Thorn in the flesh – what is it?

Paul’s thorn in the flesh has been misunderstood and misused by many Christians. They have been taught (incorrectly) that this “thorn” was some kind of sickness or affection used to keep Paul humble. As a result, Christians have used this as an excuse to justify and accept any sickness, difficulty, or problem they have in their life. They think if the Apostle Paul couldn’t be healed or delivered from this “thorn” how can they expect to be? So, what is this thorn in the flesh?

Thorn in the flesh by Pastor Bruce Edwards2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is where we find Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”.

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. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 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. 10 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.

What is the Thorn in the Flesh

The scriptures clearly tells us in verse 7 that this thorn in the flesh was, “a messenger from Satan” – a demon. It does not identify the thorn as sickness or any kind of affliction. The word used as “messenger” here means angel (good or bad), it refers to a created being, not some kind of thing. So, Paul’s thorn was literally a demonic spirit sent from Satan to buffet him.

What was Thorn in the Flesh Sent For

The thorn in the flesh was sent to “buffet” the apostle Paul. The word “buffet” means to strike repeatedly as waves would buffet the shore. How did this “demon from Satan continually buffet Paul? Most Christian believe it was with sickness or some kind of physical afflictions. It was not!

Infirmity Does Not Mean Sickness

Infirmity in verse 10 does not mean sickness. In the context of Paul’s thorn, infirmities refers to all the opposition and persecution that Paul encountered every where he went. In fact, Paul list many of these persecutions in 2 Corinthians 11:23-30 and specifically identifies them as “infirmities:

I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.

Again the infirmities that Paul are referring to are not sickness or disease, but they are the many persecutions that came against him to try and hinder him from spreading the gospel.

God’s Grace is Sufficient

So, what do we do? What is are take away? God’s grace is sufficient! Paul prayed for God to take away all the persecutions, but God’s answer to that prayer was, “My grace is sufficient”. Don’t let Satan use a twisted interpretation of these verses to rob you of the blessings and authority you have in Christ. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” You have to resist the devil and the deceptions he tries to convince you of and when you do he flees. How do we do this? By His grace. God’s grace is His power and ability working in us. His grace is greater than any demon or devil. Submit to God and trust Him. When you do you will overcome the persecutions in your life. How? By His grace. His grace is sufficient!

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