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Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh…..

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2Co 12:7  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.
2Co 12:8  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2Co 12:9  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.
2Co 12:10  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.

I was reading a brother’s blog today and noticed the topic came up about Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  Often, I would say the majority of the time, I hear people say that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was his sickness.  Most often people say it was Paul’s eyesight…that he had poor vision.  I don’t doubt that Paul might have had poor vision, though I’m not really convinced of it, but I personally don’t believe Paul’s thorn in the flesh was poor eye sight or sickness.  I believe Paul’s thorn in the flesh is the same thing God’s says the “thorn” is in the Old Testament….persecution…attacks from the enemy.

Num 33:55  But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.

Jos 23:13  know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you.

Notice in these verses the “thorn” for the Israelites was not a physical sickness but persecution from their enemies.

That was certainly the case with Paul.  (Though the Israelites where persecuted/attacked for disobedience..Paul had his “thorn” because of his revelations received.) Paul was continually persecuted by the Jews.  So much so that they traveled to different cities stirring up the people against Paul.  Paul was also persecuted by heathen as well.  In fact Paul say’s in 2 Cor 11 all the different ways he suffered for the gospel.

2Co 11:24  Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
2Co 11:25  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;
2Co 11:26  on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;

Not to mention all the time that Paul spent in jail.  So again, I don’t believe Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a sickness, illness, or bodily condition.  If Paul had an eye problem  or some bodily ailment I think that is all together a different thing.  Notice that Paul was sent a “messenger from Satan”:

2Co 12:7  So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass (buffet) me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
2Co 12:8  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
2Co 12:9  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The messenger from Satan was sent to “harass/buffet” Paul (most likely an evil spirit sent to stir up strife and persecution against Paul).  Having poor eyes is not harassment.  Being persecuted, hunted down like a criminal, being beat to a pulp with rods is certainly “harassment”.

Notice what Paul says in the verse following his statement on the messenger of Satan that was sent to harass him:

2Co 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities (weakness), in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

He says THEREFORE…   So..therefore..because God sent a messenger to harass/buffet me…and because God’s grace is sufficient… I can therefore take pleasure in infirmities (weakness), in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses..etc.  Notice the theme in verse 10 has an overall focus on persecutions and trials.  Also, the word infirmities can also means weakness which does not always mean sickness or a physical disability.  It’s the same thing Paul says to the Corinthians:

1Co 2:3  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

The scriptures also say Christ was crucified in weakness.

“2Co 13:4  For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. ”

Weakness in this verse is the same word used as infirmity in Corinthians.  We know Christ wasn’t crucified in sickness but his body was crushed through physical persecution.

So.. I’m persuaded that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was the abundant persecutions and trials that God allowed Paul to have.  If you look at Paul’s life he was in some sort of distress or persecution at almost every turn.  Continually being put in those type of situations would certainly humble a man, make them rely on God’s grace, and give a man an opportunity for God to be strong as they are made weak.  ONLY God’s grace could carry one through the trials and distresses that Paul so often found himself in.

I think the amazing part of it all is not that Paul went through everything he did.  Nor the fact that God gave him grace to endure these things (though that is wonderful).  The amazing part of it all is Paul’s attitude through it.  Paul had come to the place where he took “pleasure” in these things.  I believe another translation says Paul “rejoiced” when these trials came upon him.  Paul knew these trials were something he couldn’t handle in and of himself.  Paul knew these trials were God’s ways of making him weak and dependant so that God could be strong through Him and ultimately be glorified.  How few Christians truly have this attitude towards trials and persecutions.  In fact, most believers, whether they realize it or not seem to order their lives to avoid these very things at all cost.   Their lives are so comfortable and their walk so lukewarm that they would never, or very rarely, experience persecution or trials for their faith.  The sad thing is they are resisting and shielding themselves from the very means that God uses to conform us to the image of Christ.  They never allow God to put them into a place of weakness to where they really have to depend on God and allow God to show Himself strong.  Yet the very things that most believers don’t want in their lives are the very things Paul took pleasure in and rejoiced in.  How much our perspective can change when we finally come to see things through God’s eyes!


Written by Sean Scott

September 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized