II Corinthians 12:1-10

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Text: II Corinthians 12:1-10

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

INTRODUCTION:

Paul's ministry was being challenged by some in Corinth. Now, this is not at all uncommon. Every preacher goes through this from time to time.

We have seen that there were false charges against Paul

1. His presence when among the Corinthians is base (10:1) but when absent he writes in a weighty and powerful manner (10:10)

2. He walks according to the flesh (10:2)

We have seen Paul defend himself against these false charges - 10:1-18

1. His weapons are spiritual - not physical

2. He should not be viewed only from his outward appearance

We have also seen Paul defend himself against the character of his ministry. 11:1-33.

In II Corinthians 12:1-10 , we see that God permits weakness in order to drive people to complete dependence upon Him. We learn that we cannot carry out the Lord's work effectively in our own strength. Is this why the Lord has allowed my wife and me to have some physical issues which hinder us from doing things we used to do with no trouble with the result that we might be more effective for Him? It could be at least part of it.

Paul's boast was in the Lord and in the things of the Lord. More than fourteen years before writing II Corinthians, Paul experienced a revelation when he was caught up to the third heaven and heard things which he could not share with others (12:1-4). Paul will boast in this experience but not in his accomplishments other than his weaknesses (12:5). Paul would have to be a fool to boast in himself, but he will speak the truth. He has said enough, however, and is concerned that people will think too highly of him (12:6).

I. PAUL'S BOAST WAS IN WHAT GOD HAD DONE - 12:1-6

II Corinthians 12:1-6 - (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. (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.

After Paul shared his pedigree with the Corinthian believers in 11:16-33 in the things he had suffered because of Christ, he takes the discussion in a different direction. His boast was in what Christ had done; so, he moves the discussion to visions and revelations he had had of the Lord.

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory is, Indeed, for me to glory (i.e. to boast or to brag) is not advantageous ( i.e. does not help, is not profitable, or, is not helpful).

I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord indicates that Paul is continuing his boasting but that this time he will come to the area of visions and revelations of the Lord.

Visions and revelations seem to be two different ways of saying the same thing since both are of the Lord.

Visions are things the Lord permits Paul to see, but visions are no longer given now that the New Testament has been completed. Visions are one form of revelation but not the only form.

Revelations are truths communicated to a believer in some way, sometimes, but not always, through visions. Revelations have likewise ceased to be given with the completion of the New Testament.

Of the Lord means that the Lord is the source of these visions and revelations. It is He Who gave them to Paul. At the same time, at least in certain visions and revelations, it is the Lord Who was revealed.

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.

In verse 2 Paul details a vision or revelation he had more than 14 years earlier, whether in the body or out of the body, Paul is not certain.

I knew is I know; and it has been translated as a historical present.

A man is the generic term for human being, and it is assumed to be Paul himself. Even though Paul does not identify this man, there is no doubt that he is referring to himself.

In Christ suggests that this man was a saved person.

Above fourteen years ago, where above suggests earlier than or before. It indicates that, at this time in his life, Paul had seen this vision more than fourteen years earlier. Inasmuch as Paul was writing II Corinthians in approximately AD 56, this would make the date of this vision approximately AD 42, which would have been before Paul's first missionary journey. This means that it cannot refer to Paul's being stoned and left for dead at Lystra in Acts 14:19-20 because this episode occurred a long time after AD 42. A parenthetical statement gives additional detail but does not advance the narrative: whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth.

Whether . . . or introduces two possibilities for the state in which this man was caught up to the third heaven: in the body and out of the body.

In the body suggests that the man as well as his body were caught up to the third heaven; whereas, out of the body suggests outside the body, meaning that it was an out-of-body experience, that his body was left on the earth while he was transported to the third heaven.

I cannot tell is used twice for emphasis and is literally, I know not.

God knoweth means God the Father knows.

Such an one is stating an additional fact about this man.

Caught up suggests grabbed or seized suddenly so as to remove . . . control . . . in such a way that no resistence is offered in the sense of snatched away or taken away. Caught up is the same term used of the rapture in I Thessalonians 4:17 . Whereas verse 4 indicates that he was caught up into paradise, in this verse he was caught up into the third heaven, which is another way of stating paradise.

I Thessalonians 4:17 - Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

To the third heaven is as far as (the) third heaven.

The first heaven is the atmospheric heavens, and the second heaven is the starry or stellar heavens. The third heaven is the place where God dwells.

II Corinthians 12:3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

Verse 3 is very similar to verse 2 and is identical in places. Only God knows whether this man was in the body or out of the body.

As translated, and continues the statement. It might instead be understood in the emphatic sense of indeed, in fact, yea, verily, or certainly.

I knew is I know; and it has again been translated as a historical present.

Such a man is the man such as this, and the reference is to Paul.

(Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) is identical in the Greek text to the parenthetical statement we have already seen in verse 2.

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.

Verse 4 continues Paul's vision of a man introduced in verse 2. This man was caught up to paradise where he heard words which a man is not able to speak.

How that is simply that and introduces an amplification of the statement caught up to the third heaven in verse 2.

He was caught up is the same word used in verse 2 and suggests, He was grabbed or seized suddenly so as to remove . . . control . . . in such a way that no resistence is offered in the sense of, He was snatched away or, He was taken away. Again, it is the same term used of the rapture in I Thessalonians 4:17 .

Whereas verse 2 indicates that he was caught up into the third heaven, in this verse he was caught up into paradise, which appears to be another way of stating the third heaven. They both refer to the same place.

And (he) heard unspeakable words refers again to Paul himself and indicates that things were spoken in paradise in his hearing.

What Paul heard was unspeakable words, which suggests words that must not be expressed (or words not to be spoken) because they are holy.

Which it is not lawful for a man to utter suggests, Which are not authorized for a human being to speak in the sense of, Which are not right for a human to speak, Which are not permitted for a human to speak, or, Which are not proper for a human to speak. Consequently, Paul does not share these words with his readers.

II Corinthians 12:5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

Paul indicates in verse 5 that he will boast in this man who was caught up to paradise, but concerning himself, he will not boast except in his weaknesses.

Of such an one is about (or concerning) someone such as this, i.e. of the man who was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words.

Will I glory suggests, I will take pride in, I will boast, I will pride myself in, or, I will brag.

Yet introduces a statement in mild contrast to of such an one will I glory. It is the word often translated but.

Of myself, which refers to Paul, is about (or concerning) myself.

I will not glory is predictive of something which will never actually occur in the future and means I will not boast or I will not brag.

But in mine infirmities is except in my weaknesses. It indicates the only place where Paul will boast.

The same terminology has been used in II Corinthians 11:30 , which says, If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

It will also be used in II Corinthians 12:9-10 , (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 (emphasis added).

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.

According to verse 6, although Paul might desire to boast, he will not do so lest he create a false impression of himself.

For is used to clarify and is understood in the sense of you see.

Though I would desire to glory is the condition of a conditional statement. I shall not be a fool is the conclusion. The structure of this conditional statement indicates that no assumption is made regarding its truth. It may or may not happen.

Though is understood in the sense of if.

I would desire to glory is I might wish to boast (or to brag).

I shall not be a fool is predictive of something, which, as far as Paul is concerned, will never occur. A fool is one who lacks prudence (or good judgment), a foolish person, or an ignorant person. It might instead be understood in the sense of I will not be foolish (or ignorant). It also suggests how Paul would regard himself if he were to boast in himself.

For introduces a reason or cause and is understood in the sense of because.

I will say is I will express myself, I will utter in words, or I will give expression to.

What Paul will say or utter is the truth.

But now I forbear is But (now) I am forbearing, But (now) I am abstaining, or But (now) I am refraining. Paul does not wish to convey a false impression. He does not desire anyone to think of him in an exalted way as being more than he really is.

Lest when combined with any man is in order that no one or nobody.

Should think of me is would (or might) consider me.

Above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

Above is more than and that which he seeth me to be is what he sees me (to be). Paul did not wish to convey any false impressions of himself to others.

Or (above) that he heareth of me means or something more than he hears from me.

II. PAUL TOOK PLEASURE IN INFIRMITIES - 12:7-10

II Corinthians 12:7-10 - (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. (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.

l. He had a thorn in the flesh - 12:7

When we encounter difficulties or problems in life, we need to remind ourselves of some helpful Scriptures.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Psalms 37:23 - The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

I Corinthians 10:13 - There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

And lest I should be exalted above measure is And in order that I not be exalting myself.

Through (i.e. by or by means of)) the abundance (i.e. of the excess, the extraordinary quality, or the extraordinary character) of the revelations. Although the number of revelations he received is unknown, it suggests that there were a good number of times when Paul was the recipient of truth directly from God.

There was given to me a thorn in the flesh is a thorn in the flesh was given to me.

A thorn was originally anything pointed such as a stake or pointed stake. Then it was something that causes serious annoyance in the sense of thorn or splinter, specifically of an injurious foreign body. The exact nature of this thorn in the flesh is impossible to determine because too little is said regarding it.

The thorn was in the flesh, which may suggest that it was something physical. Inasmuch as Paul spoke only in general terms and did not identify the exact nature of his thorn in the flesh, people with physical (or other kinds of) maladies are able to apply this circumstance in Paul's life to circumstances in their own lives. Many suggestions have been made regarding the nature of this thorn in the flesh from something physical, to something having to do with his old sin nature, or to Satanic opposition to his ministry; but no one knows what it was.

Some have suggested that this may refer to a problem with his vision, perhaps as a result of his blinding experience on the road to Damascus when he was going to persecute the Christians. It is also known that the vision impairment known as ophthalmia was a common disease in the East. Several of Paul's epistles were dictated to others who wrote them, possibly because his eyesight was not good. In Galatians 6:11 , Paul states, Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

As translated, how large a letter suggests the length of the letter. It may instead be intended to suggest the size of the individual letters comprising the words and be understood in the sense of how large letters or with how large letters. Although some have understood this use of large letters to refer to the entire epistle, most commentators understand it to refer only to the conclusion of the epistle. The individual letters are large, perhaps, as a result of Paul's failing eyesight or, perhaps, for emphasis.

2. The thorn was the messenger of Satan - 12:7

II Corinthians 12:7 b - . . . There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan. . . .

The messenger of Satan is a messenger of Satan, Satan's messenger, or a messenger from Satan.

Satan is the Adversary and refers to the devil, the adversary of God, who is also known as the accuser of the brethren. The messenger of Satan is another way of referring to Paul's thorn in the flesh.

3. The purpose of the thorn was to keep Paul depending upon God - 12:7c

II Corinthians 12:7 c - . . . There was given to me a thorn in the flesh . . . to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

To buffet me means to strike me sharply, especially with the hand, to strike me with the fist, to beat me, or to cuff me. To buffet me is a purpose clause and indicates the reason the thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, was given to Paul. Here, to buffet me is used in the sense of to cause me physical impairment or torment.

Lest I should be exalted above measure suggests in order that I not have an undue sense of my self-importance (i.e. for the purpose that I not be elated).

Paul's thorn in the flesh served as a constant reminder to Paul that he had to depend on the Lord for everything. He could not act independently from the Lord and enjoy spiritual victory.

4. Paul's Prayer - 12:8

II Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

According to verse 8, Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn in the flesh.

For this thing, i.e. for his thorn in the flesh, is concerning this thing or about this thing.

I besought the Lord is, I summoned the Lord to my aid or, I called upon the Lord for help. In Paul's writings, the Lord is a reference to Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.

Thrice is three times.

That it might depart from me is in order that (or for the purpose that) this thorn in the flesh might keep away from me.

5. God's Answer - 12:9a

II Corinthians 12:9 a - And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. . . .

According to verse 9, when Paul on three occasions asked the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh, the Lord said, No, in a very kind way. One is reminded of what Paul would in a few months write in Romans 8:28 , And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Although not what Paul would have chosen, in the providence and wisdom of God, his thorn in the flesh was good for Paul; and Paul knew it and accepted it with gladness.

As a result, Paul will gladly boast in his infirmities in order that the power of Christ may rest upon him.

And he (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

My grace is my favor), and is sufficient for thee means is enough (or is adequate) for you. It means that the Lord's grace is all Paul needs. He does not need to be healed from his thorn in the flesh; the Lord's grace is adequate for Paul. It is a kind way of saying, No, to Paul's request.

For gives the reason or cause Paul needs nothing more than the Lord's grace and is understood in the sense of because.

My strength, suggests my power, my might, or my capability.

Is made perfect is is being made perfect or is being perfected. Its tense indicates action which is going on at the same time the Lord answered Paul's request.

In weakness suggests an incapacity for something or an experience of limitation in the sense of ineffectualness.

6. Paul's Attitude - 12:9b-10a

II Corinthians 12:9 b-10a - (9b) . . . Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10a) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. . . .

Therefore introduces an inference drawn from my strength is made perfect in weakness and is understood in the sense of consequently, accordingly, then, or so.

Most gladly . . . will I rather glory in my infirmities is, I will instead be pleased to take pride in my weaknesses, I will instead be happy to boast in my ineffectualnesses, I will instead be pleased to pride myself in my weaknesses, or, I will instead be happy to brag in my ineffectualnesses. The same phrase appears in 12:5.

That the power of Christ may rest upon me indicates the purpose for which Paul will boast in his weaknesses.

That is in order that or for the purpose that.

The power of Christ is Christ's power (i.e. might, strength, force, or capability).

May rest upon me is may take up its abode upon me, i.e. upon Paul. Having the power of Christ in his life was very important to Paul.

II Corinthians 12:10 a - Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. . . .

As a result of his thorn in the flesh, Paul takes pleasure in his difficulties because he knows that, when he is weak, he is strong. He also knows that God has used all these things in his life in order to shape and mold his life to make him more Christlike.

Therefore is wherefore or for this reason.

I take pleasure is I delight.

In infirmities is in weaknesses and suggests in ineffectualnesses.

In reproaches is in shames, in insults, or in mistreatments.

In reproaches are the result of someone else's insolence or arrogance.

In necessities is in distresses, in calamities, or in pressures and refers to states of distress or trouble and possibly to compulsions by forcible means, i.e. in tortures.

In persecutions. This should not be understood as indicating that Paul could not wait for the next persecution to begin. It refers instead to things he suffered from others because he was a believer as well as an apostle.

In distresses, when understood literally, means in narrownesses. In this verse, the use is figurative, referring to sets of stressful circumstances in the sense of difficulties, anguishes, or troubles.

For Christ's sake is on behalf of Christ.

7. The result of the thorn - 12:10b

II Corinthians 12:10 b - . . . For when I am weak, then am I strong.

For when I am weak is because whenever I am weak.

Then is at that time.

Am I strong is I am able, I am capable, or I am powerful.

CONCLUSION:

Have you come to the point where you are willing to pay any cost to be what God wants you to be?

Understand that God may allow difficulties in our lives in order to teach us that we must be more and more dependent on Him to accomplish His results and less and less dependent on ourselves.