What Was Paul’s Thorn In the Flesh?

(It's not what you've been taught!)



By Brother Eric Nelson

Expose’ On 2nd Corinthians 12:7-9

“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. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of God may rest upon me.”

In the battle between God and Satan, each employs human beings to do their bidding. The difference is that God only acts in conjunction with our freedom of will; while Satan, the false god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), demonizes those who open their minds to him and controls them to do wicked things to others. As frail human beings living in an evil world it is imperative that we face both the sin that dwells within us and the spiritual opposition around us. We must recognize our complete inadequacy to deal with these evil forces in our own human strength, and then draw upon the supernatural power of God. It is in recognizing and embracing our human weakness that drives us to our Savior, who will then sustain and energize us supernaturally. It is in Christ that we have our boast!

It is very unfortunate that so many erroneous theories concerning Paul’s thorn in the flesh have been spread about over the centuries by sincere believers. I have personally heard many Christian teachers teach that Paul had an eye problem, or another illness, or even sinful lusts-----and the absolute worst of these false doctrines----is that God allegedly gave Paul an affliction in order to test him or to keep him humble. This is a very dangerous doctrine because many of God’s children are deluded into believing that their own illnesses are thorns in the flesh sent by God in order to keep them humble.

In order to understand Paul’s thorn in the flesh let us simply allow the Word of God to define itself for us. Shall we? Let us take a look at other scriptures where the term “thorn in” is used. (Remember: In Paul’s writings (Romans to Philemon) he always makes metaphorical references back to the Old Testament.).

Numbers 33: 55 {“But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.”}

Joshua 23:13 {“Know for a certainly that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.”}

Judges 2:3 {“Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.”}. Other scriptures to also consider in this capacity are: Ezekiel 28:24 & Ezekiel 2:6.

In all of the above scriptures when the word thorn is used or when the term thorn in is used it is always a metaphorical reference to people NOT literal physical affliction(s). So now I must pose a couple of questions: What makes 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9 any different? Are we to suddenly assume that Paul’s thorn in the flesh is referring to something totally different than all of the other scriptures where the word thorn is used? In truth, as we examine the Word of God more closely, we find that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was NOT given to him by God, but rather, it was given to him by A MESSENGER OF SATAN----due to an overabundance of revelations that Paul had received from the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember: Jesus Christ was God’s agent of the New Testament Covenant, while Paul was God’s chosen vessel to deliver the gospel of Grace a.k.a. The New Testament (with no covenant attached). This drew special attention to Paul from Satan himself.

Unfortunately, many Christian teachers teach that God gave Paul an affliction in order to stop him from being conceited in his flesh. Actually it was God who had given Paul the abundance of the revelations in order to lift up (aka.: spiritually elevate) Paul amidst the dangerous spiritual battle that was raging around him. This was done in order to encourage Paul to stay in the fight and not be discouraged. Chapter 12 says that God even showed Paul some of the glories of Paradise. Wowwwww!!!!!!!!!! Now given the definition of the word conceited, would not satan want Paul to become conceited? ABSOLUTELY!!!! So why would satan tear down his own kingdom by sending a messenger to stop Paul from becoming conceited?

The Greek word for the word messenger is angelos which means angel. The Greek word angelos is used 188 times in the Bible. It is translated as the word angel 181 times. Seven times the word angelos is translated as the word messenger, which is exactly the case when Paul refers to the messenger of satan sent to buffet him. In other words, Paul was referring to a literal fallen angel----not just a mere demonic entity-----but an actual fallen angel that was sent into his life in order to buffet him----due to an overabundance of revelations given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word for the word buffet means to strike blow after blow after blow after blow after blow………

Let’s take a look at some of the things this fallen creature did to Apostle Paul!

-Burdened beyond measure----Above human strength (2 Cor 1:8)
-Despaired even of life (2 Cor 1:9)
-Given a sentence of death (2 Cor 1:9)
-Hard pressed on every angle (2 Cor 4:8)
-Perplexed, persecuted, destroyed (2 Cor 4:9)
-Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor 4:10)
-Delivered to death for Jesus sake (2 Cor 4:11)
-In stripes above measure (2 Cor 11:23)
-In prisons more frequently (2 Cor 11:23)
-In deaths often (2 Cor 11:23)
-Striped 39 times from the Jews (2 Cor 11:24)
-Beaten 3 times with rods (2 Cor 11:25)
-In journeys often (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils of water (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils of robbers (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils of his own countrymen (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils of the Gentiles (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils in the city (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils in the wilderness (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils in the sea (2 Cor 11:26)
-In perils among false brethren (2 Cor 11:26)
-In weariness and toil (2 Cor 11:26)
-In sleeplessness often (2 Cor 11:26)
-In hunger and thirst (2 Cor 11:26)
-In fastings often (2 Cor 11:26)
-In coldness and nakedness (2 Cor 11:26)

Is it any wonder whatsoever that Paul asked the Lord three times that this spiritual creature be removed out of his life? The fact that Paul survived just one of the beatings is absolutely amazing! For Paul to have gone through all that he went through was a stunning supernatural feat in and of it self. As God’s agent of Grace Paul bore in his body the sufferings similar to that of the Lord Jesus Christ; one day we will look upon the glorified scars and puncture wounds of the Lord Jesus Christ and we will behold beauty like we have never seen before. Likewise, Paul will also be glorified by the Lord Jesus Christ in like manner. In other words, Paul’s wounds and scars will also emanate a stunning supernatural beauty like we have never seen before. Needless to say, Paul will be rewarded greatly for his efforts----not because he functioned in his own human strength, but because he depended upon the supernatural power of God.

Today, the Lord Jesus Christ still heals all manner of sickness and disease, yet on spiritual legal grounds he cannot always remove our demonic spiritual opposition----especially if others choose to willfully operate in that capacity. Clearly Paul’s affliction was not physical. Can you imagine Paul praying for the sick while yet coughing up blood and wheezing vehemently, due to his own physical illnesses? That doesn’t make much sense. Does it? Romans 15: 18-19 refers to tangible physical miracles performed by Paul through the power of the Holy Ghost. In Acts 20:12 Paul raised a man named Eutychus from the dead. In Acts: 19: 11-12 people were being healed from handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul had touched. In Acts 28: 1-31 the Bible declares that Paul healed all the sick and afflicted on an island called Malta, etc.

So as usual, we see the battle of good vs. evil----that is, God vs. the Devil; God was trying to bless and exalt Paul, while Satan was trying to destroy him via the thorn in the flesh. 1st Thessalonians 2:18 comes to mind: “Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.” Satan hates the gospel of Grace. He loves to contaminate the gospel of Grace by deluding God’s children into mixing the old with the new. In doing so we nullify most of our supernatural blessings----in favor of worthless religious traditions; this was the spiritual apostasy Paul lost his life fighting against. When the Lord told Paul that his Grace was sufficient-----this was not a negative statement, but rather, it was a supernatural blessing of comfort in order to encourage Paul to lean on the supernatural power of the Lord Jesus Christ----in order to thwart the enemy.