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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Paul's Thorn Part 2: The Messenger

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.-2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I started writing this series about Paul's thorn because it is always an issue that comes up in response to healing. Many people believe the thorn was sickness, and use this passage to try and explain why some people don't get healed. My purpose in writing is to pull up the weeds surrounding this scripture.

In Part 1, I shared a little bit about Bible interpretation, because that is important when examining passages of scripture that might be difficult to understand. I also explored the word, "depart" that is found in verse 8 of this passage of scripture. You can read that introductory post here.

For the second part of this study, I decided to examine the word "messenger." When, I was reading this passage, this was a word that seemed to stand out to me, so it thought it would be good to investigate it.

In verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 12, the thorn is described as a "messenger" of Satan. That word messenger is the Greek word "aggelos," or "angelos" which means angel. Angelos is the phonetic spelling. The word is found 176 times in the New Testament.

According to Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, angelos is a messenger sent by God or by man or by Satan. Angels are most seen throughout scripture delivering messages to people. They are also seen working as guardians or representatives. The word angelos most frequently refers to an order of created beings.

There are only 3 angels named in the Bible: Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer. Lucifer was the angel that we now know is Satan. Satan was an angel that was kicked out of heaven.

Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 10:18,

    I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Berean Study Bible)

We know because of other writers in the New Testament that other angels went with Satan when he fell. See Jude 1:6, 2 Peter 2:4, Genesis 6:2, Matthew 24:41, and Revelation 12:7.

In Chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians, the chapter before the one we are talking about, Paul mentions Satan transforming himself into an angel of light, as also do his ministers.

And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (NIV)

This might give us a clue as to who/what the messenger is that Paul refers to as the thorn. It could potentially have been a false prophet, manifesting in human form, or it could have been the spiritual form, that we cannot see, following him around.

Nowhere in scripture is the word messenger ever translated as sickness.

A messenger is sent to bring a message. And the message this messenger was sent was causing pain. The Bible says the messenger was sent to buffet or torment Paul. This behavior is not conducive with the character of God, but of the enemy.

In John 10:10, Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. (Berean Study Bible)

My plan for part 3 is to write about what God said to Paul as the solution to his problem, unless the Lord directs me to talk about something else. There is a solution, and other New Testament writers have talked about it as well. Here's a hint to the answer: It's Jesus.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Paul's Thorn, Part 1

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.-2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NKJV)

Recently I shared something about healing and the issue of Paul's thorn came up. That seems to be something that always comes up because people have questions and they need peace. I know in my own life I have had questions about things, mostly related to my own insecurities, and I think that Paul's thorn is one of those things that makes people feel insecure in their faith.

I really believe that if we want to know the answers to questions, God wants to help us with it, especially if it is found in His Word, and through study and research, we can uncover what He has told us already.

This morning I spent some time study the passage of scripture related to Paul's thorn. I did not study everything that was possible to study surrounding it yet. There is a lot to explore.

When doing Bible interpretation, there are quite a few things the reader needs to consider, especially with obscure passages such as this.

We need to consider:

1. Context in the scripture that it was written, or what the words say around it.

2. We need to consider the entire chapter in which it was written, and the chapters around it.

3. We need to consider the entire book or epistle in which it was written.

4. We need to consider who wrote it, and the rest of what they have written.

5. We need to consider the Bible as a whole.

Other things that benefit when doing Bible interpretation are:

1. Did this event/scripture take place before or after The Cross? Because The Cross changed everything.

2. What is the character and nature of God? How do we see God through Jesus? Jesus is the exact representation of God.

3. What do confusing words mean in the original language? The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, and there have been many different translations based on the original language. The translators have often used words that mean the same thing, but don't really express the original word in its context correctly.

4. Where can we find those confusing words in the original language in other scriptures? How were they used there?

As I am writing, trying to explain this passage, these are things I have taken into consideration. I will not be talking about everything about the passage of scripture. I am just going to touch on a few points to hopefully bring comfort and reassurance to people who struggle with this passage. I have written 400 words in this post already.

So, here we go.

I have a Bible that contains 8 translations side by side. So I read several of the translations of this passage of scripture. In verse 8, the translators translated the phrase "depart from me", as "leave me", "take this problem away" "make this suffering go away" "take it away" "begged God to remove it". The most accurate of those translations is "depart from me" in this context.

The Greek Word there is "aphistemi", number 868 in the Strong's Concordance. You can find this word in many other scriptures in the New Testament. Definitions include: "to stand off, or aloof, or to depart from anyone" in Luke 4:13, Luke 13:27, Acts 5:38, "to refrain from " in Acts 12:10; Acts 15:38; Acts 19:9; Acts 22:29; and in 2 Corinthians 12:8.

I am going to share all of these scriptures so you can look at what it looks like in relation to that word.

Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.-Luke 4:13

But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’-Luke 13:27

And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; Acts 5:38

When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.-Acts 12:10

But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.-Acts 15:38

But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.-Acts 19:9

Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.-Acts 22:29

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.-2 Corinthians 12:8

Now, you can see that this word depart in its meaning, and where it used in other verses, all has to do with people or Satan, or in 2 Corinthians 12:8 , a messenger of Satan leaving. It always seems to function in the context of a person or being leaving.

There's a lot more to talk about, so stay turned for Part 2.

*Sources I used for this part of the Bible Study are Strong's Concordance,, and The Contemporary Parallel New Testament.

*All Scriptures were taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Fragrance of Kings (and Queens)

Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could—she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.”-Mark 14:3-9

I love Mary of Bethany. She is who I named my blog after. She has several stories in the Bible, each filled with their own unique goodness.

One of the stories has to do with the anointing of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and John all tell the story about anointing Jesus for his burial. Each Gospel writer gives different details, but they all tell the same story. 

She is not the same woman as in Luke 7. That is a completely different story filled with its own treasures. But Matthew, Mark, and John tell the story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with the perfume, which would have been spikenard.

Now, if you haven't ever smelled spikenard, it is strong. One little drop is very fragrant. The Bible says, she took an entire jar of alabaster, which equaled a pound of spikenard, broke it, and anointed him with it, starting at his head.

Every time I hear or think about this story, I think about how everyone in that room, or in that house came out of there smelling like spikenard that day. They had the fragrance upon them.

I just read that this particular perfume is used to anoint royalty. Jesus says in that passage of scripture that she is anointing him for his burial.

In the Old Testament, kings were anointed on the head with oil to prepare them to be king. What if, in anointing him for his burial, she was also anointing him to be king?

When he was crucified, Pontius Pilate had a sign placed above his head.

"And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.""-Joh 19:19

The same things that happened to Jesus, happened to us. The fragrance of the spikenard that anointed him, also covered us that day.

Now, consider these scriptures...

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him."-Romans 6:8

"And having been buried with Him in baptism, you were raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead."-Colossians 1:12

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."-1 Peter 2:9

"And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."-Revelation 5:10

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere."- 2 Corinthians 2:14

Grace and peace to you.  

In Him,

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Free Gift of Righteousness

I once had a pediatrician tell me that a good doctor will make you feel like a good parent. I am now convinced that a good minister will make you feel like the righteousness of God in Christ. You are already forgiven. You still have to believe it and receive it. A good minister will tell you the truth. What is the truth? The truth is not some way to justify hardness towards people. The truth is Jesus.

It's important what you believe about yourself, because you will live out whatever you believe. If you believe you are a sinner, you will act that out, or give up. But if you believe God has made you righteous, that will come to life in you as well.

"For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation."-2 Corinthians 5:19

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."-John 14:6

"And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."-1 Corinthians 6:11

"For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ."-Romans 5:17

"You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you."-John 13:13-15