2 Corinthians chapter 12

Paul boasts of his great visions. Yet he had a “thorn in the flesh.” And he is very concerned for the believers in Corinth. [UPDATED]

 


 

PAUL BOASTS OF HIS GREAT VISIONS

 

VERSE 1. It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. For I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

not profitable for me to boast. To make his point to the thick-headed believers in Corinth, Paul is stooping to their level. He is using language a non-spiritual person can understand. He is bragging.

 

VERSE 2. I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I don’t know, or whether out of the body, I don’t know; God knows), such a one caught up into the third heaven.

I know a man. Paul is probably speaking of himself.

in the body … out of the body. Paul had an experience where he was no longer confined to his physical body.

the third heaven. What is this? Is it the same as “Paradise,” which he mentions in verse 4 below?

 

VERSE 3. I know such a man (whether in the body, or outside of the body, I don’t know; God knows),

 

VERSE 4. how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Paradise. What is this? Is it the same as “the third heaven,” which he mentions in verse 2 above?

 

VERSE 5. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in my weaknesses.

such a one. Again, Paul is probably speaking of himself.

 

VERSE 6. For if I would desire to boast, I will not be foolish; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, so that no man may think more of me than that which he sees in me or hears from me.

 

PAUL HAD A “THORN IN THE FLESH”

SUMMARY: Lots of people think of Paul Apostle as a great hero. However, Paul recognized that his true strength was in God. In the areas where he was weak, those were the areas that God made strong. If you feel weak, then you stand in the company of Paul.

 

VERSE 7. By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, a thorn in the flesh was given to me: a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively.

exceeding greatness of the revelations. Paul was given spiritual revelations that were way beyond those given to anybody else.

that I should not be exalted excessively. God did not want Paul to become arrogant about his spiritual revelations.

there was given to me a thorn in the flesh. Here is where the famous expression “thorn in the flesh” came from. It was something that tormented him. Some people speculate that it was a chronic illness.

Other people wonder if Paul suffered from some sort of problem with his eyes.

Galatians 6:11. See with what large letters I write to you with my own hand.

 

VERSE 8. Concerning this thing, I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

I begged the Lord. Nobody wants to suffer. Paul asked the Lord to lift it from him.

three times. Paul asked the Lord to take this suffering away from him. Three times.

 

VERSE 9. He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.

KJV translation: And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from Second Corinthians.

My grace is sufficient for you. Most of us would agree with this, at least at an intellectual level. However, many of us would find this hard to live by.

my power is made perfect in weakness. This is another statement that most of us would agree with, intellectually. But again, to live under this would be very challenging.

2 Corinthians 13:9. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. We also pray for this: your becoming perfect.

weakness. The Greek word is ἀσθένεια (“astheneia”). It means want of strength, weakness, illness, suffering, calamity, frailty.

I will rather glory in my weaknesses. That is, “I will gladly boast of my weaknesses.”

Lots of people see Paul as a great hero. However, Paul recognized that he was not strong. Instead, his true strength was in God.

In the areas where he was weak, those were the areas that God made strong.

If you feel weak, then you stand in the company of the great Apostle Paul. Do you have a thorn in the flesh? If so, rejoice!

Isaiah 49:5. Now the LORD, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, says to bring Jacob again to him, and to gather Israel to him, for I am honorable in the LORD’s eyes, and my God has become my strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9. He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.

Hebrews 11:34. quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, grew mighty in war, and caused foreign armies to flee.

 

VERSE 10. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, and in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.

KJV translation: That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from Second Corinthians.

I take pleasure in weaknesses. Few of us can say this. Yet it is our Christian ideal.

when I am weak, then am I strong. Our society praises strength. However, Jesus Christ esteems weakness. When we are weak, that is when he can make us strong!

 

PAUL IS VERY CONCERNED FOR THE BELIEVERS IN CORINTH

 

VERSE 11. I have become foolish in boasting. You compelled me, for I ought to have been commended by you, for in nothing was I inferior to the very best apostles, though I am nothing.

foolish in boasting. Paul recognizes that it is absurd for a Christian to boast about self.

You compelled me. The believers in Corinth were thick-headed. They were not spiritual. To communicate at their level, Paul had to resort to boasting about himself.

the very best apostles. Some translations say “super-apostles.” Paul says this ironically.

 

VERSE 12. Truly the signs of an apostle were worked among you in all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty works.

the signs of an apostle. Paul demonstrated his apostleship to the believers in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 2:4. My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

 

VERSE 13. For what is there in which you were made inferior to the rest of the assemblies, unless it is that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong.

I myself was not a burden to you. Paul did not ask his converts in Corinth to financially support him. Later, the false apostles arrived. They told everyone that Paul was wrong to not ask them for money.

 

VERSE 14. Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I seek not your possessions, but you. For the children ought not to save up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

I seek not your possessions, but you. Many of today’s Christian leaders want us to pledge tithes and sign bequests.

However, Paul did not want those things from the believers in Corinth. Rather, he wanted the Corinthians themselves!

 

VERSE 15. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less?

I will most gladly. Paul is very willing to:

spend and be spent for your souls. Paul was willing to spend and be spent for others. That is a big contrast from many of today’s Christian leaders. They want people to spend for them!

am I loved the less. The false apostles told everyone that Paul was wrong to not ask them for money.

 

VERSE 16. Even so, I myself didn’t burden you. “But, being crafty, I caught you with deception.”

 

VERSE 17. Did I take advantage of you by anyone of those whom I have sent to you?

 

VERSE 18. I exhorted Titus, and I sent the brother with him. Did Titus take any advantage of you? Didn’t we walk in the same spirit? Didn’t we walk in the same steps?

 

VERSE 19. Again, do you think that we are excusing ourselves to you? In the sight of God we speak in Christ. But all things, beloved, are for your edifying.

NASB translation: All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

defending ourselves. Paul has needed to defend himself against the attacks of the false apostles.

 

VERSE 20. For I am afraid that by any means, when I come, I might find you not the way I want to, and that I might be found by you as you don’t desire, that by any means there would be strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, whisperings, proud thoughts, or riots,

I am afraid. Paul had fears.

as you don’t desire. Paul feared that the false apostles would seduce the believers into immoral living.

 

VERSE 21. that again when I come my God would humble me before you, and I would mourn for many of those who have sinned before now, and not repented of the uncleanness, sexual immorality, and lustfulness which they committed.

 


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2 CORINTHIANS

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