What was the thorn in Paul’s side?
It seems to me that the thorn was a problem with his eyes. Galatians 4:13-15 says, “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, IF IT HAD BEEN POSSIBLE, YE WOULD HAVE PLUCKED OUT YOUR OWN EYES, AND HAVE GIVEN THEM TO ME.”
The apostle Paul had met the Lord on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:1-9 says, “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and WHEN HIS EYES WERE OPENED, HE SAW NO MAN: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And HE WAS THREE DAYS WITHOUT SIGHT, and neither did eat nor drink.”
The Lord did give Paul his sight back. Acts 9:10-18 says, “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately THERE FELL FROM HIS EYES AS IT HAD BEEN SCALES: AND HE RECEIVED SIGHT FORTHWITH, and arose, and was baptized.”
It took seeing God’s brightness for Paul to realize that his own righteousness was as filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” When Paul saw the holiness of God, it left him blinded. When the problem with his eyes was healed, then something like scales fell off from them.
Later on, Paul would talk about having a thorn in the flesh. II Corinthians 12:1-10 says, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 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. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Even though Paul prayed that God would take away that thorn in his flesh, God would not do so. It would be something with which Paul would have to live, so that he would not get proud over all that God had allowed him to experience.
Many have wondered what that thorn was. According to Galatians 4:13-15, it seems that it was a problem with his eyes. “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And MY TEMPTATION WHICH WAS IN MY FLESH ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, IF IT HAD BEEN POSSIBLE, YE WOULD HAVE PLUCKED OUT YOUR OWN EYES, AND HAVE GIVEN THEM TO ME.”