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Reader Mail: How 2 Cor. 12:7-10 contradicts Bill Johnson

e-mailI received the comment below in response to a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, “God’s Indeed a Good Father — How NAR Leaders Have Twisted a Biblical Truth.” I wanted to share the comment here because I think the commenter raises a strong argument against Bill Johnson’s teaching that God never uses sickness or disease to teach his children a lesson. Here’s the comment. (Notice that the letter G identifies a word as  Greek, and the numbers are the Strong’s numbers where the Greek word can be found in the Strong’s Concordance.

When I was researching Bill Johnson’s teachings on this subject of sickness, I found the Greek to be extremely helpful. It was such a blessing to see how Scripture comments on this.

[In] 2 Cor 12:7-10 Paul had a thorn in the flesh which he repeatedly asked God to remove. Paul was to rely on God’s grace to be sufficient (not healing) for God said, “My power is perfected in weakness (G769)” and that he will boast about these weaknesses (G769)! Paul says, following his prayer: “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses (G769), with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak (G770), then I am strong.”

The Greek here for “weakness” and “weak” are astheneia (G769) and astheneo (G770) – the same words to describe physical illnesses, sicknesses, and disease people had that Jesus healed. If Paul is content with physical  illness and sickness, along with other trials and persecutions, it is because he has learned that Christ is strong and Paul wants God’s power to be perfected through it! He uses our weakness — including our illnesses. Therefore we see Scripture directly contradicting what Bill Johnson teaches.

The strength of the argument lies in the fact that Paul lists several types of trials he is content with, and this list specifically distinguishes different types of trials, including persecutions. So it seems unlikely that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was persecution, as N.A.R. leaders including Bill Johnson like to suggest. Rather, it’s more likely it was a type of physical ailment, as the Greek word astheneia indicates.

See Bill Johnson’s teaching about the thorn in the flesh in this YouTube video titled “Can God ‘give’ sickness? What About Paul’s ‘thorn’…?


Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

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6 Responses to “Reader Mail: How 2 Cor. 12:7-10 contradicts Bill Johnson”

  1. Diane Gorton Says:

    Spoke with a friend today.  She has learned SO much from her illness, and it has taught her sooooo much about trust and faith.  She said. “I am learning  about giving my burdens to my Heavenly Father!  She feels so blessed to have the comfort that He knows when she will be taken and when she is to be content to stay here, serving Him!!!
    I Love seeing friends mature in their faith.  And no matter what, trust Him for the outcome.

    I wonder how some miss God’s truth and buy the lie!  Being help accountable for false teaching is a great burden indeed!

  2. Thomas Heward Says:

    There are certainly times when God uses “sickness” to correct a believer in willful disobedience or rebellion toward the known will of God. 

    The Apostle Paul is certainly “no such candidate”, but rather a living example of the importance the gospel message held in his heart and life. 

    The Apostle Paul was filled with the Love of God and mightily used to build the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    God was not the enemy of Paul adding “sickness” to his already buffeted, perilous life carrying the gospel of Christ to the Jews first – who hated him with a passion,  than to the heathen who had their own set of Gods. 

    Paul’s genuine enemy as well as the enemy of all humanity,  especially believers,  was Satan. 

    The affliction Paul experienced he described in writing “as being buffeted by Satan or a devil” and that need not be sickness.  Satan (the tempter) came against Christ several times, at the end of a 40 day fast, thru his chosen apostle Peter who suggested he need not go to the Cross, than Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. 

    So it was not sickness Paul asked the Lord to be delivered from but a devil or evil spirit that constantly hindered his preaching of the gospel which often included Paul healing the sick,  even raising the dead.  After all do you want a “sick person” laying hands on you so you can be healed?  This particular devil buffeted Paul in his flesh.  How bout being stoned to death 3 or 4 times?  I would call that being buffeted in the flesh although not sickness and he did recover every time.  Than he also was aware of the specific purpose for God allowing this devil to buffet him.  That he be not exalted due to the degree of divine revelation given him by the Lord.  And he realized that it is “knowledge that puffs up”, how much puffier if it be “divine knowledge”

    Now as for Bill Johnson, clearly an integral part of the erroneous NAR, I would question anything he teaches due to the multitude of deceptive manifestations among his “gullible” church goers.  Some declaring things like “An angel told me Wakey,  Wakey!!” regarding new revelation about to enter their midst. 

  3. Joaquin Says:

    Recuerdo cuando estudie como Filon.Origenes y San Agustin basados en su forma de interpretacion alegorica de la escuela catequistica de Alejandria. establecieron los fundamentos de los sacramentos catolicos.La Iglesia Apostolica Catolica De Roma en el 325 dc.ya habian cambiado la doctrina de Cristo.La naturaleza de la iglesia primitiva y la natulaleza del culto de la verdadera iglesia.Hoy igual la NRA trata de hacer lo mismo.Con su falsos argumentos de espiritus engañadores.Como nos mostraba el apostol Pablo.God bless.Joaquin w.Garcia

  4. Jan Says:

    Paul’s thorn in the flesh is not sickness. The context here is found in what Paul’s sudience understood concern a thorn in the flesh. This is found in the Old Testament. A thorn in the flesh of the Israelites was other nations that also inhabited the nation that had a different agenda. In Paul’s case it was also people. He calls it a messenger of satan. He refers to the judaisers doing damage to the churches he planted. They were the thorn in Paul’s flesh. 

  5. roger olson Says:

    read in Context.  was about persecution.  Now if you want to say Paul was sick , yes read the book of Galatians and him talking about his eyes.

  6. BMO Says:

    One key of biblical interpretation is the “principle of first use”.  Basically, however it is used first in Scripture may carry greater weight in our understanding of a passage.

    To the best of my knowledge, the first use of a variant of “thorn in flesh” was Numbers 33:55 and it was clearly about strife with external opponents.  This doesn’t mean that this is what Paul is talking about, but it should carry some consideration considering his mastery of the Torah and purposeful use of words.  Also of note, basically every other mention in the entire Bible of thorns in sides, eyes, etc. are references to external conflict.  However, leading Bible scholars are divided on this issue so I don’t think we can take too firm a stand.

    So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” – 2 Cor. 17:7

    Regardless of your interpretation, note the reason for the thorn: it was given because of exceedingly great revelations.  For us to claim that we are suffering from a thorn in the flesh, we have to ask if we are meeting the full conditions.  Are we suffering to keep us humble due to exceedingly great revelations?  A word study on “revelation” is very informative.  Revelation is frequently associated with God speaking to and guiding His people through visions, prophecies, and tongues.  Are you being given such powerful visions and revelations that a messenger of Satan was given to keep you humble?  If not, then “thorns in the flesh” may not be an accurate way of describing a given condition.


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