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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
2 Corinthians 12

 

 

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Verse 1

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

Ver. 1. It is not expedient for me] Because it carries a show at least of pride and folly; and Christians must be shy of the very shows and shadows of sin, ministers especially, whose practice easily passeth into an example. Howbeit for the Corinthians it was expedient, because they thought more meanly of Paul than was meet.

To visions and revelations] The false apostles, haply, boasted of such as some seducers do today, who dream Midianitish dreams, and then tell the same to their neighbours for gospel. But take heed, the old prophet may bring men into the lion’s mouth, by telling them of an angel that spake to him.


Verse 2

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.

Ver. 2. I knew a man in Chirst] i.e. A Christian and approved, 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Above fourteen years ago] {See Trapp on "Acts 9:9"} All this while till now, he had held his tongue. Taciturnity or silence (in some cases) is a Christian virtue. Either be silent, or say somewhat that is better than silence, was an old moral precept, η σιγαν, η κρειττονα σιγης λεγειν..


Verse 3

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

Ver. 3. Whether in the body, &c.] So far did he forget and neglect his own body, which is so dear and near a thing, in comparison of that incomparable delight he then took in the Lord. "Oh that joy! O my God, when shall I be with thee!" These were the dying words of the last Lord Harrington, that was in heaven beforehand. "Oh the joys, the joys, the unspeakable joys that I feel in my soul!" said another that was even entering into heaven, and had a foretaste of eternal life. Peter in the transfiguration was so transported, that he never thought of a tabernacle for himself, Matthew 17:4; he cared not to lie without doors, so he might longer enjoy that glimpse of heaven’s glory.


Verse 4

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

Ver. 4. How that he was caught up] Not locally (likely) but in spirit, as Acts 7:56; Ezekiel 8:3.

into Paradise] Heaven, whereof that earthly paradise was but a dark shadow. Jerome comforting a young hermit, bade him look up to heaven, Et Paradisum mente deambulare, to take a few turns in Paradise by his meditations, assuring him that so long as he had Paradise in his mind and heaven in his thought, tamdiu in eremo non eris, he should not be sensible of his solitariness.

Unspeakable words] ρηματα αρρητα, wordless words, such as words are too weak to utter. Nec Christus nec coelum patitur hyperbolen. A man cannot hyperbolize in speaking of Christ and heaven, but must entreat his hearers, as Cicero doth his readers, concerning the worth of Lucius Crassus, Ut maius quiddam de iis quam quae scripta sunt suspicarentur, that they would conceive much more than he was able to express. It is as easy to compass the heaven with a span or contain the sea in a nutshell, as to relate heaven’s happiness.


Verse 5

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

Ver. 5. Yet of myself I will not glory] Non nisi coactus, ut supra. Paul was a model of modesty, a very crucifix of mortification, as one calleth him.

But in mine infirmities] i.e. My troubles, so called, either because under them we seem infirm and contemptible; or else, for that afflictions often show our infirmities, our impatience, &c., they make us sick of the fret, &c.


Verse 6

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.

Ver. 6. Lest any men should think of me] Let no man, saith Gregory, desire to seem more than he is, that so he may be more than he seems. It pleaseth me not, saith Augustine, that by many I am thought to be that which I am not. For truly they love not me, but another for me, si non quod sum, sed quod non sum diligunt, if they love not what I am, but what I am not.


Verse 7

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.

Ver. 7. And lest I should be exalted] So lest Ezekiel should be lifted up with his many rare visions he is frequently called "son of man," to put him in mind of his mortal, miserable condition.

A thorn in the flesh] A corruption edged with a temptation. Satan sent some Delilah to lull Paul asleep in her lap, and bind him with withes of green delights; but his watchful soul, displeased deeply with that flesh-pleasing force, complained thereof, shaked himself, and so found ease.

To buffet me] Perhaps in a proper sense Paul might feel the devil’s fingers; take it metaphorically for temptations, and then they are fitly called buffetings, because they come so thick upon a man’s spirit that he can hardly take breath. He dogs good hearts with foulest lusts sometimes, as of atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, murder. In all or any of which, if the soul be merely passive (as the word butfeting here implies) they are Satan’s sins and our crosses only.

Lest I should be exalted] If Paul had not been buffeted, who knows whither he would have swelled? He might have been carried higher in conceit than before he was in his ecstasy. This "thorn in his flesh" was a means to let out the imposthumated matter of pride out of his heart.


Verse 8

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

Ver. 8. I besought the Lord thrice] i.e. Frequently and fervently. God respecteth not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; not the rhetoric of our prayers, how neat they are; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they are; nor the music of our prayers, how melodious they are; nor the logic of our prayers, how methodical they are; but the divinity of our prayers, how heart sprung they are. Not gifts, but graces prevail in prayer.


Verse 9

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.

Ver. 9. My grace is sufficient for thee] God sometimes gives pardoning grace where yet he denies prevailing grace. He roots not out all our Canaanites at once, but leaves some to try and exercise us. "I thank God in Christ, sustentation I have, but suavities spiritual I taste not any," saith Mr Bain, describing the temper of his own spirit. He also went out of the world with far less comfort than some weaker Christians enjoy, God letting Satan loose upon him. (Bain’s Life by Mr Clark.)

For my strength is made perfect] It is an act of as great power in God to keep our spark of grace alive amidst so many corruptions, as to keep a fire alive upon the face of the sea. The angels are kept with much less care, charge, and power, than we; because trey have no bias, no weight of sin hung upon them.


Verse 10

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.

Ver. 10. Therefore I take pleasure] ευδοκω, I am well paid by them, I reckon them among God’s love tokens, pledges of his love, and badges of my sonship.

For when I am weak, then, &c.] This is a seeming contradiction. God, saith Luther, doth most of his works in mediis contrariis, by contraries. δια των εναντιων εναντια οικονομειται. He hath a way by himself, saith Nazianzen, that he may be the more admired.


Verse 11

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.

Ver. 11. For in nothing am I behind] And yet there were a sort of silly souls (that thought themselves jolly fellows) in the days of Zuinglius, A. D. 1519, that talked thus at Zurich: Quis tandem Paulus? nonne homo est? Apostolus est, sed suburbanus tantum, non Exodus 12:1-51 viris, non cum Christo est conversatus, articulum fidei non composuit. What was Paul? but a man. An apostle he was, but of an inferior rank; he was not of the twelve; he conversed not with Christ; he composed not any of the 12 articles of the Creed. We would as soon believe Thomas of Scotus, as Paul, &c. "I am as much an apostle as they, who are more than much apostles," saith St Paul here (for so the Greek runs); but ( contra sycophantae morsum non est remedium) he cannot be heard.


Verse 12

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

Ver. 12. In all patience] A grace to be gloried in; Job is crowned and chronicled for it.


Verse 13

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.

Ver. 13. Forgive me this wrong] A pleasant irony, such as whereof this Epistle is full. It is said of a wise man, Quod obiecta probra ut visus nocturnos, et vanas somniorum imagines digno supplicio puniat, festive scilicet contemptu et oblivione, vel si tanti est, misericordia elevet. (John Wover in Polymath.)


Verse 14

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.

Ver. 14. For I seek not yours] Not the fleece, but the flock. He had not those instruments of a foolish shepherd, forcipes et mulctram, the shears and milk pail, &c. The whole senate can witness, saith Beza, that whereas Calvin had a very small stipend, yet was he so far from being discontent therewith, that a more ample allowance being freely offered him, he obstinately refused it. All the goods that he left behind him when he died, his library also being sold very dear, came scarcely to 300 French crowns. Non opes, non gloriam, non voluptates quaesivi, said Melancthon, I never sought riches, pleasures, or preferments; this conscience I carry with me, whithersoever I go. (Melch. Adam.) I do ingenuously profess, saith Mr Rollock, that of all my stipends I have not laid up two pence, for I never cared for the things of this world. Luther never found himself once tempted to covetousness. And herein I could wish we were all Lutherans.

But the parents for the children] We use to say, that one father will better provide for nine children than nine children will for one father. Howbeit, our spiritual fathers (though they seek us, and not ours, yet) they should find both "us" and "ours:" "us," in our obedience; "ours," in our recompence.


Verse 15

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

Ver. 15. Spend and be spent] If like clouds we do sweat ourselves to death, so souls may be brought home to God, it is a blessed way of dying. Mr Samuel Cook’s motto was Impendam et expendar, I will spend and be spent; this he cheerfully verified.

The less I be loved] This is many a good man’s grief, but his reward is nevertheless with God. The nurse looks not for her wages from the child, but from the parent.


Verse 16

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

Ver. 16. Being crafty I caught] A blessed craft, a high point of heavenly wisdom, Daniel 12:3. It is written of the fox, that when he is very hungry after prey, and can find none, he lieth down and feigneth himself to be a dead carcase, and so the fowls fall upon him, and then he catcheth them. St Paul hungering after the souls’ health of his Corinthians, denies himself to gain them.


Verse 17

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

Ver. 17. Whom I sent unto you] It is said of the pope, that he can never lack money so long as he can hold a pen in his hand; he can command it and have it. But St Paul could not skill of those arts.


Verse 18

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?

Ver. 18. In the same spirit] Who worketh with his own tools only, and is ever like himself in all the saints; through whose whole course godliness runs, as the woof doth through the web, as the spirit doth through the body.

In the same steps] With an upright foot, Galatians 2:14; in Christ, Colossians 2:6; as Christ, 1 John 2:6.


Verse 19

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.

Ver. 19. That we excuse ourselves] And so yield a fault.

I speak before God] The witness of my innocence, Job 16:19; Genesis 20:6.

For your edifying] While ye conceive no ill opinion of us, which, like muddy water in a vessel, might cause the most precious liquor of our doctrine to run over.


Verse 20

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:

Ver. 20. And that I shall be found] Crudelem medicum intemperans aeger facit. The sick man makes harsh headstrong medicine, (Mimus.) We delight not to fling daggers at men’s faces; but if men be not told their own, and that with some sharpness, they will on in sin to their utter ruin. Sharp waters clear the eyesight; and bitter potions bring on sweet health. A weak dose doth but stir bad humours and anger them, not purge them out; so it fareth with sins.

Lest there be debates, envyings, &c.] King Edward IV, the night before his death, said to his kinsmen and friends, I remember it to my grief, that there hath been discord among you a great time, not always for great causes, but poor mistakings, {a} Some, like salamanders, live always in the fire; like trouts, they love to swim against stream; like Phocion, they think it a goodly thing to dissent from others.

Whisperings] {See Trapp on "Romans 1:29"}

Swellings] That is, taking things unkindly, so that the heart even riseth against another, and we cannot away with him, would have nothing to do with him. Now, as the swelling of the spleen is very dangerous for health; and of the sails, for the overbearing of a little vessel; so is this swelling of the heart by passion, especially if it break out at the lips by tumults, that is, by telling this body, running to that, filling the town with it. Caelum mugitibus implet.

{a} Daniel’s Hist. of England.


Verse 21

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.

Ver. 21. That have not repented] Impenitence maketh sin mortal, saith St John, 1 John 5:16, or rather immortal, as saith St Paul, Romans 2:5. It is not the falling into the water that drowns, but lying in it. God’s people may sink once and again to the bottom, but the third time they rise and recover by repentance.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-corinthians-12.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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