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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

2 Corinthians 12

Verses 1-10

A genuine case for boasting (12:1-10)

Before leaving the subject of boasting, Paul wants to give one more example (12:1). Fourteen years previously he had seen a vision, but because he does not want to exalt himself, he speaks about his experience in the third person, referring to himself simply as ‘a man’. By some unknown means he was taken up into Paradise, where he heard and saw things that God does not normally allow people to know (2-4). He is not telling this story so that the Corinthians will have a higher opinion of him. He wants people to judge him only from their personal experience of him, from what they themselves have seen him do and heard him say (5-6).
It would be easy for Paul to have feelings of self-importance because of his visions, but God intervened to make sure this would not happen. He sent Paul some particular trial (or trials) that constantly hindered him in his work (7). (Notice that Paul now departs from his original intention of speaking in the third person and reverts to speaking directly in the first person - not ‘a man’ but ‘me’.) God did not answer Paul’s prayer to remove this trial, but that was to Paul’s advantage, because it made him constantly dependent on God’s grace and power. The greater Paul’s sense of weakness, the more he realized the need to cast himself upon God. Therein lies his strength (8-10).

Verses 11-21

Plan to visit Corinth again (12:11-21)

The Corinthians have forced Paul to this foolish boasting through their believing the accusations that the false apostles made against him. He reminds them also of the miracles and wonders he performed among them, in spite of great difficulties. All these examples should make them see clearly that he is not a second-class apostle (11-12). His refusal to live at the Corinthians’ expense was for the purpose of helping them. But instead of being thankful to him, they have been offended. They regard his action as an insult to their church. With great irony Paul asks their forgiveness for what he has done (13).
What Paul wants is the Corinthians themselves, not their money. He is coming to visit them again and he still will not take financial support from them. He will spend not only his money but also his time and energy for them, as a parent would for his children (14-15).
Some of the Corinthians made the hurtful accusation that Paul was deceitful. They said that although he did not take money from them openly, he managed to get it from them by other, more cunning, methods (16). Paul points out that this is nonsense. The Corinthians well know that he and those whom he sent had been open and straightforward in everything (17-18).
Paul has not been saying all this because he feels answerable to the Corinthians. He is answerable to God, not to them. Nevertheless, he trusts that they may have been helped by what he has said (19). Many of them are still childish in their thinking and behaviour, and they need to change urgently. Otherwise when Paul visits them, he will feel shame instead of pride, sorrow instead of joy. He does not want to have to act severely once again (20-21).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.