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Paul's Thorn


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Part 2: Resisting the Devil's attack


Question 6:

"Isn't it also pretty much true that, the more a person is used, the more the devil comes against that individual? If so, then how does that person know when to resist and when not to?"



We are always to resist the devil's attacks on our health, wealth and well-being! We need all of those things in order to fulfil to the fullest our potential of being a blessing to others for God.

The devil will come against those who serve God. For this reason those who serve God must grow in their equipping to deal with these attacks swiftly.

Here are some key Bible passages regarding this - Eph.6:10-18 (the whole armour of God passage) and Isa.54:14-17 (our covenant relationship with God against the devil).


Question 7:

"Are we supposed to resist the devil sometimes or all the time?"



All the time - James 4:7 gives no time qualification. James simply says, "Resist the devil!" There is no "except" or "but not when" in his exhortation!


Question 8:

"How do you explain the following from the Old Testament -
1) There was a king in scripture that God did send a lying spirit to persuade him to go to battle and die at Ramoth-Gilead. 1 Kings 22:1-23.
2) The spirit of God left King Saul and an evil spirit was sent to trouble him. 1 Sam.16:14-15.
3) God did indeed send an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Judges 9:23."



The scriptures you give are interesting ones and certainly require consideration.

Personally I feel though that God takes responsibility for a great number of things that were perpetrated by the devil and recorded in the Old Testament period. If He hadn't that part of our Bible would constantly saying "the devil did this and the devil did that" because he was so unchecked before Jesus' death and resurrection.

All that apart, the situation with Paul does not fall into a category of doubt about where the spirit came from. Paul tells us, "A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan." 2Cor.12:7.


In the Greek the word translated "messenger" is "anggelos". It refers to someone (or thing) with the office of one who bears a message. It also indicates "a created spiritual angel, whether good or evil". (Spiros Zodhiates)

The word "of" indicates "belonging to". In the scripture portion above, therefore, we are told of a created spiritual angel with the office of one carrying a message belonging to Satan!

Since he's referred to as a messenger of Satan we ought to conclude 1) the message he carried was from Satan and 2) Satan was the one sending him, the messenger, out!


Question 9:

"If Paul's thorn was without God's permission then WHY did Paul permit it?"



Now you've got to the whole thrust of the latter part of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians! Paul is writing to them giving them a testimony with a lesson in it for them. He's sharing the state he got into, the reason he got into it, how come he didn't get out of it quickly and, finally, what God revealed to him so he could get delivered out of his troubles.

Paul had no intention of permitting this thorn in the flesh to remain with him. We know this because he says, "Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me." 2Cor.12:8.

Obviously he pleaded for deliverance and nothing happened! This man of faith who was so used his petitions getting a result must have been at a lose as to know why this was. God graciously helps him out and says to him, "My grace is sufficient for you!" 2Cor.12:8.


You see, Paul had been going entirely the wrong way about getting delivered of this messenger of Satan. If he'd been under Jesus ministry with the other apostles he would certainly have known this but he wasn't. He really could have done with catching up on the lecture notes they had!

During His ministry Jesus demonstrated and taught the twelve apostles and seventy disciples that the way to deal with the devil and his spirits was to command them directly! Jesus never in His ministry asked the Father to deal with a demon and neither did the disciples under His training. In every case they commanded the evil spirit to come out and to depart with the authority given to them by God. In other words, God's grace was sufficient for them to deal with the demons themselves!

You can study all of this up very quickly in your Bible by reading the Gospel of Luke chapters 4 to 13.


Question 10:

"Wasn't Paul's thorn sent to him to keep him humble because of his many visions?"



Paul wrote, "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."

There's a lot of questions we have to ask ourselves before we can recognise what Paul's referring to here. The traditional approach is to say, "He's telling it was all to keep him humble." This is a human approach that fails to acknowledge other related scriptures that can provide proper insight into his words.


First we must ask, "Above what measure?"

Paul's own sentence tells us above (which is to say, beyond) the measure of the revelations! What we've got here then is Paul telling us how he's operating up to the measure of the revelations. The revelations give him a spiritual impartation, authority and grace. He's able to operate up to the measure of that. The concern then is that he will operate beyond that. Who's concern? Well, wait a moment, we'll look at another aspect of the sentence and consider that.

Paul says, "Lest I should be exalted." Does God want His saints to be exalted? What does scripture say?

"Humble yourselves (N.B. not, I'll humble you) under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."

1Pet.5:6. - NKJV


What does "exalt" mean? Scripture in referring to God or His peope uses the word exalt to indicate something positive. It must, therefore, have a different connotation than the one we've been giving it! In fact, it indicates simply being lifted up above where you are now for positive reasons.

Let's put that back into the verse we're looking at and see where we've got to.

Paul says, "Lest, that is, in case or to prevent me getting lifted up above or beyond the measure (I'm operating in now) as a result of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me."

Is it possible to operate beyond the measure of spiritual impartation, authority and grace that God's revelations provide to someone? Yes, Jesus was operating in His ministry beyond all measure because He was being given the Spirit without measure! Joh.3:34.


So what do we have from Paul's declaration to the Corinthians? The devil was on the run and scared of Paul. He was scared Paul would start operating as Jesus operated, that is, without any measure - unlimited. Things were bad enough for Satan with Paul operating just up to the measure given by the abundance of the revelations.

The devil was beginning to quake at the thought of Paul operating beyond that measure. He realised he needed to act to prevent such an exalting taking place! What did the devil do? He sent a messenger to buffet Paul. He wanted to get Paul so afflicted by earthly suffering he won't have the time or energy to get spiritually free through prayer, worship, rejoicing in Christ and meditating on God's Word.


Question 11:

"Do we, as Christians, also need a thorn in the flesh too, sometimes?"



Do we need a hole in the head? Do we need anything that might hamper us from getting into prayer, worship, rejoicing in Christ and meditation on God's Word? Who do you think might be behind orchestrating things in our lives to make things so uncomfortable we have trouble engaging in spiritual activities? Of such thorns God told the children of Israel to drive them out of their land! Num.33:55.


She ended her email:

"I think that you are saying that I can keep my freedom? Are you also saying that although Paul had a thorn in the flesh [from the enemy] that doesn't necessarily mean that I or anyone else has to have a thorn in the flesh? What really IS A thorn in the flesh?"


Simon concluded:

Yes, you can keep your freedom. Joh.8:31-36.

Yes, you can be free of any thorn. God's grace is sufficient for you to see it off. Read Luk.10:19


Question 12

"What really is a thorn in the flesh?"



It's a messenger (an evil spiritual being) of Satan that you don't need or have to have hanging around you or your land! Nu.33:55.

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