2Corinthians 12 - Outline of 2Corinthians (MENU page)
I. Introduction. 1:1-7
II. The Characteristics of Paul's Ministry. 1:8- 7:16
III. The Collection for the poor. 8:1- 9:15
IV. The Vindication of Paul's apostleship. 10:1- 13:10
A. The divine authentication. 10:1-18
B. The godly jealousy. 11:1-11
C. The warning against false teachers. 11:12-15
D. The enforced boasting. 11:16- 12:18
     1. Credentials comparable. 11:16-22
     2. Labors more abundant. 11:23-33
     3. Visions and a thorn. 12:1-10
In this section, Paul continues to boast of things pertaining to his weakness (2Cor 11:30).
1. It is not expedient {profitable} for me doubtless to glory.
I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
Although Paul regarded his boasting as an unprofitable distraction from the work to which he was called, he considered continued boasting necessary, in order to demonstrate the hypocrisy of self-exalting leaders who were influencing the Corinthian church. 2Cor 11:12
2 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.
3 And I knew such a man,
(whether in the body, or out of the body,
I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise,
and heard unspeakable words,
which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such an one will I glory:
yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
6 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.
I knew a man... fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, or... out of the body I cannot tell)...
Paul is speaking, guardedly, of his personal experience. This incident occurred "fourteen years" before he wrote 2Corinthians, which places it near the end of his first missionary journey (c.46 AD). Probably, he is referring to the time that he was stoned and left for dead at Lystra (Acts 14:19).
     His experience demonstrates that those who die 'in Christ' (v.2), are immediately "absent from the body and present with the Lord" (2Cor 5:8). While the dead body, lying in the grave, looks like it is asleep, the believer's soul and spirit do not 'sleep' in unconsciousness while awaiting bodily resurrection. At the 'resurrection' {GK=anastasis, lit., 'standing up'} of the body, the soul and spirit will be rejoined to the risen and glorified body. But meanwhile, the person remains conscious, aware of his Lord's presence, and barely aware that he is absent from the body.
...caught up to the third heaven (v.2)... caught up into paradise (v.4)...
The word for 'caught up' {GK=harpazo} is also applied to the Rapture of the church, when Christ will return in the air, to catch away all true believers, both those who had previously died and those who remain alive, at that time (1The 4:13-18; cp. 1Cor 15:51-53).
     The 'third heaven' and 'paradise' both refer to the heavenly abode of God. In the first heaven there are birds and clouds. In the second heaven are stars and planets. The third heaven is God's abode, which is not limited to His created universe (cp. 1Kin 8:27; Isa 57:15). Christ is currently seated at the right hand of God, in that place which is also called paradise (Luk 23:43; Rev 2:7). Therefore, those, who are absent from the body and present with the Lord, must be with Him, there.
...and heard unspeakable {inexpressable} words, which it is not lawful {proper} for a man to utter.
Human tongues are incapable of expressing the discourse of heaven, for it properly belongs to a much higher realm (cp. Isa 55:9).
For though I would desire to glory {boast}, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth...
Although Paul confessed that his boasting was a foolish exercise, he would not be a fool for having a desire to boast about this glorious experience, because he would be telling the truth. Yet, rather than saying any more, he would boast about his fleshly weakness, to avoid exalting himself in the eyes of others (v.6).
     Paul also says (in the following verses), that the Lord emphasized his weakness, to prevent him from exalting himself in his own eyes (cp. Psa 19:13, where 'presumptuous' means 'arrogant' or 'prideful').
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure {overly lifted up, haughty}
through the abundance
{exceeding greatness} of the revelations,
there was given to me a thorn in the flesh,
the messenger of Satan to buffet me
{lit., to strike me with the fist, ie., to harass me},
lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice,
that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect
{complete} in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities
in reproaches
{insults, injuries}, in necessities {hardships},
in persecutions, in distresses
{the anguish of tight situations}
for Christ's sake:
{cp. Joh 15:21}
for when I am weak, then am I strong.
...a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me...
It is assumed that Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' was chronic ophthalmia, an inflamation of the eye(s), which caused discomfort, difficulty with vision, and distortion to his facial appearance. Several passages support this theory (eg., his blindness at the sight of Christ in His glory, and his subsequent healing, Acts 9:3-9,17-18; his continuing eye trouble, Gal 4:15). However, the nature of Paul's thorn is not clearly defined, so that his experience may be an encouragement to everyone burdened by a hindrance to ministry.
     Paul calls this hindrance "a messenger {GK=aggelos, angel} of Satan." Sometimes, Satan is allowed to afflict one of God's own, so that He might more fully reveal Himself to, and through, His servant (eg., Job 2:7).
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
God always hears the prayers of His children. But He answers "according to His will" (1Joh 5:13-15). Paul besought {GK=parakaleo, drew near to implore} the Lord, for the removal of this hindrance to ministry (cp. Heb 4:15,16). His burden was heavy. His desire for relief was strong. But God did not fulfill his request in the way he desired.
     Note that God also denied similar strong requests by others (eg., Moses, Deu 3:23-27; Samuel, 1Sam 15:11; David, 2Sam 12:16-18). In each of those situations, the plaintiffs were requesting relief from some aspect of God's judgment.
     Paul presented his request three times, and then yielded to the Lord's will. Why did he cease at three? Perhaps he was taught by the example of our Lord, who prayed three times, and then bore our judgment, in willing submission to the Father's will (Mat 26:39-44). Or, perhaps he stopped praying, when the Lord answered his request verbally:
...he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
The power of Christ is very clearly demonstrated, when it is the only explanation for the effective ministry of His weak servants.
cp. 2Cor 3:5,6; Isa 40:29-31; Eph 3:16; Php 4:13
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory {boast} in my infirmities {weaknesses}, (cp. 2Cor 11:30)
...that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (cp. 2Cor 4:8-10; 1Pet 4:13,14)
Therefore I take pleasure in {ie., I am well content with} infirmities {weaknesses}... (v.10)
...for when I am weak, then am I strong. (cp. 2Cor 13:4; Joh 15:4,5)
D. The enforced boasting. 11:16- 12:18
     4. Signs seen by Corinthian church. 12:11-18
11. I am become a fool in glorying {boasting}; {eg., 2Cor 11:1,16,21,23}
ye have compelled me:
for I ought to have been commended of you:
for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles,
though I be nothing.
{2Cor 11:5; cp. 1Cor 3:7; 15:8-10}
12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience,
in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
{1Cor 9:1,2; cp. Rom 15:18,19}
Paul, in his reluctant boasting (in ch.11-12), has reviewed his apostolic credentials and ministry, which was free to them, costly for him, and accomplished despite his weakness by the power of Christ working in him. With this as background, he addresses them with pointed questions and warns them to prepare for his next visit.
13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches,
except [it be] that I myself was not burdensome to you?
forgive me this wrong.
{2Cor 11:7-12}
14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you;
Note: This would not be Paul's third visit to Corinth, but rather the third time that he was 'ready' {preparing, purposing} to visit. His previous plans for a second visit had been thwarted by unforeseen circumstances (2Cor 1:15; 13:1)
and I will not be burdensome to you:
for I seek not yours, but you:
for the children ought not to lay up for the parents,
but the parents for the children.
15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you;
{even if} the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
At his next visit, Paul again intended to provide for his own needs, rather than burdening the Corinthian church with his financial support.
16 But be it so, I did not burden you:
nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.
Paul's enemies said something like:
'So what, if Paul did not demand direct payment? You can be sure that he took advantage of the church by cunning subterfuge. Who knows what he will do with the money collected for Jerusalem?'
Their slanderous words had no basis in fact. eg., 2Cor 1:12; 4:2; 7:2
17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? {eg., 1Cor 4:15-17}
18 I desired Titus, and with [him] I sent a brother.
{2Cor 8:6}
Did Titus make a gain of you?
walked we not in the same spirit?
[walked we] not in the same steps?
{2Cor 8:16-23}
Of course, Titus, Timothy and any others sent by Paul had proved themselves above reproach in every matter. The accusations against Paul were obviously untrue.
IV. The Vindication of Paul's apostleship. 10:1- 13:10
E. The warning to reprobates. 12:19- 13:10
19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you?
ie., 'Once more, do you think that we have been defending {or, justifying} ourselves?'
(as though we needed to cover our supposedly deceptive ways, v.16)
we speak before God in Christ: {2Cor 4:1,2; 11:31}
but [we do] all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
{2Cor 5:12,13; 10:8}
20 For I fear, lest, when I come,
I shall not find you such as I would,
{cp. 2Cor 2:1-3; 13:2}
and [that] I shall be found unto you such as ye would not:
lest [there be] debates
{contentions}, envyings {jealousies},
{passionate indignation}, strifes {intrigue between factions},
{slanders}, whisperings {gossiping},
{arrogant pride}, tumults {commotion}:
21 [And] lest, when I come again,
my God will humble me
{bring me low (as in depression)} among you,
and [that] I shall bewail
{grieve for} many which have sinned already,
and have not repented of the uncleanness
{moral impurity}
and fornication
{sexual perversion} and lasciviousness {licentiousness}
which they have committed.
Paul was afraid that, contrary to his desire to build-up the Corinthian church through the teaching of God's Word, his next visit would be devoted to the discipline of believers and the demolition of satanic strongholds (2Cor 10:4).
     Therefore, in 13:1-10, Paul continues to warn and admonish the church to prepare themselves for his coming.

Click here to continue the study in 2Corinthians 13
Return to 2Corinthians - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from www.theBookWurm.com

Go to The Book opening page.