What Was The Thorn In The Flesh?
The question comes from 2 Corinthian 12:7-10: "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
From the context of 2 Corinthians, we believe that we can derive the answer. Notice how Paul describes this "thorn in the flesh". He states:
a. It is physical in nature (2 Corinthians 12:7).
b. It is the messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7).
c. Its purpose is to buffet (i.e. "strike repeatedly") Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7).
d. It humbles Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7).
e. It did not go away after Paul prayed three times (2 Corinthians 12:8).
f. Paul calls it his infirmity (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Just a chapter earlier, in 2 Corinthians 11, Paul is dealing with the false teachers that were known as the Judaizing teachers who were promoting that Gentile Christians keep the Law of Moses and circumcision as a basis of justification (Galatians 5:1-4).
Look carefully at what Paul writes concerning them:
a. The Judaizing teachers brought physical persecution (2 Corinthians 11:24-26, 32-33).
b. The Judaizing teachers are called messengers of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
c. The Judaizing teachers buffeted Paul (2 Corinthian 11:24-26, 32-33).
d. These persecutions humbled Paul (2 Corinthians 11:30).
e. These persecutions did not go away even after Paul prayed three times.
f. These persecutions from the Judaizers were called "my infirmities" (2 Corinthians 11:30; 2 Corinthian 12:5).
The same characteristics that Paul stated about the thorn in the flesh are also given to the persecutions that he was having to endure from the false teachers. Therefore, this indicates the identity of the thorn in the flesh.
One other thought to consider: Possibility that Paul was suffering from some type of physical affliction that perhaps was affecting his eyes (read 2 Corinthians 1:9; 4:10-12; 5:2-4; Galatians 4:15; 6:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; see also Job 2:7; Matthew 26:67; Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38; 13:9).
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