186. What Was Paul’s Thorn? // Part 3: Debunking Bad Theology
What was the thorn in Paul’s flesh? Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder because scripture clearly outlines it in 2 Corinthians. However, if you don’t know what scripture says about Paul’s hardships, you might believe the lie that Paul’s thorn was sickness, just as so many Christians do today.
Tune into this episode to learn the truth on what Paul’s thorn was, as well as the difference between suffering and sickness.
John 16:33 “In the world you will have trouble (trials, sorrow, tribulation). Take courage/heart I have overcome the world”
Mark 10:30 “Everyone who has given up relationships and possessions in for my sake and the Gospel will receive now in return a hundred times as many – along with persecution.”
Matthew 11:30 “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.
Matthew 8:17 “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (subheading above is Paul’s Hardships)
“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
2 Corinthians 11:23-30 (subheading above verse 16 is “Paul’s Many Trials”)
“Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.”
2 Corinthians 12:5-10 “That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Numbers 33:55 “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.”
Ezekiel 28:24 “‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.”
Acts 19:11-12 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”
Acts 28:8-9 “His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.”
Suffering Theology – Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh
What is wrong with this theology? WHY are we addressing it?
- At best its ignorant and lazy, at worst its destructive to lives (allowing sickness and poverty) and destroys faith.
- It is damaging.
- It teaches that you should allow sickness and poverty when in reality those things should be resisted.
- It has similar dangers we shared in Job.
- Hurts people because it destroys people’s faith.
In This World We Will Have Trouble
- Jesus said ‘In this world you will have troubles’, but He also tells us to take courage because he has overcome the world!
- Jesus promises a 100-fold increase – with persecution
- Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
- Sickness and poverty are different from persecution, but they are all combined into the word ‘suffering’.
- Sickness and poverty are a curse from sin that should be resisted.
- Persecution is something Christians should experience from unbelieving people – it’s wrong if you’re not persecuted
- Persecution comes from standing in faith and standing on God’s Word.
- Paul lists suffering and troubles – they are persecutions from people, not sickness
What Were Paul’s Hardships?
- He faced danger, he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, he went without food, etc.
- He endured trials, troubles and sufferings. NOT A PHYSICAL DISEASE.
- The infirmity Paul experienced was weakness in body, soul, spirit; not from sickness or disease.
- Paul was healing diseases, not stabbed in the side by a disease (Acts 19:11)
- The thorn is a ‘messenger’, which is a person, not sickness – God’s answer was grace is sufficient
- Paul was PERSECUTED for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What Was the Thorn in Paul’s Flesh?
- The Bible says that the thorn was a messenger from satan.
- The messenger was a fallen angel/demonic spirit.
- Sickness and disease is not a person.
- God did not remove the thorn because the persecution relates to people’s free will. God will not remove free will from people.
- God strengthened Paul and was with him while he endured persecution.
- God gave Paul grace and favor that far outweighed the persecution he was facing.
Paul Was Healing People
- What was Paul doing? He was healing people
- Paul was commissioned to heal the sick
- God did extraordinary miracles through Paul.
- Paul was not bound to sickness. He was setting the sick and the captives free!
“If you don’t know the truth about Paul’s thorn in the flesh, it is going to destroy your faith and cause passivity.” – Caroline
“We cannot just look at one verse. We have to look at context. We have to look at God’s character and nature.” – Caroline
“Sickness and poverty are different from persecution. Sickness and poverty are a curse from sin that should be resisted!” – Colby
“Persecution is something Christians should experience.” – Colby
“Sickness and disease is not a person.” – Colby
“You will have grace, favor and blessing that far outweigh any of the persecution and hardship.” – Colby
“To say that Paul’s thorn was sickness, it to say that what Jesus did on the cross is null and void.” – Caroline
“We don’t make doctrines off of one-off verses in scripture.” – Colby
“So many people are bound to lies and it holds them back from experiencing the fullness that Jesus paid for on the cross.” – Caroline
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