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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

2 Corinthians 12

Verse 1


I have to boast. Paul personally feels the whole thing of boasting is a waste of time! Yet he must go on with it, because he must destroy false arguments and pull down proud obstacles. About visions and revelations. The false apostles bragged about visions and ecstatic experiences. Paul may have had many such experiences (since as an apostle, he had a special measure of the Holy Spirit), but he spends no time boasting about such things, and it is with regret he mentions this here.

Verse 2


Who fourteen years ago. It is a Jewish form to speak in the third person. 2 Corinthians 12:7 identifies this man as Paul. The date must have been in 41 or 42 A.D. (by the corrected calendar). Johnson thinks it may have been while Paul was at Antioch or Tarsus (Acts 9:29-30.) Snatched up. Compare Revelation 4:1-2; Acts 10:11-17. Highest heaven. Jews called the atmosphere the first heaven; outer space the second heaven; and the highest heaven was the place where God lives. I do not know. The TEV correctly translates the idiom. Some see in this proof that Paul believed a disembodied spirit had awareness

Verse 3


I repeat. Paul uses the word Paradise this time, which is heaven before the Judgment. See notes on Luke 16:19-31. See also Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7.

Verse 4


And there he heard things. The false teachers may tell others about their visions and boast of how God spoke to them, but Paul’s experience was too sacred to reveal! God does not allow Paul to tell what he saw and heard!!! Compare Revelation 10:3-4 and notes.

Verse 5


So I will boast. What God allowed Paul to see, gave him great courage! Yet because the false teachers seem to think visions and revelations prove a person to be a true disciple of Christ, Paul speaks about these things as though it were someone else who had experienced them. He will only boast of his weakness!!!

Verse 6


I would be telling the truth. He can truthfully boast of many such things!!! But his appointment as an apostle is not based on this! Also, such things can be easily faked and are impossible to test. Therefore Paul wants people to evaluate him on the basis of what they see him do and say!!!

Verse 7


But to keep me. This shows that 2 Corinthians 12:2 speaks of Paul himself. Puffed up. One who is puffed up by his visions and experiences, tends to de-emphasize God. In contrast to the boasting of the false teachers, Paul says God gave him a painful physical ailment to keep him from being proud. What this was, we have no way of knowing. Two things most often suggested are: chronic eye disease; epilepsy. [Chrysostom thinks it was not something in his body, but an opponent who followed him around and tried to destroy his work. Ephraim Syrus identifies the painful physical ailment as Alexander the metalworker (2 Timothy 4:14).]

Verse 8


Three times. Like Jesus (Mark 14:36), Paul prays to escape suffering. But he learns that God’s refusal is his answer, and he submits to the will of his Lord!

Verse 9


His answer was. Paul did not receive what he wanted, but really something better!!! The fact that Paul could do so much in spite of his weakness, showed it was the Lord’s power working through him!!! Suffering is no curse!!!

Verse 10


I am content. He can be content, because it is all for Christ’s sake!!! His weakness, etc., all work out to a more successful ministry!!! Compare Philippians 4:13.

Verse 11


I am acting like a fool. “I know I am acting like a fool to come down to your level and boast about such things, but you have forced me to do it! You should have taken my part against the false teachers, because I am in no way inferior to those ‘super-apostles’ you seem to be so proud of!”

Verse 12


The things that prove. “During the time I spent at Corinth when I planted the church there, you saw much evidence that I was an apostle!” Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and note.

Verse 13


How were you? In order to discredit Paul, the false teachers have said that the fact he would not take their pay proved he did not really love them, and that he thought they were inferior to the other churches! See notes on 2 Corinthians 11:7-12. But the only sign he omitted at Corinth was to take their money. He says in irony, “Please forgive me for being so unfair!”

Verse 14


The third time. The first was Acts 18:1; the second was the painful visit mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:1. He still refuses to take their money, but he did take money from other churches (2 Corinthians 11:7-9 and notes). As their spiritual father, he must provide for them!

Verse 15


I will be glad to. Paul’s whole life is a living sacrifice in imitation of Jesus Christ. Compare Mark 10:45. Will you! They have completely misunderstood his act of self-sacrifice. He intended this as a sign of his great love, but they misinterpreted it and thought he did not love them, and even said he had done them wrong (2 Corinthians 11:7). Paul now hopes they will understand his love for them, and will respond with great love for him!

Verse 16


You will agree, then. Paul asks them to take this as evidence of his love for them! But, someone will say. The false teachers said he was tricky enough to drain the treasury in other ways.

Verse 17


How? How could he have done anything like this??? None of the messengers Paul sent made slaves of the Corinthians as the false teachers had done (2 Corinthians 11:20).

Verse 18


I begged Titus to go. Evidently the attack has all been against Paul, and the Corinthians continued to trust Titus, and also the unnamed brother. Would you say? “Certainly you would not accuse Titus of taking advantage of you and draining the treasury!!! Do not he and I? Paul points to their good opinion of Titus and reminds them that Titus was only carrying out Paul’s orders. They both work together! This, then, makes it impossible to believe that Paul was trying to trick them in some way.

Verse 19


Perhaps you think. Paul wants to make it plain that he says all this to help the church at Corinth, and not just to clear his own name. He speaks as Christ’s servant.

Verse 20


I am afraid. “This is why I have defended myself. You must be helped! I am afraid that when I come, I will still find you living in the old way of sin!”

Verse 21


My God will humiliate me. Paul is thinking of that painful second visit (2 Corinthians 2:1). And I shall weep. It will bring him great sorrow to be forced to punish those who have failed to turn away from their sins and reform!!! Immoral. Here it means any kind of unholy living. Sexual sins. These were standard practice in the Gentile world. It includes everything outside the marriage relationship, such as adultery, homosexuality, etc. See note on Matthew 19:9. Lustful deeds. Debauchery is the technical term. Compare 1 Peter 4:2-4 and notes.

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Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.