Some Christians are not convinced.
I have written about divine healing many times, but despite the myriad of verses that speak of the healing that is rightfully ours, some Christians are not convinced. When someone claims that healing is readily available to anyone and everyone, they object. Some will claim that God doesn’t heal physically and that all references to healing are spiritual. Others claim that God doesn’t always heal – for reasons we probably wouldn’t understand. My article, ‘Define ‘Healed’…….‘, dealt with the claim about physical vs spiritual healing and I do not want get into it again here. My article ‘Claim Your Benefits‘ quoted Psalm 103 which says that God forgives all our iniquities AND heals all our diseases. That article argued that if the part about forgiveness is true – which all genuine Christians agree on – then the part about healing must also be true. How could anyone possible disagree?
God sent either a sickness or physical disability to Paul.
Well, they do! Some will point to Christians they know or have heard of (or themselves) and will say, “Well they / I didn’t get healed….”, my article ‘The Bible vs Experience & Opinion‘ dealt with why your personal experience or the experience or others does not negate what the Bible promises concerning physical healing. None of these opinions have a Biblical basis. However there are others who, in fairness to them, do actually have a Biblical basis for not been convinced that it is always God’s will to heal. In this article, we will look at why this view is based on a misunderstanding of scripture. One verse that people will point to is 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“. The premise of this argument is that God sent either a sickness or physical disability to Paul via Satan. Some versions even translate it this way:
“…I was given a physical condition which has been a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to hurt and bother me…” (The Living Bible)
“…I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down…” (The Message)
A handicap is not a gift – it is a manifestation of the curse.
I in no way advocate the view point that you should only read the King James Version of the Bible, but in this instance The Living Bible and The Message both have appalling translations of this verse – based upon the translators’ opinion of what Paul meant. Take a step back and look at this objectively. Ask yourself, how can God send Jesus to suffer, so that by Jesus stripes we will be healed, if at the same time it is sometimes God Himself who puts (even if it is indirectly) those same conditions on us? Is God really putting the same sickness on people that Jesus suffered to redeem us from? Is God double minded? The Message translation is particularly bad, in referring to a physical handicap as a gift. Some may be insulted by this, but a handicap is not a gift – it is a manifestation of the curse. Jesus died to redeem us from the curse (Galatians 3:13) and God does not sometimes choose to subject us to the curse for our own good. If we find ourselves under the effects of the curse, we can be assured that it is neither God’s will, nor God’s doing. So what is this verse saying? What was the ‘thorn in the flesh‘? Look at the verse above in The Message again and notice that it refers to what the KJV calls “the messenger of Satan“, as “Satan’s angel“. The same word translated as ‘messenger’ in the KJV is translated as ‘angel’ in other verses. It is merely at the translators’ discretion that it is translated as ‘messenger’ in 2 Corinthians 12:7.
The messenger or angel from Satan was just that – a messenger or angel from Satan.
The “thorn in the flesh” that Paul refers to, is not something in his physical flesh. Our closest English expression is, “a pain in the neck”. God used a similar expression to Paul’s in the Old Testament when He told the Israelites that if they did not drive out the inhabits of the land, they would become “thorns in your sides” (Numbers 33:55 / Judges 2:3). The messenger or angel from Satan was just that – a messenger or angel from Satan (in other words, a demon), sent to keep Paul down. Not because God thought he was getting too big for his boots, but because Satan did not like what God was doing through Paul. In the previous chapter Paul describes the attacks of this demon:
“I’ve been imprisoned more often, suffered more beatings, been near death over and over. Five times I received “forty lashes less one” from the Jews. 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. In my many travels I have been exposed to danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the desert, danger at sea, danger from false brothers. I have toiled and endured hardship, often not had enough sleep, been hungry and thirsty, frequently gone without food, been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, Complete Jewish Bible)
Why was Paul not walking in the divine protection promised in the 91st Psalm?
You may wonder how this demon was able to attack Paul so freely. Whilst it is true that it did not seem to be able to kill Paul, it certainly caused him to suffer. So why was Paul not walking in the divine protection promised in the 91st Psalm? The answer is that Paul allowed strife in. James 3:16 is very clear about strife, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work”. Paul had made the mistake that we have all made at times, and must be diligent to avoid, he had allowed strife to give the devil access to his life. The ‘messenger of Satan’ was allowed access and brought with it ‘every evil work’. Before you question the fact that Paul got into strife, allow me to show you! Look at Acts 15:36-39:
“A few days later, Paul said to Barnabas, “We should go back to all the towns where we told people the message of the Lord. We should visit the believers to see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark with them too. But on their first trip John Mark did not continue with them in the work. He had left them at Pamphylia. So Paul did not think it was a good idea to take him this time. Paul and Barnabas had a big argument about this. It was so bad that they separated and went different ways.” (Easy to Read Version)
This issue was resolved at some point.
Paul got into some serious strife with Barnabas concerning John Mark and in so doing inadvertently opened a big door to Satan. However we know this issue was resolved at some point because Paul later wrote to Timothy about John Mark, “Get Mark, and bring him with you. He has been a big help to me in the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11 , Common English Bible). The man who Paul had previously angrily refused to take with him, was now considered to be “a big help to me“.
But what about Timothy?
In conclusion, Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was a demon doing it’s best to hinder, or preferably stop, the work that Paul was doing for God. It was not a sickness or a disability, all translations refer to it as a messenger or angel of Satan, and that is what it was. This demon had a measure of success against Paul, but it ultimately failed – Paul declares in 2 Timothy 3:11, “You have seen me experience physical abuse and ordeals in places such as Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. I put up with all sorts of abuse, and the Lord rescued me from it all!” Therefore, Paul is not an example of someone who didn’t receive their healing. But what about Timothy? Didn’t Paul write to Timothy about his frequent illnesses? We will discuss this in Part II.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
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