wow, that's some thorn in the flesh. Paul was buffeted and maltreated almost everywhere he went. We can see from the various attacks by the enemy that Paul's thorn in the flesh was more than just an infirmity which many attribute to a malady regarding his eyes.
As we read of the many perilous journeys of the Apostle Paul, we soon come to realize that because of Paul's great faith and constant promotion of the Gospel message the enemy was determined to stop him – hence the buffeting. Paul and his traveling companions were sure to be attacked; the enemy had many accomplices who were continually attempting to kill Paul. "And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead." Acts 14:19. Stoning was an accepted form of capital punishment in Paul's day, and the Jewish people were especially good at it. The people who were persuaded by the Jews to stone Paul supposed Paul dead. He may well have been dead as even the disciples gathered around him supposing he indeed had died.
What happened next was certainly a miracle. "Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe." Acts 14:20. Only through God's intervention was Paul able to continue on his trek after being stoned and presumed dead.
If we move back a chapter, in 2 Corinthians we find where Paul is giving an exhaustive explanation of all the buffeting that had befallen him during his years of ministry. "…in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27. Can a mere man endure this kind of buffeting, often to the point of death, and still continue on in God's service? Obviously the answer is yes. God never leaves the side of those who are diligently seeking Him while promoting His Gospel.
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God" 1 Corinthians 1:1. Paul, even though called by God to be an Apostle, was still just a man and we see at this point in his life he's tired of all this suffering. So he finally asked the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh (the continual buffeting of the messenger of Satan). "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." 2 Corinthians 12:8. We can surely sympathize with Paul. No one wants to be afflicted thusly. Not all of us have had to endure the sufferings as our brother Paul, but some of us have had what we would consider our fair share. Letters come to me often from brothers and sisters who are suffering and are in need of much prayer. Although my heart aches for them God's heart aches much more.
How did Messiah Jesus respond to Paul's request to be relieved of this buffeting? "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Was Jesus being uncaring, unloving, or selfish? Of course not. Jesus was reminding Paul that it was He that got Paul through all the buffeting. In other words, what Jesus was telling Paul was the enemy had no great influence over him. By the grace of God, no matter how Satan attacked Paul nothing was allowed to actually destroy God's chosen Apostle. Our Lord countered Satan's attacks by means of His sufficient grace. Jesus' strength is perfect no matter what the enemy throws at us. And as we endure our own buffeting God's strength is made manifest in our weakness. God is glorified as He sees us through the trials of this life when, like Paul, we never give up.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10. Paul knew that as he was being buffeted by the enemy God was being glorified. Paul, therefore, gloried in his infirmities. What Satan did to hinder Paul's ministry was being used by God to show the world how weak and feeble the enemy truly is.
Many of my readers have responded to my commentaries with very encouraging words. Some have supposed by the strength seen in my writings that the disease I've been afflicted with has abated and I'm now back to normal. But that's not the case. Jesus' strength is what you see coming through in the commentaries. Just as He told Paul, His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
The true followers of Messiah Jesus should come to realize that, like Paul, we will be increasingly buffeted by the enemy. How long will these attacks continue? Paul's continued until his death. From Paul's time to this very day many Christians have been martyred for their faith. The enemy is relentless in his continual pursuit to attack and destroy the saints. But as hard as he tries his plans are always thwarted as Jesus' strength is manifested in our lives. "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:12-13. Through Christ's strength, Paul was able to endure all the darts the enemy had in his arsenal.
We too have been given the same strength that Paul was given, the same ability to endure the darts – the buffeting of the enemy. This ability was set in stone when we first believed. Now that we are in God's hands what can the enemy throw at us that can actually hurt us? Satan can kill us, he can send his many followers to attack us with a vengeance that may seem unbearable, but he can't beat us. We've already won the battle and the war. Paul became weary; at one point he even despaired of life. "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:" 2 Corinthians 1:8. But Jesus continually delivered Paul out of the jaws of death. Paul continued his ministry right up until God determined that it was time for Paul to go home.
Paul was on a mission for God, as are we who diligently seek to serve Him. Paul was given the strength to preserver in the face of all adversity (buffeting). Jesus will always see to it that we have the strength to carry out our mission as long as He desires. God is glorified when we continue in His service. When others see our determination, what they are actually seeing is God's hand on us. We too can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Today there are many Christians being attacked mercilessly around the globe. This buffeting will not cease until Jesus comes for His bride, but will actually increase. As the days grow closer to the preordained end, there also grows a sense of foreboding regarding all the wickedness we are being forced to contend with. The sense of so much evil on our horizon also brings about a more intense anticipation that Jesus is indeed about to call us home. This anticipation should also stir in us a sense of danger in that many of our own family members are still standing outside without a clue of what's approaching. The burden is great as the hour grows late.
It won't be much longer now until all our suffering for Christ is rewarded. With the coming rapture of the Ekklesia of Christ, Satan will lose all he's been striving for. When we are gone and Satan realizes his days are numbered to the exact day, he will also realize he will then have full autonomy in a world that has rejected God. Those left here will be sorry they remained in rebellion to their Creator as Satan begins his most vicious and relentless attacks, all focused on an unsuspecting humanity. Comparatively, Satan's attacks on the Ekklesia amount to nothing more than skirmishes when compared to what he will do to the left behind crowed.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is "theopneustos" God breathed
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