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Study Notes on 2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12


Paul continues with his self-defense, a major theme in this letter, and brings up how he was raptured into the 3rd heaven. How God's grace was sufficient for him and that he learned to rely on that alone as we all should.


1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

Basically now saying “Since it is not fit that I should glory, then I will refer to visions, etc. I will turn away then from that subject, and come to another" (Barnes). The other subject involves him but it's boasting in what the Lord has done rather than what he suffered.


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;)

A "man in Christ" simply means a Christian.


Speaking in the 3rd person (as is clear from verse 7 and the fact that this would be pointless if he was referring to someone else) Paul was caught up (αρπαζω - raptured) to the third Heaven which is where God's throne is, the divine heaven.


4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Here Heaven is used synonymously with Paradise.


He heard "unspeakable words" which means either cannot be spoken or what shouldn't be spoken. "Not lawful" carries the same sense as not permitted or not possible.


There's a lot of conjecture surrounding these verses but I think it's pretty significant that Paul was shown Heaven and didn't say anything about it until 14 years had passed, and then all he could say was that he couldn't say anything about it!


When someone "dies" in a hospital and then comes back to life with a book deal about all he saw a week later I'm highly skeptical.


5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

It seems it's out of modesty that he continues in the 3rd person to elevate what God did rather than to have it seem like he was special for having received these visions/revelations.


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.

Though he could boast he wouldn't be foolish because he's only giving the truth. Perhaps meaning that he could talk more about the visions but wishes to say no more so people don't think too highly of him. He doesn't want to be overestimated.


"However, he assures them, that if he had a mind to glory of this rapture and revelation, he might do it without folly or vanity, it being most certainly true; but he chose rather to forbear, lest he should thereby give occasion to any to over-value him, and to think more highly of him, that his common behaviour, his ordinary words and actions gave them reason to do.


A wise and good man is not ambitious of more applause or commendation that what his personal worth or merits deservedly challenge; he desires no man to think or speak of him above that which he appeareth to be, which is always as he really is, being that in reality, which he is in appearance." - Burkitt


7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

What was this "thorn in the flesh"? Evidently some physical problem that God allowed to affect him to keep him humble. Chrysostom and Jerome suppose that he meant some headache or head problem, and Tertullian suggests an earache. We can only guess.


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 in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Sometimes God answers prayers with a "no." Paul asked for relief of this affliction and God said His grace was sufficient.


Beautiful verse. God's grace was enough for Paul and it's enough for you and I. Let us never use any physical weakness as an excuse for not living for the Lord.


"For the weaker the instrument I use, the more the power of my grace shall be manifested." - Clarke


10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

We are not strong in our own abilities, we are strong in our submission and reliance on Christ.


Rather than be discouraged we can be pleased when we suffer in the name of Christ.


1 Peter 4:13-14, But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.


11 I am become a fool in glorying; 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.

Paul uses the word fool and variations of it 7 times in this epistle and ALL in this chapter and the last chapter about how foolish boasting is according to the flesh.


The church rather should have been commending or been positive towards Paul rather than compelled himself to boast of himself.


Proverbs 27:2, Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.


Him being nothing is either humility (as in 1 Corinthians 3:5), or saying that that's what the false apostles at Corinth considered him to be.


12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

He has given full proof of his ministry.


Acts 15:12, Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.


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.

Referring back to the back that he didn't collect money from them. He didn't allow them to support him, and so sarcastically asks forgiveness.


14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; 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.

The third time he is ready to come to them. He's had to delay other times before. When he comes he will still not accept financial support because he doesn't care about what they have to offer he cares about them, about their souls.


15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

He will gladly give of himself to this church as a loving father regardless of their treatment towards him.


"This is one of the most forlorn expressions in the Scriptures, responding to ingratitude of brethren whom he had helped so much." - Garner-Howes


16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.

He did not burden the church at all but still his accusers claimed he was crafty and used guile.


17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?

18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?

Paul and Titus and others sent to help the church did not take anything of the church.


19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.

The purpose and intention of Paul and his companions has always been the edifying of the church.


1 Corinthians 10:33, Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.


20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:

He's concerned that when he arrives he won't see the church actively following Christ as they should be but instead wrapped up in those carnal things he describes.


21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

Some had already repented from some of their wrongs (2 Corinthians 2:6-8) but clearly this was a very troubled church still.


Note that this is repentance for believers to turn from sin, NOT people turning from sin in order to be saved.


Also note that in spite of these problems this was still a church, and nowhere is there any indication that it should disband. You will never find a church without sinners.



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