“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.”
Perhaps no part of the Bible has been so mis-taught over the centuries than the three verses in Second Corinthians where the apostle Paul relates the account of his ‘thorn in the flesh.’
Paul’s account of his ‘thorn in the flesh’ is fairly straight forward.
Short and sweet: the reason for this ‘thorn,’ how Paul approached this problem, God’s answer to Paul’s request to take away this chastisement and the reason behind being given this ‘thorn in the flesh.’
“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. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 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.”
Paul’s report on the matter actually is fairly complete.
MINUS one detail: the apostle does not name what his thorn in the flesh’ was.
Naturally, there has been MUCH speculation on the matter by those who are associated with the churches. BUT, mostly, they have appeared anxious for their readers to believe that Paul’s ‘thorn’ was some sort of illness or physical weakness (such as eyesight). Over the years, these commentators, for the most part, have been very careful to avoid any connection between Paul’s thorn and SIN.
A good overview of their thinking might be had by consulting some of the popular commentaries–particularly those of the past couple of hundred years.
[A thorn in the flesh] The word skoloq signifies a stake, and anaskolopizesyai, to be tied to a stake by way of punishment; and it is used, says Schoettgen, to signify the most oppressive afflictions. Whatever it was, it was th sarki, in the flesh, i.e. of an outward kind. It was neither sin nor sinfulness, for this could not be given him to prevent his being exalted above measure; for sin never had and never can have this tendency. What this thorn in the flesh might be has given birth to a multitude of conjectures: Tertullian thought it dolor auriculae, the ear ache; Chrysostom, kefalalgia, the head ache; Cyprian, carnis et corporis multa ac gravia tormenta, many and grievous bodily torments. I believe the apostle to refer simply to the distresses he had endured through the opposition he met with at Corinth; which were as painful and grievous to him as a thorn in his flesh, or his being bound to a stake; for, if he could have devoted himself to destruction, Ro 9:3, for his rebellious and unbelieving countrymen, what must he have suffered on account of an eminent Church being perverted and torn to pieces by a false teacher! God permitted this to keep the apostle humble, and at last completely delivered the Church out of the hands and influence of this deceiver; none, not even the incestuous person, having been turned finally out of the way by the false doctrines there preached.
—Adam Clarke Commentary (1817)
Paul was told indirectly that his calamity would not be removed, and he submitted. We may expect no such revelation from heaven, but we may know in other ways that the calamity will not be removed; and we should submit. The child or other friend for whom we prayed may die; or the calamity, as, e.g., blindness, or deafness, or loss of health, or poverty, may become permanent, so that there is no hope of removing it; and we should then cease to pray that it may be removed, and we should cheerfully acquiesce in the will of God.
—Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament (1832)
The best of God’s people have in them a root of pride, or a disposition to be exalted above measure, upon their receipt of favours from God not common to others; of which nature extraordinary revelations are none of the meanest, especially when they are multiplied, as it seems they were here to Paul. To prevent the breaking out of which, the apostle here tells us, that he had a thorn in the flesh given him. It is variously guessed what this was; he calleth it a thorn in the flesh; but whether (supposing flesh to be here strictly taken) he meaneth some disease affecting his body with pain and smart, and if so, what that specifical disease was, is no where revealed, and very uncertainly conjectured: or whether (taking flesh in a large sense, for his state in the flesh) he meaneth some motions to sin made to him from the devil; the importunity of which made them very grievous and afflictive to him, being in the flesh: or (as others think) motions to sin from his own lusts; which God suffured to stir in him, withholding such influence of his grace, by which he ordinarily kept them under, and in subjection; is very uncertain.
—Matthew Poole’s Commentary (1669–)
So, most of the commentaries taught that Paul’s thorn was a physical weakness; some sort of ailment: NOT SIN.
However, this view is very unconvincing–at best.
The reader can know that Paul’s thorn was sinful behavior because he relates that it came from Satan himself. Of course Satan has to obtain God’s permission first before afflicting any of God’s people. And, Satan IS able to afflict with physical means (The Book of Job is proof of this.)
However, the reader may also know that the thorn was SIN because it bothered Paul enough to ask God–three times!–to relieve him of it. Paul was no stranger to physical discomfort and there is NO record of Paul EVER asking for such relief for ANY of the other physical discomforts he experienced.
“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
AND, the reader can KNOW that Paul’s thorn was SIN by God’s reply.
God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul would NOT have needed God’s grace for a physical ailment. God’s mercy is NOT dispensed because of one’s physical ailments, which are NOT chosen behaviors.
SIN, however, is a freely-chosen behavior–and men need God’s grace (mercy) to to overcome SIN, as well as its consequences.
There was ONE commentary which taught that Paul’s problem was most likely SIN. It is from over 420 years ago: the 1599 Geneva Bible.
He means sinful lust, that sticks fast in us as it were a thorn, to such a degree that it forced Paul himself who was regenerated to cry out, “I do not that good that I would”, etc. And he calls it a thorn by a metaphor taken from thorns, or stumps, which are very dangerous and harmful for the feet, if a man walks through woods that are cut down. A messenger from Satan… Which sets those lusts on fire.
FINALLY, a question for the reader:
“Why does the reader think those connected with the counterfeit churches have pushed the idea–especially over the last 200 years–that Paul’s problem was a physical ailment of some sort, rather than SIN?”
HAS the reader ever thought of what Paul’s ‘thorn’ might have been?
It is not YET too late: there is still time to change direction (repent), place your faith (hope) for the future entirely on Jesus Christ and enter the kingdom of heaven.
DOES the reader believe he is saved?
DOES the reader believe he is NOT saved?
- Gospel of Jesus Christ: Making a Choice
- The Gospel of Jesus Christ
- Gospel of Jesus Christ: The Power of God Unto Salvation
- Gospel of Jesus Christ: The End Times Power of God Unleashed
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. ”
–1 Corinthians 15:1-8
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
[Portions of this piece appeared originally in End Times Prophecy Headlines: January 4 2020.]
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- God is in Control
- The Nature of Spiritual Deception
- Tender Mercies of the Lord: Will Not Always Be Available
- Eternal Salvation Through Jesus Christ: Salvation Messages from End Times Prophecy Report
- Do You Know if You are Going to Heaven? Be Sure!
- END TIMES PREPARATION: 15 Ways to Prepare for the End Times
- Deceitful Workers are Victims of Deception Themselves
- End Times Survival, End Times Preparation
- 35 Most Important ETPR Articles
- DISOBEDIENCE and REBELLION: The Wisdom of Man OR the Word of God?
- Apostate Church: Breaking Every Chain
- Persecution, Tribulation, Troubles, Trials: What the Bible says to Christians
by Jeremiah Jameson
–with Mondo Frazier
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