What About Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh"?

Mark Virkler's picture

Question: I believe God doesn’t always want to heal us because Paul had a sickness which God did not heal. What about the thorn in his side?

"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!" (2 Cor. 12:7)


Answer: The phrases “pricks in your eyes” and “thorns in your sides” were idioms in the Hebrew culture, and refer to a group of people troubling you. For example, take a look at Numbers 33:55...

'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live."


For Paul, the thorn in his side was the Judaizers. They would travel around after Paul and teach that the new Christians needed to live under law, rather than walk by the Spirit.

"But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage." (Gal. 2:4)

"For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God." (Gal. 2:19)

"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:1-3)

"So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" (Gal. 3:5)

Yes, it is clear. Paul had an ongoing argument with those Judaizers who would seek to bring the new Christian converts back under the law. If we are going to work miracles, it will not be because we kept a bunch of laws. It will be because we heard that by His stripes we are healed, and we united faith to this promise from God. We believe it. We see it as being true in our bodies, and it is true.

Faith is acting like it is so

When it doesn’t appear to be so

So that it will be so

Because it is so.

(Mk. 11:22,23)

 

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Comments

Anonymous's picture

Thorn in the flesh

Thanks, Mark, That really helps. Good to know the meaning of the idioms because it changes the meaning.