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Paul's Thorn

The apostle Paul's "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me" (2 Corinthians 12:7 KJV) has been a subject of curiosity for centuries. Was it some thing? Or was it someone? Adding to the peculiarity of the statement was Paul's choice of the word for thorn. Throughout the New Testament, the Greek word pronounced ak-an-thah, which means thorn or thorny plant was almost always used for "thorns" e.g. "27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!" (Matthew 27:29 KJV) and "4:7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit" (Mark 4:7 KJV).

The word that Paul used for "thorn" however is found only once in the Scriptures, by Paul. It is pronounced skol-ops and means a pointed piece of wood, i.e. a goad. Did Paul use that word because someone was goading and harassing him? It seems quite possible, particularly since he includes in the statement "the messenger of Satan to buffet me." Satan literally means accuser.

"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me"

Paul's Ministry was one of the most productive and fruitful that ever was. He was given to see and understand things that very few other people ever have.

Apostle

"12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; such an one caught up to the third heaven. 12:3 And I knew such a man, whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; 12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 12:5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 12:6 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." (2 Corinthians 12:1-6 KJV)

Whether it was a natural result of being well-known, or whether it was prescribed by The Lord to keep Paul humble ("lest I should be exalted above measure") is not entirely clear. But what is certain is that righteous Paul was grieved by whatever, or whoever, manifested that "messenger of Satan."

"12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations [see Apocalypse], there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 12:9 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. 12:10 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."

12:11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. 12:12 Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 12:13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.

12:14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 12:15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. 12:16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. 12:17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? 12:18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?

12:19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. 12:20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, Backbitings, whisperings [see The Whisperer], swellings, tumults: 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed" (2 Corinthians 12:7-21 KJV).

Fact Finder: Why does it become easier to sin, when one is trying the hardest not to sin?
See Concupiscence


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