2 Corinthians 12 Bible Commentary

B. W. Johnson’s Bible Commentary

(Read all of 2 Corinthians 12)
Paul's Revelations and Thorn in the Flesh.

SUMMARY.--Visions and Revelations. Caught Up into Paradise. The Thorn in the Flesh. God's Answer to Prayer. Weakness Made Strength. The Signs of an Apostle. Coming Now the Third Time to Corinth. Paul's Unselfish course at Corinth.

      1-5. It is not expedient for me, doubtless, to glory. It was distasteful for him to speak on himself, and he could only do it when compelled by the disparagement of adversaries. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. Supernatural things revealed to the spiritual eye and divine truths revealed to the human spirit. 2. I know (not knew) a man above fourteen years ago. He knows the man and could name him, since the man was himself. See verse 7. Above fourteen years ago this man was caught up, etc. This letter was written A. D. 57. The being caught up was then in A. D. 43. This is about the time that Paul was at Antioch with Barnabas, or at Tarsus (Acts 9:29, 30). It could not have been at conversion, for that was about twenty years earlier than A. D. 57, nor could it be the trance in the temple (Acts 22:17) for that was too late. Whether in the body or, etc. A person could then be caught up, see and hear, without his body, in Paul's view. Hence the human spirit is not material. The third heaven. A Jewish expression for that heaven which was beyond (1) the air, and (2) beyond the sun and stars; the secret place of the Almighty. 3. I know such a man. Why does he not use the first person? Because it would seem more like he was glorying in his own exaltation. 4. He was caught up into Paradise. Paradise and "the third heaven" evidently mean the same. The term applied to a blessed abode beyond the life in Luke 23:43 and Rev. 2:7. Heard unspeakable words. Words that would be neither right nor possible to reveal in human speech. 5. Of such an one will I glory. One so favored had ground for boasting, but of himself personally he will not glory, save in his infirmities. See note on 11:30. While he glories of such an one, if he glories of himself it will be in his weaknesses.

      6-9. For though I would desire to glory, I should not be a fool. He could declare things truthfully that would show that his boast was not empty vanity. 7. Lest I should be exalted, etc. This verse shows that verse 2 refers to himself. There was given me a thorn in the flesh. Generally supposed to be some painful physical infirmity. See Gal. 4:13, 14. A messenger of Satan. All physical evils are due to sin and hence are ascribed to Satan. This thorn was (1) in the flesh; (2) it buffeted or assailed him; (3) it was permitted to prevent undue exaltation, hence must have been humiliating. 8. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice. Prayed thrice that the thorn might be removed. 9. My grace is sufficient for thee. The Lord answered his prayer, not by removing the thorn, but by giving grace to bear it, and by the assurance that Paul's sense of weakness, caused by it, fitted him to receive the divine strength. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities. Because his infirmities fit him to enjoy the power that Christ bestows. What was true of Paul is true of every saint. It is when we feel our weakness that God strengthens us.

      10-13. Therefore I take pleasure, etc. The unparalleled distress, sufferings and persecutions, described in 11:24-27, even give him pleasure because they bring him to a sense of his helplessness and then God makes him strong. 11. I am become a fool in glorying. As he looks back on what he has written he finds that he has done what he condemned as a folly, commended himself; compelled to; a thing that ought not to have been necessary, for the Corinthians ought to have commended him. Behind the chiefest apostles. The false teachers who had claimed at Corinth to be leading apostles. 12. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought. While preaching at Corinth he demonstrated his apostleship. 13. What is it wherein ye were inferior, etc.? They had enjoyed every privilege of the most highly favored churches, and, perhaps, complained that he had preached without charge to them. See notes on 11:7-12. If this was a wrong, he asked forgiveness.

      14, 15. The third time I am ready to come to you. Then he had been there twice before; once when he founded the church; once while preaching at Ephesus, of which visit Acts gives no account. See also 13:1, and notes on 2:1. And I will not be burdensome to you. As before, he will maintain himself this third time. For the children, etc. As parents do with children, so will he, their spiritual father, do. He does not ask them to provide for him, while he feeds them the bread of life. 15. I will gladly spend, etc. As a loving father, he will gladly spend and be spent for them; even without the return of his love.

      16-18. But be it so, I did not burden you, etc. It was charged that even if he did not burden them, there was guile about it and in some other way he would secure their substance. Hence he asks: 17. Did I make gain by any of the messengers or helpers I sent you? Did they demand anything? He then specifies: 18. I desired Titus. He sent Titus and another brother, but they asked no gain.

      19-21. Think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? He must guard against a misapprehension. He is not defending himself before a human bar. He speaks as before God; says what will tend to edify them. His only object is to build them up. 20. For I fear, etc. He has been led to speak because he feared, unless he spoke plainly, that when he came he would have to rebuke severely on account of sins which he enumerates. Debates, etc. The sins here given are those that belong to a divided state. 21. And lest . . . my God will humble. Lest he be humiliated by the prevalence of sensual sins also. The sins here named are the peculiar Gentile sins which he has rebuked so severely in both epistles.