Paul's Thorn in the Flesh- Part 1
7 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. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 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 Christ may rest upon me. 10 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. II Corinthians 12:7-10 (KJV)
There’s been a lot of controversy about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Some said he had eye trouble or some other sickness and that was his thorn in the flesh.
Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. Galations 6:11 (KJV)
Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Galations 4:15 (KJV)
Some people have used these verses in Galations to prove that Paul’s thorn was poor eyesight. However, in Galations 6:11 he was using large letters to emphasize the importance of his letter, not because he had eye problems. And in Galations 4:15, he was using a figure of speech to show that there was nothing that the Galations would not do for him- even pluck their eyes out and give them to him. It did not indicate that Paul had weak eyes.
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. Galations 4:13 (KJV)
In Galations 4:13, Paul speaks of an infirmity. Could this be a physical defect like poor eyesight? No, not likely. The word infirmity is defined as a weakness in mind, body, or emotion. Paul here is referring to his own weakness from his temptations and trials, such as beatings, stonings, imprisonment, and other persecution he went through.
Now, we know that Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus. However, he was healed when Ananias prayed for him. This is was recorded in Acts 9:3-18.
So, what was the thorn in his flesh? II Corinthians 12:7 clearly tells us- it was a messenger of satan.
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. II Corinthians 12:7 (KJV)
The word messenger in the Greek is the word for angel. In this case, it was a fallen angel sent from the devil. So wherever Paul went to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this angel of satan would stir people up to come against Paul, through things like stonings, beatings, etc.
In Numbers 33:55, Joshua had been told to conquer the enemy or they would become thorns in their sides. In Joshua’s case, they were physical, natural enemies. However, Paul’s thorn in the flesh was of spiritual origin. Ephesians 6:12 reveals that satan has an organized kingdom with demonic spirits under him. Such a spirit was sent to buffet Paul.
Buffet means to strike blow after blow, like a boxer in a match. This spiritual messenger of satan would use people to continually attack Paul with persecution to try to stop Paul from preaching the gospel. Paul tells us some of the things he endured in II Corinthians 11:22-33. And the book of Acts also reveals some of the things he endured. Here are a few.
Acts 14- Paul was stoned.
Acts 16- He was beaten and put in prison.
Acts 19 and 21- Riots broke out when he preached.
Acts 23- People sought to kill Paul.
In II Corinthians 12:9-10 we read that Paul overcame all he went through by Jesus’ grace. When Paul was weak in his own flesh, he relied on the strength of Jesus. Christ’s power rested on Paul to enable him to go through everything he faced. Paul laid down his own life for the One who laid down His life for Paul. Paul even overcame death when he was beheaded. He did not count his life dear to him, but counted the life of Christ and the presence of Christ near and dear to him. The messenger sent from satan did not win. Paul got the ultimate victory.
Tomorrow, we will delve into Paul’s thorn in the flesh a bit more.