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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
2 Corinthians 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-21


His Privileges and Trials

The Apostle unwillingly resumes his boasting and tells of a revelation he received from God; but returns again to dwell on his weaknesses, and especially on his bodily infirmity, through which Christ's grace was manifested.

Paraphrase. '(1) It is not expedient for me to boast again: I have really been compelled to do it. I will now mention my experiences of divine visions and revelations, (2) Fourteen years ago I experienced such a divine ecstasy that I knew not whether I was still in the flesh or whether I had been translated to another sphere. (3) I repeat, I did not know in what state of being I was; (4) but I had a divine revelation which caused me unspeakable joy and taught me truths too deep for words to express.'

1. It is not expedient, etc.] RV 'I must needs glory though it is not expedient'; i.e. in self-defence.

2. I knew (RV 'know') a man] St. Paul is speaking of himself, of course, as 2 Corinthians 12:7 shows. In Christ] so much devoted to Christ and under His influence, that Christ completely dominated him and, as it were, lived in him. Whether in the body.. out of the body] The Apostle was in a trance or ecstatic state in which consciousness of the outer world was for the time suspended: sight, hearing, feeling were gone, and he was lost in contemplation of the divine. His reference to the experience is too vague for us to draw any conclusions from it: it must be remembered that he was not giving information about his revelations, but only mentioning the facts to prove that he was 'not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles.' The third heaven] the highest state of bliss.

3. And I knew] repetition of 2 Corinthians 12:2 for emphasis.

4. Into paradise] Paradise is used as a synonym for the third heaven of 2 Corinthians 12:2. The word is used in the NT. for the abode of the blessed after death: cp. Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7. Lawful] better, 'possible.'

5, 6. Paraphrase. 'I can boast of these experiences, for they were due to no labours or merits of my own; but I will not boast of anything I have done myself, though I may speak of my weaknesses through which God's grace toward me has been manifested. (6) For even if I wanted to boast of all the privileges I have received, I should be justified, for my words would be true; but I am unwilling that any one should be led to think of me more highly than my services warrant.'

5. Of such an one] He can boast of these experiences because they do not glorify him as an individual. Of myself] He will not boast, as he might, of what he has done.

7-10. Paraphrase. 'And lest I should be uplifted by spiritual pride as the result of these revelations, a painful bodily weakness—the very work of Satan—was inflicted upon me. (8) I prayed earnestly for the removal of this affliction; (9) but the Lord answered me saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And therefore I rejoice in my sufferings, because it is in enduring them that I realise most clearly that Christ is helping me. (10) I am glad when trials and persecutions for Christ's sake are my lot, for in my moments of greatest weakness I am strengthened with power from on high.'

7. A thorn in the flesh] some extremely painful bodily disease whose symptoms recurred at intervals. Some, like Lightfoot, suggest epilepsy; others, like Farrar, ophthalmia; and Ramsay holds that it was malarial fever: cp. Galatians 4:13-15. The messenger of Satan] RV 'a messenger of Satan.' For the idea, cp. Job 2:5-7; Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38.

8. The Lord] Christ, as 2 Corinthians 12:9 shows. Thrice] He probably made this 'thorn' the subject of earnest prayer on three special occasions: cp. Matthew 26:44.

9. My grace, etc.] 'It is enough for thee that thou hast my grace; my power makes itself felt when there is no other support' (Stevens). For the thought, cp. Luke 22:43; Psalms 20:6; Psalms 138:3. The best answer to prayer is the consciousness of the support of the unseen Hand. Rest upon] RV 'cover.'

11, 12. Paraphrase. 'Well now, you have compelled me to boast like a fool. I should not have needed to do so, for you ought to have spoken in my defence; but I think I have shown that insignificant though I be, I am at least on an equality with these preëminent apostles of yours. (12) You certainly had all the proofs of my true apostleship in the work I did and the conduct I exhibited among you. (13) For wherein did I treat you differently from other Churches except in my refusal of support from you? Pray forgive me this great injury.'

11. I ought to have been commended] Instead of listening to his detractors they should have vigorously defended him. Though I be nothing] i.e. as my enemies say.

12. Signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds] miracles in various aspects. That St. Paul claimed to have wrought miracles is evident also from Romans 15:18-19 : cp. Galatians 3:5.

13. Forgive me] The verse is ironical.

14-18. Paraphrase. 'I am now about to pay you a third visit, and, as on former occasions, I shall accept nothing for my support. It is not your possessions but your very selves that I want; for you are my spiritual children, and it is not customary for children to lay by wealth for their parents, but rather for parents to lay by for their children. (15) And I am ready to give all I possess to win your souls. Are you going to continue indifferent to my love for you? (16) But some have been saying that while I took nothing from you directly, I was cunning enough to rob you indirectly. (17) Well, I appeal to yourselves. Did any of the brethren I sent take anything from you? (18) When Titus and his companion visited you, did they not live and act exactly as I had done?'

14. The third time] His former visits were (1) the visit recorded in Acts 18, when he founded the Church, and (2) the short visit 'in sorrow,' not mentioned in Acts, but referred to in Acts 2:1 : see Intro. 1 (c). I will not be burdensome] see on 2 Corinthians 11:7-12. Not yours, but you] cp. 2 Corinthians 8:5. The parents for the children] He wished to act towards them as a self-denying parent: cp. 1 Corinthians 4:14, 1 Corinthians 4:15.

15. Though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved] RV 'If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less?'

16. But be it so] He now meets another insinuation: this one is disposed of.

18. I desired (RV 'exhorted') Titus] This visit of Titus must have been made at an earlier period than that referred to in 2 Corinthians 2:13 and 2 Corinthians 7:6 and that intimated in 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:17 as about to be made. There were evidently three visits of Titus to Corinth: (1) that here mentioned and referred to in 2 Corinthians 8:6 ('as he had begun'), during which he seems to have organised the collection; (2) that referred to in 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6, when he went to quell the rebellion, bearing this very letter (2 Corinthians 10-13); (3) that referred to in 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:17, when he conveyed 2 Corinthians 1-9. See Intro.

(d) 12:19-13:10. Warnings against Evil and Exhortations to Holiness

The Apostle reminds them that he is not pleading his cause before them, but writing for their edification.

Paraphrase. '(19) Do you think that all I have been writing is a defence of my conduct to satisfy you? It is not you, but God, who will judge me. What I have written is for the purpose of helping you to strengthen character and raise the standard of Christian life. (20) I am afraid lest when I visit you I find you unrepentant and obstinate, and I have to use severity. I am afraid lest the dark passions and vices I reproved still disfigure the Church, (21) and lest I be distressed and humiliated by the impenitence and shamelessness of those who were given to sensual sins and still continue their evil habits.'

19. Again, think ye] RV 'Ye think all this time that we are excusing ourselves,' i.e. pleading our cause. In Christ] as inspired by Christ's Spirit through living in union with him. For your edifying] He seeks not their favourable verdict, but their growth in goodness.

21. When I come again] The 'again' should be joined with the next clause, 'God will again humble me.' He had been humbled at his last visit—the visit 'in heaviness' referred to in 2 Corinthians 2:1.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/2-corinthians-12.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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