Meaning of Thorn In My Flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7)

Many sermons have been taught and teachings written about the meaning of "Thorn in my flesh" that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 12:7...

"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me..." (WEB)

There are several ways this passage has been interpreted. Although there are some wrong ways to interpret it, there are also several correct ways to interpret it. So keep that in mind as you read my thoughts on the verse. This is just the way that I personally see the passage, and there are other correct ways of viewing it, too. Hear me out, and then you can decide what you want to believe.

What It Was - A Messenger Of Satan

One thing we know for sure, and that is the fact that Paul's thorn in his flesh was "a messenger of satan" who was sent to torment Paul. In other words, it wasn't Yahweh, it wasn't Yahweh's people, it wasn't a random occurrence. It was a deliberate attack from the Evil One.

What we don't know was who it was or what exactly that entity did. Was it a human being commissioned by demons to hurt Paul? Or was it a demon itself? Whatever it was - human or evil spirit - it had the power to do things to Paul that hurt him mentally or physically or both.

Who Sent It?

The meaning of "Thorn in my flesh" becomes a bit clearer when we understand who sent it, or who didn't send it. All we gather from the passage is that the thorn "was given" to Paul. But it should be clear that it couldn't have been a gift from Yahweh, because Yahweh doesn't send the Evil One or Evil Spirits to do His work.

So who sent the thorn? It must have been Satan himself, or a spirit or spirits in the evil realms. Paul was doing some pretty powerful things to build up the Kingdom of Yahweh. He was preaching the gospel freely, healing, and living uprightly before Yahweh. Those are acts of love that Satan didn't want to have happen.

My Grace Is Sufficient, Says Yahweh

Now we get to the question of what Yahweh meant when he told Paul that "My grace is sufficient for you." He also adds that even in weakness, Yahweh's power can be made perfect.

Yahweh's counsel can be clarified and interpreted in different ways, depending on what the "thorn" itself was doing. Was the thorn opposition to Paul's preaching the gospel? Then Yahweh may have been saying, "Paul, just rest in my grace. It may be painful when people persecute you for my name, but you are doing a good work in preaching my gospel, and my grace is enough to bear you through these hardships."

Or was the thorn possibly some sort of sickness or physical ailment? Then Yahweh may have been saying, "Paul, I already died on the cross to free you from sickness. In other words, my grace is more than sufficient to enable you to get rid of this sickness. Even though you are weak now, apply my grace, and I will take you from weakness to power."

Of course, there are numerous other things the thorn (the messenger of Satan) could have been doing to Paul to torment him, and thus there are many other ways to rephrase Yahweh's counsel. But I only have so much room to write in this short article.

Personal Application

We've looked at the meaning of "Thorn in my flesh" as it related to Paul. But now the question is, "What does this passage mean to you?" Something drew you to this passage to study it. Maybe you are being challenged right now, or you know someone who is. I encourage you to be open to the Holy Spirit's wisdom as you continue to read and study this passage, because it may hold the key you need to either get out of or to be strong as you go through challenges or hardships.

Rest in the hope that if you are enduring spiritual persecution, Yahweh's grace is enough to keep you strong. And know that if you are needlessly afflicted by sickness or anything else that is not Yahweh's plan for you, you have enough grace from Yahweh to get rid of it.
About The AuthorJonathan Hostetler lives in southern Pennsylvania. He grew up in a strong Christian family, dedicated his life completely to Jesus at the age of 9, experienced a spiritual breakthrough at the age of 15, and is now in his mid twenties, joyfully serving Yahweh and sharing Yahweh's message of salvation and hope both on the internet and in person.
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