2 Corinthians 12
-Paul continues his defense of his authority as an apostle by relating visions and revelations that he received from the Lord in the third heaven. We see Paul’s hesitancy to boast with the use of the third person here in his writing. He is trying to win the confidence of this wayward bunch of believers from Corinth by explaining how close he had become with the Holy Spirit and the things he has experienced in His presence. This was done for building them up and giving them a reason to trust in his authority as a leader of that congregation. Paul had heard things that no man may speak in this heavenly realm (2 Corinthians 12:4). This experience left him weak in his own strength and totally dependent on the oneness he had with Christ for direction, purpose, and authority (2 Corinthians 11:9). He also shares how God had allowed “a thorn in the flesh” to be given him to keep him from boasting and becoming conceited because of these revelations (2 Corinthians 12:7a). This “thorn in the flesh” has been a matter of debate amongst scholars and Christian believers down through the ages. Was this a physical impairment of some kind? Was it a spiritual affliction of demonic nature that tormented him continually drawing him to utterly and totally depend on the Lord in every moment? From the text it is says that this thorn was a messenger of Satan to harass and humble (2 Corinthians 12:7b). There is a reason for this ambiguity. *Application* No matter what the situation, whether physical, emotional, social, or spiritual, the Lord will also give us certain “thorns in the flesh” to buffet us and draw us closer to Himself in utter dependence and reliance. God always wants us to trust in Him beyond our own means and measures. His ways are higher than ours and He will do just about anything to help us abandon going down the road of conceit, pride, and selfishness. Be thankful for the “thorns in the flesh” of your life for this reason. His power is made perfect in our weakness. Give Him the glory! Be content in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:10). When you are weak, you are strong in Him!
-Paul now makes his final appeal for his apostleship and their sanctification with his readers in Corinth. Even though he is nothing on his own strength, he pleas with them for commendation because of the signs, wonders, and mighty works that the Lord was able to perform through him in their midst (2 Corinthians 12:12). He reiterates how he and others (Titus among those) had never been any kind of burden to them in their coming. He relates it to the proper family structure where the parents save up for the children and not vice versa (2 Corinthians 12:14). He was glad to spend and be spent for their progress because of his great love for them and their souls (2 Corinthians 12:15). Paul says he took advantage of no one by deceit (2 Corinthians 12:16-17). In other words his ministry to them was pure and unadulterated. His purpose in coming to them was totally pure in the sight of God, and his team always spoke in Christ for their upbuilding (2 Corinthians 12:19). Paul’s fear is that all the pains and suffering he encountered on their behalf would be for naught. His concern was that there would still be the original problems of quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder (2 Corinthians 12:20). The apostle fears that when he comes again he will be humbled by God before this group of believers causing him to mourn because of their lack of repentance from impurity, sexual immorality (pornia, prostitution, fornication), and sensuality (aselgia, licentiousness, debauchery, insolence, audacity) that they had practiced (2 Corinthians 12:21). *Application* Be appreciative of those who have poured into your life and spiritual development. In most cases they have had to have extended patience and longsuffering to see you through to any amount of growth. It would be a great idea to go back and tell these special people in your life just how much they meant to you in helping you along the way to greater peace and understanding in Christ whether they be parents, teachers, pastors, relatives, or friends. It will encourage them, as Paul needed in this passage, and show them your love and admiration. Don’t delay in doing this.
Verses to Memorize- 2 Corinthians 12:7, 9