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2 Corinthians 12

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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2 Corinthians 12:0


Visions and RevelationsThe Vision of ParadiseFurther Boasting: Strength in WeaknessPaul's Vision and RevelationsPaul is Driven to Sound His Own Praises
(2 Corinthians 11:1-18)
2 Corinthians 12:1-102 Corinthians 12:1-102 Corinthians 12:1-102 Corinthians 12:1-62 Corinthians 12:1-6
2 Corinthians 12:7-102 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul's Concern for the Corinthian ChurchSigns of An Apostle Paul's Concern for the Corinthians
2 Corinthians 12:11-182 Corinthians 12:11-132 Corinthians 12:11-132 Corinthians 12:11-132 Corinthians 12:11-13
Love For the ChurchPaul's Plans to Visit Corinth Again
(2 Corinthians 12:14-10)
2 Corinthians 12:14-212 Corinthians 12:14-182 Corinthians 12:14-152 Corinthians 12:14-15
2 Corinthians 12:16-182 Corinthians 12:16-18
A Call For Self-Examination and Amendment Paul's Fears and Anxieties
(2 Corinthians 12:19-10) (2 Corinthians 12:19-10)
2 Corinthians 12:19-21 2 Corinthians 12:19-212 Corinthians 12:19-212 Corinthians 12:19-21

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Paul's special vision and his physical problems are both dealt with in the same context, possibly both occurred 14 years previously in Tarsus (A.D. 42 or 43). This cannot refer to his conversion experience which happened some 20 years earlier, although I think his "thorn" was eye problems, which may have started with the encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9:22, Acts 9:26).

B. Paul continues his biting sarcasm in 2 Corinthians 12:11, 2 Corinthians 12:13 and 15 as he did in 2 Corinthians 11:4-5, 2 Corinthians 11:7, 2 Corinthians 11:19-21. I believe chapters 10-13 are written in a Hellenistic rhetoric style for the purpose of showing the arrogant Hellenistic-trained Jewish false teachers that he, too, knew and could use their preferred literary style.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does Paul mention his special revelation and then not tell us about it?

2. Why is weakness a key to usability?

3. Does God use evil to accomplish His purpose?

4. Why was Paul so touch about receiving money from this church? (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:20-21).

Verses 1-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 1Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows -such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3And I know how such a man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows-4was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. 5On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. 6For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. 7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-to keep me from exalting myself! 8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:1 "Boasting is necessary" The Greek term dei means "necessity." The false teachers were attacking Paul. He defended himself to protect his message. The term "boasting," used so often in chapters 10-13 (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 10:15, 2 Corinthians 10:16, 2 Corinthians 10:17; 2 Corinthians 11:12, 2 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Corinthians 11:18, 2 Corinthians 11:30; 2 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 12:5, 2 Corinthians 12:6, 2 Corinthians 12:9, see full note at 2 Corinthians 1:12 and Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 5:6), characterized a type of rhetorical style popular in the first century. Paul showed the arrogant false teachers that he could play their game.

This sentence was confusing to the ancient scribes, who modified it in several ways.

1. some add "if" (MSS אcf8 i2, H)

2. some changed dei (must) to de (but), (MSS א and D)

3. the form in UBS4 is supported by MSS P46, B, D2, F, G ("A" rating)

Numbers 2:0 and 3 do show how early the original Greek texts were modified by well-intentioned scribes.

NASB"though it is not profitable" NKJV"doubtless not profitable" NRSV"nothing is to be gained by it" TEV"even though it doesn't do any good" NJB"not that it does any good"

If Paul's boasting is to no advantage, why do it? He does it in sarcasm for its effect, using the very terms and methodology of the false teachers (i.e., rhetorically trained Jewish believers of the Diaspora who were somehow connected with the church in Jerusalem, similar to the Judaizers of Galatians and the Pharisaic element seen in the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15:0).

"visions and revelations" There is probably no distinction between these two terms; both describe a type of direct revelation (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 11:23; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3). The false teachers were probably claiming special direct revelation. The term "revelation" is apocalypse, which means "an unveiling."

False teachers, then and now, are characterized by

1. sexual exploitation

2. financial exploitation

3. a claim to special and unique revelation

"of the Lord" It may be a subjective genitive, "a revelation from the Lord" or an objective genitive , "about the Lord." The following context implies "from the Lord" (passive voices, 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4, 2 Corinthians 12:7).

2 Corinthians 12:2 "I know a man" This is a rabbinical way of speaking of oneself. Paul seems to be reluctant even to mention the incident, but he does so because of his love for this church and the false teachers' claims of spiritual visions.

"in Christ" This was Paul's favorite designation of being a Christian. Believers are identified with His life/death/resurrection (cf. Romans 6:0). The believer's goal is to be like Him (cf. Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 1:15).

George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, makes the interesting statement that

"the man in Christ is also in the Spirit. If the opposite of 'in Christ' is to be in Adam, the opposite of 'in the Spirit' is to be 'in the flesh.'

Life in the Spirit means eschatological existence-life in the new age" (p. 483).

"fourteen years ago" This was probably during Paul's unrecorded early ministry in Tarsus, just before Barnabas came to get him to help at Antioch (cf. Acts 11:25-26). Notice that special visions were not an everyday occurrence for Paul, but he had several of them (cf. Acts 9:4; Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23).

"whether in the body, I do not know, or out of the body I do not know" Paul himself was not even sure exactly what happened (the phrase is repeated twice in 2 Corinthians 12:2 and 3). It was possibly like Ezekiel's experience in Ezekiel 8:0 or like John's experience in the book of Revelation (cf. Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10). Notice that the body is not excluded from heaven in Christianity as it was in Greek philosophy.

"caught up" This same term is used of (1) Philip in Acts 8:30; (2) "the rapture" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17; adf (3) the male child in Revelation 12:5. Its basic meaning is to seize as a carnivore does its prey. Paul was unexpectedly and quickly moved in body or mind to God's presence (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:4).

"the third heaven" See Special Topic following.


2 Corinthians 12:3-4 These verses further describe the event stated in 2 Corinthians 12:2.

2 Corinthians 12:4 "Paradise" This is a Persian loan word 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 God's presence.

"heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak" Humanity's curiosity is not to be eased in all areas of truth. As Lazarus did not speak of his experience in the grave, Paul would not (i.e., too holy), could not (i.e., no adequate human vocabulary), share this experience. There is an obvious word play on "unspeakable": arrçtos, "speech," and hrçtos or possibly this was a technical idiom of the mystery religion's initiation rites. Possibly there simply was not human vocabulary adequate to express what he saw (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9).

2 Corinthians 12:5 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).

"weakness" See Special Topic at 2 Corinthians 12:9.

2 Corinthians 12:6 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

"foolish" See Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 15:36.

"so that no one will credit me with more than he 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!"

2 Corinthians 12:7 "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations" This phrase can be grammatically related to "no one will credit me" of 2 Corinthians 12:6 or "to keep me from exalting myself" of 2 Corinthians 12:7. If dio is in the original text of 2 Corinthians 12:7 (cf. MSS א, A, B, F, G) then it probably goes with 2 Corinthians 12:6, but dio is left out of several ancient Greek manuscripts (cf. MSS P46, D, and the Vulgate, Armenian, and Peshitta translations). The UBS4 gives its inclusion a "C" rating (difficulty in deciding).

For "surpassing greatness" (huperbolç) see Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at 1 Corinthians 2:1.

"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).

Paul believed that God (i.e., passive voice of "given") had given this "thorn in the flesh" for a purpose (i.e., hina clause). This may be the sense of Romans 8:28 (i.e., some Greek manuscripts read "God causes all things"), but the good is Christlikeness so clearly expressed in Romans 8:29 (i.e., conformed to the image of His Son). Satan is a servant!

"thorn in the flesh" The term "thorn" can mean "stake" (i.e., 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 a plant thorn (cf. Numbers 33:55; Ezekiel 28:24; Hosea 2:6). Some theories regarding Paul's thorn in the flesh are:

1. early Church Fathers, Luther and Calvin, say it was spiritual problems with his fallen nature (i.e., "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

5. I think it was ophthalmia, a common eye problem (compare 2 Corinthians 12:5 and 6:11) exacerbated or caused by the blindness on the Damascus road (cf. Acts 9:0, possibly an OT allusion in Joshua 23:13)

For "flesh" see Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 1:26.

"a messenger of Satan" God allows and uses the evil one (cf. Job 2:6; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20). The term "messenger" seems to refer to a demonic agent. The term "messenger" in both Hebrew and Greek can be translated "angel." If so, we see that believers can be hurt by the demonic, but notice it is for God's purposes. God uses evil for His righteous purposes.


"to torment me" This is a present active subjunctives. The word literally means "to strike with fists." This problem was painful and recurrent.

"to keep me from exalting myself" This is a purpose (i.e., hina) clause. The spiritual claims of the false teachers accentuated their egotism. Paul's humbled him.

2 Corinthians 12:8 "I implored the Lord" Contextually this could refer to (1) YHWH or (2) Jesus (cf. John 14:13-14). Paul normally prays to the Father. Christians can pray to any one of the Divine Persons of the Trinity, although normally we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, through the Spirit.

"this" It is possible that "this" refers to (1) this situation; (2) this persecution; (3) this messenger of Satan; or (4) this physical ailment.

"three times" Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane was repeated three times (cf. Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:39, Mark 14:41). Three-fold repetition denotes emphasis. This was not lack of trust, but shows that we can pray about whatever concerns us as often as we feel the need. This recurrent, painful problem taught Paul a great spiritual lesson (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). I must say here that this account sheds light on the over-emphasis in our day on faith healing being conditioned on the amount of faith of the person needing healing. Obviously Paul had tremendous faith. Also, the unfortunate teaching that God wants every believer healed and delivered from every problem is addressed in this passage. The requests of both Jesus and Paul were not answered in the way they wanted. God uses problems and sickness in our lives for His purposes (cf. Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:12-17). Our needs are God's opportunity to reveal Himself and His will to us!

2 Corinthians 12:9 "He has said" This is perfect tense, idiomatic for "He said finally."

"My grace is sufficient for you" The character and presence of God is all Paul needs. I think Paul may have been thinking of 1 Kings 8:27. This is one of the places in the OT where the phrase "heaven and the heaven of heavens" is used, which may be the source of Paul's "third heaven" in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Solomon's prayer speaks of both the transcendence of God's "highest heaven" and His immanence in the Temple. Paul was not to dwell on the majesty of the third heaven, but on God's gracious nature and personal presence with him daily.

"power is perfected" This is a Present passive. God's power operates by different criteria than mankind's. God receives the glory when the human vessel is weak and incapable of meeting his/her needs. God's power is His unchanging character!

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

"boast about my weakness" See Special Topic below.


"that the power of Christ" Notice it is God's power! It is Christ's power! Christ is God!

NASB, NRSV"may dwell in me" NKJV, NJB"may rest upon me" TEV"feel the protection. . .over me"

This is the Greek term episkçnoô, which is epi plus skçnç (tent, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1), therefore, metaphorical for overshadow or abide upon. This word is found only here in the NT. This same root is used of the virgin birth of Jesus (cf. Luke 1:35) the transfiguration of Jesus (cf. Matthew 17:5), and of the Apostles' shadows falling on people and their being healed (cf. Acts 5:15).

Paul knew that the cloud during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Exodus 40:35) was called by the rabbis "the shekinah cloud of glory." Shekinah means "to dwell with permanently." Paul wanted God's personal presence, fully and completely revealed and embodied in Christ, with him. This is the goal of Christianity, not personal power, personal prestige, a special knowledge or experience (i.e., "To know Him came through weakness and suffering," cf. Philippians 3:10).

2 Corinthians 12:10 "Therefore, I am well content with weakness" Paul knows from personal experience (i.e., Damascus road) that good intentions and personal effort are not enough. We need grace (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9), not power. No human being will usurp the glory of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:29; Ephesians 2:9). God's grace, power, and glory are accentuated in yielded, inadequate, human vessels.

"I am well content with weakness" 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!

Verses 11-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 12:11-13 11I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. 12The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. 13For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not become a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

2 Corinthians 12:11 "I have become foolish" This is a perfect active indicative. Some faction (i.e., 1 Corinthians 1-4) or some group of itinerant false teachers (i.e., 2 Cor. 10-13) have attacked Paul, his leadership, his authority, his style of speaking, and the gospel. So, 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" (i.e., egô) is used in 2 Corinthians 12:11, 2 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 12:15, and 16.

"commended" See full note at 2 Corinthians 3:1.

"in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles" See full note at 2 Corinthians 11:5.

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence used for literary purposes to make his point, not reality. Paul was not inferior to them in any sense.

"I am a nobody" 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, Acts 8:26)!

2 Corinthians 12:12 "by signs and wonders and miracles" 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.

2 Corinthians 12:13 "I myself did not become a burden to you" 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. 2 Corinthians 12:13a), but Paul would not budge because of the accusations of the false teachers (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:8-20). However, Paul did support (as a principle) the church's financial assistance for ministers (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:3-18).

"churches" See Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 1:2.

"Forgive me this wrong" This is biting sarcasm.

Verses 14-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 12:14-18 14Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit. 17Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I? 18I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?

2 Corinthians 12:14

NASB, NRSV, NJB"here" NKJV"now for" TEV-omitted-

This is the Greek emphatic particle idou, used so often in the Gospels, usually translated "behold." It serves to call attention to the following statement. Paul uses it rarely (cf. Romans 9:23 [OT quote]; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Corinthians 6:2 [OT quote], 2 Corinthians 12:9; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 12:14; Galatians 1:20).

"this third time" The book of Acts only records two visits to Corinth (cf. Acts 18:1; Acts 20:2-3; 2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1, 2 Corinthians 13:2). However, Acts is not a complete or detailed history, but a theological document showing the spread of Christianity from people group to people group, from Palestine to Rome.

"I will not be a burden" 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. 2 Corinthians 12:14b) or (2) his own background as a rabbi excluded this.

"but you" Paul does not want their money, but their loyalty and good will.

"children. . .parents" Paul is using a family analogy. He considered himself their spiritual father (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14-15; Galatians 4:19).

2 Corinthians 12:15 "spend" This Greek word can be understood in two ways: (1) literally "to pay out money" (cf. Acts 21:24) or (2) figuratively "to spend entirely" or "pay everything or anything" (cf. Mark 5:26). Paul was ready to give all his assets and/or himself for the cause of Christ among the Corinthian believers.

Obviously Paul is using word plays on money. He did not want them spending money on him, but he would spend himself for them.

"for your souls" "Souls" (i.e., psychç) is used in the sense of persons in Paul's writings as is "spirit" (cf. pneuma, cf. Philippians 1:27).

This is not an ontological dichotomy in mankind, but a dual relationship to both this planet and to God. The Hebrew word nephesh (BDB 659) is used of both mankind and the animals in Genesis, while "spirit" (ruah, BDB 924) is used uniquely of mankind. This is not a proof-text on the nature of mankind as a three-part (trichotomous) being. Mankind is primarily represented in the Bible as a unity (cf. Genesis 2:7). For a good summary of the theories of mankind as trichotomous, dichotomous, or a unity, see Millard J. Erickson's Christian Theology (second edition) pp. 538-557 and Frank Stagg's Polarities of Man's Existence in Biblical Perspective.

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the writer's perspective or for his literary purposes.

"more" This related group of terms characterizes Paul's emotional and extravagant literary style in 2 Corinthians . See full note at 2 Corinthians 2:7.

"am I to be loved less" The more Paul gave to them, the more they treated him with less respect and love. This was an intolerable situation.

2 Corinthians 12:16 "nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, 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. 2 Corinthians 12:17-18).

Paul's comment here is biting sarcasm!

2 Corinthians 12:18 "Titus" It is surprising that Titus is never mentioned in the book of Acts (possibly he was Luke's brother). He was one of Paul's most trusted and faithful helpers. (See Special Topic at 2 Corinthians 2:13). Apparently Titus also did not receive any money from this church, following Paul's example.

"the brother with him" This is probably the same one as in 2 Corinthians 8:18. Some think it was Luke (i.e., 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.

Verses 2 Corinthians 12:17 and 18 have a series of four questions. The grammatical form of the first two expect a "no" answer, while the last two expect a "yes" answer. The purpose of the questions is to show that neither Paul nor Titus had taken advantage of them in any way, as some had charged.

"in the same spirit" This refers to the redeemed human spirit of Titus (i.e., locative case), not the Holy Spirit (instrumental case). Paul uses "spirit" to refer to himself often (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:13; 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 16:18; Romans 1:9; Romans 8:16; Philippians 4:23). See note at 2 Corinthians 7:13b.

Verses 19-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 12:19-21 19All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; 21I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.

2 Corinthians 12:19 "All this time" Paul is referring to his current letter (i.e., 2 Corinthians ).

"you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you" This is a sarcastic remark. Paul knew this church well. They had an inflated estimation of their own worth and freedom.

"it is in the sight of God" Paul used this very phrase in 2 Corinthians 2:17, where he takes an oath of truthfulness before God.

"all for your upbuilding" Paul mentions his authority using this very term in 2 Corinthians 10:8. He defended himself to defend and protect this misguided church. His actions were for them, not for himself. See SPECIAL TOPIC: EDIFY at 1 Corinthians 8:1.

"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).

2 Corinthians 12:20 This accurately reflects the 1 Corinthian description of this church toward each other and towards Paul.

"strife" See full note at 1 Corinthians 2:11.

This term and the next are singular (cf. MSS P46, א, A), but the other terms in the list are plural.

"jealousy" In this context it refers to a party or factious spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:3). See note at 2 Corinthians 9:2.

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

"disputes" This term (i.e., 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 1 Corinthians, especially chapter 11. This term is used often by Paul (cf. Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; Philippians 2:3; and also see James' use in James 3:14, James 3:16).

"slanders" 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" This is the term "whisper," which refers to tale-bearing behind someone's back in private.

"arrogance" The Greek term phusioô originally meant to inflate or puff up something (i.e., 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, 1 Corinthians 4:19; 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.

NASB"disturbances" NKJV"tumults" NRSV, TEV"disorder" NJB"disorders"

See note at 1 Corinthians 14:33. This was a factious church. This term is also used in James 3:16.

There are several lists of vices in Paul's writings (cf. Romans 1:29-31; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:31; 5:34; Colossians 3:5-9). In many ways they parallel the vice lists of the Stoics. Christianity demands an ethical response. Eternal life has observable, moral characteristics.

2 Corinthians 12:21 Paul worried that if this church did not repent he would be forced to exercise his Apostolic authority when he came back (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:2). Some of the factions (i.e., 1 Corinthians) and false teachers (i.e., 2 Corinthians ) were apparently leading godless lives of self indulgence.

NASB, TEV, NJB"humiliate" NKJV, NRSV NIV"humble"

Paul uses this root term in several senses in his Corinthian letters (taken from Harold K Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 397.

1. tapeinos

a. low in situation, depressed (2 Corinthians 7:6)

b. to love meekly or without excess (2 Corinthians 10:1)

2. tapeinoô

a. (Middle voice) to live in humble condition (2 Corinthians 11:7)

b. to be humble with respect to hopes and expectations; to be depressed with disappointment (2 Corinthians 12:21)

"mourn" See note at 1 Corinthians 5:2.

"those who have sinned in the past" This whole phrase translates one article and participle used only here and in 2 Corinthians 13:2. It is a perfect active participle of the Greek preposition pro (i.e., before) and hamartanô (i.e., to sin). The combined sense is those who have sinned and continue to sin. The concept of "past" is not included, but an addition of the translators. Time is only included in the indicative mood.

"repented" This verse obviously refers to Christians who continue to sin. Repentance is crucial, not only initially (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38, Acts 2:41; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21), but continuously (cf. 1 John 1:9). Repentance for a believer restores ellowship, not salvation! Repentance is an attitude toward God and self more than a specific set of spiritual acts or steps. See full note at 2 Corinthians 7:8-11

"the impurity, immorality and sensuality" We must remember the godless, lustful culture out of which these new believers from Corinth came. They had grown up with sexual excess and debauchery in the name of the gods. However, notice that this verse also mentions the means by which Christians deal with sin in their lives―repentance (cf. 1 John 1:9; Psalms 19:12-14). Faith and repentance are both initial and ongoing spiritual experiences in the Christian's life.

This list may reflect the actions of the false teachers who emphasized Greek rhetorical style, which may imply that they had also been exposed to Gnosticism, which emphasized knowledge, but depreciated ethical standards. All of these terms are listed in Paul's sins of the flesh in Galatians 5:19. Justification must not/cannot be separated from sanctification!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/2-corinthians-12.html. 2021.
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