2 Corinthians 12

1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

Paul understood the dangers of reviewing one’s accomplishments, and didn’t really want to remind himself of what great things were done by God through him and for him. But he felt it necessary to point these things out to the Corinthians because they had challenged him to prove that he was such a great apostle and a great man of God – great enough to direct them concerning the things of God. So he goes on to tell them about the visions and revelations that God gave him.

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven.

3 And I know how such a man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows –

4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

5 On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to {my} weaknesses.

When Paul says that he knows a man in Christ who experienced heaven, he is really talking about himself…

Paul tells the Corinthians about his experience of being actually taken up to the third heaven, also known as Paradise. This is the place where God resides. There, he heard things that he could not share.

I can’t think of anyone besides Paul having such an experience and then being returned to earth. God must have really wanted to bless Paul in a special way. This shows how special Paul was to God.

6 For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain {from} {this,} so that no one will credit me with more than he sees {in} me or hears from me.

Paul was careful to not give people an impression of himself that was untrue or exaggerated.

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself!

8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.

9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul explains why God made life difficult for him – to keep him humble. When God does a great thing through us, if we become proud after that then God will have to oppose us, and if we continue in pride then He will destroy us. Therefore, if He chooses you for a special task, He will first take you through a lot of difficulties. When God decided to use Moses to perform great miracles in Pharaoh’s presence, He first had to humble Moses to the extent that when God thought Moses was ready to go back to Egypt, Moses didn’t want the job!

Perhaps God is arranging things to make life difficult for you. If that is so, don’t grumble or complain. Instead, try to understand what God is doing and why, and let those trials and difficulties humble you and make you smaller in your own eyes. Then, one day, when you are ready, God will lift you out, like He did to Joseph, Moses, David, and others, and give you a great ministry in His kingdom.

11 I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.

The Corinthians should have had a very high opinion of Paul, but they didn’t because they looked at the appearance, and Paul’s appearance wasn’t impressive at all. We can make the same mistake as the Corinthians if we are not careful.

Of himself, Paul was a nobody; but when God stood with Paul, Paul was a giant. That is how it is with us too, and that is the perspective that we should always have about ourselves.

12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

Paul amply demonstrated his apostleship to the Corinthians. But they still had the audacity to challenge his apostleship!

13 For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not become a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

Paul didn’t get any compensation for his services to them and they assumed that his services were therefore not valuable. We too can make the same mistake in our churches and homes. Let us learn to value those who serve us and protect us and teach us and guide us, and give them the respect due to them.

14 Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for {their} parents, but parents for {their} children.

15 I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

Children are not responsible to save up for their parents. Yet, in their old age, if a parent is need, a godly child will do what is necessary to care for them (1 Tim 5:4, 8).

16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit.

17 {Certainly} I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I?

18 I urged Titus {to go,} and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit {and walk} in the same steps?

A servant of God doesn’t take advantage of the people he serves. If you want to serve God and His people you must decide to not take advantage of them in any way.

19 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.

When one looks at Paul’s defense of himself as an apostle to the Corinthians, one might think that he was being selfish and self-serving. But here Paul tells us that even his boasting was for the sake of the betterment of the Corinthians, and acceptable to God.

Sometimes, men of God do strange things that are difficult to understand. We must be careful to not judge them too easily. Things that look wrong on the surface may be things that are acceptable to God, and even commanded by God – for example, the prophet Hosea married a prostitute, by the commandment of God (Hosea 1:2).

20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps {there will be} strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;

21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.

From the above passage, we see that it is important to continually repent of any sin, even after one is a believer. Is it your practice to examine yourself periodically, and repent of sin? If not, I would encourage you to begin doing that so that you may keep a clean conscience.

Paul founded the church in Corinth, and he took responsibility for their spiritual state. If they misbehaved, he felt humiliated, and he mourned. If you are an elder in a church, would you be willing to have such an attitude? If you are a parent in a home, would you mourn over the failures of your children?

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