Paul's Thorn (2)

  • In verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 12, right after the thorn in the flesh is mentioned, there is a phrase that says “the messenger of satan to buffet me”. This describes what the thorn was. It was not a thing, but rather a demonic messenger or spirit.

    Paul’s thorn was literally a demonic spirit or demon sent by satan to buffet or strike Paul repeatedly. How did this demonic force continually strike Paul? Traditionally it has been taught with sickness. What caused people to accept this were the words “weakness” and “infirmity” in verses 9 and 10.

    Infirmity can mean sickness and is used that way in 1 Timothy 5:23, but that’s not the only meaning. The number two definition is any lack or inadequacy.

    In 2 Corinthians 12:9, what is meant by glory in infirmities? The answer here lies in what infirmity means. It doesn’t mean sickness. It means weakness or inability to do something. Not everyone can do everything. It wasn’t sickness he was glorying in.

    Romans 8:26 reads in the KJV “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”. Infirmity here means weakness or inability to do something.

    You see it says we don’t know what. It doesn’t say we don’t know how, but what. Other translations may say it differently, but it’s the same root word meaning inability to do certain things or what to pray.

    In this case, it’s clear by context this is not speaking of sicknesses, but rather not knowing what to pray. It is an infirmity or inadequacy in us.

    When you look at 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 in context, you will see it’s not sickness. 2 Corinthians 11:30 reads “If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” Paul described what those infirmities were in verses 23-29. Imprisonment, stripes, shipwrecks, stoning, spending nights in the sea, dangers from rivers, robbers, his own people and Gentiles. All these things refer to persecutions as infirmities.

    So here come the naysayers again. “Well what about this? Take Galatians 4:13. “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.” See infirmity? That’s Paul’s thorn – sickness. That proves God doesn’t heal everyone”.

    Notice it says “at the first”. That leaves the impression Paul’s condition was only temporary. He recovered from it. When he first preached, he was sick. However, he was not sick when he wrote this.

    Here they come again. “Okay, but what about Galatians 6:11. “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand”. See, Paul’s eyes were so bad that he had to write in large letters. That’s what Paul is referring to here”.

    That’s only a supposition and not a very good one at that. It is a lot more credible to believe he was writing in large letters to emphasize the importance of what he was saying. Sort of like shouting in text messages by using all capital letters. The Message bible says “Now, in these last sentences, I want to EMPHASIZE in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you”.

    He wasn’t writing in large letters so that he could read it. He was writing in large letters to get his point across with emphasis for the people to read. Another possible meaning could mean it was a long (large) letter.

    So, we know that this is not pride that caused the thorn and we know the thorn was not sickness. Well then, what was this thorn?

    God was revealing great things to Paul so that Paul could have reached the whole known world with the gospel, but someone wanted to stop him. That’s the thorn.

    It was not sickness and disease. It was not a thing, but rather a demonic messenger or spirit. Literally a demonic spirit or demon sent by satan to buffet or strike Paul repeatedly, finding it’s strength through people and personalities.Take, for instance, the incident described in Acts 16:16-18. Here it is in the NLT translation.

    16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who HAD A SPIRIT that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 

    17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

    18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the DEMON within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.

    What this slave girl was saying daily sounded so complimentary, but it was a distraction to Paul's ministry. As he was trying to further the strong message of God's great grace, she was interrupting with false statements of praise. You ought to read this story beginning in verse 11 and going through verse 27.

    To take this further, we must try to find a theme or meaning surrounding the term “thorn” and how God uses it in the scriptures. In Numbers 33:55 you’ll notice thorn is related here to people and personalities, not sickness and disease. It reads “You must force these other people to leave the country. If you let them stay in your country, they will bring many troubles to you. They will be like a needle in your eye and a thorn in your side. They will bring many troubles to the country where you will be living”.

    How about this one in Joshua 23:13. “know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you”.

    Again, thorn is linked to people and personalities. Ever heard these statements? That guys a pain in the neck. That’s a figure of speech about people and personalities. Not a statement of sickness.

    Judges 2:2,3.

    and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?

    Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’ Again it is about people and places.

    In our opening scripture in 2 Corinthians 12:7, who is the thorn in the flesh?

    A messenger of satan. A person or personalities, not sickness. It’s a person or personalities who will try to stop the gospel message.

    Jeanie and I know this form of attack. We have a personal perspective.

    When we preach/teach the message of God’s great grace and love, and the power and authority that is ours, we get strong push back. It comes from people and their personalities.

    It’s the same thorn Paul endured. Again, this thorn comes because of the abundance of revelation. As I mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating, you’re not going to have a thorn unless you are receiving an abundance of revelation. Plus, you’re not going to be trusted with an abundance of revelation unless and until you seek the deeper truths of God’s word. That means being willing to set aside your own opinions in favor of God’s word.

    Being obedient to the faith as declared in God’s word.

    That disqualifies most of the church today, because they won’t let the truth of God’s word invade the error of their thinking or change their opinion or thoughts. They just can’t let God’s word say what it means and mean what it says. As a result, they will not receive an abundance of revelation.

    Graham Cooke says that any revelation you receive from the Lord must by necessity be challenged with contradiction. That’s those people and personalities that will challenge the truth you have received.

    Why didn’t God cause the messenger of satan, the thorns to depart from Paul? The answer is in James 4:7. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” It wasn’t God’s responsibility to remove satan. It’s yours and it’s my responsibility to exercise the power and authority given us in heaven and on earth.

    We have the power to resist, or actively fight against the devil and the things he brings to see them flee, but that’s only after we submit ourselves to God. In other words, line ourselves up with God’s way of thinking and God’s way of resting.

    Satan has used traditional teaching about Paul’s thorn to bring many christians to a place of submitting to him. Yet praise God. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

    So I’m not falling for the lie of the enemy. I know by the truth of God’s word that I have all power and authority in heaven and in earth. My power is against demonic forces and satan’s tricks. I’m stepping out in that authority no matter how many thorns the enemy tries to throw in my path.

    The question comes up if Paul ever got rid of the thorn? Did he resist the devil. Did he ever get to preach the gospel without persecutions and disruptions? The answer YES.

    Acts 19:1-12. Study that and you’ll see he spent a lot of time ministering in the Asia area. In Acts 28:16-31 we see once again that Paul spent two years or more ministering in one area. Finally in Romans 15:18,19 we find that Paul fully preached the gospel of Christ.

    What was Paul’s thorn? It was people and personalities that would get in the way to hinder his ability to bring the true gospel of Jesus Christ to others. It was not sickness and disease.

    As you go and preach the kingdom, you will encounter thorns. Just know that God is always there to jump right in the middle of your problems and bring you through whatever hindrance comes your way. Grace and Peace.