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Paul's Thorn in the Flesh

Updated: Nov 25, 2021

Paul's Thorn in the Flesh

What are we supposed to believe when we have pain, sickness, or disease and it just won't go away? It seems like God won't heal it and the doctors can't. Well, many Christians turn to 2 Corinthians 12 to remind themselves of Paul's thorn in the flesh. They use this scripture for comfort to prove to themselves that God still loves them just like He still loved Paul even though his thorn was never taken away.

God still loves you even if you haven't been healed. You should have confidence in this, regardless of what Paul's thorn actually was. I want to explore the idea that Paul's thorn in the flesh isn't chronic pain or illness. Mainly so people do not grow tired in their faith searching for supernatural healing.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 says:

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! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Just looking at this scripture you might think it was a demon that caused some sort of physical pain and many people think this is the case. I do not claim to know whether it was or wasn't a physical infirmity caused by a demon, but it appears this isn't the case. God certainly can do this and anything else He wants because He is the potter and we are the clay (Romans 9:21).

If you look at the previous chapter, Paul talks about many of the issues he was facing. This could explain both the thorn in the flesh and messenger of Satan.

2 Corinthians 11:23-27 says:

...I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

The main reason God gave Paul the thorn in his side (flesh) is to keep him humble. Reading through the new testament you can see all the good things Paul did and how he had many followers. This can make you feel pretty good about yourself and might even give you some pride. 2 Corinthians 11 23-27 says how much Paul was beaten and imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. He may of had a lot of followers, but he had some tenacious haters as well. Could these haters be the messenger of Satan to bring the balance between pride and humility?

Paul talks about a lot of the persecution he faces, but never talks about any ailments or chronic pains he may have. This is the main reason why I am more led to believe that the messenger of Satan and thorn in the flesh are the people that persecute him. Take a look at the scripture about thorns below. Many of them are not referring to actual thorns, but are used as metaphors for enemies of Israel.

Read through the scripture and rely on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide you regarding this question. Never give up hope and stay strong in your faith in all areas of your life. God can do anything!

Bible Verses About Thorns

Therefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be [as thorns] in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you."

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.

But all of the ungodly shall be as thorns to be thrust away, because they can't be taken with the hand,

Joshua 23:12-13

"For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.

For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, "Break up your fallow ground, and don't sow among thorns.

Matthew 7:16-20

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Psalm 118:12

They surrounded me like bees; They were extinguished as a fire of thorns; In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.

Isaiah 27:4

"I have no wrath. Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle, Then I would step on them, I would burn them completely.


Do you think Paul's thorn was chronic pain or illness, or do you think it was the enemies of Paul? Leave a comment below to help us get a better understanding.

Do you have a thorn in your side that you would like to go away? We can stand in faith and pray for you. Go to our Share a Prayer page and leave a prayer request. If you need physical healing, you can contact us and we will have someone reach out to you to to minister over the phone.

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