Many speculate about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Everything from eye problems, malaria, migraines, epilepsy, speech disability, or a person have been suggested.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 2 Corinthians 12:7-8 (NIV)
This thorn in the flesh that Paul mentioned has been used and misused by Christians to justify submitting to nearly any problem that comes along. Satan has twisted this passage of Scripture to deceive many, many people into believing that God would not heal Paul, so how can they expect to be healed? Let us examine this closely and find out exactly what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. (Andrew Womack)
The answer is right there in the same verse—”A messenger of Satan!”
I suppose many have assumed messenger of Satan was a metaphor for a physical infirmity of some sort. That fits in nicely with the false theology that says God makes us sick to teach us something.
The word translated as messenger means a created being. A messenger of Satan would be a fallen angel.
King Saul was tormented by an evil spirit (1 Samuel 14-23) but his situation was different. Before the torment began, God removed His Spirit from Saul because of his repeated disobedience.
God did not remove His Spirit from Paul, nor was God displeased with him.
The word translated as “torment” in the NIV and “buffet” in the KJV has these two definitions according to the Greek Lexicon:
1) to strike with the fist, give one a blow with the fist
2) to maltreat, treat with violence and contumely (abuse, insult)
That is exactly what happened to Paul on many occasions.
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 2 Corinthians 11:24-26 (New International Version)
Paul says that he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it from him. Yet Jesus said,
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. Luke 10:19 (New International Version)
Later in his ministry, Paul must have learned to put this into practice because…
So when they had set a day with him, they came in large numbers to his lodging. And he fully set forth and explained the matter to them from morning until night, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
Preaching to them the kingdom of God and teaching them about the Lord Jesus Christ with boldness and quite openly, and without being molested or hindered. Acts 28:23 (NIV)
It is interesting how many teachings we accept without seeking God for understanding and revelation.