In 2. Cor 12:6-10, we read 6. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh? A thorn in the flesh is a Hebraism for individuals or a group of people who causes you great harm. One such example would be Alexander, the coppersmith in 2. Tim 4:14 and the inhabitants of the land in Numbers 33:55.
Why was Paul given a thorn in the flesh? To keep him from becoming conceited (verse 7.) Becoming conceited is a sin, a sin that would have led to a loss of salvation for Paul and a failure in his mission as an apostle to the gentiles.
Paul says, in verse 7, this individual was a messenger of Satan. So whoever it might have been, he caused Paul such great harm and hated Paul so much that Paul saw him as a messenger of the devil. Why would Satan want to prevent Paul from becoming conceited?
Stop for a moment and think about this; if Paul had become conceited, he would have lost his salvation and failed his mission as an apostle to the gentiles. This would have benefited the devil, so dont you think it is rather strange how Paul says a messenger of Satan was given him to keep him from sinning?
The answer to this is in Isaiah 45:7, ” I am Yehovah, and there is no other, I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, Yehovah, do all these things.”
Yehovah used a messenger of Satan to prevent Paul from becoming conceited.
How could a good loving God use a demon to prevent Paul from sinning? Is that not equivalent to a father using the neighborhood bully to beat up his son to teach his son a lesson?
What would have happened if Paul had become conceited? Paul would have sinned, lost his salvation, and failed his mission as an apostle to the gentiles. So what we see Yehovah doing here is more equivalent to scared straight and beyond scared straight than a father using the neighborhood bully to teach his son a lesson.
What is happening here is Yehovah uses what is evil to protect Paul’s salvation and his mission as an apostle to the gentiles. Why was this necessary?
Paul answers the question in verses 6-7; he was given great spiritual revelations and was tempted to become arrogant and boastful. He needed to be reminded he was not righteous because of his revelations and what he had seen. He was righteous because he obeyed the Torah (Rom 2:13), and he was reconciled to Yehovah by the Blood of Jesus (Romans 2-9)
This is the exact same thing Jesus says in Luke 10:20 and Matt 7:21-23. We are not righteous because the demons are subject to us; we are not righteous because we do great and mighty miracles in the name of Jesus. Our righteousness comes from the fact that we have repented from lawlessness, and the Blood of Jesus reconciles us. But as we read in Matt 7:21-23, some have forgotten this and believe they are righteous because they can do miracles and have spiritual experiences. And in 1. Chor Paul rebukes the Corinthians for thinking they are righteous for speaking in tounges. In Romans and Galatians, Paul rebukes the Jews and the gentiles for believing they are righteous for being circumcised.
Miracles, revelations, physical circumcision, speaking in other tongues, casting out demons are all a by-product of a life in obedience to the law reconciled by the Blood of Jesus. They are never to be the object of our faith, but if they become an object of our faith, Yehovah might send you a thorn in the flesh to keep you from becoming conceited.