2 Corinthians 12:7
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.
Note 11 at 2Co 12:7: Paul's use of the word "exalted" here has caused many people to assume God was the author of this "thorn in the flesh." The reasoning is that "being exalted" is pride, and certainly, God is the one who would counter pride. However, the Scriptures speak of a godly type of exalting that has nothing to do with pride. There is a promise to those who humble themselves that God will exalt them (1Pe 5:6). Other scriptures speak of God exalting His true believers (Ps 37:34, 92:10; and Mt 23:12). The Lord exalted, or magnified, Joshua in the sight of the Israelites so that they would respect him and follow his leadership (Jos 3:7 and 4:14).
This is not speaking of Paul having a pride problem that God had to deal with through affliction. This is speaking about Paul being so respected and honored in the sight of people that Satan had to do something to make him and his Gospel less attractive. He did that through persecution (see note 14 at this verse). The devil gave Paul a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him from being exalted in the eyes of people.
Note 12 at 2Co 12:7: Paul made it very clear that this "thorn in the flesh" came because of the abundance of revelations he had received. So, those who are claiming to have a thorn like Paul's would also have to have a similar number of revelations. Paul's revelations produced about one-half of the New Testament scriptures and one of the greatest missionary thrusts the church has ever had. Until they receive revelations that are proportional to Paul's, they shouldn't hide behind Paul's thorn in the flesh.
Note 13 at 2Co 12:7: The phrase "thorn in the flesh" was not original with Paul. It was an Old Testament term that referred to the negative influence ungodly people had on righteous people. In Nu 33:55, Moses said, "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" (emphasis mine). Jos 23:13 says, "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" (emphasis mine). Jdg 2:3 says, "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" (emphasis mine). Paul drew on O.T. terminology to refer to the persecution he had suffered.
Note 14 at 2Co 12:7: There has been much debate about what Paul's thorn in the flesh was. Most people believe it was sickness sent from God to keep Paul humble (see note 11 at this verse). That is not the case. Paul's thorn in the flesh was persecution that came from the devil, to make people think twice about accepting the Gospel, because of the persecution that accompanied it (see note 13 at this verse).
One of the reasons people think Paul's thorn was sickness is because of the use of the word "infirmities" in 2Co 12:9-10. They presume "infirmities" is referring to some type of sickness. However, as explained in note 22 at 2Co 12:9, the word "infirmities" in context is referring to persecution.
Paul made it very clear in this verse that Satan was the author of this thorn, not God (see note 16 at this verse). The reason God didn't take Paul's thorn away was not because He wanted to afflict Paul; it was because believers are not redeemed from persecution. Paul later stated this in 2Ti 3:12: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
If the Lord stopped all persecution against His followers, Saul would have died before he became the Apostle Paul. Paul was one of the leaders of the persecution against Christians (see note 1 at Ac 9:1). The Lord didn't redeem Stephen from persecution but used it to glorify Himself and prick the heart of the future Apostle Paul. Therefore, the Lord has not redeemed us from persecution. He even loves those who persecute us just as He loved those who persecuted Him (Lu 23:34). He desires their conversion, not their judgment.
Note 15 at 2Co 12:7: The Greek word that was translated "messenger" here is "AGGELOS," and it means "a messenger; especially an 'angel'" (Strong's Concordance). It was translated "angel," "angels," or "angel's" a total of 179 times in the New Testament. The only other time it was translated "messenger" was in reference to John the Baptist being the "messenger" sent before the Lord (Mt 11:10, Mr 1:2, and Lu 7:27). This same Greek word was also translated "messengers" a total of 3 times (Lu 7:24, 9:52; and Jas 2:25). This word is specifying a demonic angel that was assigned to Paul by the devil.
Note 16 at 2Co 12:7: Paul made it very clear that this was a messenger (see note 15 at this verse) of Satan, not of God. However, the false belief that the devil can only do what God allows him to do (see note 7 at Ro 8:28) has led many people to change Paul's clear statement and place the responsibility on God for Paul's thorn in the flesh. That is not the case. God is not the author of people's problems (see note 2 at Joh 9:2, note 5 at Mr 4:16, and note 3 at Lu 13:16).
Note 17 at 2Co 12:7: The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word "buffet" as "to hit or beat, especially repeatedly." This is describing the work of this messenger of Satan as being a repeated action. Paul suffered persecution everywhere he went (Ac 20:23). If Paul's thorn was a sickness, it would have to have been repeatedly given and retracted to carry the full meaning of this word "buffet." But the Scripture clearly states that it was not a disease but the messenger (angel - see note 15 at this verse) of Satan sent to repeatedly strike against Paul. Paul spoke of these attacks as being reproaches, persecutions, and distresses for the sake of Christ (2Co 12:10).
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