Paul’s Thorn In The Flesh Was Not Given To Humble Him!
Lately we’ve been laying some of the foundations for being completely convinced from scripture of God’s will to heal. We started with 13 Solid Biblical Proofs Of God’s Will To Heal. Then we answered the question If Jesus Redeemed Us From Sickness, Why Are So Many Christians Sick? Last week we gave The Answer To Job’s Question. Today we have part 1 of a series on Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
This is one of the scripture passages that has been most abused with terrible exegesis and reading human traditions into scripture. When I got a solid scriptural understanding of this and of the book of Job, my life changed forever! Here’s part 1 of a solid take on Paul’s thorn, which uses scripture to interpret scripture. These two posts are adapted from an excerpt of my book The Power-And-Love Sandwich. If you haven’t already, you can support my work by purchasing a copy here.
Being Exalted Is Never Pride
Often, the fear that powerful spiritual experiences will lead to pride comes from a confused interpretation of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. When I was at the Healing Fusion conference, a preacher named Joe McIntyre shared about this passage and it changed the way I saw everything! Most of what I have to say here was inspired by his sermon, although I have added some of my own thoughts as well.
“Being exalted” in 2 Corinthians 12 is not pride, but it is a good thing. A detailed explanation of 2 Corinthians 12 is necessary to make the case that we should not expect supernatural experiences to lead us into pride, but rather that they should humble us. This may be one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Let’s look at what it says in the KJV:
2 Corinthians 12: 2-4 (KJV) I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
It is generally understood here that Paul is talking about himself, but in the third person. He continues:
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (KJV) And lest I 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 said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
The KJV accurately translates the word huperairomai in verse 7 as “be exalted.” Young’s Literal Translation also translates it in the same way. However, many people, including some Bible translators, have interpreted “being exalted” as speaking of pride. Here are a few other interpretations of verse 7:
NIV-Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
NLT- The things God showed me were so great. But to keep me from being too full of pride because of seeing these things, I have been given trouble in my body. It was sent from Satan to hurt me. It keeps me from being proud.
GW- especially because of the excessive number of revelations that I’ve had. Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, I am forced to deal with a recurring problem. That problem, Satan’s messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited.
CEV-Of course, I am now referring to the wonderful things I saw. One of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud.
Are these translations accurate? When is being exalted pride? Exalting yourself certainly is pride. Consider the following two verses, which speak of people exalting themselves in pride:
2 Thessalonians 2:4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.
Matthew 23:12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Notice that in Matthew 23:12, the first half of the verse speaks about those who exalt themselves in pride, but the second half of the verse speaks of people who will “be exalted” because they have humbled themselves. In the same way, the “be exalted” in 2 Corinthians 12 is not active, or self-exaltation, but is passive. Exalting yourself is pride. Being exalted is never pride, but is often a result of humility!
James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
The Thorn In The Flesh Was An Attack From Satan!
God did not give Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming proud! Scripture says that this thorn was the “messenger of Satan.” The word “messenger” here is the same as the word “angel.” In Greek it is “angelos”
Out of 186 uses in the KJV New Testament, this word is translated “messenger” 7 times, and “angel” 179 times. The word is the same, because angels are messengers. Holy angels proclaim the word of God, and fallen angels proclaim lies and accusations. The Wycliffe Bible and at least half a dozen other translations translated this word as speaking of an “angel” of Satan in 2 Corinthians 12:7.
This implies that the thorn in the flesh was a demonic entity that was sent by Satan to keep Paul from being exalted. Think about it. Why would Satan want to keep Paul from becoming proud? Doesn’t Satan work to make people fall to pride? And why would God have given Paul such revelations if he knew Paul wasn’t ready for them? As Joe McIntyre remarked, how many of us would give our 10 year old child the keys to a brand new sports car? Doesn’t it actually make more sense that God gave Paul such revelations for a good purpose and not to cause him to stumble in pride?
So far, I may have brought up as many new questions as those I have answered. If Paul’s thorn in the flesh was satanic opposition, why did God refuse to remove it? We will continue next week by expounding on what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” really was, why God refused to remove it, and how Paul overcame it.
 James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 2009) word G5229
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, word G32
This post is adapted from an excerpt of The Power And Love Sandwich, which also unmasks other religious traditions which have instilled fear of spiritual gifts in many Christians. You can get a copy here: