The thorn in the flesh has been one of the controversials issue in Christendom, that is why I am going to show you the meaning of it in this sermon.
But before we start, let’s look at the main scriptural passage of this sermon.
A thorn in the flesh bible verse.
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.(2 Corinthians 12:7).
Conventional believe about the thorn in the flesh.
Now, so many preachers and scholars have tried to interprete this issue of a thorn in the flesh. Some claim that Paul was making reference to a particular sin; probably fornication or hot temper that he was unable to overcome.
John Shelby Spong took it too far to suggest that, Paul was repressed with homosexual desires. Some Roman Catholic writers think that it denotes suggestions to piety.
Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers interpret it to mean temptation to unbelief.
The meaning of the thorn in the flesh.
But carefully surveying the above scripture, we can discover that this thorn in the flesh was given in order to prevent Paul from being prideful, because of the numerous revelations that were given to him.
And for that reason, there is no way that the sin of fornication, hot temper or any other sin could have been given to Paul as a prevention of pride.
What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
Therefore, we can all come to a perfect understanding that, Paul always had a physical weakness which might have been caused by frequent sickness, fasting, preaching in the open, persecutions – physical attacks by the mob, dragged before the council and thrown in prison etc.
And all these were meant to keep him in constant pains, worries and fears so as to prevent him from thinking highly of himself i.e. being prideful, due to the wisdom of God’s word that was constantly revealed to him by Jesus Christ.
And he commented about these in most of his epistles:
I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.1 Corinthians 2:3.
“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.2 Corinthians 10:10
You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.Galatians 4:13-14.
An example of thorn in the flesh – my personal experience.
Beloved, I want to cease this opportunity to reveal to us that, I didn’t come across this scripture by chance, I personally had (and still continue to have) a similar experience when I repented.
I used to have constant sickness that always kept me indoors for days, and upon praying and asking God for healing, I was referred by the Holy Spirit to this scripture; so I had the same response that Paul had from our Lord Jesus; and note how Paul concluded that scripture:
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.”2 Corinthians 12:8-9
What a thorn in the flesh symbolizes in the bible.
Beloved, I want to let you know that, every preacher or believer; who is blessed with the gift of wisdom in the revelation of the scriptures must have a thorn in the flesh; that is a physical painful ailment.
Which is going to prevent him from being overtaken with pride and thus bring honor to the corruptible flesh, even as Paul further noted.
That no flesh should glory in His presence.1 Corinthians 1:29
His god-son Timothy was often ill to the point that Paul had to advise him to stop drinking too much water, but rather take a little wine. (1 Timothy 5:23)
Moreover, we must never forget that; pride was the very reason the fallen angel-Lucifer, became an outcast as we can see in Isaiah 14:12-14
Lessons from Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
Paul, in his advice on how a leader in the church should be, made a similar comment;
Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.1 Timothy 3:6
Therefore, all that possess God’s hidden treasure must keep it in an earthen vessel:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,2 Corinthians 4:7a.
Which means; they must go through all kinds of bodily or physical pains:
We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh..2 Corinthians 4:8-11.
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death, for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong. You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; persecuted, we endure; defamed, we entreat. We have been made as filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.1 Corinthians 4:9-13
And all this happens to show that God is the One Who has all the power:
That the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.2 Corinthians 4:7b.
Paul knew about and experienced all these things, that was the reason he wrote in several places:
If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concerns my infirmity.2 Corinthians 11:30
As it is written; “he who glories let him glory in the LORD.”1 Corinthians 1:31
So, anybody who thinks or claims he is blessed with the wisdom of understanding the mysteries of God’s word, and does not have a thorn in the flesh i.e. see the kind of life above reflected in him; must know that he is counted among the false teachers.
Please share this sermon to help someone else learn about the thorn in the flesh.