Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh – Pastor Don’s homework assignment
Assignment given on 11/16/12
We are to read the following Scriptures to glean what we can about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Many have said Paul’s thorn was a problem with his eyes or some sickness, but the Scriptures do not bear that interpretation out.
2 Corinthians 12:1-13 – focus on verses 5-10
2 Corinthians 12:1-4 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Paul has had incredible visions and revelations of the Lord, was caught up into Heaven and heard inexpressible words that were unlawful for men to hear.
2 Corinthians 12:5-10 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
To keep him from being prideful God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh. What was that thorn? A messenger from satan to buffet Paul unless he becomes exalted above measure (prideful). Paul pleaded with God three times to remove these messengers from satan from him – make it smooth sailing for sharing the Gospel. God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you.” That makes us ask what is grace – we have learned in past Bible studies that grace is not unmerited favor – it is power and authority to do something about a situation. God is telling Paul to use the power and authority God has given him to deal with his annoyances. Paul says that he would rather boast in infirmities so Christ’s power can rest on him. He realizes that when he is weak, the power of God working through him makes him strong.
There is a terrible problem with these verses because people who are sick use these verses to justify being sick – they say when they are weak in their infirmities it is for the glory of God because God can make them strong to bear the challenges of their sickness. But God is NEVER glorified when we are sick. Where would God get the most glory? If you bear up well under sickness that is okay, but the greatest glory for God would be for you to fully recover from sickness and give a good testimony of what God has done.
2 Corinthians 12:11-13 I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong.
Paul was a Jew among Jews. He had knowledge and authority among Levites. He counts that all as nothing compared to the Glory of God and Jesus Christ. He has all the signs of an apostle – fully operating in the spiritual gifts such as healing and prophecy. Paul was never a burden to those he served.
Help verses to show more about the thorn and grace.
Numbers 33:55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.
Notice here it mentions thorns in your sides. One can equate this to being a trouble to the Israelites if they don’t drive out all the enemy. The irritants in their eyes is they would have to see the enemy and all the evil that they did. One could equate this idea of thorn in the side to being like when we say someone is a pain in the neck. They are not literally giving you neck pain, but rather an annoyance.
Acts 14: 5-7, 19 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. And they were preaching the gospel there (19) Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
Paul was preaching to the Gentiles. He did not feel that the Gentiles should have to live under the rules of the orthodox Jews such as circumcision. When he would set up in an area and preach people called Judiaizers would come to harass him. They were legalists that wanted all believers to be Orthodox Jews. Notice they stoned and abused Paul. In one passage of Scripture Paul details the number of times he’s been stoned, beaten, whipped, and shipwrecked. One could say that these were enemies of satan to buffet him. In this passage he is left to be dead.
2 Timothy 3:1-9 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
Paul is telling Timothy that in the end days there will be many forms of lawlessness. Some will come with an outward appearance of godliness but not teaching the truth of Jesus. They will creep into households to try and deceive the believers. These unlawful people will resist the truth.
2 Timothy 3:10-17
The Man of God and the Word of God But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul tells timothy of the kinds of persecutions he has endured and notice what I bolded: OUT OF THEM ALL THE LORD DELIVERED PAUL. Not out of some. Not out of a few. But, out of the ALL. Paul knows we will suffer persecution. And then he reminds us that the Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof and correction. The Scriptures instruct us in righteousness. And the Scriptures equip us for every good work – and that also includes buffeting those messengers of satan that come trying to keep us from doing God’s will and Kingdom work.
John 1:16-17 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
We are given grace for grace – an abundance of grace to deal with what we have to deal with. This is not the law which requires mercy, but grace and truth through Jesus Christ.
Galatians 4:13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.
Paul preached the Gospel first so people could be delivered from their infirmities.
Pastor Don teaches this lesson often, so my comments are what I’m remember he emphasizes with these passages. I hope this helps you to understand.
Pastor Don Moore is a prolific author, and has written several books to help believers. If you are still confused, read Pastor Don Moore’s book Grace online for free – it goes into what grace is and also explains in more detail about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Here is the link to Pastor Don Moore’s website – which gives you access to teaching, a way to purchase his books and studies.
Have a blessed day.