2-Corinthians - 12:1-21

The Third Heaven and the Thorn

      1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. For I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 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. 3 I know such a man (whether in the body, or outside of the body, I don't know; God knows), 4 how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in my weaknesses. 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. 7 By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively. 8 Concerning this thing, I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 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. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong. 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. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were worked among you in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty works. 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. 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. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less? 16 But be it so, I did not myself burden you. But, being crafty, I caught you with deception. 17 Did I take advantage of you by anyone of them whom I have sent to you? 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? 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. 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, riots; 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 and sexual immorality and lustfulness which they committed.

Chapter In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of 2-Corinthians 12.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

This chapter 2 Cor. 12 is a continuation of the same general subject which was discussed in the two previous chapters. The general design of the apostle is, to defend himself from the charges brought against him in Corinth, and especially, as it would appear, from the charge that he had no claims to the character of an apostle. In the previous chapters he had met these charges, and had shown that he had just cause to be bold toward them; that he had in his life given evidence that he was called to this work, and especially that by his successes and by his sufferings he had showed that he had evidence that he had been truly engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus.
This chapter contains the following subjects.
1. Paul appeals to another evidence that he was engaged in the apostolic office - an evidence to which none of his accusers could appeal - that he had been permitted to behold the glories of the heavenly world; 2-Corinthians 11:1-10. In the previous chapter he had mentioned his trials. Here he says 2-Corinthians 12:1, that as they had compelled him to boast, he would mention the revelation which he had had of the Lord. He details, therefore, the remarkable vision which he had had several years before 2-Corinthians 12:2-4, when he was caught up to heaven, and permitted to behold the wonders there, Yet he says, that lest such an extraordinary manifestation should exalt him above measure, he was visited with a sore and special trial - a trial from which he prayed earnestly to be delivered, but that he received answer that the grace of God would be sufficient to support him; 2-Corinthians 12:5-9. It was in view of this, he says 2-Corinthians 12:10 that he had pleasure in infirmities and sufferings in the cause of the Redeemer.
2. He then 2-Corinthians 12:11-12 sums up what he had said; draws the conclusion that he had given every sign or evidence that he was an apostle; that in all that pertained to toil, and patience, and miracles, he had shown that he was commissioned by the Saviour; though with characteristic modesty he said he was nothing.
3. He then expresses his purpose to come again and see them, and his intention then not to be burdensome to them; 2-Corinthians 12:13-15. He was willing to labor for them, and to exhaust his strength in endeavoring to promote their welfare without receiving support from them, for he regarded himself in the light of a father to them, and it was not usual for children to support their parents.
4. In connection with this, he answers another charge against himself. Some accused him of being crafty; that though he did not burden them, yet he knew well how to manage so as to secure what he wanted without burdening them, or seeming to receive anything from them; 2-Corinthians 12:16. To this he answers by an appeal to fact. Particularly he appeals to the conduct of Titus when with them, in fall proof that he had no such design; 2-Corinthians 12:17-19.
5. In the conclusion of the chapter, he expresses his fear that when he should come among them he would find much that would humble them and give him occasion for severity of discipline; 2-Corinthians 12:20-21. This apprehension is evidently expressed in order that they might be led to examine themselves, and to put away whatever was wrong.

St. Paul mentions some wonderful revelations which he had received from the Lord, 2-Corinthians 12:1-5. He speaks of his suffering in connection with these extraordinary revelations, that his character might be duly estimated, 2-Corinthians 12:6. That he might not be too much exalted, a messenger of Satan is sent to buffet him; his prayer for deliverance, and the Divine answer, 2-Corinthians 12:7-9. He exults in sufferings and reproaches, and vindicates his apostleship, 2-Corinthians 12:10-13. Promises to come and visit them, 2-Corinthians 12:14, 2-Corinthians 12:15. Answers some objections, 2-Corinthians 12:16-18. And expresses his apprehensions that when he visits them he shall find many evils and disorders among them, 2-Corinthians 12:19-21.

The apostle in this chapter proceeds upon the same subject, in vindicating himself against the false teachers, and giving proof of his apostleship; he takes notice of a very remarkable and unusual vision he was favoured with; makes mention of an uncommon temptation of Satan, how he was delivered from it, and the use it was of to him; excuses his boasting to the Corinthians; lays the blame of it upon them who obliged him to do it, though they had such undeniable proofs of his apostleship among them; signifies he intended to come and see them, and expresses his strong affection for them, and good will towards them; removes the calumnies of covetousness, guile, and craftiness; reproves them for their sins, and threatens them in case of impenitence. Though in some respects glorying was not so convenient, and quite disagreeable to the apostle himself, yet such were his circumstances, that it was become necessary for him to do it, and therefore goes on with it; and to his character, qualifications, labours, sufferings, and deliverances, adds the visions and revelations of the Lord he had been honoured with, 2-Corinthians 12:1 and singles out a very particular one, which he describes by the time when, about fourteen years ago; by the person who saw it, himself, whom he speaks of in the third person, that there might be as little appearance of boasting as possible; by the place where it was seen, the third heaven, into which he was caught; by the form or manner of the vision, or the circumstance and condition in which he was when he saw it, of which he could give no account; as whether in or out of the body, 2-Corinthians 12:2, which last circumstance is repeated to denote the certainty of it, and his ignorance as to this part of it; for the truth of which he appeals to God, 2-Corinthians 12:3, and affirms again, that such an one as he had described was caught up to paradise; by which he explains what he meant by the third heaven, and further declares, that being there he heard words unutterable, 2-Corinthians 12:4. Now though this vision was matter of glorying, yet since he was the person that was so highly honoured with it, he would not dwell any longer on it, but rather speak of his infirmities, as he afterwards does, 2-Corinthians 12:5, yet if he had shown a design of boasting, it would not have been acting a foolish part; however, he thought it best to forbear, lest it should lead any into too high an opinion of him, 2-Corinthians 12:6, and indeed, these high enjoyments were apt to fill himself with pride and vanity, wherefore God, in his infinite wisdom, thought fit to take some methods to humble him; which leads him to give an account of a sore temptation that befell him, which was grievous to him, and in which he was buffeted by Satan; the end of which was to keep down his pride, and hide it from him, 2-Corinthians 12:7. The use this was of to him, and how he behaved under it, and the request he made to the Lord to be freed from it, are declared in 2-Corinthians 12:8, to which he received an answer, which was full and satisfactory, gave him pleasure, and determined him to glory in his infirmities, 2-Corinthians 12:9, which he does in 2-Corinthians 12:10, and gives an enumeration of them, and his reason for glorying in them: and whereas he knew he should be chargeable with folly, in glorying in other things as he had done, he blames the Corinthians for it, who had obliged him to it; for had they engaged as they should have done in the vindication and commendation of him, there would have been no need of his own; and they were furnished with matter and arguments enough for such a purpose, since it must have been a plain case to them that he was not inferior to the chief of the apostles, 2-Corinthians 12:11, of which they had a full demonstration, partly by the signs, wonders, and mighty deeds which were done in the midst of them by him, 2-Corinthians 12:12, and partly by the gifts of grace bestowed on them through his ministry, on account of which they did not come short of any other churches; unless it was in this, that they had the Gospel preached without charge unto them, 2-Corinthians 12:13, the apostle goes on to acquaint them that he had a third time intended to come and see them, when he would be no more burdensome and chargeable to them than he had been before; have no regard to theirs but to them, acting the part of a father that lays up for his children, but takes nothing from them, 2-Corinthians 12:14, and expresses his strong affection for them, even though they should show but little to him, and his earnest desire to be serviceable to them, and the pleasure he should take therein, 2-Corinthians 12:15, and whereas it was suggested by the false teachers, that though he did not take money of them in person, he had used some underhand crafty methods by the means of others to drain them of it, 2-Corinthians 12:16, he replies and vindicates his innocence, by putting the question to them in general; whether he had made any gain by any persons he had sent to them, 2-Corinthians 12:17, and particularly inasmuch as he had sent Titus and another brother, whether he had made any gain of them, and whether the apostle and he were not of the same spirit; and whether they did not take the same steps, 2-Corinthians 12:18, and then observes, that all the pains that he took in the vindication of himself, was not so much on his own account as theirs, even for their edification, that that might not be hindered, for whom he had the most endeared affection: and for the truth of all this he appeals to God, 2-Corinthians 12:19, and closes this chapter with observing the many evils which were among them, which he feared he should find among them, when he came, unrepented of; and which would be matter of grief and humiliation to him, and oblige him to use that severity among them which would not be agreeable to them, 2-Corinthians 12:20.

(2-Corinthians 12:1-6) The apostle's revelations.
(2-Corinthians 12:7-10) Which were improved to his spiritual advantage.
(2-Corinthians 12:11-21) The signs of an apostle were in him, His purpose of making them a visit; but he expresses his fear lest he should have to be severe with some.

SUMMARY.--Visions and Revelations. Caught Up into Paradise. The Thorn in the Flesh. God's Answer to Prayer. Weakness Made Strength. The Signs of an Apostle. Coming Now the Third Time to Corinth. Paul's Unselfish course at Corinth.

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