Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 12

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 12:1

boasting -- Paul continued, reluctantly, with his boasting (see 2 Corinthians 11:1). Though it was “not profitable,” since it could tempt his own flesh to be proud, the Corinthians’ fascination with the alleged visions and revelations of the false apostles left him little choice (2 Corinthians 12:11).

visions and revelations -- Via a vision (optasia in Greek)

Six of Paul’s visions are recorded in Acts (Acts 9:12; Acts 16:9-10; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17-18; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23-24), and his letters speak of revelations he had received (cf. Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3). - MSB

revelations -- The Greek word used here, apokalypsis, refers to God’s unveiling information that was often previously unknown or concealed. In this instance, apokalypsis refers to God supplying Paul with information about his particular calling. At other times, it is used more broadly (see 1 Corinthians 14:6; Galatians 2:2).

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 12:2

I know a man -- The question is whether this "man" is Paul himself? From 2 Corinthians 12:6-7, with the linkage of it to the thorn in the flesh make it indisputable that this occurred to himself.

1. The reason why Paul did not speak of this directly as a vision which he had himself seen was probably that he was accused of boasting.

It is not uncommon, moreover, for a man to speak of himself in the third person. Thus, Caesar in his Commentaries uniformly speaks of himself. And so John in his Gospel speaks of himself, John 13:23-24; John 19:26; John 21:20. Paul may have abstained from referring to this occurrence elsewhere, because it might sound like pride.

2. His argument required that he should mention something that had occurred to himself. Anything that had occurred to another would not have been pertinent.

in Christ -- The phrase “in Christ” meaning nothing more than that he was united to Christ or was a Christian; see Romans 16:7.

fourteen years ago -- If this Epistle was written, as is commonly supposed, about the year 56 AD, then this occurrence must have happened about the year 42 AD. This would be within the 11-14 year period of Paul’s life following his conversion. Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25

While we don’t know the precise time or occasion many have offered their conjectures. 1) To contend this occurred on the Damascus road is to too early, for the man was "in Christ" when this happened. 2) In Acts 22:17-18 Paul refers to a “trance” he fell into after his conversion while praying at the Jerusalem temple in which Christ warned him to leave Jerusalem. But again this seems early. 3) Some have suggested that in Acts 14:19-20, Paul was stoned at Lystra (and some think he was dead at this point and revived) could have been the occasion. 4) Safest to say, we just don’t know when this occurred and the timing or occasion is not that important or we would have been informed.

caught up to -- The word which is used here (ἁρπάζω harpazō G726) means, to seize upon, to snatch away, to carry off, sometimes even by force.

Since this is the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 of the saints being caught up to meet the Lord at his coming some who teach a false doctrine about the "rapture" like to speak of this as Paul being "Raptured" up temporarily.

third heaven -- There are numerous uses of the word heaven in the scriptures. Among the Hebrews it was used chiefly in three senses. First, the aerial heavens where the winds blow and the rains form and the birds fly; second, the firmament where the stars as pendant jewels adorn the sky, and where all the constellations and planets are in orbit; third, the highest heaven, the third heaven, the residence of God and Christ, the dwelling of angels and mansions of the blessed. There are scriptures that use the word heaven in all of these senses. - Wallace

It is the place called "paradise" in the next verse, yet now, after Christ’s victory over the Hadean world it is located in the third heaven.

whether in the body or out -- His meaning is that he was conscious of being caught up: that much he knows: his being transferred to heaven was a fact. But where his body was at the time, whether in heaven or on earth, that he does not know: his consciousness with regard to that is a blank.

Paul does not try to explain how it was brought about. He didn’t know if the body was caught up to heaven, or whether the soul was for a time separated from the body, or whether the incident was presented as a vision.

or out of the body --

I do not know, God knows. -- God knows whatever the mode was and Paul did not attempt to explain it.

No one can doubt that God had power if he chose to transport the body to heaven; or that he had power for a time to separate the soul front the body; or that he had power to represent to the mind so clearly the view of the heavenly world that he would appear to see it; see Acts 7:56.

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 12:3

in the body or apart from the body -- Paul expresses uncertainty about whether the man was in his physical body during this experience. The man, very apparently Paul, may have been literally taken into heaven and then returned to earth, or he may have simply undergone a spiritual experience, a revelation or vision. (FSB)

whether in … or … out of the body -- Paul was so overwhelmed by his heavenly vision that he did not know the precise details. However, whether he was caught up bodily into heaven (like Enoch, Genesis 5:24 and Elijah, 2 Kings 2:11), or his spirit was temporarily separated from his body, was not important. - MSB

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 12:4

he was caught up -- This is typical prophetic language for the work of the Holy Spirit temporarily taking over someone’s life to give him or her a vision or revelation. The prophet Ezekiel used similar language (Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 8:3). See 1 Thessalonians 4:17

caught up to the third heaven … caught up into Paradise -- Paul was not describing two separate visions; “the third heaven” and “Paradise” are the same place (cf. Revelation 2:7, which says the tree of life is in Paradise, with Revelation 22:14, which says it is in heaven). The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere (Genesis 8:2; Deuteronomy 11:11; 1 Kings 8:35); the second is interplanetary and interstellar space (Genesis 15:5; Psalms 8:3; Isaiah 13:10); and the third the abode of God (1 Kings 8:30; 2 Chronicles 30:27; Psalms 123:1).

inexpressible words … not lawful … to utter -- Because the words were for him alone, Paul was forbidden to repeat them, even if he could have expressed them coherently.

“Paradise” -- This is a Persian loan word in the Hebrew OT for “a nobleman’s walled garden.” The Greek word is used in the Septuagint for “the Garden of Eden” (cf. Genesis 2:8; Genesis 3:1; Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:18). The term is used in Luke 23:43 for the righteous part of Hades or Sheol. In the extra-canonical book The Secrets of Enoch, or II Enoch chapter 8, it is used for the third heaven or God’s presence. The third heaven and Paradise are both ways of referring to intimacy with God.

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 12:5

this man -- Paul is not boasting in personal accomplishments (see full note at 2 Corinthians 1:12), but in God’s revelation of Himself through both personal experiences and the truth of the gospel. It is Paul’s inadequacies that allow God to be glorified in him (compare John 15:5 with Philippians 4:13).

boasting -- Paul here switches back to the first person; in doing so, he emphasizes that his authority came from God, not from his own decisions or persuasiveness. Paul can boast on behalf of what God did for him in Christ, not in who he is.

not boast -- Paul could boast about his experience (12:2–4), but he never makes mystical experience a proof of his apostolic authority—his life and his message must be the proof. He instead boasts about his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).

my weaknesses -- Refers to Paul’s hardships in ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-29) and his forthcoming reference in 2 Corinthians 12:7

Verse 6

2 Corinthians 12:6

if I should wish to boast -- If Paul wished to boast about his unique experience (vv. 1–4) he would not be a fool, because it really happened. He refrained from boasting about it, however, because he wanted the Corinthians to judge him based on their observations of his ministry, not on his visions.

hears anything from me -- If the events described in 2 Cor 12:1–5 happened to Paul, then here he reveals his motivation for not speaking about this experience directly in the first person: He does not want others to view him as special or elite.

sees in me or hears from me -- This is dripping with sarcasm. These false teachers flaunted many past experiences and credentials, which the Corinthians only heard about. Paul says, “do not credit me with what I have not shown you, but with what I have done while among you. Look at my record!” - Utley

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 12:7

to keep me from exalting myself -- This same word is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 to describe the prideful boasting of the “Man of Sin” or Antichrist. Paul is again contrasting himself with the false teachers. They did flaunt themselves by means of their Sophistic rhetorical style (which Paul is mimicking in chapters 10–13). - Utley

extraordinary degree of the revelations -- Probably refers to the exceptional number or quality of revelations that caused Paul to become prideful.

a thorn in the flesh … a messenger of Satan. -- This was sent to him by God, to keep him humble. As with Job, Satan was the immediate cause, but God was the ultimate cause. Paul’s use of the word “messenger” (Greek, angellos, or angel) from Satan suggests the “thorn in the flesh” (lit. “a stake for the flesh”) was a demon person, not a physical illness. - MSB [cf. 2 Corinthians 7:12]

a thorn -- May refer to Paul’s inner emotional turmoil about the churches (2:4), an ongoing sin, his opponents (like the so-called super-apostles; 11:1–5), a physical ailment (such as poor eyesight), his speaking ability (10:10), or demonic opposition (both in general or specific to him, as in 1 Thess 2:18). All of these options seem possible considering circumstances in Paul’s life. - FSB

“thorn in the flesh” The term “thorn” can mean “stake” (literally “to be pointed”). In Classical Greek it is used in the sense of a sharpened stake, while in the Septuagint it is used for thorn (cf. Numbers 33:55; Ezekiel 28:24; Hosea 2:6). There are several theories regarding Paul’s thorn in the flesh:

(1) the early Church Fathers, Luther, and Calvin, say it was spiritual problems with his fallen nature (“in the flesh”);

(2) Chrysostom says it was a problem with persons (cf. Numbers 33:55; Judges 2:3);

(3) some say it was epilepsy;

(4) Sir William Ramsay says it was malaria; or

(5) I think it was ophthalmia, a common eye problem (compare Galatians 4:13-15 and Galatians 6:11) exacerbated or caused by the blindness on the Damascus road (cf. Acts 9)

(5) possibly an OT allusion in Joshua 23:13). (Utley)

was given -- The use of the passive verb indicates that Paul considered God to be responsible for the thorn because it was ultimately used for good.

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 12:8

I pleaded … three times -- Paul, longing for relief from this painful hindrance to his ministry, went to his Lord, begging Him (the use of the definite article with “Lord” shows Paul’s prayer was directed to Jesus) to remove it...The 3-fold repetition of Paul’s request parallels that of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-41). Both Paul and Jesus had their requests denied, but were granted grace to endure their ordeals. - MSB

three times -- ” Jesus repeated His prayer in Gethsemane three times (cf. Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:39-41). Three-fold repetition denotes emphasis.

with the Lord -- In the NT, formal or liturgical prayer is usually offered through Christ to the Father in the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18), but on occasion to the Lord Jesus (Acts 7:59-60; Acts 9:10-17; Acts 22:16, Acts 22:19) cf. (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Acts 1:24; Acts 9:21; Revelation 22:20)

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 12:9

grace -- In this context, the Greek word used here, charis, refers to Christ’s power to help Paul endure hardship, be strengthened when struggling (physically, mentally, or spiritually), or experience forgiveness. - FSB

sufficient -- The present tense of the verb translated “is sufficient” reveals the constant availability of divine grace. God would not remove the thorn, as Paul had requested, but would continually supply him with grace to endure it (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:29).

My strength is made perfect in weakness -- Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11. The weaker the human instrument, the more clearly God’s grace shines forth.

power of Christ -- This phrase may have reminded Paul of 1 Corinthians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 4:7 and is simply unrelated to the false teachers’ emphasis on human performance or merit.

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 12:10

I am content -- The thorn remained, but so too does Paul’s recollection of the divine reply. Both weakness and power existed simultaneously in Paul’s life (vv. 9b, 10b; cf. 4:10–11),

In the remainder of the verse Paul gives a brief summary of his ministry trials, which he has mentioned before in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. Paul knew fully the meaning of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:10-12!

when I am weak, then I am strong -- When we realize our own weakness, we can be made strong by resting upon the goodlness and grace of the Lord.

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 12:11

12:11–21 Paul concludes his defense against the so-called super-apostles. He asserts that he has performed the signs of an apostle and reiterates that he was not a burden to the Corinthian church (vv. 12–13). He continues to emphasize that he will not receive payment from them as he prepares to visit them a third time (vv. 14–16). He claims that neither he nor his companions took advantage of them but preached Christ in order to build up the believers at Corinth (vv. 17–19). - FSB

a fool -- See note on 2 Corinthians 11:1, Paul said "I have become foolish" using the "compare me" mode to defend himself. Paul had to defend himself. He did this in several ways.

1. compared his life with theirs

2. used their style of rhetoric, but with humility

3. used sarcasm to make his points

“I” -- The emphatic “I” (egō) is used in vv. 11, 13, 15, and 16.

commended -- They had had abundant evidences of his true Apostleship, and yet they needed that he should himself recal them to their minds.

in no respect was I inferior -- This must refer to 2 Corinthians 11:5.

You forced [compelled] me -- see 2cor

preeminent [super] apostles -- See note on 2 Corinthians 11:5.

I am a nobody [nothing]- -- Paul was the “least of the apostles,” having persecuted the church (1 Corinthians 15:8-9), and he owes everything to the grace and call of God in his life (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6). - ESVSB

Paul knew and understood his position in grace alone (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15). He also knew his position as a called, gifted Apostle (cf. Acts 8, 22, 26)! - Utley

“Even though I am nothing” is either an ironical citation of his opponents’ opinion of him or a serious disavowal of any personal merit that could have made him worthy of apostleship (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8-10). - EBCNT

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 12:12

signs -- These signs affirm Paul’s identity in contrast with the false apostles who are causing problems at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:13).

Paul’s ministry was evidenced by the power of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Romans 15:19). However, it was not just in miracles, but in his attitude and actions toward this church which proved he was from God.

The reason for the signs. 1 Corinthians 1:8; Hebrews 2:3-4; John 3:2; John 5:36; John 14:10-11; Exodus 4:1-9;

Signs of an apostles -- There were proofs the apostles could do to show they were apostles. [Cornelius did not have such, though he spoke in a foreign language.] The apostles could work signs and wonders, and impart a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit to others Acts 8:14-15. See Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4.

utmost patience -- Refers to the ability to endure hardships and persecutions in ministry (see 2 Corinthians 6:4).

Verse 13

2 Corinthians 12:13

less favored -- Paul had not slighted the Corinthians except by refusing to be a burden (see note on 2 Corinthians 11:7). With a touch of irony, he begged their forgiveness for that “wrong.”

not a burden to you -- See note on 2 Corinthians 11:9.

Paul would not allow this factious church to help him. He did let the churches at Philippi (Philippians 4:15) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:6), but only after he had left the cities. It hurt the church at Corinth’s feelings (cf. v. 13a), but Paul would not budge because of the accusations of the false teachers (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:8-20). However, Paul did support the church’s financial assistance for ministers (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:3-18). - Utley

Forgive me this wrong -- Paul is either being sarcastic or merely asking for forgiveness for the sake of making peace. He did not wrong the Corinthians; he founded the church, and taught them the gospel as Jesus taught it.- FSB

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 12:14

the third time -- The first was the visit recorded in Acts 18; He refers to a second visit there as a painful visit (2 Corinthians 2:1)

Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you - That is, this is the third time that I have purposed to come and see you, and have made preparation for it. He does not say that he had been twice with them and was now coming the third time, but that he had twice before intended to go and had been disappointed; see 1 Corinthians 16:5; 2 Corinthians 1:15-16.

His purpose had been to visit them on his way to Macedonia and again on his return from Macedonia. He had now formed a third resolution, which he had a prospect of carrying into execution.

I will not be a burden -- On his upcoming visit, Paul wished to continue his practice of refusing to accept support from the Corinthians.

This refers to financial compensation (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:9; 2 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 9:12, 1 Corinthians 9:18). Paul affirmed the right of ministers to receive compensation, but personally rejected it because (1) he was attacked over this issue by the false teachers (cf. v. 14b) or (2) his own background as a rabbi excluded this.

I am not seeking your possessions -- The wealthy believers in Corinth wanted to become Paul’s patrons—supplying financial support to him (see v. 13). See note on 2 Corinthians 1:12; compare 1 Corinthians 4:15, where Paul reminds them that their relationship to him is like children to their father—the father provides for them, not the opposite. - FSB

children ... parents -- To reinforce his point, Paul cited the axiomatic truth that parents are financially responsible for their children, not children (when they are young, cf. 1 Timothy 5:4) for their parents.

He considered himself their spiritual father (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14-15; Galatians 4:19).

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 12:15

spend -- Far from seeking to take from the Corinthians, Paul sought to give. The verb translated “spend” refers to spending money, and probably describes Paul’s willingness to work to support himself while in Corinth (Acts 18:3).

be spent -- “Be spent” describes Paul’s willingness to give of himself— even to the point of sacrificing his life.

for your souls -- (Souls, psychē) is used in the sense of persons in Paul’s writings, as is “spirit” (cf. pneuma, cf. Philippians 1:27).

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 12:16

crafty -- Paul sarcastically addresses their concern to provide for him (2 Corinthians 12:14). Paul treats that idea as absurd and insists he would not take advantage of them. See note on 2 Corinthians 11:17.

12:16–18 Although it was obvious to all that Paul had not personally taken advantage of the Corinthians, his opponents circulated an even more vicious rumor—that he was using craftiness and cunning to deceive the Corinthians (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2). Specifically, the false apostles accused Paul of sending his assistants to collect the Jerusalem offering from the Corinthians while intending to keep some of it for himself. Thus, according to his opponents, Paul was both a deceitful hypocrite (because he really did take money from the Corinthians after all, despite his words in vv. 2 Corinthians 12:14-15) and a thief. This charge was all the more painful to Paul because it impugned the character of his friends. Outraged that the Corinthians could believe such ridiculous lies, Paul pointed out that his associates did not take advantage of the Corinthians during their earlier visits regarding the collection (2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:16-22). The simple truth was that neither Paul nor his representatives had in any way defrauded the Corinthians. - MSB

I took you in by deceit -- This may relate to the contribution for the Jerusalem church in chapters 8–9. The false teachers possibly accused him of sending others to collect money for himself (cf. vv. 17–18).

Paul’s comment here is biting sarcasm!

Paul made sure the funds collected for Jerusalem saints was safely escorted by a selection of men from the various churches who made the contribution. This was done to assure there was no embezzlement and to keep it safe from robbers. Cf the entourage that accompaned Paul on his journey to Jerusalem, Acts 20:4 and cf. 1 Corinthians 16:3-4; 2 Corinthians 8:19-20.

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 12:17

See note on 2 Corinthians 12:16 -18

have not taken advantage -- Paul stands in contrast to the “false apostle” (2 Corinthians 11:20).

any -- whom I sent -- See next verse, Titus and one other.

They may have been maintained at the expense of the Churches, but they certainly made no attempt to enrich St Paul by their mission.

Verse 18

2 Corinthians 12:18

Titus -- It is surprising that Titus is never mentioned in the book of Acts. He was one of Paul’s most trusted and faithful helpers. (See Note at Titus 1:4; and Titus 1:1 introduction to the book of Titus). Apparently Titus, following Paul’s example, also did not receive any money from this church. -

Titus -- Titus’ name is mentioned 9 times in 12 verses in this epistle. 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13-14; 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 12:18.

the brother -- This is probably the same one as in 2 Corinthians 8:18. Some think it was Luke (Origen). This taking along the representatives from the churches was Paul’s way to de-arm the accusations related to this contribution to the Jerusalem Church. (See Acts 20:4 and note there.)

It was the method of Jesus to sent men out two-by-two (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1 ) and seems to have been the early church’s practice, Acts 13:1-2, Acts 15:39-40.

Verse 19

2 Corinthians 12:19

Have you -- The first part of this verse may have been a statement or a question. The meaning is the same in either case. Paul said what he did, especially in 2co 10:1–12:18, primarily to build up the Corinthian believers in their faith. His self-defense was only a means to that end. It was for that worthy goal that he was willing to speak “foolishly.” He recognized that he as a man in Christ was ultimately responsible to God, not to his critics (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:11). - Constable

all along -- Paul is referring to his current letter (2Corinthians).

defending outselves --

This seems to be a sarcastic remark. Paul knew this church well. They had an inflated estimation of their own worth.

you upbuilding [edification] -- Unlike the false apostles who mistreated the Corinthian believers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), Paul and his associates strengthen their faith and endure hardship for their sake. See note on 2 Corinthians 10:8.

in the sight of God -- Lest the Corinthians view themselves as judges before whom Paul was on trial, the apostle quickly set them straight: only God was his judge (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). Paul sought to edify the Corinthians, not exonerate himself.

beloved -- Paul addresses this church with forthrightness, yet great love. This was a term of endearment (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 12:19).

Verse 20

2 Corinthians 12:20

For I fear -- Paul feared encountering renewed rebellion and resistance during his upcoming visit, with the Corinthians relapsed into their old ways.

not as I wish -- Paul wished to find them loving in unity and truth and growing.

not as you wish -- [and you won’t like my response: NLT] If Paul had to, he would deal sternly with flagrant sinners (cp. 2 Corinthians 1:23 – 2co 2:24; 1 Corinthians 4:21).

there may be ... -- The sins Paul lists echo the works of the flesh he listed in Galatians 5:19-21. Such vices are sins against the community and create division among believers.

“strife” -- G2054 contention, wrangling,

This term and the next are SINGULAR (cf. MSS P46, à, A), but the other terms in the list are PLURAL.

“jealousy” -- G2205 In this context it refers to a party or factious spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:3). See 2 Corinthians 9:2.

“angry tempers” -- G2372 This refers to an outburst of rage (cf. Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8).

“disputes” -- G2052 The term eritheia originally meant “to spin for hire.” It came to be used for an aristocratic arrogance against those who had to work for a living. This attitude fits the factional rivalry of I Corinthians, especially chapter 11. Paul used this term often (cf. Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; Philippians 2:3; and also see James 3:14-16).

“slanders” -- G2636 This refers to speaking evil of another person, to defame them (cf. Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 12:20; James 4:11; 1 Peter 2:1, 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:16). This activity is used to describe the activity of Satan.

“gossip” -- G5587 This is the term “whisper,” which refers to tale-bearing behind someone’s back in private.

“arrogance” -- G5450 The Greek term phusioō originally meant to inflate or puff up something (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 105 and Vincent, Word Studies, p. 766, from phusa—bellows).

It came to be used in Christian literature (possibly coined by Paul) metaphorically for pride or arrogance. This was a major spiritual problem for the church at Corinth. Paul uses this word in 1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 4:18-19; 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4; and in a list of sins in 2 Corinthians 12:20. It is only used outside the Corinthian letters in the NT in Colossians 2:18, where it refers to gnostic visions of special knowledge. (Utley)

Verse 21

2 Corinthians 12:21

I fear -- Paul did not want to find the Corinthians in the same sorry spiritual condition as on his last visit (the “painful visit,” 2 Corinthians 2:1;

God may humble -- Paul may have to mourn over their rebelliousness.

I may have to mourn -- Paul worried that if this church did not repent he would be forced to exercise his Apostolic authority and discipline when he came back (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:2). These factions (1 Cor.) and false teachers (2 Cor.) were apparently leading godless lives of self indulgence.

those -- not repented -- To find the Corinthians still living in unrepentant sin would both humiliate and sadden Paul. This warning (and the one in 2 Corinthians 13:2) was designed to prevent that from happening.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. 2021.