Posts Tagged ‘Satan’

I was sure that when I began the research for this topic for a class at Koinonia Institute, that I would conclude that Paul had an eye malady as several commentators seem to think…but after looking at several passages and after researching several different sites and praying, I don’t think that is what it was…not totally anyway. Let’s start attempting to unravel this question by visiting the passage where the term ‘thorn in the flesh’ came from.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.(NASB)

I first read this and then I looked at verse seven a little closer. I examined it with the lexicon and this passage says that the thorn in his flesh was an angel of Satan…I’m not making it up, that’s what it says. OK, what does it mean? The word messenger seems to always refers to a human being or an angel or of Christ. I think we can agree that a messenger of Satan doesn’t mean Christ so that leaves humans or angels. By contrast, thorns are seen continually in scripture, as a sign of those who are against Israel, or are of Satan. By the process of elimination, I think the verse means that his thorn in the flesh was likely an angel of Satan.

Now that I feel the thorn was caused by a fallen angel, I wondered could Paul have been suffering from demon possession with The Lord’s permission? At first I thought maybe this could have been the answer and there are examples of this in the scriptures. If we read 1 Samuel 16:14 we learn that The Lord became fed up with Saul and sent an evil spirit to trouble him. The Lord apparently allows evil spirits to possess people (that is a different topic in itself) but, after praying about it and sleeping on it, I feel demon possession is highly unlikely. First, because the reference I cited in the book of Samuel was of God, and this was not (it was of Satan) and secondly because Paul’s actions don’t fit the patterns we read of elsewhere in the scriptures of examples of demon possessed people.

However, in a Job-like manner, God could have allowed an angel of Satan to torment, or maltreat Paul and to cause physical problems that manifested themselves outwardly. Could the angel of Satan have been anything else? Yes, it could have been ‘agents’ of Satan attempting to thwart Paul’s efforts at spreading the word, by trying to throw roadblocks in his way because as Paul became more effective at bringing God’s message to the people and his reputation became better known, he increasingly was becoming more and more of an extreme irritant to Satan and his design to thwart The Lord’s plan. Paul himself, in 2 Corinthians eleven said he survived beatings, stonings, imprisonment and three shipwrecks in his journeys spreading the word and despite all these apparent Satanic efforts to stop him, Paul became one of The Lords most effective tool at spreading the word to Gentiles and Jews alike that the early church had ever known and I’m sure Satan would have crushed Paul like a bug if God had allowed him to.

Now let’s look at another view, from the letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 4:13-15 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you [enjoyed]? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.(NKJV)

OK, here, it seems he was suffering from a physical malady that was evident to those he was preaching to in Galatia, as we find out from this letter he wrote at a later date after they started slipping back to the old ways of Judaism. Dr. Chuck Missler, among other commentators of the scriptures, seems to think it was eye problems that were a carry-over from the blindness Christ caused him to have (which I see as a typological representation of the blindness He pronounced upon Israel that also is a temporary infirmity at the national level). That is a logical assumption except for one issue; if we look back at 2 Corinthians 12:7 it says it was a messenger from Satan sent to torment him. The blindness came from God, not ‘a messenger of Satan, and the two causalities don’t mingle in my mind, so I don’t believe Paul would have confused eye problems relating to the blindness caused by Our Lord as having come from Satan.

At this point, I believe God was allowing Satan, in a Job-like manner, as stated earlier, to harass Paul in ways that manifested itself by causing outward signs of some aberrant physical condition to a limited extent, and to also, at the same time, throw roadblocks in his way in the manner of delays, shipwrecks, beatings, stonings and imprisonment because of The Lord’s faith in His servant. Paul besought The Lord to remove this burden from him three time, just as Christ was beseeching His Father three time to rid Him of His burden in the Garden. The Lord chose not to heal this ‘thorn’ in Paul’s side, possibly for the reason so that Paul would take the burden and use it as a tool to aid him in his ministries, which he did.

So in summary, we have those that firmly believe Paul’s thorn in the flesh was simply agents sent to block his progress, as they surely did, and we do see in 2 Corinthians eleven that he describes those attempting to stop and thwart him, and that they would be ‘messengers of Satan’ and I took those into account…but I don’t think that is all that there is of his meaning. We also have those that firmly believe it was just a physical malady, such as chronic eye problems that Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 and in several letters he does mentions physical maladies that seem embarrassing and seem to be a hindrance and an impediment that is obviously deeply troubling him and some folks think they were his thorn in the flesh and I took that into account also…but I don’t think that is all of it either…I’m looking at all these all references as one big package and it screams ‘Job’ to me.

Also, the verbiage in 2 Corinthians 12:8 when he is pleading with The Lord to allow ‘it to depart from him’, uses the Greek verb, aphistēmi and the definition seems to imply to me more than just people harassing him or more than just physical impairment. I suppose then, that my conclusion is I feel Paul was afflicted with multiple issues that were Satan sponsored and Satan sent.

While we’re at it, the root to the thorns in side in the OT in the couple of places I checked was tsaniyn which is thorns or pricks. When we look at the Greek root of the thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7 it is skolops which is a sharp pointed stake, something akin to a tent stake, I suspect. This doesn’t mitigate the comparisons to the OT text, but it seems to ramp up the seriousness of the point he was trying to make, I think.

How is this principle of Paul’s thorn in his flesh applicable today?…to me? Paul was a sinner, but he was a very effective sinner that turned trouble into triumph and used the thorn in his flesh to his advantage to show that he was still a sinner, but a sinner saved by grace, as we all would be, and that he was tempted to be exalted in the end. Paul asked God to remove the ‘thorn’ from him, but God told him that “power is perfected in weakness”, so Paul turned roadblocks and hindrances into triumphs for The Lord. Those are lessons that I need to work on because sometimes when I don’t understand why things are happening, I try to take charge and, as usual, wreck the train, and allow troubles and temptation to be the excuse that they are designed to be, therefore giving my arch foe, Satan an advantage. Oh, you weak, weak man, Jim.

Dear Father, I need your strength, for I have none. I need your light for I exist in darkness, I need your hand to guide me out of the abyss I plunge myself into. Oh, Father save me from myself for I’m a worm on the ground, once again waiting for the carrion of Satan to snatch me up without you. Dear, blessed Father, thank you for the grace and mercy I never have and I never will deserve and I still don’t understand why you rescued me, Lord. Show me how to be like Paul, triumphing in life, while spreading your Word, father. In Christ name, Amen.

God Bless, Jim


for Koinonia Institute

If you asked a hundred Christians in the conservative, ‘bible-belt’ section of America where I live the question, “Why was Christ crucified?”, almost all of them would say, “He died for our sins.” and leave it at that. That would not be an incorrect answer, just an incomplete one, for I need to know why He had to die for our sins. I am going to attempt to explore that question and try to do it justice.

The key word to the short answer is ‘sin’. What is sin? According to blue letter bible, sin is a transgression or violation of divine law (God’s law) as is defined below.

a. Its origin, as regards the human race. The first man and woman, by their own choice, violated the law of God; they sinned against God.

b. Words, which describe sin in some of its forms. Hebrew: “Chata,” to go out of the way, to miss the mark. “Pasha,” to transgress. “Avah,” to twist, to act perversely. Greek: “Hamaritia,” a missing of the mark. “Paraptoma,” a falling away from law, truth, right. “Parabasis,” a going over or beyond truth and right, transgression. “Anomia,” lawlessness. “Asebeia,” irreverence.

c. Definition. “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”

Regardless which definition we apply to ourselves, the trait of free will and gullibility within human beings condemn us to sin. Genesis 1:27-31 tells us that God created man in His own image and blessed him and gave him dominion over the Earth and was pleased with the results. Since humans were created in His image, and humans sin, does that mean God is sinful in nature, because we sure are? No, of course not. When God created Adam there was no sin. Unfortunately for us, there was a wrench thrown into the works called Satan and Romans 5:12 tell us Adam fell because Satan was allowed to introduced sin into the world, via Adam. I can infer just from the book of Job, using the patterns that are prevalent all through the bible, that Satan kind of goaded God into this competition with us as the pawns and our souls as the prize. I was going to go a different direction with this, but I suddenly am compelled to explore the path of the Trinity and creation…

For some reason, I always had difficulty remembering that sometimes ‘God’ can refer to the Trinity, or can refer to God the Father or can refer to God the Son. John in chapter 1 of his gospel says that God the Son is the author of creation and that Christ created the universe and all things in it, including us. That means we are created in Christ’s image (how cool is that). It also means that Adam is a direct creation of Christ, even though it apparently was a collaborative effort (the plural verbiage denoting the Trinity in Genesis 3:22). Satan, however was able to deceive Adam through Eve and he was successful in generating doubt and confusion in what God (Christ) had commanded, causing them to sin by eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why was this one tree, that they were told not to eat from, placed within the perfect garden of Eden? I think we can derive from the patterns we see in Job, it was there as a test and a temptation, much like the events within the book of Job were. Where am I going with all this?

This is partially conjecture on my part, but I think Christ created Adam in His own image as a sinless person that had no conception of good and evil. Satan presents a challenge and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is introduced into the midst of this perfect garden. It doesn’t take long for Satan to begin his deception campaign by beguiling Eve into sinning by transgressing the commandment of God (Christ) and eating of this lone tree and then convincing her husband to do the same. This means that Adam, a direct creation of Christ, and created in the image of Christ, falls by sinning. In response Our Lord performed the opening gambit in the competition for our souls, exhibited by a string of prophecies, that leads eventually toward a checkmate against his wily opponent, Satan*1. How was this brilliant maneuver performed?

Christ introduced the prophecy concerning the plans to ultimately defeat Satan by the parabolic announcement of Himself becoming human in
Genesis 3:15*2 and taking over the role that Adam failed at through the miracle of the virgin birth of Himself as a man. While Christ will not sin like Adam (remember Christ’s temptations by Satan from Mark chapter 1 which basically is a parallel of the temptations of Adam and Eve by Satan, which they failed), He will take upon the sin that His direct creation, Adam, introduced into the world and then willingly die for our salvation upon the cross while wearing this cloak of sin and transgression, relieving us of this unbearable burden and beginning the ‘end game’ process of sealing the lid on the ultimate defeat of Satan. I believe Christ, from the beginning, arranged His own crucifixion to pay the debt of sin that Adam started, thus soundly tromping Satan.

I can see the scenario where we and our universe were created with the intention of Christ being our creator and ruler, possibly in Eden which was in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Satan, by being allowed to introduce sin into the world*3, only delayed the inevitable end result where Christ becomes the ruler of all nations in the end and, just possibly, bring Eden back to it’s glory, as it was in the beginning.

God Bless



for Koinonia Institute

*1 Those familiar with chess will know that a game can be won or lost in the first move that, if played right, can set up a domino effect type of scenario that may not manifest itself until scores of moves have been played, resulting in a checkmate.

*2 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (RSV)

*3 Satan made all those “I will” statements in Isaiah 14, maybe God has allowed everything to go on to prove that Satan’s “I will” statements are actually “I am only delusional and that I can’t” statements…