Paul’s thorn in the flesh: A Sunday School Lesson

By Sidney Terhune - Religion Columnist

Take your Bible NIV and turn to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Note: the words GRACE and MERCY are not synonymous. Grace is “an undeserved favor.” Mercy is “a punishment deserved but withheld.”

Paul’s thorn in the flesh has been a thorn to more people than almost any other passage in the Word of God. Whenever someone wants to defend his own defenseless theology regarding God’s will concerning people’s sickness, he invariably points to Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

The first thing to notice in these verses is that nowhere does it mention sickness, poor eyesight, being hard of hearing, or any other physical ailment as being the thorn. Further, the 7th Verse states that Paul’s thorn was a messenger of Satan to torment him. We learn that God did not send the messenger: Satan sent it. The next time you are sick, give Satan the credit: not God.

When a person is doing Biblical research and finds a word or phrase that is unclear (like Paul’s thorn), the definition will be found in the Verse itself, or in the context, or it has been used before. In this case, it must have been used previously if the Word of God is true. And it has. Let’s begin with “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants [people] of the land….” Numbers 33:55. “…your God will no longer drive out these nations [people] before you.” Joshua 23:13, 14. “…I will not drive them [people of this land] out before you.” Judges 2:1-3. “Five times I received from the Jews [people] the 40 lashes minus one.” 2 Corinthians 11:24, 25.

The Apostle Paul was not physically sick, but he was sick and tired of the people who were opposing and fighting his ministry, hindering him from doing as much as he would have liked to do. An example of his thorns was irritating men who were trying to inflict the law of circumcision upon the Gentile converts and believers. These men were “messengers of Satan”, tormenting and buffeting the ministry of Paul.

Think of the following while re-reading 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. A man’s true color is quickly seen when he is confronted by his foes. The enemies bring out the true character in a man. So it was with Paul. He did not dare rely upon his own strength: he had to rely upon God’s abundant supply. A weak man with God on his side is strong, but a strong man without God is weak. Amen

Sidney Terhune

P. O. Box 6, Washington C.H.

By Sidney Terhune

Religion Columnist