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II Cor. Chapter 12

Memory verses for this week: 2 Pet 1:19  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:  2 Pet 1:20  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 

Introduction:     Last week in Chapter 11,  Paul the church to not be deceived by Satan who wars against us each day.  And to watch carefully for the false teachers that rise up in the church to teach false doctrine.  This week, we discuss some of the visions and revelations that Paul received. 

I.                Paul’s Visions and Revelations- Further Proof of Apostleship 

2 Corinthians 12:1   It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.  I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.  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.

Paul finds it necessary to continue his “glorying and boasting.”  Visions refer to supernatural sights granted to men, while revelations are the truths shown during such events.  Paul was one of the few men who had such experiences, and he writes now of the supreme revelation.  This came directly from the Lord.  Paul did not go to the seminary or schools of higher learning to find out about Christ.  He had attended the school of Gamaliel before he was saved, but God gave him a revelation about Jesus Christ.  It was Christ himself that dealt with Paul when he was known as Saul there on the road to Damascus.  This is where Paul always went back to concerning his salvation. 

3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 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. 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.

Fourteen years had passed since this miracle, and Paul had apparently never told anyone about this revelation.  And now, he couldn’t reveal all of it.    Paul does not take credit for this as to say “I did it”, but speaks in the third person as he relates himself as being “I knew a man in Christ”.    He really doesn’t reveal that it was he that he spoke of until verse 7.  Paul said he was raptured (caught up) to the third heaven, the place where God abides.    He questions whether this rapture happened in the body or in the spirit.  Perhaps it was just a spiritual event, but Paul himself was not sure.  If he was not allowed to tell the words that he heard, then why was he permitted to hear these words?  It was for his own personal comfort and strengthening.  Each of us most likely have had an experience (outside of salvation) that you can relate to that you know came from the Lord.  I’m not saying a revelation like Paul, but something that you know that God spoke to you.  Perhaps the reason that Paul was not allowed to tell all of his experience was that it might cause him to glory too much and exalt himself too highly.  Paul said that if he gloried, he gloried in his weakness.  He knew that it was a special honor to be used of the Lord, a feeble vessel that only God could turn into a vessel of honor.

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

At the time Paul was granted this experience, he had also received something else that was quite different.  He speaks of this “thorn” he had in the flesh.  He petitioned God three times to remove this thorn, which may have been his poor eyesight, but God simply told him that “My grace is sufficient for thee.”  When we don’t see immediate answers to our prayers, God may be saying “No”, or he may just be saying “Wait a while.”  But we need to seek God in all things we do, and be sure He is guiding us.  Paul said this thorn was used by Satan as a messenger to buffet him.  Paul did not view this as a good thing, and asked God three times to remove it.  When bad things come in our life, we need to look deeper to see if this is being used by God to mold us and make us into something greater for His service.  As the years passed by, God revealed to Paul why he allowed this infirmity to remain.  This was a gift to keep Paul from becoming exalted with spiritual pride, and to become a castaway.  God not only granted Paul the grace to bear the “thorn”, but the grace to live victoriously in spite of it.  Now Paul glories in the trials which demonstrate his weakness, for this made him cling more closely to the Lord.   You know in your own life, physical infirmity is not always bad.  Sometimes it comes for our own good.

II.                 Paul’s Unselfish Love for the Corinthians

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

Paul says he is now finished with his glorying.  He acknowledges that he had become a fool in so doing.   He had truly been forced to write in this foolish way because they had compelled him to do so.  He knew that when critics slandered him the Corinthians should have the ability to answer them.  These people had seen in his ministry the signs of an apostle.  Paul had not taken financial help from this church and he asked them to forgive him this wrong.    J. Vernon McGee had some excellent points about verse 12. 

There are certain sign gifts which were given to the apostles to authenticate their message. They had the gift of healing. They could raise the dead and speak in tongues, which does not mean unknown tongues but languages and dialects. Paul had gone through the Galatian country, and there must have been fifty dialects and languages in that area. Paul could speak them all. Had he studied them? No. In that early day it was necessary to get the Word of God out into the Roman Empire in a hurry, and so these apostles were equipped with these gifts. Today missionaries and translators must spend years learning the languages they will use. “Signs of an apostle were wrought among you.” They could identify him as an apostle because he had the gifts of an apostle.

We have just come through a wonderful section of Scripture. Someone has said that one of the reasons Paul was not to tell us about heaven was because there would be a mass exodus up out of this world to get there. I don’t know about that, but it is true that we could spend our time contemplating heaven and lose sight of a lost world that needs to hear of the Savior. Heaven is a wonderful place, but very little is said about it in the Word of God. Probably it is so wonderful that human language cannot describe it. It is our business to try to reach folk with the gospel so that they will be in heaven someday. 

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

 The statement that this was the third time I am ready to come to you does not necessarily mean he had already paid two visits to the city.  He plainly says that this is the third time he was ready to come.  Sometimes we make plans, and God does not allow us to complete those plans for whatever reason.   We know in chapter 1 of this book that Paul said that the second time he planned to come he was hindered from coming due to their conduct.  Because Paul would not be burdensome unto them earlier, he purposes that he will still not take their financial support.  Paul was their spiritual father and he would care for them, even though they may not appreciate it. 

2 Corinthians 1:15 And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;  16 And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea. 17 When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? 18 But as God is true,  our word toward you was not yea and nay.  19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. 20 For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. 21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. 23 Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. 

16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. 17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? 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?  

Certain of the people, the critics of Paul, said that even though he was not taking their money, perhaps he was using guile and getting money through such emissaries as Titus.   He tells them that his friends were people who sacrificed just like he did to serve the Lord.  Titus and Paul walked in the same footsteps, and those where the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ.


III.  The Warning 

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. 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: 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.  

Paul makes it plain that he is not writing in this manner simply to defend himself.  While not bringing this case to them to judge them, Paul speaks as before God.  His purpose of helping was to edify them.  He fears lest when he makes his promised visit, he will find them earnestly and humbly living the Christian life, but he fears they may be doing the very opposite.  If they are not following the commandments and doctrines laid down to them, Paul says he will be forced to correct them.  He also warns against sins which were evidently special temptations to them.   Paul’s heart and soul’s desire was to see the churches, both these in Corinth, and all other true churches of the Lord, to serve the Lord faithfully.


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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