A THORN IN THE FLESH
Upon completion of this lesson you will be able to:
C Write the Healing Promise from memory.
C Identify who Paul’s thorn in the flesh was from .
C Identify what the Bible indicates the thorn was.
C Explain why it was permitted.
C Describe what it did.
C Summarize how it was manifested.
C Explain the results of Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
HEALING PROMISE TO CLAIM:
. . . and He shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them. (Isaiah 19:22)
In the last lesson you studied some traditions of men that create problems for believers
seeking healing and deliverance . This lesson concerns a tradition which centers on Paul’s thorn in the flesh described in II Corinthians 12. Because it is so often debated and so critical to the healing issue, we have devoted an entire lesson to it.
Many people have been taught that Paul’s thorn was illness and that even as he prayed three times for it to depart without results, they are destined to have their own "thorn in the flesh" of sickness. Tradition says, "Your sickness is a thorn in the flesh like Paul’s and you will have to learn to live with it."
The "thorn in the flesh" tradition is a major blockade which prevents many from
receiving healing. It has been misused to try to explain why people did not receive a visible healing and as an excuse for our powerlessness. As you begin this lesson, lay aside everything you have been taught by man concerning this issue as we examine exactly what the Scriptures teach.
PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH
Here is what the Bible teaches about Paul’s thorn in the flesh:
WHAT IT WAS:
The Bible says Paul’s thorn was a messenger. The Greek word "messenger" appears
seven times in the New Testament. It is translated "angel" 181 times. All 188 times it is speaking of a personality, not a sickness or disease. A messenger is a personality.
The use of the word "thorns" in the Old Testament also supports this. “Thorns” is used in Numbers 33:55 and Joshua 23:13 to describe the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. In both of these cases it was not a physical affliction, but buffeting by an enemy.
WHO IT WAS FROM:
The Bible says it was a messenger from Satan. Paul said, "There was given me. . ." but he did not say it was from God!
WHY IT WAS PERMITTED:
The thorn was permitted for three major reasons:
1. It Prevented Sin:
Paul said the thorn was permitted because of the abundant revelations he received and his tendency towards pride .
Before anyone claims to have a thorn in the flesh he should consider how many
revelations and visions he has had. Does he qualify for a thorn? Most folks who think they have a thorn in the flesh have not had any kind of revelation or vision.
2. It Fulfilled Prophecy:
The thorn also fulfilled prophecy. When Paul was converted, God said:
. . . I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. (Acts 9:16)
3. It Provided Strength:
The problems created by the "thorn" provided opportunity for the strength of God to be manifested.
WHAT IT DID:
The thorn buffeted Paul. To "buffet" means to "give repeated blows, over and over and over ." The word "buffeting" does not refer to a permanent state of sickness but to
repeated blows. The messenger was sent to buffet Paul to try to stop the Word of God from being preached.
HOW IT WAS MANIFESTED:
Here are some examples of the various ways this thorn stirred up opposition to buffet
(1) The Jews determined to kill Paul right after his conversion: Acts 9:23
(2) Paul was hindered in joining the believers: Acts 9:26-29
(3) He was opposed by Satan: Acts 13:6-12
(4) He was opposed by Jews in a mob: Acts 13:44-49
(5) He was expelled out of Antioch in Pisidia: Acts 13:50
(6) He was mobbed and expelled from Iconium: Acts 1 4:1-5
(7) He fled to Lystra and Derbe where he was stoned and left for dead: Acts 14:6-19
(8) He was disputing continually with false brethren : Acts 1 9:8
(9) He was beaten and jailed at Philippi: Acts 16:12-40
(10) He was mobbed and expelled from Thessalonica: Acts 17:1-10
(11) He was mobbed and expelled from Berea: Acts 17:10-14
(12) He was mobbed at Corinth: Acts 18:1-23
(13) He was mobbed at Ephesus: Acts 19:23-31
(14) There was a plot against his life by the Jews: Acts 20 :3
(15) He was seized by Jews, mobbed, tried in court five times, and suffered other
hardships: II Corinthians 11:23-33
Never once, in all his writings, does Paul name sickness as a buffeting which he suffered . In I Corinthians 4:11, Paul showed that his idea of buffeting was not a permanent
sickness. He said, "Even unto this present hour, we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place."
Paul did experience sickness as indicated in Galatians 4:13 -16, but this was not his thorn
because it was not a permanent condition. He said he had it only "at first." Some believe
Paul’s thorn was defective eyes , but his eyes were healed of blindness (Acts 9 :18 ).
Believing that he still continued to have eye trouble discredits the healing power of God.
Also, would it be right to call eye problems that resulted from seeing the glory of God a
messenger of Satan? Paul himself tells us in the year 60, when he wrote this epistle, that
it was "around 14 years ago" that he received the "abundant revelation" which resulted in
the thorn in the flesh. That was 12 years after his conversion experience in which he saw
When Paul uses the phrase in Galatians 4:15 that "ye would have plucked out your eyes and have given them to me," it is a Hebrew figure of speech. It is similar to phrases used in some places today to express intense desire. For example , "I would give my right arm . . . " If Paul had an oriental eye disease (ophthalmia ) with pus running from his eyes as some claim, it is strange that this would inspire people to have faith for special miracles.
Paul speaks of his "infirmity" which means "want of strength, weakness, an inability to produce results through his own natural abilities." Through this weakness, God’s power and strength were manifested.
The conclusion regarding Paul’s thorn is that although we cannot know for certain exactly what the thorn was, if you have been taught it was sickness keep the following in mind:
Paul’s thorn resulted in God’s power being demonstrated in His life. Some people use the "thorn in the flesh" excuse to languish in illness. They should remember that the only Biblical example of a thorn in the flesh out-wrote, out-preached, out-traveled all of his partners in ministry. The thorn did not hinder his dynamic service for the Kingdom nor the demonstration of God’s power through Him .