No, that isn’t a typo in the title. All my life I’ve heard people ignorantly say what the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was that he mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. I’m saying ‘ignorant’, not ‘stupid’. If you read all of Paul’s letters, you can understand what it is but Acts 9:1-19 is where it starts. In case you’re curious, people have said Paul’s thorn was a gimp arm, a speech impediment, unfavorable facial features, and even homosexuality. These people even have Scripture to base their beliefs on. Satan uses these “unknowns” in the Bible to take away from the actual message. It may have even happened to you. I’ll tell you my belief of Paul’s thorn at the end.
2 Corinthians was Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth that he had just written to (1 Corinthians) and given a ton of instructions to. This letter was a commendation as well as a defense for him and his ministry. He really stresses taking the focus off of self and onto Jesus. He does this by humbling himself in chapter 12. Most people feel like he’s talking about himself in verses 1 – 6, chiefly because of verse 7. The real message in verses 7 – 10 is to be humble, accept your life as it is, and let God work through you. Instead, we take our weaknesses, or thorns, and use them as excuses for not serving God. “I can’t sing good enough.” Okay, sometimes that’s true. “I can’t teach anybody.” “I can’t speak in front of crowds.” “I don’t have a talent.” “I can’t share my faith with strangers, let alone people I know.” Can’t never could!
All of these excuses are based on reasons why we think we can’t serve God. On the flip-side of this is the group of Christians who think we are God’s “blessed and highly favored”, “anointed”, gift to those who need God’s message of Christ. This group likes to boast about themselves, use lofty titles for themselves, and put letters behind their names. I actually know someone who introduces himself as the Apostle, Doctor, Pastor, Reverend, Chaplain _(Name omitted)_, PHD. Paul could have been like this but God gave him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. He felt like the “thorn” made him weak but realized it was his weakness that enabled God to be seen in everything he did. If God gives you a “thorn” like Paul’s, realize that God has a reason for it and a special purpose for your life. As far as God is concerned, your “thorn” is not an excuse to not serve Him.
As for Paul’s thorn, let’s start at Acts 9. Verse 3 says a light from heaven flashed around him and verse 8 says he could see nothing. In verse 17, Ananias lays hands on him so he can regain his site. Verse 18 describes “something like scales” falling from Paul’s eyes and then he could see. Judging from the description, it sounds like skin that was burned or hardened. Let’s say it was burnt skin like a scab. The skin underneath would be a bright pink scar of skin. In Galatians 4:12–15, Paul talks to the believers at Galatia about a “bodily condition” he had that they could have despised or loathed him for. He then tells the condition could be fixed by an eye placement. As I turned 40, my eyesight started to get weak and I needed glasses for print except something printed large. All of Paul’s letters were written by someone else and in some, he included a greeting in his own handwriting. 1 Corinthians 16:21, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, and Philemon 1:19 mentioned his part of writing. From this, I believe Paul’s “thorn in his side” was his eyes. The key is that even with Paul’s affliction that he mentions, he didn’t stop spreading the message of Jesus Christ. With Paul studying to be a member of the Sanhedrin under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), he could have put letters after his name, too. God knew Paul’s heart and kept him humble by giving him a “thorn in the flesh”. The key here is that God needed to humble a man who thought highly of himself, was very educated, and had authority to persecute Christians. Rather than killing Saul, God showed him mercy, offered him grace, and made him into Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.