A Thorn In The Flesh

Q. There is something that always bothers me whenever it comes up in a discussion, and that’s Paul`s “thorn in the flesh”. Paul called his thorn in the flesh “a Messenger from Satan”. Could this messenger have been the slave girl from Acts 16:16? Thanks for your insight.

A. The phrase translated “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Cor. 12:7 is literally defined as a pointed piece of wood or a sharp stake. Such things were often used as a method of torture. And the Greek word translated torment in the same verse means “to buffet, or hit with one’s fist.” Both imply some kind of physical attack.

Therefore I’m convinced Paul’s situation involved something a lot more painful than the words of the slave girl in Acts 16. I believe it refers to the regular beatings Paul received from his enemies, who were stirred up by Satan to attack him. These beatings were so severe that several of them should have killed him, and I think one did.

Stoning was the method of execution, and in Acts 14:19-20 Paul was stoned and dragged outside the gates of Lystra, left for dead. His followers prayed over him and he got up, went back into the city and the next day began his walk to Derbe, 60 miles away, as if nothing had happened.

That sort of thing far exceeds human capabilities, and it’s only one of several examples I could use. I believe the Lord raised Paul from the dead that day. When He said, “My grace is sufficient for you” in 2 Cor. 12:9 I think He was telling Paul that He wouldn’t stop the beatings, but would heal him after each one. I cover this issue in greater detail in a study entitled “My Grace is Sufficient For You.”

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