2 Corinthians 12 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Corinthians 12)

Verse 1

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

It is not expedient — Unless on so pressing occasion. Visions are seen; revelations, heard.

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.

I knew a man in Christ — That is, a Christian. It is plain from 2 Corinthians 12:6,7, that he means himself, though in modesty he speaks as of a third person.

Whether in the body or out of the body I know not — It is equally possible with God to present distant things to the imagination in the body, as if the soul were absent from it, and present with them; or to transport both soul and body for what time he pleases to heaven; or to transport the soul only thither for a season, and in the mean time to preserve the body fit for its re-entrance. But since the apostle himself did not know whether his soul was in the body, or whether one or both were actually in heaven, it would be vain curiosity for us to attempt determining it.

The third heaven — Where God is; far above the aerial and the starry heaven. Some suppose it was here the apostle was let into the mystery of the future state of the church; and received his orders to turn from the Jews and go to the gentiles.

Verse 3

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

Yea, I knew such a man — That at another time.

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.

He was caught up into paradise — The seat of happy spirits in their separate state, between death and the resurrection.

Things which it is not possible for man to utter — Human language being incapable of expressing them. Here he anticipated the joyous rest of the righteous that die in the Lord. But this rapture did not precede, but follow after, his being caught up to the third heaven: a strong intimation that he must first discharge his mission, and then enter into glory. And beyond all doubt, such a foretaste of it served to strengthen him in all his after trials, when he could call to mind the very joy that was prepared for him.

Verse 5

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

Of such an one I will — I might, glory; but I will not glory of myself - As considered in myself.

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.

For if I should resolve to glory — Referring to, I might glory of such a glorious revelation.

I should not be a fool — That is, it could not justly be accounted folly to relate the naked truth.

But I forbear — I speak sparingly of these things, for fear any one should think too highly of me - O where is this fear now to be found? Who is afraid of this?

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.

There was given me — By the wise and gracious providence of God.

A thorn in the flesh — A visitation more painful than any thorn sticking in the flesh. A messenger or angel of Satan to buffet me - Perhaps both visibly and invisibly; and the word in the original expresses the present, as well as the past, time. All kinds of affliction had befallen the apostle. Yet none of those did he deprecate. But here he speaks of one, as above all the rest, one that macerated him with weakness, and by the pain and ignominy of it prevented his being lifted up mere, or, at least, not less, than the most vehement head ache could have done; which many of the ancients say he laboured under. St. Paul seems to have had a fresh fear of these buffetings every moment, when he so frequently represses himself in his boasting, though it was extorted from him by the utmost necessity.

Verse 8

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

Concerning this — He had now forgot his being lifted up.

I besought the Lord thrice — As our Lord besought his Father.

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.

But he said to me — ln answer to my third request.

My grace is sufficient for thee — How tender a repulse! We see there may be grace where there is the quickest sense of pain. My strength is more illustriously displayed by the weakness of the instrument. Therefore I will glory in my weaknesses rather than my revelations, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me - The Greek word properly means, may cover me all over like a tent. We ought most willingly to accept whatever tends to this end, however contrary to flesh and blood.

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.

Weaknesses — Whether proceeding from Satan or men.

For when I am weak — Deeply conscious of my weakness, then does the strength of Christ rest upon me.

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.

Though I am nothing — Of myself.

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.

The third time — Having been disappointed twice.

I seek not yours — Your goods.

But you — Your souls.

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.

I will gladly spend — All I have.

And be spent — Myself.

Verse 16

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

But some may object, though I did not burden you, though I did not take anything of you myself, yet being crafty I caught you with guile - I did secretly by my messengers what I would not do openly, or in person.

Verse 17

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

I answer this lying accusation by appealing to plain fact.

Did I make a gain of you by Titus — Or any other of my messengers? You know the contrary. It should be carefully observed, that St. Paul does not allow, but absolutely denies, that he had caught them with guile; so that the common plea for guile, which has been often drawn from this text, is utterly without foundation.

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?

I desired Titus — To go to you.

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.

Think ye that we again excuse ourselves — That I speak this for my own sake? No. I speak all this for your sakes.

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.

Who had sinned before — My last coming to Corinth.

Uncleanness — Of married persons.

Lasciviousness — Against nature.