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The Persecuted Church




What was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and what did it affect?


Gala. 4:13 “You know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first…” What part of his body if any was affected?  We have no definitive answer except that he said this to the same people V.15 “if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.”


One can assume this may have incurred through his persecutions, when they stoned him (Acts 14:19) almost to death which resulted in his eyesight being damaged (Gala 6:11).


Paul has this to say in 2 Cor. 12:7-10 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”


What was his thorn in the flesh? The Greek word for messenger is angelos, an angel. It was a messenger of Satan. It was given to HIM to keep his pride in check as he was given revelations at the time that no other apostle was. It is specifically about his body not about a riot being stirred by this spirit wherever Paul went as some word faith teachers claim to make excuses for his ailment.

Notice it says his weakness, his infirmities. Which makes this quite clear what was taking place. It was his weakness that God made him strong in spite of all. And God did not remove it though he asked 3 times. Paul expanded God’s grace to apply to all he went through, not just his own


What other evidence is there of Paul’s infirmity?

Acts 9:8-9 after Paul saw Jesus in glory Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”

V:17-19 "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened.”

On the third day (which is significant) he was able to see again.  This may have had an effect on his eyes that lingered after, though 2 Cor. 12 infers it to be something separate.


Paul required a scribe to write for him (as did the other apostles). He did not write any of his epistles by himself, Rom. 16:22-23 “I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.”


Paul’s Epistle to Galatians is an exception, Gala. 6:11 “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!”


This why most have decided Paul’s diagnosis was an eye problem, which does fit well with what little we are told.  Col. 4:18 written his “salutation by my own hand--Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.” He would personally write the endings of his letters, but not the letters themself.


It is clear from Acts 20:6, 13-14 that Paul was generally in quite excellent physical shape, being able to travel “afoot” up to twenty a day. But he did have some physical infirmity to contend with.


Paul’s statement in 2 Tim. 4:11, He asked for Mark, for he is useful to me for ministry (whereas before he had him leave). V.12 “And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come--and the books, especially the parchments.” These were what he was used to reading.  He goes on to say in v.17 “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.


What we do know, Paul had this “thorn in the flesh,” throughout his ministry which certainly infers to be some visual disability that occurred during it.  Can we be absolute in this, probably not. What we can be sure of is that it was in his body and not from others.



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