2 Corinthians 12

The Word Made Fresh

1I suppose boasting is necessary, though nothing is to be gained by it. But, let me move on to visions and other revelations of the Lord. 2I know someone who belongs to Christ who was carried up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether it was physically or spiritually I don’t know; God knows. 3And I know that person, God knows if it was physically or spiritually, 4was carried up to Paradise and heard things that can’t be described, for no mortal has permission to do so. 5I’ll take pride in someone like that, but not in myself; I only take pride in my weaknesses. 6But if I want to brag, I won’t do it foolishly; I’ll be honest about it, but I’ll restrain myself so that no one will think better of me than what they actually see and hear, 7even though my revelations are exceptional. But I was given a thorn in the flesh; Satan’s messenger was sent to torment me. 8I prayed three times to the Lord about this and asked that it would leave me alone, 9but the Lord said, “My grace is all you need; my strength is perfected in your weakness.” So, I’ll brag even more of my weaknesses so that Christ’s strength will be with me. 10That is how I can be content with my weakness, and with the insults, hardships, persecutions, and other calamities I must endure for Christ. That is how I stay strong in the midst of my weakness.

11But I’m being foolish. You forced me to it, you know, because you should have been the ones to commend me. I am nothing, of course, but I’m not in any way inferior to these super-apostles! 12The evidence of a true apostle was patiently demonstrated for you, with patience, with signs and wonders, and with mighty deeds. 13What makes you think you have been worse off than the other churches? Don’t accuse me of being the one who burdened you.

14So, I’m ready now to visit you for the third time. I won’t be a burden to you. I don’t want anything that belongs to you. I don’t want what you have; I want you. After all, children shouldn’t have to support their parents; parents are to support their children. 15I will spend for you and be happily spent for you. Am I to be loved less because I love you more? 16So, let’s assume that I laid no burdens on you, but then you say I was so crafty I deceived you and tricked you. 17Really? Did I take advantage of you through any of those I sent to you? 18I begged Titus to go and sent the other brother with him. Titus didn’t cheat you, did he? Didn’t we behave in the same way, in the same spirit? Didn’t we do the same things?

19Did you think for a minute that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking through Christ before God. All we do, friends, is for the purpose of strengthening your faith. 20I am afraid that when I come we may not find each other as we would want – there may be arguing and jealousy and anger and selfishness and slander and gossip and self-serving and disarray. 21I am afraid that when I get there God might humiliate me before you, and I may have to grieve over those who have sinned and not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and lewdness they have been involved in.


1-10: Paul hints that he has had an experience of being given a glimpse of heaven – scholars generally agree that the “man” he claims to know is a reference to himself. His humility allows him to tell the story, but not to go so far as to make it clear that he himself is the one who was “caught up to the third heaven.” Then, as if to balance that lofty experience, he speaks of a “thorn in the flesh” which God refuses to free him of. You must admit it is a clever approach, to boast by emphasizing the negative things!

11-13: Still, his primary reason for asserting his position as an apostle is simply that he has not burdened them in any way. The other apostles by contrast accepted wages of one kind or another from the congregation in Corinth.

14-18: Preparing to visit them for the third time, he entreats them to consider his past dealings with them and the conduct of Titus and others he has sent to them.

19-21: Paul outlines his fear and anxiety about what he might find when he arrives in Corinth. He fears he will discover among them a whole host of problems — quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, disorder, impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness — the very things which he has counseled them against throughout his letters to them.


Any congregation you might belong to will have its burdens and problems and hassling for control over this, that, and the other. Let it go. God knows our tendencies, our selfish desires, and our fears. God works even through sinners and troublemakers to accomplish things that bring us closer to the Kingdom, and if that doesn’t seem to be happening where you are, there are churches everywhere. Find one that enriches your faith.