What was the thorn in Paul’s flesh? Was it an illness?
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. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 KJV
This scripture has often been taught to be some kind of illness Paul was suffering and could not get rid of it even after asking the Lord 3 times. This is not true. In order to better understand what a thorn is we need to go back to the Old Testament to read verses that mention “thorns in your side”.
But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Numbers 33:55 KJV
The great thing about studying the word is that God will confirm his word with 2 or 3 witnesses. That means he will use other scriptures to show you and teach you so you can better understand what he means.
Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you. Joshua 23:13 KJV
Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. Judges 2:3 KJV
The scripture itself also mentions what Paul’s thorn in the flesh is. It was people, a messenger of Satan, that struck him or tried to stop him with force. We know that Paul was constantly in prison each time he arrived to a new town. Paul was sharing the Gospel and satan used and still uses people to try to stop the Gospel from spreading.
In the Old Testament when the nation of Israel took over land that the Lord gave them they were supposed to completely eliminate the inhabitants of that land. If they didn’t they were going to be a snare for the nation of Israel, meaning they could be influenced negatively. The people of other nations always had other religious practices and they worshipped other gods. This is the biggest snare for believers back then and today. There is resistance when the good news of Jesus Christ is preached because it is so powerful. The resistance comes from the enemy and he is the enemy of all of God’s creation.
As Paul continued to preach the Gospel, it appears at times he would feel exhausted from all the resistance of the religious people. Through the word, God shows us that when he felt weak that is when the power was flowing through him to demonstrate God working with him. So Paul said he would gladly go through the tribulations, persecutions and troubles so the power of God would show strong in him.
I pray this can clear up any misconceptions about Paul’s thorn in the flesh.