Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 12

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

He illustrates the 'glorying in infirmities' (2 Corinthians 11:30). He gave one instance which might expose him to ridicule (2 Corinthians 11:33): he now gives another, connected with a glorious revelation; but he dwells not on the glory to himself, but on the infirmity which followed it, as displaying Christ's, power. B G f g, Vulgate (C and Vulgate prefix 'if'), read 'I MUST NEEDS [ dei (G1163) for dee (G1211), 'doubtless.' 'Aleph (') Delta read de (G1161)] boast (or glory), though it is not expedient; but (Delta reads for: 'Aleph (') B G f g, Vulgate, but) I will come.' I will take the case of revelations, in which, if anywhere, boasting is harmless. "Visions" refer to things seen; "revelations," to things heard (cf. margin, 1 Samuel 9:15) or revealed in any way. Of "visions" the signification was not always vouchsafed; in "revelations" there was always an unveiling of truths before hidden (Daniel 2:19; Daniel 2:31). All parts of Scripture alike are matter of inspiration, but not all of revelation. There are degrees of revelation, but not of inspiration.

Of - i:e., from the Lord; Christ, 2 Corinthians 12:2.

Verse 2

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

Oida (G1492) - 'I know;' not "I knew."

A man - meaning himself. He distinguishes between the rapt and glorified person of 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4, and himself, the infirmity-laden victim of the "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7). Not the glory, but the weakness, belonged to him. He did not even know whether he was in or out of the body when the glory was upon him. His spiritual self was his highest and truest self; the flesh, with its infirmity, his temporary self (Romans 7:25). Here, however, the latter is prominent.

In Christ - a Christian (Romans 16:7).

Above - rather, "fourteen years ago." This letter was written 55 AD - 57 AD Fourteen years before will bring the vision to 41 AD - 43 AD, the time of his second visit to Jerusalem (Acts 22:17). He had long been intimate with the Corinthians, yet had never mentioned it before: it was not a matter lightly to be spoken of.

I cannot tell - Greek, 'I know not.' If in the body, he must have been caught up bodily; if out of the body, his spirit must have been caught up out of the body. At all events, he recognizes the possibility of conscious receptivity in disembodied spirits. Caught up (Acts 8:39; Acts 10:10) - "a trance;" Greek, ecstasy.

To [ heoos (G2193 )] the third heaven - `even to,' etc. These raptures (plural, "visions," "revelations") had two degrees: first, he was caught up "to the third heaven;" thence to "paradise" (2 Corinthians 12:4), 'an inner recess of the third heaven' (Bengel) (Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7). Paul was permitted not only to 'hear' the things of paradise, but to see also in some degree the things of the third heaven (cf. "visions," 2 Corinthians 12:1). The occurrence TWICE of 'whether in the body, etc., I know not, God knoweth,' may mark two stages in the revelation. 'Ignorance of the mode does not set aside the fact. Even the apostles were ignorant of many things.' The first heaven is that of the clouds, the air; the second, that of the stars, the sky; the third is above both, where God's glory continually shines (Ephesians 4:10).

Verse 3

And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

'I know.'

Out of. So G [ ektos (G1622)]. B Delta [ chooris (G5565)] read 'apart from.'

Verse 4

How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Unspeakable - not in themselves, otherwise Paul could not have heard them; but "which it is not lawful for a man to utter." They were designed for Paul's own consolation, not for communication to others (Exodus 34:6; Isaiah 6:3). Paul had not the power adequately to utter; nor if he had, would he have been permitted; nor would earthly men comprehend them (John 3:12; 1 Corinthians 2:9). A man may know more than he can speak.

Verse 5

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

Of myself - concerning myself. Self is put in the background, except his infirmities. His glorying in his other self, to which the revelations were vouchsafed, was not to give glory to his fleshly self, but to bring out in contrast the 'infirmities" of the latter, that Christ might have all the glory.

Verse 6

For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

For - Not but that I might glory as to "myself" (2 Corinthians 12:5); 'FOR if I should desire to glory, I shall not be a fool, for I have good materials for glorying (not mere fleshly advantages, which his adversaries boasted of, and which, when he gloried in (2 Corinthians 11:1-33), he termed it "folly:" 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:16-17).

Think of me, [ logiseetai (G3049)] - 'form his estimate respecting me.'

Heareth of me - Greek, 'heareth [B G 'Aleph (') g, Vulgate, omit ti (G5100), which Delta, Received Text, have] from me'-namely, in person. If on his healing a cripple (Acts 14:12-13) and shaking off a viper (Acts

28), the people thought him a god, what would they have not done if he had disclosed those revelations? Let each estimate me by 'what he sees' my present acts and 'hears' my teaching to be; not by my past revelations. They who allow themselves to be thought of too highly defraud themselves of the honour at God's disposal (John 5:44; John 12:43).

Verse 7

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

Exalted above measure, [ huperairoomai (G5229)] - 'overmuch uplifted.' How dangerous must self-exaltation be, when even the apostle required so much restraint.

Abundance, [ huperbolee (G5236)] - 'the excess;' exceeding greatness.

Given to me - namely, by God (Job 5:6; Philippians 1:29).

Thorn in the flesh (Numbers 33:55; Ezekiel 28:24). Compare the affliction (Galatians 4:13-14). But it rather was one that followed the 'revelation,' something affecting him individually, not as an apostle: causing bodily paroxysms of pain (as "thorn" implies), with shame ("buffet:" as a slave, 1 Peter 2:20).

Messenger of Satan - permitted by God to afflict his saints, as Job (Job 2:7; Luke 13:16).

To buffet me - `that he may buffet me' [ kolafizee (G2852), present], even now continuously. It was still afflicting him now. After tasting the bliss of good angels, he is now exposed to an evil angel. The chastisement from hell follows the revelation from heaven. As his sight and hearing had been ravished with heavenly "revelations," so his touch is pained with the "thorn in the flesh."

Lest I should be (may be) exalted above measure. So B C, Origen, Cyprian, Hilary. But A Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit it. The repetition may answer to two stages of exaltation-the third heaven and paradise (if these be distinct). Compare "Abraham's bosom," Luke 16:23, with the heavenly "temple," Revelation 3:12; Revelation 6:9.

Verse 8

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

For - `concerning this thing.'

Thrice. To his first and second prayer no answer came. To his third the answer satisfied his faith, and led him to bow his will to God's will. So Paul's master, Jesus, thrice prayed on the mount of Olives, in resignation to the Father's will.

The Lord - Christ. Escape from the cross is not to be sought even indirectly from Satan (Luke 4:7).

Verse 9

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Said - literally, 'He hath said:' His answer satisfies Paul.

Is sufficient. The trial must endure, but the grace shall also endure and never fail thee (Alford) (Deuteronomy 33:25; 1 Kings 8:59, margin). The Lord puts the words into Paul's mouth, that he might say, 'O Lord, thy grace is sufficient for me.'

My strength, [ dunamis (G1411)] - 'power.' 'Aleph (') B Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit "my," power (namely, God's) being thus put absolutely in contrast to weakness.

Is made perfect - has its complete manifestation.

In weakness - infirmity. Do not ask for exemption from infirmity (strengthlessness), FOR my power is perfected in man's strengthlessness' [ astheneia (G769)]: thy 'strengthlessness' [the same Greek as 2 Corinthians 12:10, "infirmities," strengthlessnesses: astheneiais (G769)] is the very element in which my 'power' (coincident with "my grace") exhibits itself perfectly. So Paul, instead of desiring the infirmity to "depart," rather glories in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest [episkenosee, 'tabernacle upon,' cover all over as with a tabernacle; referring to the shekinah in the temple, the type of believers] (cf. Isaiah 4:5-6; Greek, John 1:14) upon him. This effect of Christ's assurance on him appears, 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 2:3-4: cf. 1 Peter 4:14. Paul often repeats "weakness," 'infirmity' (2 Corinthians 11:1-33; 2 Corinthians 12:1-21; 2 Corinthians 13:1-14), as being Christ's word. The Lord more needs our weakness than our strength: our strength is often His rival; our weakness, His servant, drawing on His resources, and showing forth His glory. Man's extremity is God's opportunity; man's security, Satan's opportunity. God's way is not to take His children out of, but to give them strength to bear up against trial (John 17:15).

Verse 10

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Takes, pleasure in. Too strongly. Rather [ eudokoo (G2106)], 'I am well-contented in.'

Infirmities - the genus. Two pairs of species follow, partly from 'Satan's messenger,' partly from men.

Reproaches - `insults.'

When - in all the cases just specified.

Then - then especially (Isaiah 40:29).

Strong - `powerful' [ dunatos (G1415)] in 'the power [ dunamis (G1411)] of Christ' (2 Corinthians 12:9; 2 Corinthians 13:4; Hebrews 11:34).

Verse 11

I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

In glorying. Omitted in A B Delta G 'Aleph (') f g, Vulgate.

Ye - emphatic. 'It is YE who have compelled me; for I ought to have been commended by you,' instead of having to commend myself.

Am I behind - rather [ hustereesa (G5302)], 'was I behind' when with you? The very chiefest - rather, as in 2 Corinthians 11:5, 'those overmuch apostles.'

Though I be nothing - in myself (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).

Verse 12

Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

Truly ... There is understood some such clause as, 'yet I have not been commended by you.'

In all patience [ hupomonee (G5281 )] in signs ... A B Delta G 'Aleph (') f g, Vulgate, omit "in." "Patience," or enduring continuance, is not a "sign," but the element IN which the signs were performed. Translate, 'IN ... patience, BY signs,' etc. His expression is modest, putting himself, the worker, in the background: "were wrought," not 'I wrought.' The first "signs" means the evidences; the second, miracles. Since the signs have not been transmitted to us, neither has the apostleship. The apostles have no literal successors (cf. Acts 1:21-22).

Mighty deeds, [ dunamesin (G1411)] - works of divine omnipotence. The silence of the apostles in fourteen letters, as to miracles, arises from those letters being hortatory, not controversial. The passing allusions to miracles in seven letters prove that the writers were not enthusiasts, to whom miracles seem the chief thing. Doctrines were with them the important matter, except when convincing adversaries. In the seven the mention of miracles is not obtrusive, but marked by a calm assurance, as of facts acknowledged on all hands, therefore unnecessary to dwell on. This is a stronger proof of their reality than if they were formally asserted. "Signs and wonders" is the regular formula of the Old Testament, which New Testament readers would understand of supernatural works. Again, in the gospels the miracles are so inseparably tied up with the history, that you cannot deny the former without denying the latter also. Then you have a greater difficulty than ever-namely, to account for the rise of Christianity: so the infidel has something infinitely mere difficult to believe than that which he rejects and which the Christian accepts.

Verse 13

For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.

Wherein you were inferior - i:e., were treated with less consideration by me than other churches.

I myself - I made a gain of you neither myself, nor by those others whom I sent, Titus, etc. (2 Corinthians 12:17-18.) Wrong. His declining support might be regarded as the denial to the Corinthians of a privilege, and a mark of their spiritual inferiority, and of his looking on them with less confidence and love (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:9; 2 Corinthians 11:11).

Verse 14

Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

The third time - (see 'Introduction' to 1 Corinthians.) His second visit was probably short (1 Corinthians 16:7), and attended with humiliation through the scandalous conduct of some (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:21; 2 Corinthians 2:1). It was probably paid during his three years sojourn at Ephesus, from which he could pass so readily by sea to Corinth (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:15-16; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2). The context implies nothing of a third preparation to come; but, 'I am coming the third time, and will not burden you with my maintenance this time, anymore than I did at my two previous visits' (Alford). It could be of no moment, in connection with 'I will not burden you,' whether he once or twice was ready to go, but whether he had actually been with them several times already.

Not yours, but you (Philippians 4:17).

Children ... parents. Paul, as their spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:14-15), does not seek earthly treasure from them, but lays up the best treasure (namely, spiritual) 'for their souls' (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Verse 15

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

I will very gladly spend - all I have.

Be spent - all that I am; more than even natural parents do. They 'lay up treasures for their children;' but I spend not merely my treasures, but myself.

For you - Greek, 'for your souls,' not for your mere bodies.

The less I be loved. Love rather descends than ascends. Love to the unwilling only increases distaste: true only of some Corinthians. Love him as a true friend who seeks your good more than your good will.

Verse 16

But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.

I did not burden you. The "I" (Greek) is emphatic. A possible insinuation of the Corinthians is anticipated and refuted. 'You may say, granted that I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile'-namely, made a gain of you by means of others (1 Thessalonians 2:3).

Verse 17

Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?

Paul's reply: You know well I did not. My associates were as disinterested as myself. An important rule to all who would influence others for good.

Verse 18

I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?

I desired Titus - namely, to go unto you. Not the mission (2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:17; 2 Corinthians 8:22), but previous to this letter; probably that from which he had just returned, announcing to Paul their penitence, (2 Corinthians 7:6, etc.)

A brother - rather, 'OUR (literally, the) brother:' one well known to the Corinthians; probably one of the two (2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:22).

Same spirit - inwardly.

Steps - outwardly.

Verse 19

Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. Again. So C Delta g [ palin (G3825)]: a correction from 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12. But 'Aleph (') A B f, Vulgate [ palai (G3819)], 'This long time ye think that we are excusing ourselves unto you? (Nay.) It is before God that we speak in Christ' (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Verse 20

For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:

For - cause why they needed to be thus spoken to "for their edification" - namely, his fear that at his coming he should find them 'not such as he would,' and so be found by them 'such as they would not' like-namely, severe in punishing misconduct.

Debates - `contentions' [ ereis (G2046)], B Delta G f g, Vulgate. But 'Aleph (') A [ eris (G2054), singular] 'contention.'

Envyings. So 'Aleph (') f g, Vulgate. But A B Delta G read 'envying.'

Strifes - `intrigues,' 'factious schemes' [ eritheiai (G2052)] (Wahl). Ambitious self seeking [from erithos, 'a worker for hire'].

Backbitings, whisperings - open 'slanderings' [ katalaliai (G2636)] and 'whispering backbitings' (Romans 1:29-30; Galatians 5:20).

Swellings - arrogant elation; puffing up of yourselves (Jude 1:16; 2 Peter 2:18).

Verse 21

And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

My God - implying resignation to the will of God, as being his God, however trying the humiliation in store for him.

Will humble me. The indicative implies that it will actually be so. The faithful pastor is 'humbled' at, and 'bewails,' the falls of his people, as his own. Sinned already - before his second visit, in which he had much to rebuke.

Uncleanness. Contempt for authority of pastors tends to unbridled licentiousness (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.