Suffering & the Will of God 3

Paul’s Thorn – The Refreshing Truth for a Change

by Pastor John Hamel


“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 may rest upon me.” (2Corinthians 12:7-9)


We are talking about suffering and Christianity.  


In part one of our studies we saw from the Scripture that sin, sickness, poverty and eternal damnation are never used by the Almighty to perfect His family. 


In part two of our study we saw that Jesus suffered for us in two ways.  


He suffered as our sin Substitute on the Cross, bearing sickness, poverty and eternal damnation for us.  He also suffered as our Example in persecution.  


It is His example in persecution that we are to follow.  Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered in persecution and affliction for the Word’s sake.  


We learn obedience through what we suffer in persecution and affliction for the Word’s sake.


We will be looking into the issue of “Paul’s Thorn” in this study.  A large portion of organized religion would have us to believe that the Almighty is no longer a healing God.  Many have been wrongly led to believe that if they are sick, it is because the Almighty wants them to be sick.  They are wrongly instructed that He is trying to teach them something. 


I have noticed that the vast majority of times when I ask someone what God is teaching them with their sickness, they never really know for sure.  I remind them that the Almighty is not the author of confusion. (1Corinthians 14:33)  If He were to teach us through sickness, He should at least have the decency to inform us of what we are being taught.  


Of course, we saw in part one of our study that the Almighty teaches with His Word, not with sickness and disease. (2Timothy 3:16)  


Multitudes have died and are dying this very day believing the unscriptural lie that their sickness is “a thorn in the flesh to keep me humble.”  They do not seem to know that the Bible says that we are to humble ourselves, not be humbled by sickness. (1Peter 5:5-6) 


Before we are able to study the passage concerning “Paul’s thorn,” I must establish three things that will help us to properly interpret the narrative. 


First, Moses taught us that sickness is a satanic curse, which we bring upon ourselves when we defy the Almighty.  It is a curse of the law and Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law. (Deuteronomy 28; Proverbs 26:2; Jeremiah 2:19; Galatians 3:13-14) 


Second, when Jesus healed the woman who was bowed over for eighteen years, He said that Satan bound the woman, not the Almighty. (Luke 13:11-16) 


And third, when Peter was preaching at the home of Cornelius, he made the point that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit to heal all who were oppressed by the devil. (Acts 10:38)  Moses, Jesus and Peter are all in agreement that all healing comes from the Almighty and all oppression comes from Satan.


It's Not God's Will for People to be Sick 


“Thy kingdom come. THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” (Matthew 6:10) This is how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. 


There is no sickness in Heaven so it could not possibly be the will of the Almighty on Earth. (Revelation 21:4)  Jesus said that He came to do only the will of the Almighty. (John 6:37)  You will never once, in all of Scripture, see Jesus make anyone sick.  You will never see Jesus Himself suffering in sickness. 


Everywhere Jesus went, He healed and delivered all who came to Him by faith.  You will not find one example in the New Testament of Jesus ever refusing to heal anyone. 


Why is it that those who wrongly believe that the Almighty uses sickness to teach or to humble are the first ones to run to the doctor to get the sickness off of them?  


If they really believed God was making them sick to better them, they would ask God to make their entire family sick, seeing that it is such a wonderful blessing.  Of course, these people have been deceived by religious tradition and do not know what the Bible says. (Matthew 15:9) 


The Bible reveals that it is always God’s will to heal. (Isaiah 53:3-5; Psalm 103:1-3; 105:37; 107:20; Matthew 8:1-3,16,17; James 5:14; 1Peter 2:24; 3John 2, etc.)  


If the Almighty had made the Apostle Paul sick, which He did not, then the Apostle Paul would be the only one in Scripture that He made sick and He went against His own Word to do so. (Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 8:16; 2Corinthians 13:1)


Sickness Never Glorifies the Almighty 


“And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them:  Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and THEY GLORIFIED THE GOD OF ISRAEL.” (Matthew 15:30-31)


Tradition, false teaching and flat out lies from the devil say that sickness brings glory to God, but the Bible says otherwise.  Never once does the Bible ever say anything even remotely close to, “And the Almighty struck her down with sickness and the multitudes glorified Him.” 


I find no less than seven times in the Gospels where Jesus healed the sick and demon possessed and the multitudes burst forth giving glory to the Almighty. (Matthew 9:18; 15:31; 2:12; Luke 5:26; 7:16; 13:13; 17:15; 24:47) 


The Almighty just might get glory out of someone’s life in spite of their sickness, but He never gets glory out of someone’s life because of their sickness.  He is just not that kind of God. (1John 4:8)  He is not the author of sickness.  Sickness is never His will. 


If sickness were the will of the Almighty, Jesus defied Him every time He healed. (John 6:37; 14:10)  Sickness never glorified God in the Bible.  Healing always did.  Keeping these Biblical facts in mind, let us answer the following question.


Was the Apostle Paul Ever Physically Sick?


“Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:  But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in AFFLICTIONS, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2Corinthians 6:3-10)


The Greek word for “afflictions” in our above Scripture is “thlipsis” which means, “persecution and tribulation.”  


Some Bible scholars have wrongly interpreted this word to mean, “Sickness and disease.”  A quick check with a Greek Lexicon reveals that some scholars need to do their homework.  


In this entire list of the many things that Paul suffered for preaching the Gospel, he never once mentioned physical sickness. 


“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.  Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)


Here again the Apostle Paul, listing all that he suffered for the Gospel, never leaves even a hint of physical sickness being brought into his life by the Almighty.  


If Paul were ever going to teach on how he endured sickness and disease to bring glory to God, it would have been in these two listings of his sufferings in his second letter to the Corinthians.  


I am not saying that physical sickness never came against the Apostle Paul.  It comes against all of us.  What I am saying is that Paul never said that he believed that the Almighty uses sickness to teach us, to humble us or to bring glorify to Himself.  


Because the Apostle Paul never taught such erroneous doctrine, we should never teach such doctrine or falsely accuse Paul of doing so. 


The Apostle Paul Was an Old Testament Scholar


“But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that THOSE WHICH YE LET REMAIN OF THEM SHALL BE PRICKS IN YOUR EYES, AND THORNS IN YOUR SIDES, AND SHALL VEX YOU in the land wherein ye dwell.” (Numbers 33:55)


The first rule of Bible interpretation is to interpret Scripture in light of Scripture.  


Even Paul was doing this nearly 2,000 years ago.  Paul was a Pharisee and amazingly well versed in the Old Testament, which is where he learned the expression “thorn in the flesh.”  No doubt, as a child, he learned it while studying the Book of Numbers.  


In the Book of Numbers the Almighty said that the Canaanites would become “thorns in the sides” of the Israelites if they refused to drive them out of their land.  


This did not mean that the Canaanites would become human projectiles, piercing the sides of the Israelites.  It meant that the Canaanites would be as annoying as a thorn in the side if they were allowed to hang out with and influence the Hebrews.  


“Thorn in the side” is not used here in the context of sickness and Paul knew this from childhood.  


A “thorn in the side” is symbolic of an annoying personality.  It is a metaphor.


“Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but THEY SHALL BE SNARES AND TRAPS UNTO YOU, AND SCOURGES IN YOUR SIDES, AND THORNS IN YOUR EYES, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.” (Joshua 23:13)


Here again the Almighty warns Israel that their disobedience would lead to surrounding nations becoming “thorns in your eyes.”  This did not mean that their enemies would literally turn into thorns and be poked into their eyes.  This was and is to be interpreted figuratively.  


The second rule of Bible interpretation is this.  The Bible is to be interpreted literally unless it is very obviously figurative.  When it is figurative, always look for the literal meaning.  


“Thorns in your eyes” is spoken figuratively, not literally.  The literal interpretation is that Israel’s enemies would become as annoying as a thorn in the eye if they were allowed to dwell amongst them. 


What a s-t-r-e-t-c-h for any Bible Teacher to take this verse, as some have, and use it to “prove” that Paul had an eye disease.  


This is a reference to annoying personalities only.  Paul knew this and he himself never used this particular analogy in the context of sickness. 


“But THE SONS OF BELIAL SHALL BE ALL OF THEM AS THORNS THRUST AWAY, because they cannot be taken with hands:” (2 Samuel 23:6)


Here we find King David using the same “thorn” analogy when referring to the sons of Belial.  He warned Israel that involvement with them would be the same as handling thorns with unprotected hands.  


Anyone who has attempted to handle thorns with unprotected hands knows that it is a most annoying, painful and difficult situation.  


David was referring to annoying personalities only.  Paul knew this as well as anyone. (See also Ezekiel 28:24; Hosea 2:6.)


The third rule of proper Bible interpretation is this.  You must have two or three verses of Scripture, always in context, to prove that what you are preaching, teaching or believing is true.  


This is what Jesus taught. (Matthew 18:16)  


Paul taught it as well. (2Corinthians 13:1)  


So did Moses. (Deuteronomy 17:6)  


Not one of the above Scriptures used in this study, has anything at all to do with Paul or anyone else being sick.  Not one.  They are all being taken out of context when used to “prove” that God teaches or disciplines with sickness.  


Moses, Paul and Jesus all said, “You really don’t want to be doing that.” 


The Apostle Paul Stated Clearly What His Thorn Was  


“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.” (2Corinthians 12:7)


The Greek word for “messenger” in this verse is “angelos,” which means, “angel, messenger.”  It is used 188 times in the Bible and it always refers to a personality, NEVER sickness or disease.  It can refer to a fallen angel or one of the Almighty’s obedient Angels.  


Paul stated clearly that the “messenger” that came to him came from Satan, to buffet him.  Paul stated clearly that this demonic messenger came to keep his Ministry and revelations from being exalted.  


Paul did not say that his “thorn in the flesh” was physical sickness or disease.  He clearly stated that it was an annoying, demonic personality


The Greek word for “buffet” in this verse is “kolaphizo,” which means, “to rap with the fist, to cuff, to box on the ear, to hit, to punch and to strike with blow after blow as a wave would buffet the bow of a ship in a storm.”  


People who teach that buffeting means that the Almighty uses sickness to correct faults should read what Peter said.


“For WHAT GLORY IS IT, IF, WHEN YE BE BUFFETED FOR YOUR FAULTS, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (1 Peter 2:20)


Peter said that there is no glory for God in using sickness to correct people’s faults.  


So, there goes the false doctrine of “Divine Sickness Buffeting” right down the drain.  The Apostle Paul said himself that the messenger of Satan buffeted him over and over with persecution, need, distress, imprisonments, tumults, evil reports, beatings, stoning, robbers, betrayal, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness to keep his Ministry and revelations from being exalted. (2Corinthians 6:3-10; 11:23-28) 


Paul never once even remotely suggested that the Almighty used sickness and disease to teach him or to keep him humble.  In seeking God three times to get this evil messenger away from him, Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”  


The Greek word for “grace” is “charis” which means, “God’s ability in you to do what you alone are not able to do.”  God’s ability in us to do what we are not able to do is Jesus. (Luke 10:19; Colossians 1:27; James 4:7; 1John 4:17)  


Paul apparently got the message that it was up to him to use Jesus’ delegated authority to do something about that evil messenger, and did so, because he never complained about it again.  


It is never right to falsely accuse the Almighty of giving someone a “thorn in the flesh” when they are sick.  Such erroneous, traditional teaching undermines faith and could easily result in premature death.  


Without faith it is absolutely impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)


Prayer:  “Father, forgive me for ever believing that You would use sickness to teach me.  I see now that a ‘thorn in the flesh’ is not a reference to sickness.  I also see that it’s always Your will to heal me as long as I’m meeting the conditions for healing.  Thank You for healing me, in Jesus’ Name.”


Be blessed … John and Barbara Hamel  



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