There are a number of “old standard” excuses put forward by people that don’t believe that is for today, or that want to somehow restrict it. One of these “old standbys” is “Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh.”
As the excuse goes, Paul was “struck down” by God to keep him humble because of the abundance of his revelations. That is, God “put it on him” to keep him humble. And, folks say, “I’m just like Paul… God put this affliction on me to teach me something.” Well, this is so wrong in so many ways, we need to “peel back” the layers and look at each one!
The original premise is based on the following scriptures:
2 Corinthians 12:5-10 “Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 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. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Now, let’s look first at the assumption that the “thorn” was from God. Does he say that it was? No. He says, “… there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of satan.” The “thorn” was:
A) a messenger, and
B) it was sent by satan.
What is a “messenger” here? Well, the Greek says, “aggleos,” or “angel,” or a spiritual (that is, a “non-corporeal”) creature. We know that there are “good” angels sent by God, and there are “bad” beings sent by satan called “demons.” Both types of creatures are spiritual beings. And, we know that satan was, at one time, an angelic being that sinned and fell. (Isaiah 14:12-15) So, the best way to know if this spiritual creature was a demonic spirit or an angel was to see what the source was. The scripture plainly says that it was a spirit sent from satan. So, again:
A) it was a being of some kind, and
B) it was sent by satan, not God.
Next, we need to know who sent the revelations that Paul said was the reason for the attack. The “abundance” of revelations were from God. This is evidenced by the fact that the “Pauline revelation” that Paul received and conveyed in his letters make up tech bulk of the New Testament! So, GOD sent the revelation… now, if God was the source of the revelations, would He also be the source of the “problem/attack?” Does that really sound like our Father God? Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” God does not intend evil toward us, but peace and good. Would it be right to give someone a gift that resulted in their destruction or pain? No, we wouldn’t see it that way if a man did that, much less God! It is MUCH more likely, isn’t it, that God gave Paul the revelation for his, and our, good, and satan gave Paul the “thorn” to try and stop that revelation from getting out! Doesn’t that make more sense? It certainly does to me!
Now, let’s break down this issue further. The story that is preached by some concerning “Paul’s Thorn” is that the “thorn” was not a being, or spirit (despite that being specifically what the Bible says that it is!) They teach that it was a disease. In fact, they teach that it was a specific disease called “opthalmalia,” a terrible disease in which puss comes from the eyes. It was supposed to bee nasty and disfiguring. And, God was supposed to have visited it upon Paul because of the revelations that God himself was bringing! Well, first of all, God is “Jehovah-Rapha,” the God that Healeth Thee, not the God that maketh thee sick! Secondly, as I pointed out, God brought about the issue (the “revelations”) that He was supposedly “punishing,” that makes no sense! The idea that the “thorn” was opthamalia comes about because of a strange reading by these folks of Galatians 4:13, “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. ” They take this reference out of context and proclaim, “Why the Galatians were so repulsed by Paul’s visage, and so sympathetic of his plight, that they would have plucked out their own eyes for him!” What?!?! Is this what this reference says? Let’s look at the actual context…
“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.”
Paul’s issue with them was that they (the Galatians) were “observing days, and months, and times, and years,” which, he says, were, “the weak and beggarly elements.” In short, they had left the revelation of our new covenant in Jesus, and had returned to pagan rituals, even observing holidays, festivals, and partaking in activities that were not Christian in nature. He said of them, “I am afraid of you.” Or, as some translations put it, “I am afraid FOR you!” In fact the “Literal Translation of the Bible” says, “I fear for you, lest somehow I have labored among you in vain.” Paul was concerned that after teaching them the truth of the Word they had returned to their “old ways” and that what he had shared with them was in vain..
What does this have to do with “Paul’s Thorn?” Well, hang in there, and bear with me! Paul continues to says, “Ye (Galatians) know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.” The teachers of “Paul’s Thorn” doctrine say, “See! It was something in his flesh!” Well, consider this scripture:
1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Was the “weakness, and fear and much trembling” because of physical deformity, or the fact that it was not his own “excellency of speech or of wisdom” but rather his total reliance on the power of God?” I believe the latter! In other words, “in the flesh” didn’t mean an infirmity in his physical body. It meant that though he was a flesh and blood human, he was teaching things by the power and demonstration of God! He, Paul, was “in his flesh,” but the revelation was from “on High!” The word used for “infirmity” in Galatians 4: 13 is “astheneia” which means “feebleness, or frailty.” Paul felt frail in his natural man, but strong in the spirit! He exorted the Corinthians, “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” It was not Paul’s great natural education and wisdom that he was relying upon, it was God’s supernatural power and revelation! In a similar way, he was reminding the Galatians that he didn’t impress them with natural “presence” or man’s oratory, but by supernatural revelation!
Now as to his comment about “plucking out their eyes,” notice what he says in Galatians 4:15. “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of?” What is the “blessedness” he refers to? The Greek here is, “makirismos” which Strong’s Concordance says is, “From G3106; beatification, that is, attribution of good fortune: – blessedness.” This word “beatification” is usually referring to something or someone that someone has been called a blessing. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says, “to declare to have attained the blessedness of heaven.” So, we are led to assume that the Galatians had told Paul of some doctrine, or revelation that they believed to be a “blessing from heaven.” Bottom-line, they thought they had a “blessed revelation” that they had shared with Paul, and he didn’t agree. In other words, he “didn’t see it.” When we speak about something that we don’t agree with, we sometimes use the phrase, “I just don’t see it that way.” Do we mean that we actually, physically do not see something that someone else does? No, we mean that we do not understand the facts that they are presenting in tech same way… we don’t “see it.” We don’t “get it!” Well, neither did Paul. The “times and seasons” and rituals they they were so excited about, that they thought were such blessings… he didn’t “see them” the same way that they did. And, again, speaking metaphorically, he was saying, “Not only do I not see it that way, but I know that you wanted me to so badly, you would have ‘pulled out your own eyes’ so that I could see it from your perspective.” Was Paul prone to use metaphor in this way? Well, in the mouth of two or three witnesses, let’s establish that he did…
1 Corinthians 15:31 ” Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…” Was he taking about literal “sleep” here, as we do at night, or did he mean “the death of a saint in God.”
1 Corinthians 12:14-15 “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” We we, as Christians, literally a hand or a foot? Does a hand have a mouth that it can use to talk and say something? No, it is a spiritual metaphor to get across and idea. We are members of Christ’s body… and this helps us understand or functions.
Ephesians 5:30-32 “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” So, are we literally pieces of Jesus’ flesh and bone? Paul even had to say, “I speak of Christ and His Church.” to make clear that this was a physical allusion to a spiritual truth… in other words, a metaphor! It is a good representation… but it is used to make a point in teaching.
As my point here in this teaching is, that Paul was subject, quite often, to use metaphors to convey his meaning! Therefore, his saying, in effect, “I just don’t see it your way, but I am sure that you folks would have pulled out your eyes and let me see through them to ‘get it!'” does make sense here.
To establish this further, let’s go back to our reference in Galatians…
“Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.”
Notice, “am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” He was telling them something that they weren’t agreeing with. A “truth” that was not what they currently believed. and what does he mean when he says, “They zealously affect you, but not well.” “They,” here, are teachers other than Paul that have taught the Galatians something that Paul “doesn’t see.” These teachers were “zealously affecting” the Galatians with their false doctrine of “times and seasons.” The bottom line is, this had nothing to do with opthamalia!
So, back to our original reference… we have seen that “Paul’s Thorn” came from satan, and that it was a result of Paul receiving from God an abundance of revelation knowledge. Now, for you, or anyone else, to claim that you are “just like Paul” you would have to be indicating that you are the level of apostle that he was, and, I guess, are planning on writing YOUR revelation to share with the rest of the Body of Christ! (I don’t think so!)
No… this whole story is just a lie of the devil, that, unfortunately, has been used by satan to hold people back from receiving their healing from God! Don’t let satan’s lies stop you from receiving what God has provided!