The passage about Paul’s thorn in the flesh has left many people confused and unsure about healing or God’s will concerning healing and who gets healed. I want to address some of those wrong traditions or myths that many people still believe and use to explain this passage.
2 Cor 12:7-10 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. (NKJV)
Myth #1: The thorn was from God
Verse 7 clearly states the thorn was a messenger of satan. If you say the thorn was from God, you are calling God the devil. Myth busted!
Myth #2: God gave Paul the thorn to keep him humble
Based on Myth 1, this can also not be true. I know Paul says it was given ‘lest he be exalted above measure’ but this is not referring to him being humbled by God. In fact, if you are honest with yourself, there is only one person who can humble you, and that is you. Nobody else, not even God, can humble you. When we try to humble somebody else, it is called HUMILIATION, not humbleness. BIG difference. If God gave Paul a thorn to humble him, then that means God humiliated Paul for spreading the Gospel. Paul was doing such a good job at spreading the gospel that God thought he needed to be humiliated. “Who does Paul think he is telling so many people I love them? I’ll show him…” Can you see how stupid this argument is?
1 Peter 5:6-7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (NKJV)
This verse says we are to humble ourselves. Jesus humbled Himself too (Phil 2:8). God didn’t give Jesus a thorn in the flesh to humble Him, because that again would be humiliation.
Isa 54:4 Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated (NIV)
This is one of the atonement prophecies and it clearly says that we will not be humiliated, nor will we suffer disgrace or shame. To say God humbles through sickness is to say God humiliates us and that is contrary to and in violation of scripture. So for a third time, God did not give Paul a thorn to humble him and He didn’t give him a thorn to teach him a lesson either. Myth Busted!
Myth #3: Paul’s thorn was a sickness
There is actually not one verse in this entire passage that refers to the thorn being a sickness. Now I know you are going to say, “But Paul calls it an infirmity and that is a sickness.” Well, yes and no. Today the word infirmity is almost exclusively used to refer to sickness, but that is not its only definition. The actual Greek word used there actually means feebleness, pertaining to a lack of strength, weakness, or deficient resources. The word is often used to describe weakness of the body caused by sickness but that is not its only use.
Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (KJV)
Here the word infirmity is used (by Paul again) to mean not knowing how to pray. Lacking the wisdom or knowledge to know how or what to pray for is called an infirmity. So again, infirmity doesn’t always mean sickness. In verse 9 and 10 of 2 Corinthians, Paul says he will boast in his infirmities and take pleasure in them. He actually says the same thing in the previous chapter, and if we take into consideration that this is actually one letter, then we have to look at the context and the consistency within the whole letter.
2 Cor 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. (NKJV)
Again Paul uses the word infirmity and says if he needs to boast, he will do so concerning his infirmity. So what is his infirmity and what is his boast? The previous 7 verses clearly shows his boast, and what he boasts in, what he calls ‘his infirmity.’ See if you can see sickness amongst the list:
2 Cor 11:22-30 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? — 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. (NKJV)
Clearly Paul was not referring to sickness when he wrote this. He was talking about what he has suffered for the sake of the gospel. Beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, many perils, weariness, etc. Not one of the things he is boasting in is a sickness. Then a mere 13 verses on he repeats himself and now suddenly people think he means sickness. He hasn’t mentioned sickness once! Look at 2 Cor 12:10 again:
2 Cor 12:10 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. (NKJV)
Paul used 5 words here to summarize: infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses. The last 4 are consistent and in context with chapter 11’s boast that did not include sickness. If we are to say infirmity here means sickness, we are taking away the consistency and context of the passage. If you take a scripture or passage out of context, you are violating the basic principles of interpretation and you are twisting the word to say something it isn’t saying and that is dangerously misleading. Myth Busted!
To summarize Part 1:
- The thorn came from satan, not God.
- The thorn was not a tool of humiliation used by God.
- The thorn was not a sickness but persecution for the gospel’s sake.
I will post Part 2 soon…
Glory to God, Freedom to Man!
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