"Paul's Equality with other Apostles [1-13]."
This Bible Study is written by Roger
Christopherson, and made available with written
permission by http://www.theseason.org
II Corinthians 12:1 "It is expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord."
Paul is saying that boasting of all that I have done is foolish, but now I am going to tell you of visions and revelations that I have been given by God Himself.
II Corinthians 12:2 "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."
This man that Paul is telling us about is himself, and he didn't know which body he was in at the time. Remember back in I Corinthians 15 where Paul discussed the two bodies that each of have. There is a inner man, and the outer man, the soul body that will live eternal when we are in Christ, and the flesh man which lives for a short time and then returns to the elements that it is made of in the grave. Paul then is telling us that he doesn't know if he was there in the third heaven in his flesh body, or if only in the spiritual body. In any case, it was while he was in the third heaven that God revealed this revelation to him.
Remember back in II Corinthians 4:16; "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." Your inner man is absolutely renewed by God every day of our lives, if we study His Word. It is from His Word that we are strengthened and protected.
Paul knew exactly who this man was that was take to the third heaven, only he is presenting the revelation to the Corinthians as the party of the third part. As one standing back and observing what was taking place. This is done for the sake of making it appear that he is not boasting on himself. Obviously if it was done in any other manner, it would cause attention to himself rather than what he is trying to say. This is what he didn't want, so he removed himself from being the focus of what is being said of the revelation.
II Corinthians 12:3 "And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)"
Paul is restating that he just didn't know if his whole being was taken there, flesh and spiritual, he just didn't know. However there is one thing for sure, and this fact was that God knew, for it is God's business to know such things.
II Corinthians 12:4 "How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."
Paradise is heaven and it is the holding place of all the saints that have died and returned to the Father. Paradise has another part to it also, and there is a gulf that separates the saints from those that refused to accept the sacrifice that Jesus Christ gave on the cross. The overcomers were on one side, and those that did not overcome on the other side. This is what is taught by Christ in Luke 16:19-31 in Jesus' parable of the beggar Lazarus, and the rich man.
Paul is telling us that while he was in paradise, which is the third heaven, that he heard unspeakable words being told to him. These unspeakable words were "inexpressible utterances". It is just not possible for any man to utter or put into any of the human languages with understanding. Paul simply could not convey those thoughts that he was given by God to anyone.
II Corinthians 12:5 "Of such an one will I glory: yet of my self I will not glory, but in mine infirmities."
Paul will not take any glory for this experience that God gave to him, for that would be putting the glory of that experience on himself. However, it is in those human weakness of Paul that he has in the flesh that Paul glories in, because while Paul is at his weakest, he is at his strongest, for it is Christ that tends to those matters that Paul can not control. Then God gets all the glory, and as His servants, that is the way it ought to be.
II Corinthians 12:6 "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."
Paul did not want people to worship him because they are following his teachings.
II Corinthians 12:7 "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."
Paul knew that when people start to puff you up with flatteries that it is easy to get a big head, and think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. You then take your focus off of Christ and put it on yourself. Paul is saying that it was an unspeakable experience to be allowed to go to that third heaven and see and hear those things revealed to him. If I allowed myself I could really get a big head over this, and just so I would not get the big head, God put a thorn inside my body.
Some think that it was the way he walked, while other think it was his eyesight. I feel it was his eyesight because this highly educated man could not see to do his own writing, but had doctor Luke and other do his writing for him. At times he said that he is going to sign this himself in his great big letters so you will know it is me. God has his ways of keeping our feet on the ground when we desire to boast a little.
II Corinthians 12:8 "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me."
Paul wanted to get rid of this thorn that was in him, and he asked God three different times to remove it from him.
II Corinthians 12:9 "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."
Each time that Paul would ask God to remove the thorn, this is what God would reply. Pay attention to what Christ said to Paul for this applies to you and I also as we walk our everyday lives. "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Friend, don't you ever forget those words of Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul would boast about his weakness, for it is the words that Jesus said to him. "My grace is sufficient for thee..." Christ's strength is what we are to rely on when the going gets a little rough, and the obstacles seem unmovable. That is when we are at our strongest, for it is Christ that does the moving then. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28?
Matthew 11:28 "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Jesus wants you to learn to rely on Him in all matters concerning your life, not just when the task seems impossible. He will give you help even is those everyday things that we face that bother us.
Matthew 11:29 "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest into your souls."
The yoke is what is used to hook up two horses or mules to when there is work to be done. The yoke has pads to protect the animals from the sharp digging of the leather, but the main purpose of the yoke is to share the load with each animal so that they are only required to do the work that they are able to. When you hook up a strong animal with a weak or old one, than most of the pulling of the plow will be done by the strong. The weak puts forth only what it is capable of doing.
This is what Christ is saying here; take His yoke and hook it up to yourself, and learn to lean on Him. You lean as you study His Word daily, and then you give the task over to Christ in your mind, which is your heart. Friend, it is then that you will find peace and rest for your soul. There is nothing impossible for God, and He is asking you to trust Him in and with your life. There is real peace that comes from trusting in God.
Matthew 11:30 "For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
The yoke of Jesus Christ is easy to wear and put on, for all you have to do is believe in your heart that Jesus is the son of God and by faith in Him repent to the Father of your sins "in Jesus name". Then you become a child of the Living God, and He is ready and willing to help you in all parts of your life. When you ask him for His help and by faith rely on that help, you are taking Christ's yoke, and the burden in your life become light. Jesus will not force you to take up His yoke, its your choice.
So what Paul is telling us is that he has learned to rely on Jesus Christ even through his infirmities, he has taken the yoke that Christ asks us to take, and Paul has found that that yoke is sufficient to carry him through all of these things that have come his way in his ministry. That is why Paul would rather glory in his infirmities and he is made perfect in his weakness, for Paul's true strength is the power of Christ that gives him rest and peace of mind.
Each of us has an inner man, and that inner man is our true self. The inner man is in another dimension than the flesh man. It is the inner man that is your true self. It is your inner man that lives in the eternity, and thus it is the inner man that is your permanent dimension. So the dimension of the flesh, which we see, live in now, and communicate with others, is not your permanent home. So in the terms of eternity, it isn't even reality. Once we enter the eternal kingdom, all thoughts of this earth age, and those people that refused Christ will be erased from our memory, right along with all evil thoughts and hardships of this age of the flesh. It will be as if they just never existed.
Are you starting to understand why Paul simply could not utter those things that he saw there in that third heaven, our minds of the flesh and its reasoning capacity cannot comprehend it. When we are in eternity we will be in the dimension of your inner man. Paul is trying to open the minds of not only the Corinthians, but you and I living today. He wants us to have a deeper look as to how it will be in that third heaven, in eternity.
Paul knew what it was like to be in the third heaven, and to have God speak to him directly. When these super preachers would come along and say. "God spoke to me today", Paul knew them for the liars that they were. God does not fool around with fools and play silly games, like many of them would have you believe. God expects you to use the common sense that He gave you, and when the task become to great for you, then is when we rely of Him. The greater the infirmity, the greater the glory of God in overcoming that infirmity.
Paul was trying to open their minds to the fact that it doesn't do any good to boast on your strengths, and tell other how great you are. If we are great and exceed in anything it is that we were weak in the first place, and God interceded to give us the strength to do what we did. All gifts come from God and He is the one that gets the credit. Christ's strength is sufficient for those that are weak.
II Corinthians 12:10 "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."
This is why Paul take great pleasure in his infirmities, insults, and those things that are done to him for the sake of the gospel of Christ. Many times we get into problems and stresses on our own, when we try to do things that go against God's Word. However, Paul is talking here about those stresses that come when we are teaching, witnessing and living our lives for Jesus. When we are faced with these stresses while living for Christ and doing it His way, He will handle those things for you.
II Corinthians 12:11 "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."
It may sound foolish and that I am boasting in myself when I tell you of my trip to the third heaven, but because of your coddling to these false preachers, you have forced me to make these things known to you. Paul is talking about these "chiefest apostles" in irony, for they were the false apostles that were trying to take over the church. Paul is saying, I am ahead of them even if I am nothing. No matter how little a believer does for the Lord, in Jesus name, it is still far greater than anything a false preacher does for their work is for Satan.
Paul taught the gospel of Christ and brought them into the salvation of Christ, then after Paul departed in his ministry to other cities, these false teachers tried to turn the Corinthians against him.
II Corinthians 12:12 "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds."
Paul is reminding them that while he was there, there were healings that took place right before their eyes; and miracles and many other things that happened. I should not have to remind you of those things and boast of them things, for you saw them for yourselves.
II Corinthians 12:13 "For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdened some to you? forgive me this wrong"
Paul is telling them that because he did not take a salary from them, and cause them any burden, they did not feel that attachment to Paul. It is written in God's Word that a servant is worthy of His hire, and Paul refused to take the hire that he was worthy of. Paul is saying that he spoiled them a bit. Remember though that the reason that Paul did not take a salary, is that he did not want to give these false teachers the chance to say that he was in it for the money. Therefore, Paul took no money, and thus he pulled the carpet right out from under them. We talked about this in chapter eleven.
II Corinthians 12:14 "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."
Paul is telling these Corinthians that the next time he comes to Corinth, he is not coming for their money or property, but for the sake of their souls. Paul was their spiritual father in that He is the one that first brought the gospel to them, and established the church there. Paul is telling them that, It is I that should lay up spiritual gifts for you, and not you laying the gifts up for myself. Even though Paul is using the material things to make this point, it is the spiritual things that Paul is really talking about. It was the money and property that the false preachers were after, and that is why Paul worded this the way that he did.
II Corinthians 12:15 "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you: though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."
The phrase "..spent for you", should be translated "...spent for your souls". In the Greek it is very specific. Paul wasn't seeking any glory from them, but he was seeking the gifts from the Father for them, and the salvation of their souls.
II Corinthians 12:16 "But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile."
Paul is now bringing out what some of these false preachers are saying. The false preachers were telling these Corinthians that; "No, Paul did not take your money and be a burden to you, but he sent his forerunners and they ripped you off and they took your money; they `caught you with guile' ". The false preachers were telling them that Paul was a crafty person and you had better watch out for him. Paul is bring out the point that some of the Corinthians have even stated directly to Paul.
II Corinthians 12:17 "Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?"
So now Paul is asking them this question. "Did I make a gain from you by any of them whom I sent to you?" The answer is No.
II Corinthians 12:18 "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?"
Paul sent Titus, and even a second witness to those things that would happen when Titus was there with you. So, did Titus make a gain from you, or did that second witness make any gain from you? Paul is saying, Titus was my student, and I taught him and I know that he traveled the same road as I do. His actions and his words are the same, and just as I demanded nothing of you, so also Titus desired none of your money. Titus and Timothy both were great respecters of Paul.
II Corinthians 12:19 "Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your deifying."
Again, do you think we are going to apologize to you? and of course the answer is, no they are not going to. Paul, Titus or Timothy didn't have to apologize to anybody. If you are waiting for an apology from us because of the lies those false preachers have told you, just forget it. Then Paul reassures these Corinthians that everything that he and Titus had done was to help them, for we are not out to take anything from you. That is why we don't owe you an apology, nor will we apologize.
II Corinthians 12:20 "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, swelling, tumults:"
Paul is saying that he desires to come to Corinth on his next journey and find them in the fellowship of the Lord, and walking in His ways. Paul's hope was that they would not listen to those troublemakers and false preachers that would cause debates, strife and all sorts of confusion. However, if you continue to listen to these false preachers, I am going to have to bring my ball bat and start swinging it as I come through the door, fighting my way into your midst. I don't want you to do those things that would cause me to do that. Paul is telling them to get their act together and straighten up.
II Corinthians 12:21 "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."
When "uncleanness" is used in the Scriptures is used in connection with "Sodomy", those homosexual acts that God hates and deplores. It is what causes the disease "AIDS" today. So we see that in this report that part of the church was doing real good, but there is another part of the Corinthian church that was not. There were still some evil workers that Paul stated that he will take care of when he arrives in Corinth on his next trip in. Paul hopes that it will not be necessary, but he is warning them that if they do not clean up their wickedness, he will deal with the evil ones when he arrived.
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