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 Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in
infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in
distresses for Christ sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Corinthians 12:7-10, KJV
Whenever I teach along the lines of test
and trials, and show that God does not test us with problems,
inevitably people want to know about Pauls thorn. To them,
Pauls thorn is proof that God sometimes allows us to get
sick in order to teach us.
There is not a thorn that has stuck more
people than Pauls thorn. Through this passage, people have
developed a weak, passive gospel where they are suppose to suffer
sickness for the glory of God.
I have debated with theologians about
divine healing and have asked them, "Show me one example in
the Gospels where Jesus refused to heal a person who had
Nearly every time I ask this question,
they reply, "Paul is the example." I have to remind
them that I asked for an example in the Gospels. When I clarify
the question, they simply shrug their shoulders, "I
dont know of any example in the Gospels where Jesus did not
heal someone who came to Him in faith."
The fact that people have to depart from
the Gospels and use Pauls thorn as an example of Jesus
denying someone health is proof how weak their arguments against
divine healing really are. The Gospels clearly reveal that Jesus
healed everyone who asked Him, yet people will cling to this one
passage as proof that Jesus has denied them their healing on the
grounds that they have a thorn in the flesh.
The accustomed interpretation in
traditional Christianity concerning this passage is as follows:
Paul was prideful because of the great revelations God gave him.
To keep Paul humble God sent a demon to make him sick. Paul asked
God to heal him, but the Lord said no. The lesson: God sometimes
sends demons to make us sick in order to keep us humble.
Satan is cunning. He can distort any
Scripture to keep people bound. This passage is a case in point.
There are three major errors concerning
this traditional interpretation: first, that God personally sent
the demon, second, that the demon made Paul sick, and third, that
God refused to heal Paul from this sickness.
Exalted Beyond Measure
Paul gives the reason why this messenger
of Satan was given to him. "Lest I should be exalted above
measure through the abundance of revelations." I
find it inconsistent that people claim to have Pauls thorn
but they dont claim to have his abundance of revelations.
So before you claim to have a thorn, make sure you have an
abundance of revelations.
Paul says, "there was given to me a
thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me."
Since Paul uses the word given people assume that God gave
it. But notice that the thorn in the flesh is a messenger of
Satan. Messengers are sent from their leaders. This messenger was
sent by his leader, Satan. God did not send him.
What did this messenger of Satan do?
Many think that this messenger was a demon who made Paul sick.
They assume this demon made him sick because in the gospels we
find demons causing sicknesses. But this is not the only thing
that demons do. They also cause persecutions. This is what this
evil spirit caused. Let me prove this to you.
Let the Bible Interpret
The first rule of Bible interpretation
is this: if at all possible, let the Bible interpret itself. In
other words, before you give a meaning to a passage, ask yourself
if there are any other Scriptures related to this. If there are,
then let those passages interpret the passage youre
reading. This is especially true concerning Pauls thorn.
To understand what problem the messenger
of Satan caused, you have to understand the term "thorn in
the flesh." This term is found frequently in the Old
Testament. Paul was very familiar with the Old Testament, so he
undoubtedly used this term in the same way that it is used in the
Its amazing to me that people
speculate as to the meaning of Pauls thorn. Most
theologians will say, "We cant be sure what this thorn
was, but it was probably a sickness, perhaps an eye
When I hear this kind of speculation I
wonder if these so-called experts have bothered to look up the
word thorn in their concordance. If they had, then they would
know for sure what Pauls thorn really was.
So what was this thorn? You have the
answer if you know how the word thorn was used in the Old
Testament. Once you know, then you know the meaning of
There are three main passages in the Old
Testament that relate to Pauls thorn in the flesh. The
first one is Numbers 33:55:
"But if you do not drive out
the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will
become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will
give you trouble in the land where you will live."
So here, the thorns represent
Israels enemiesthose who caused trouble for Israel.
The second passage which refers to thorns is Judges 2:3:
"Now therefore I tell you
that I will not drive them out before you; they will be
thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to
The thorns were the Canaanites. The
Canaanites were Israels persecutors. Again we see that the
thorns referred to people who hated Israel. The third passage
about thorns is Joshua 23:12-13:
"But if you turn away and
ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations
you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive
out these nations before you. Instead, they will become
snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in
your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the
Lord your God has given you.
This passage makes it plain that the
nations were going to be thorns in Israels eyes.
Put these three passages together and
you discover what the thorns represent. The thorns consistently
represent Israels enemies. They were Israels
persecutors. Not once does the Bible use this term thorn to
represent physical sicknesses.
Go back to the passage in 2 Corinthians
and you see that Pauls thorn represented his enemies who
persecuted him. This is obviously what he had in mind, because he
mentions clearly what the thorn did to him:
That is why, for Christs
sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in
persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am
strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
It doesnt take a genius to figure
out that Paul used the term thorn to represent persecutions (and
all that went with it) that he endured for preaching the gospel.
To suggest that Pauls thorn was an organic illness, such as
Ophthalmia, is really stretching the meaning of this term. The
Bible plainly tells us that the term thorn is used in reference
to people who become enemies of Gods family. This is what
Paul meant by that term.
Even today, we have a similar term which
means the same thing. We say that someone is a "pain in the
neck." We dont actually mean that we have a physical
pain. The term pain in the neck is a colloquial phrase which
conveys that someone is giving us problems. The term thorn in the
flesh does not mean an actual thorn or an actual fleshly problem.
It simply means that people harassed Paul.
Why do theologians misinterpret
Pauls thorn to mean sickness? The reason is clear: they are
looking for loop holes in Gods covenant of health. God
makes it clear that Jesus bore our sickness and that He is the
God Who heals us from all our diseases. The Gospels reveal Jesus
as our complete healer. Yet, instead of accepting the clear
teaching of the Bible regarding divine healing, people comb
through the Scriptures, hoping to find exceptions to the covenant
of health. Pauls thorn seems to be their supreme exception.
Do you realize that Pauls thorn is
their major evidence that proves that God wants some people to
have a demon afflicting them with disease? If this is the primary
evidence, then their case is ruined.
Imagine that you are a jury, and the
only evidence is the Bible. You listen to the evidence of divine
healing. As a lawyer, I present you case by case examples of
Jesus healing everyone who was afflicted by the devil. I show you
Gods covenant of health in the Old Testament, and how Jesus
fulfilled the covenant of health through His sacrifice on the
crossthat He took our infirmities on Himself and by His
stripes we are healed.
After all this conclusive evidence,
another lawyera theologiantells you to forget all
this evidence and accept only one piece of evidence that he has,
and that is Pauls thorn.
I come back to rebut this evidence by
pointing to the fact that the term thorn refers to Pauls
After hearing all this evidence, what
are you going to conclude about divine healing? You easily
conclude that the theologian lawyer is grabbing for straws to
maintain his traditional doctrine that divine healing does not
belongs to us. The clear evidence of Scripture is that healing is
Four Kinds of Suffering
This brings us to one last important
point. Paul prayed that God would remove the persecutions from
him. Yet God answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, for
my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). It
was Gods will that Paul be made perfect through suffering
Many complain about the message of
health and prosperity. They charge that faith ministers deny the
role of suffering in the Christian life. Well, I cant speak
for others, but I believe that a Christian should suffer, but
only suffer if its Gods will.
The problem with much of the teaching on
suffering is that it assumes that all suffering is the same. Many
do not differentiate between bad suffering and good suffering.
The Bible mentions four kinds of suffering: general, sinful,
demonic, and Christian.
General suffering is discomfort that
everyone goes through. Sinful suffering is punishment for doing
wrong. Demonic suffering is unusual misfortune which happens to
people because of the work of demons. Christian suffering is
adversity which comes only to Christians who are living
godlyits usually in the form of persecutions,
criticism, prejudiceand is normally caused by fallen
Some simply treat the subject of
suffering as though all suffering were the same. For example: one
believer may be thrown into prison for preaching the gospel and
another may be in prison for stealing beer at a convenient store.
Both are suffering, but its clear that one is suffering for
the cause of Christ and the other is suffering for his own sins.
You cant say that both are suffering according to
Gods will. Peter writes:
If you suffer, it should not be
as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even
as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not
be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name
then, those who suffer according to Gods will should
commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to
do good" (1 Pet. 4:15-16, 19).
This Scripture clearly shows the
difference between Christian suffering and sinful suffering.
In another case, one lady experiences
pain in child birth, and another dies giving birth. They both
suffered. The lady who had pain experienced suffering which
nearly every pregnant woman goes through. This is called general
suffering. It is suffering which everyone goes through, whether
they are a believer or not.
However, the woman who died experience
unusual tragedy. When someone experiences something unusual,
often this kind of suffering is demonic. Demonic suffering is
caused by the devil himself through his agency of demons. There
is no reason that a Christian woman should have to suffer death
when she gives birth. Pain yes, death no.
Paul says, "But women will be kept
safe through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and
holiness with propriety" (1 Tim. 2:15). God promises
protection in child birth. He does not promise to exempt her from
Some overly zealous charismatics have
taught that women dont have to go through pain in delivery.
They say that we are redeemed from the curse. And the curse is
having pain in childbirth. "I will greatly increase your
pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to
children" (Genesis 3:16).
They reason that since this is a curse,
and we are redeemed from the curse of the Law (see Galatians
3:13), women should not have to have pain in childbirth. The
problem with their interpretation is that they confuse the curse
in Genesis with the curse of the Law. God does not exempt us from
the curse in Genesis; He exempts from the curse of the Law. The
curse of the Law is mentioned in Deuteronomy chapter 28, and
nowhere does it mention pain in childbirth as a curse. It does
mention miscarriage as a curse, but never pain.
You see, some suffering is normal and
should not be considered sinful or demonic. Its just
normal. For example, its normal to get gray hair when you
grow old. You dont rebuke gray hair, you simply dye it.
Its normal to slow up a bit when you get older. The devil
is not slowing you up; age is. However, that does not mean you
should be in a wheel chair.
I find it humorous that Christians are
fighting what is normal. On the other hand, I find it tragic that
other Christians accept suffering which is not normallike
terminal and chronic illnesses. The Bible describes those
illnesses as demonic, and believers need to fight those.
So its clear that suffering can be
Gods will if it is Christian suffering. This is what Paul
went through, and God made it clear that through this kind of
suffering Paul would be made perfect and strong. We should
embrace this kind of suffering, but reject demonic suffering.
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