PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, the scripture says, “And lest I (Apostle Paul) 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 (Jesus) 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.” Much theological debate, as well as confusion and false doctrine, derive from this portion of scripture. The reason being, is that many incorrectly claim that God gave Paul his “thorn in the flesh.”
One often claim, for example, is that Paul was full of pride, so God put some kind of physical affliction on Paul to humble him. The only problem with that, is that James 4:6 says, “… God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” So, if Paul was full of pride, why would the Lord tell Him, “My grace is sufficient for you,” since God only give grace to those who are humble? Ya, I know, that would obviously not make sense. Others also say that knows Paul’s thorn in the flesh was blindness, or perhaps some other kind of physical sickness or disease, but I would say, that scripturally the thorn in Paul’s flesh was the demonically originated attacks against Paul’s freedom, all-round well-being, and even his life, in every city that he went into proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. But, the main point that I want to make isn’t what the “thorn” was, but that the thorn was from Satan and NOT FROM GOD! If it was from God, then why would Paul say that he was given “a messenger FROM SATAN.” Satan attacks humans, not God. 1 Peter 5:6-8 says, “be clothed with humility and grace, so that you can resist Satan who walks about the earth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (paraphrase) So, humility and God’s grace, protect us from Satan’s devouring attacks. Let’s think about this: is it even fathomable that the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing and hearing, matchless, creating God of all that ever was, is, and will be, could somehow be so insecure, and feel threatened against human beings in some manner that could ever cause Him to torment, hurt, and torture is as if He were the “mean kid with the magnifying glass,” and we were the “hopeless, helpless little ant” who for some reason has to take on all of His angry, fury, and wrath, just because. Come on. That is not God. Romans 5:8 tells us, that while we we’re yet sinners, Christ died for us. So, even before we come to know Jesus, God’s stance toward is isn’t anger and hate, but His heart towards us is unconditional love, and that love has already been eternally and irrevocably declared in Jesus’ death for us. Scripture is clear that God released all of His fury and wrath against Jesus on the cross. He is not holding a grudge against us. Sin has consequences, but God is not the One who is hurting people. That would be the devil, and the natural consequences of sin. Also, Jesus said in John 14, that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to teach us. So, why would God give us sickness, disease, and hard times to teach us? If you think that God teaches you with harmful, painful, and even deadly attacks, then you’re telling Jesus that the Holy Ghost, who is God, isn’t a a good enough Teacher, but that cancer, poverty, and death are better teachers than the Holy Spirit. God teaches us through His Word, and through The Comforter. I mean, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter, so should we really think that someone with that kind of a title has come to do us harm? No, I don’t think so. So, let’s just believe the Apostle Paul when he said in 2 Cor. 12:7, that the one buffeting him was, in fact, “a messenger of Satan,” and not God.
PURPOSE OF GRACE
I’m sure that there is more that could be said about Paul’s thorn in the flesh, but we’ll move on. One other common misconceptions that is taught from pulpits all of the time, is one that goes something like this: “Well, if you sin, it’s OK because God’s grace is sufficient.” Or, “Ya know, I know God’s grace is sufficient if you sin, but you had still better live a holy life.” Now, obviously, both of these statements are based on this scripture in 2 Cor. 12:9, when the Lord said, “… My grace is sufficient for you.” Although God does forgive us of sin, and we are in fact supposed to live holy before the Lord, the essence of both of these two statements are incorrect. Both of these statements are indicating that God’s grace is merely for our forgiveness of sins. But, the only problem with that is that sin is not the subject matter in this portion of scripture. Not at all. The subject matter was the demonic attack against Paul’s ministry and life. As we already showed from scripture, Paul was crying out to the Lord to relieve him from this demon that was buffeting him. So again, The Lord never told Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul’s sin. But rather, the Lord Jesus was telling Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul to walk free and victorious from Satan’s attack against him. As I have covered in previous posts in this grace series, grace is God’s strength, ability, and power on the inside of us doing for us what we could not do in our own ability or power. So, in closing, remember that no matter what your life looks like, God’s grace is a very sufficient answer for your situation(s). Yes, God will forgive you of any sin that you commit, but that is not all that His grace is for. If your battling with any kind of a sin problem, or attack of any kind that you can’t seem to get free from, you need to put faith in the fact that Jesus’ grace is sufficient to set you free. The Lord isn’t expecting you to change yourself with your willpower or discipline. He is desiring for you to put faith in HIS power and HIS ability that is on the inside of you. He wants you to draw on His power. He wants you to let Him change you. The Lord will forgive us of sin, but don’t stop there. Do as the scripture says in 2 Peter 3:18, and “Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…”. Jesus truly has defeated Satan and all of his cohorts. So don’t waste any more time going down trails of life that offer no true change, no true victory, and no true freedom, but put your faith in Him and His ability, and see the benefits of the finished work of Jesus in your life, for His grace truly is sufficient for YOU!