2 Corinthians Chapter Twelve
I. Content of the Chapter
The Narration of the Minister
A. His boasting (v.1-18):
1. To boast of the visions and revelations given by the Lord (v.1-10);
2. To boast the proof of his apostleship (v.11-18);
B. His attitude ---- do all things for the edification of believers (v.19-21);
II. Verse by Verse Commentary
2Cor. 12:1 “It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:”
YLT: “To boast, really, is not profitable for me, for I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.”
Meaning of Words: “boast”: rejoice, glory; “vision”: visuality; “revelation”: disclosure, lighten, manifestation, appearing;
Literal Meaning: “it is doubtless not profitable for me to boast”, “not profitable”, it is unprofitable for the one who boasts, not for believers in Corinth; it indicates that Paul has to do one thing ---- boasting ---- unprofitable for himself in order to edify believers in Corinth so that they can distinguish right and wrong apostles.
“I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord”, “vision”: the vision that can be seen by physical eyes; “revelation”: remove the covering and manifest the hidden things so that men can see them clearly (the physical eyes may have not seen, one knows clearly inside).
Here, Paul purposefully sets “the Lord’s visions and revelations” as one of the proofs of true apostles. No matter it is from the Lord or of the Lord, it is given by the Lord Jesus, not sought by men. The apostle is sent by the Lord, not held in him. Therefore, an apostle should have distinctly received the Lord’s visions and revelations and have been sent by Him.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The apostles in the early church time had
special spiritual positions. Their teachings have become the foundation of the
Christianity (see Acts 2:42; Eph.
2:20). Therefore, believers in
2) Many brothers and sisters are unworthy of God’s visions and revelations. Once they have received something, they will blow the trumpet and then all will know it. Paul is forced to mention his experience, and it is not profitable for himself. However, he still has to do so for the sake of others. Today, the difficulty is that the children of God cannot conceal spiritual things or special experience.
3) Some experiences of us are for the purpose of bearing witnesses. And some are only for us personally, not for others publicly. Therefore, a lot of words of the Lord’s servants cannot be spoken to men.
4) We shall not only know the Lord and take up our crosses on our way, but also seek the Lord’s visions and revelations. We should have clearly visions and revelations of the Lord and the truth.
5) The visions and revelations of the Lord are the root of spiritual authority. Where there are no visions or revelations of the Lord, there is no spiritual authority. Today, many people hold that they have spiritual authority, but actually their authority are of the flesh and are from man’s experience.
2Cor. 12:2 “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven.”
YLT: “I have known a man in Christ, fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I have not known, whether out of the body I have not known, God hath known -- such an one being caught away unto the third heaven;”
Meaning of Words: “know”: be aware, perceive; “be caught up”: be taken, caught away;
Literal Meaning: “I know a man in Christ”, this man is Paul himself (see v.7); here he especially calls him in the third person and seems to adopt a low stance without making others feel that he boasts of himself.
“A man in Christ”, here Paul emphasizes the new creation in Christ (see 5:17). Concerning the old creation, man has nothing to boast except his weakness (see v.5, 9). Paul in this paragraph boasts of his experience in the new creation through confessing his weakness in the old creation.
“Who fourteen years ago—God knows--such a one was caught up
to the third heaven”, “fourteen years ago”: fourteen years before Paul wrote this book, about 42-44 AD, when he was
in the regions of
“Whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know,” “in the body”, it relates to the whole body’s being caught; “out of the body”: the spirit’s being caught, or fall into a trance (see Acts 10:10); “not know … know”, whether the spirit of Paul is separated from his body at that time.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “I know a man in Christ”, it means that the man is in Christ ---- the whole of him is in Christ. The salvation of God is not working in us, but putting us in Christ. Once we are in Christ, we have everything.
2) Paul had the experience of being caught up to the third heaven, but he had never mentioned it in the past fourteen years. Even though he mentions it fourteen years later, he does not disclose his name, for he fears to be proud. Therefore, if we have some spiritual experiences in the Lord, truly it is marginal. We should never be proud of it.
3) Paul is truly a man that has root. How deeply he conceals himself! Though he had been caught to the third heaven, he did not speak it out completely and yet kept reserved. Therefore, the third heaven is still a mystery till now.
2Cor. 12:3 “And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--”
YLT: “and I have known such a man -- whether in the body, whether out of the body, I have not known, God hath known, --”
Literal Meaning: “and I know such a man—”, the word “and” shows that what Paul will say later is different from what he has said in verse two. “A man” is still Paul himself (see v.7).
“Whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--”, here, it repeats what he has said in verse two, only different in the way of narration for the purpose of showing that what he will mentioned later is different.
2Cor. 12:4 “how he was caught up into
YLT: “that he was caught away to the paradise, and heard unutterable sayings, that it is not possible for man to speak.”
Meaning of Words: “
Meaning: “how he was caught up into
Paradise”, most of the Bible
exegetes think that “
1) According to the way of Paul’s writing here, they are totally two different experiences. Otherwise, he will not use the word “and” at the outset of verse three nor repeats “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--”.
The Scriptures have
mentioned that the souls of believers will be in the
The Lord Jesus
himself had been in Hades and descended into the lower parts of the earth after
death and before ascension (Acts 2:27, 31; Rom. 10:7; Matt. 12:40; Eph. 4:9),
thus proving that the “
According to the
parable given by the Lord Jesus, we shall know that there are two different
parts of the Hades ---- one is the place of rest, and the other is the place of
afflictions (Luke 16:19-31). Therefore,
5) “Being caught”, it is “being caught away”.
6) God manifests the mystery which hidden from ages and from generations to Paul unknown to the world so that God can used the apostle Paul (see Col. 1:26; Eph. 3:4-5, 9). This mystery must include things above the heavens and things of the Hades so that he can receive complete revelation.
To sum up, we can
infer that the “
“And heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter”, “inexpressible words”: the words that men cannot speak in the flesh; “not lawful … to utter”, it not allowable to speak to the common people. Here it suggests that Paul has not only heard the words but can also understand them. However, he is only allowed to hear the words but nor preach it to others. Therefore, Paul has his peculiar position in the spiritual realm.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Our spiritual experiences are not for the purpose of providing others. Some of them are “inexpressible” and are “not lawful to utter”. This will be reserved to be the secret of us between the Lord, thus becoming “a garden shut up, a spring shut up and a fountain sealed” (Song. 4:12), which is kept for the Lord only. Are all the spiritual accomplishments of us public to all? Are they are disclosed? Have we reserve some for the Lord only?
2) The third heaven and the
2Cor. 12:5 “Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.”
YLT: “Of such an one I will boast, and of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities,”
Meaning of Words: “boast”: rejoice, glory; “infirmity”: weakness, strengthlessness;
Literal Meaning: “of such a one I will boast”, “such a one” refers to the new creation of Paul in Christ (see the commentary of verse two); “boast”: boast of one’s experience;
“Yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities”, “of myself”: of the old creation of Paul;
“infirmity”: be restricted by the flesh so that one can not be as strong as he
expects in everything (see the commentary 11:29). Though the flesh of our old
creation is different, it can do nothing (see
Here, Paul intends to manifest his difference from the common people (especially the false apostles) through boasting of his infirmity of the old creation. The common people (including believers) boast of strong points of their flesh of the old creation. Only those who have really spiritual light and experience can humble themselves and confess that their old creations are so limited and weak and thus turn to Christ and rely on the power of His life.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) We have nothing to boast about of “ourselves”, which are yet deserved to be dealt with. He who boasts of his inborn strong points does not know spiritual things at all.
2) What we should pay attention to is “the men who are in Christ” (see v.2), namely, the new creation of us, the “inner men” of us (see 4:16).
2Cor. 12:6 “For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.”
YLT: “for if I may wish to boast, I shall not be a fool, for truth I will say; but I forebear, lest any one in regard to me may think anything above what he doth see me, or doth hear anything of me;”
Meaning of Words: “fool”: foolish, ignorant, mindless; “refrain”: spare, abstain;
Literal Meaning: “for though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth”. It indicates that Paul’s boasting of his experience in the new creation is true, not foolish (see Acts 26:25).
“But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what
he sees me to be or hears from me.”
Paul refrains from mentioning his experience of the
third heaven and the
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Man likes to show off himself by nature, but those who really know the Lord do not. The more one knows the Lord, the more he will conceal himself. The deeper one has entered into the Lord, the more he will know his own insignificance and fear that he should replace the Lord in others.
2) Paul refrains from mentioning his experience, lest anyone should think of him above what one sees him to be or hears from him. Yes, indeed we should respect every servant of God, we shall also not think of him above the capacity of the Lord in him. Otherwise, the servant will have higher position in us than the Lord. Oh, through out the past generations, the difficulty of the church is either the excessive rejection or upholding of God’s servants. We should also watch out for this point without blind rejection or following.
2Cor. 12:7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”
YLT: “and that by the exceeding greatness of the revelations I might not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of the Adversary, that he might buffet me, that I might not be exalted overmuch.”
Meaning of Words: “abundance”: exceeding, more excellent, beyond measure; “be exalted”: raise oneself over become haughty; “thorn”: point, prickle; “Satan”: the devil, the adversary, the accuser; “buffet”: rap with the fist;
Literal Meaning: “and lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations”, in the previous verse, he is afraid that he would be highly thought by others. And in this verse, he fears that he himself is exalted above measure, for the revelations he has received is exceedingly abundant.
“A thorn in the flesh was given to me”, “thorn”: a tiny spiky piece of wood, which seems to be rather insignificant in the eyes of men and yet makes the one who is pierced extremely painful; “in the flesh was given to me”, it suggests that this is a kind of suffering in the flesh, according to which the Bible exegetes guess that this thorn refers to: 1) Paul may get the eye diseases (see Gal. 4:15; 6:11); 2) Paul may suffer from epilepsy or other diseases with limited treatment options; 3) possibly, the flesh of Paul has some inborn defect that affects his works, which makes him very painful.
What this thorn is on earth? Since it is not told us in the Scriptures, we need not pay too attention to it. In any case, all the difficulties that are allowed to come upon us are thorns.
“A messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure”, “a messenger of Satan to buffet me”, it shows that the suffering in his flesh is because of the attack of Satan (see Job. 2:7); “lest I be exalted above measure”, it indicates it is allowed by God (see Job 2:6) ---- both are for the spiritual profit of Paul;
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Revelations can raise man’s spiritual condition and can also make one puffed up. Therefore, everyone who has revelations needs a thorn to protect him. Therefore, though the thorn makes one painful, it has the function of balance and protection.
2) He who has special “revelation” will have the special “thorn”. This is the arrangement of God, and the principle that cannot be altered. It only puts one’s “self-exaltedness” into death but also manifests that “the power of Christ” is the full and perfect “grace” in man’s infirmity (v.9).
3) Sometimes, the diseases of Christians are irrelevant to sin. God may discipline someone especially by diseases and touch a certain point of him. The example of Paul is that God delivers him from “self-exaltedness”.
4) God allows the messenger of Satan to attack His children in order to manifest the all-various wisdom of God to the universe (see Eph. 3:10). Satan itself turned from the archangel to the devil because of pride. In order to deliver us from pride and from the punishment of Satan (see 1Tim. 2:6), God allows the messengers of Satan to attack us. If we become more humble and not proud, that will be a great victory against Satan.
5) The thorn is that God gives us what we need through Satan in the sovereignty of God. Though God is not the direct origin of all the temptations that we are faced with, he is the indirect origin. All the actions of Satan are governed and limited by our God.
6) Madame Guyon said, “all our experiences, except sins, are from God, and we shall receive joyfully. Thanks be to God! This is victory, and makes us enjoy more grace in service”
2Cor. 12:8 “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.”
YLT: “Concerning this thing thrice the Lord did I call upon, that it might depart from me,”
Literal Meaning: “concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times”, “three times”, it can be interpreted literally as three times (see Matt. 26:36-44), or as “perfect” according to the implied meaning at that time, namely, ask for the Lord sufficiently. Anyway, the problem of this thorn must be rather serious to him, so Paul pleaded with the Lord three times.
“That it might depart from me”, ask the Lord to remove the difficulty and pain in his physical body;
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) There is a secret of prayers ---- “pleading with the Lord three times”, namely, to pray to the Lord sufficiently. The principle of pleading with the Lord three times is praying sufficiently and thoroughly until one has clearly known the will of God and until one has got the answer of God.
2) The thorough prayers can obtain clear answers of God and can change us completely so that we can see all the things that bother us or we have pleaded to remove (see v.9-10) in a new vision.
3) If one who falls ill is not as sure as Paul who pleaded with the Lord three times that it is profitable to him (see v.9), it is better for him to ask the Lord for healing. If one has not clearly seen that the infirmity (disease) is of God, he can ask the Lord to heal him with boldness and load our infirmities and diseases. The children of God live on the earth for the purpose of glorifying God, not falling ill.
4) The messenger of Satan may not be beaten back by prayers, but he will be eventually defeated. In like manner, not every child of God can experience the divine healing in his body or the victory of the spiritual power. However, one thing is fixed ---- if our attitude is right, all the “thorns” coming upon us can draw us nearer the Lord and enjoy more grace and power of the Lord (see v.9).
2Cor. 12:9 “And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
YLT: “and He said to me, `Sufficient for thee is My grace, for My power in infirmity is perfected;' most gladly, therefore, will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of the Christ may rest on me:”
Meaning of Words: “grace”: benefit, graciousness; “strength”: power, might; “perfect”: fulfill, complete, accomplish; “rest upon”: tent upon, abide with, overshadow;
Literal Meaning: “and He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you”, “He said to me”, this is the answer of the Lord to Paul’s prayer. Here, it reveals some principles of prayers:
1) All the difficulties the Lord arranges for us compel us to approach the throne of grace to pray to Him.
2) We shall be perseverant and single-minded in prayer until when he answers us and we understand his will.
3) The Lord may not fulfill our prayer according to what we ask Him, for He knows what we really need and how to do will be mostly profitable to us.
4) Though our prayers have seemingly not been granted yet, the Lord has already answered our prayers. The Lord always turns our eyes from us to Him, through which we have experienced His answer to our prayers.
5) The best result of prayer is that we can draw near Him and rely on Him and have part in His grace everyday.
“For My strength is made perfect in weakness”, “for”, it points out the reason why the Lord has not done according to what Paul has asked. There are three purposes of the “thorn” in him: 1) expose man’s infirmity; 2) compel man to appropriate the sufficient grace of the Lord; 3) manifest the Lord’s perfect power;
“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”, it is the declaration of Paul after he has enjoyed the Lord’s grace and experienced the power of Christ: 1) it is better to maintain the thorn to boast in his infirmity than let the Lord remove his thorn. 2) There is an advantage of manifesting his weakness ---- let the power of Christ rest upon Him like the tent to cover him.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “My grace is sufficient for you”, many saints have received help from this word throughout the generations. Many believers are comforted and encouraged by is. Even today, the word is also true to us. No matter how difficult the environment is and how afflicted the suffering is, the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us. May we have more practical experience in this word.
2) A famous British preacher W. White Blue asks the Lord to let him experience the sufficient grace, but the Lord lets him see that the Lord’s grace is neither “shall be” sufficient, nor “will be” sufficient, but “is” sufficient for him. We need not ask the Lord to give us sufficient grace, for the Lord’s grace has already been sufficient.
3) Many Christians firstly also ask the Lord to remove the thorn so that they can bear witness to Him, just like Paul’s reactions to the thorn. However, the Lord remains the thorn so that we can “experience His grace”.
4) Once man has know his weakness, he will not dare to struggle, for the struggle is in vain. He who confesses his infirmity will not refuse the hands of God and the grace and power of God will be given unceasingly. The confession of one’s infirmity is the way of appropriating the power of Christ.
5) “For My strength is made perfect in weakness”. ---- Therefore, we do not fear infirmity but fear that we do not know the power of the Lord and do not believe the power of the Lord.
6) Christianity is neither removing infirmity nor asking the Lord’s power only, but manifesting the Lord’s strength in man’s infirmity. For the sake of the thorn, the Lord will increase His grace. For the sake of our infirmity, the Lord will increase His strength. The Lord does not remove the reef but lifts up the water so that the boat can pass. Today, what the Lord is doing on us is not removing our infirmity only, nor giving us strength merely.
7) When we are infirm to an extreme point that we can do nothing, grace has obtained sufficient opportunities and platforms to work.
8) “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities”. We Christians may naturally think we should not be infirm, so we ask others to pray for us. However, Paul boasts in his infirmity. Paul says that he is still in infirmity even today. Paul is in infirmity and boasts of his infirmity. He says, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I burn not?” (see 11:29) Therefore, infirmity is not hateful, but delightsome and worthy of boast. He who has been guided by the Lord boasts of his weakness. And he who has not been guided by the Lord boasts of his strength.
9) Therefore, infirmity is not a sad or lamentable thing. Instead, it is worthy of boast. Paul means that he regards such weakness as his glory, because he has such chance to manifest the power of Christ so that the power of Christ shall rest upon him. The strength of Christ shall not rest upon the one who has no infirmity. The strength of Christ can only cover the one who has weakness.
10) They that are strong have no need of a physician, but those that are ill (Matt. 9:12). The confession of one’s illness and the boast of one’s infirmity are secrets of experiencing the power of the great spiritual doctor.
11) Christians can experience the sufficient grace of the Lord in tribulations. And the Lord manifests His power in man’s infirmity. Therefore, to Christians, tribulation is another form of the Lord’s blessing to us. And the boast of our infirmity is the way of appropriating the perfect strength of the Lord.
12) The biggest tribulation of us is not the tribulation itself but that we are unwilling to be submissive in the tribulation. When we obey completely and rest in all the environment arranged by the hands of God, His grace will lead us into His rest and His power will cover and protect us.
2Cor. 12:10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
YLT: “wherefore I am well pleased in infirmities, in damages, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses -- for Christ; for whenever I am infirm, then I am powerful;”
Meaning of Words: “reproach”: insolence, harm, reproach; “need”: distress, necessity, constraint; “persecution”: press; “distress”: narrowness of room, anguish, calamity;
Literal Meaning: “for Christ's sake”, for the sake that Christ’s purpose shall be fulfilled in us;
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses”. “Infirmities”: it relates to the poor condition that one’s strength is insufficient; “reproaches”: be insulted by others; “needs”: the difficulties caused by the environment; “persecutions”: cruel oppression; “distresses”: difficult positions that cannot be altered; all the above-mentioned tribulations may make men difficult to suffer. However, Paul has experienced the covering of the Christ’s strength according to the revelation of the Lord in his prayer so he embraces them in a joyful attitude.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Tribulations manifest man’s infirmity and yet man’s infirmity lets man experience the strength of Christ. Therefore, once the infirmity of the old creation in the flesh is manifested, we shall be covered by the strength of Christ and be strengthened in the new creation in spirit.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Tribulations are inevitable in our service of the Lord. Suffering can destroy a man and can also establish a man, which is decided by man himself. We cannot decide the extent or the time of the tribulations, but we can decide our response to the tribulations.
2) It is better for us to choose to boast of
our infirmity and sufferings than boast of being caught into the
3) God never decreases our infirmity. He always saves us through the mighty Christ as our abundant grace (v.9). Therefore, “when we are weak, then we are strong”. When we are sorrowful, we are joyful. When we are empty, we are full. When we are oppressed, we are raised. It is indeed an amazing story seemingly both paradoxical and true. Hallelujah!
2Cor. 12:11 “I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.”
YLT: “I have become a fool -- boasting; ye -- ye did compel me; for I ought by you to have been commended, for in nothing was I behind the very chiefest apostles -- even if I am nothing.”
Meaning of Words: “fool”: mindless, ignorant; “commend”: exhibit, stand near;
Literal Meaning: “I have become a fool in boasting”: it is because of his boasting (see 11:17).
“You have compelled me”.
It indicates that believers in
“For I ought to have been commended by you”, “commend” means standing out to speak
good word for someone; the knowledge of the Lord of believers in
“For in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles,
though I am nothing.” “The most eminent apostles”: the false apostles who crept in the
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Men are so shortsighted that they cannot appreciate the one as spiritual as Paul. And yet they follow those false apostles. Today, it is so in the church ---- the imitated spiritual ones are very popular everywhere and those who love the Lord and the church truly are yet despised and forsaken.
2) The ministers of God cannot hope to be popular or prosperous on the earth. What is not important that whether we are popular, but whether we can be used by God.
2Cor. 12:12 “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”
YLT: “The signs, indeed, of the apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds,”
Meaning of Words: “all”: various; “perseverance”: patience, endurance; “sign”: token, indication; “wonder”: wonderful things, omen; “mighty deeds”: ability, strength, violence;
Literal Meaning: “among you with all perseverance”, “all perseverance”, it means that one can have joy and hope and endure various persecutions with perseverance and accomplish the works in any difficult condition
“In signs and wonders and mighty deeds”, the meaning of the three words are similar: “sign” indicates that it is of the hands of God; “wonder”: the uncommon things; “mighty deeds”: the uncommon power, the miracles that the Spirit does through His servants; during the one year and a half, what signs, wonders or mighty deeds that Paul in Corinth had really done have not been recorded in the Scriptures.
“Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished”, “sign”: token or indication; “the signs of an apostle”, it indicates that the Lord’s apostles must have some signs, through which men can recognize them. There are also many Bible exegetes who also list all perseverance into the signs of the apostle besides the signs, or wonders or mighty power according to this verse.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Paul had manifested the signs of the apostle
in many parts and in many ways among the believers in
2) He who serves God shall not focus on the means of works, but on himself ---- the one who works. If the worker is not right, even though the means of work is right, there will be still bad ends.
3) The sign of the apostle is “all perseverance” according to life, and “signs, wonders and might power” according to works. If one cannot “persevere in everything”, it proves that his life is not sufficiently filled with the love of Christ (see 1Cor. 13:7). If one has not manifested mighty power, it shows that he still lacks the power of the Spirit in works (see 1Cor. 12:7-11). Such one is still unworthy of an apostle.
4) “All perseverance”, it tells us that working for the Lord is not an easy thing. All the discouraging things need patience, e.g. unhealthy conditions, be suspected and despised and rejected by others, men’s indifference and stubbornness and etc.
5) The spiritual authority is manifested through life. Only when man is subject to the authority of God first, the authority of God will then manifest through him. If the Lord’s workers have not manifested the authority of God in life, they are counted nothing.
2Cor. 12:13 “For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!”
YLT: “for what is there in which ye were inferior to the rest of the assemblies, except that I myself was not a burden to you? forgive me this injustice!”
Meaning of Words: “burdensome”: grow utterly torpid; “inferior”: rate lower, make worse, vanquish; “wrong”: unrighteous, unjust; “forgive”: grant as a favor;
Literal Meaning: “except that I myself was not burdensome to you”, “not burdensome to you”, it indicates that Paul has never received the provision of money of them.
“For what is it in which you were inferior to other
is it”, things that the
Lord’s workers should do to the church, including all the teaching and shepherding
works. Paul means that he does not treat the church in
“Forgive me this wrong!” “this wrong”: that Paul receives the provision of
other churches, but not that of the church in
2Cor. 12:14 “Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”
YLT: “Lo, a third time I am ready to come unto you, and I will not be a burden to you, for I seek not yours, but you, for the children ought not for the parents to lay up, but the parents for the children,”
Meaning of Words: “ready”: prepared; “seek”: find;
Meaning: “now for the third time I am
ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you”, “the third time”: Paul had been to
“For I do not seek yours, but you”, Paul shows his purpose of going to Corinth is gaining believers in Corinth for the sake of the Lord so that their thoughts should not be corrupted from simplicity as to the Christ and be presented as a chaste virgin to Christ to wait the coming husband ---- Christ (see 11:2-3). In a word, what Paul desires are believers, not something of believers.
“For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but
the parents for the children.” The relation of
Paul with believers in
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The workers of the Lord who live by faith should be particularly careful not to be burdensome to the church or offend others for personal reasons. Instead, they shall be good examples for all by overcoming their own difficulties.
2) Paul only desires to lay up all for the
3) The believers in
5) “Do not seek yours, but you”, it should become the motto of every faithful servant of the Lord.
6) Wherever the Lord’s workers go, they are not for the profit of their own, but for that of others. It is driven by love (see v.15), not by covetousness. What is really longed is one’s heart not money or substance.
7) If one works for the sake of his own profit, he will not let other meet God or obtain God.
8) The servants of the Lord care for the souls of believers ---- they just do what a spiritual father is supposed to do in Christ, not show off what they have done.
2Cor. 12:15 “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.”
YLT: “and I most gladly will spend and be entirely spent for your souls, even if, more abundantly loving you, less I am loved.”
Meaning of Words: “gladly”: with great pleasure; “more abundantly”: more exceedingly;
Literal Meaning: “and I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls”, “spend and be spent”, spend what they have;
“Though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” Paul touches their conscience with love and arouses the response of love.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Our being saved is due to the spending and being spent of many brothers and sisters in the Lord for us. Therefore, we shall also spend and be spent for our relatives or friends who have not been saved and brothers and sisters who have only enjoyed little grace.
2) Since we are of God, all that we have are of God. Since we are willing to be used by God, all that we have should be put in His hands and used by Him.
3) The main reason for the declination and desolation of the house of God today is that there are many that ask the Lord but few that lay up for the Lord and there are many that ask men and yet few that are willing to give.
2Cor. 12:16 “But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!”
YLT: “And be it , I -- I did not burden you, but being crafty, with guile I did take you;”
Meaning of Words: “be that as it may”: let it be; “burden”: impose upon; “crafty”: shrewd; “cunning”: trick, wile, guile; “caught”: take, hold;
Meaning: “but be that as it may, I did
not burden you”. “Be
that as it may”, it seems that
Paul is somewhat lonely and discouraged because of the indifference of
“Being crafty, I caught you by cunning!” They said that Paul seemed to walk in light and yet he was crafty and deceived those who were honest and watched for a chance to catch them.
2Cor. 12:17 “Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you?”
YLT: “any one of those whom I have sent unto you -- by him did I take advantage of you?”
Meaning of Words: “take advantage of you”: over reach, be covetous;
Meaning: “by any of those whom I sent
to you?” Paul sent Timothy
(see 1Cor. 16:10), Titus and another brother whose name was unknown (see v.18)
“Did I take advantage of you”, “take advantage of”: obtain money or substance by deceitful means;
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If a servant of God can not be joyful or satisfied in the Lord, he can not have good testimony in life. A good and innocent life is truly a sign of a minister of God and is the secret of working together with the fellow-workers in harmony.
2) If a servant of the Lord fixes his eyes on his own gain instead of the Lord or compares what he has obtained with what other have obtained, she cannot serve the Lord nor work with other brothers together.
2Cor. 12:18 “I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?”
YLT: “I entreated Titus, and did send with the brother; did Titus take advantage of you? in the same spirit did we not walk? -- did we not in the same steps?”
Meaning of Words: “step”: track;
Meaning: “I urged Titus, and sent our
brother with him”. “Urge” and “send” indicate that it is Paul’s desire
that they have been to
“Did Titus take advantage of you?”
---- Here it mentions Titus again, because
he is the leading role of dealing with the money collection to the poor saints
“Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?” “The same spirit”: it focuses on the motive and attitude of walking; “the same steps”: the manner and performance of walking;
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Those who have the same spirit can have the same mind. And those who have the same mind can walk together. And those who walk together can have the same steps.
2) Those who have “the same spirit” can have “the same steps”. Those who have the same vision will have the same testimony. How beautiful the conditions of the fellow workers like Paul and Titus!
3) The fellow workers can have good cooperation when the will of the Lord are solely exalted and sought and they will walk according to the guidance of the Lord.
2Cor. 12:19 “Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.”
YLT: “Again, think ye that to you we are making defence? before God in Christ do we speak; and the all things, beloved, for your up-building,”
Meaning of Words: “excuse”: give an account; “edification”: building up;
Literal Meaning: “again”, they are not so for the first time.
“Do you think that we excuse ourselves to you?” It means defending the suit in the court;
Paul means that he does not defend himself before believers in
“We speak before God in Christ”, “in Christ”, the origin and accordance of speech; “before God”, it indicates his attitude and verity of words.
It has two meaning: 1) his words to them are not for the purpose of men’s judgment, but for the satisfaction of God; 2) these words are spoken in Christ before God, so they are true (see 2:18).
“But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.” “All things”: all things that Paul has done to them, including all the words; “for your edification”, it is not for the sake of Paul’s own profit, but for the profit of the church and for the edification of believers.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) We Christians should speak in Christ and speak before God so that our words can edify and profit others.
2) The minister of God should think of others in his walking and speak only the words that are profitable to others and do things that edify others.
2Cor. 12:20 “For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;”
YLT: “for I fear lest, having come, not such as I wish I may find you, and I -- I may be found by you such as ye do not wish, lest there be strifes, envyings, wraths, revelries, evil-speakings, whisperings, puffings up, insurrections,”
Meaning of Words: “wish”: desire; “contentions”: quarrel, strife; “jealousies”: emulation, fervent mind, jealousy, indignation; “outbursts of wrath”: stimulate to anger, provoke, foam with anger; “selfish ambitions”: fierceness, indignation; “backbitings”: defamation, evil speaking; “whisperings”: secret detraction; “conceits”: inflation, haughtiness, swelling; “tumults”: disturbance, commotion, instability;
Meaning: “for I fear lest, when I
come, I shall not find you such as I wish”,
“fear”: trepidation; “I shall not find you such
as I wish”, it means that
“And that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish”, Paul also fears that believers in Corinth still lack spiritual discernment and do not know how to distinguish true and false apostles so as to be disappointed at Paul.
“Lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;” “contentions”: struggle for power or money with hostility; “jealousies”: the evil consciousness of not desiring others to have any right; “outbursts of wrath”: the sudden anger or indignation leads to man’s impetuous actions and causes serious result, and the man regrets later; “selfish ambitions”: a group self-centered men are jointed together for the sake of money or other profits without caring other things; “backbitings”: public deprecation or insult to those who are different from oneself; “whisperings”: secret detraction; “conceits”: consider oneself only, glorify oneself more than God; “tumults”: do what one likes without thinking of others, and form a disordered and chaotic situation; the above-mentioned wrong situations are caused by strong self consciousness.
Paul also fears that believers in
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The sins listed here are directly relevant to the existence of the spirit of divisions in the church. Therefore, we should get rid of all the things of divisions so that we can deal with these sins thoroughly.
2) Some sins in this verse have something to do with our words. Once the children of God are unbridled, we may utter the words of secret detraction and backbiting and conceits.
3) Though we are often slandered by men, we should not slander others. We should not utter any disparaging words. Let men speak evilly, we should not slander them.
2Cor. 12:21 “lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.”
YLT: “lest again having come, my God may humble me in regard to you, and I may bewail many of those having sinned before, and not having reformed concerning the uncleanness, and whoredom, and lasciviousness, that they did practise.”
Meaning of Words: “humble”: humiliate, bring low, abase; “uncleanness”: impurity; “fornication”: harlotry, adultery, incest; “lewdness”: lasciviousness, wantonness; “mourn”: grieve, wail;
Literal Meaning: “lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you”, Paul is more afraid that God will rebuke him for the sake of the far deflected condition of believers in Corinth so that he will abase himself and blame himself before all.
“And I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.” Here, what are mentioned are sins of lusts; “uncleanness”: any condition that is defiled by the world so that one cannot approach God with boldness; “fornication”: deeds that sin against one’s body so that he can not rest in the Lord (see 1Cor. 6:18-19); “lewdness”: the condition that one is free from the bondage of morality and is impervious to the words of others.
What makes Paul most anxious is that there are still many believers in Corinth then who fell in the sins of lusts without any sense of sin or repentance just like when they had not believed the Lord. It makes the minister of God mournful.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Paul says that he shall humble himself if
there is any abnormal condition in the
2) If the condition of the church is not well, the workers should “humble” them. If brothers and sisters have not been changed, the ministers should “mourn”. If we only condemn, reject or be indifferent to the wrong conditions, we are unworthy of those who serve the church.
3) If Christians who have sinned are not willing to repent, though their position of being saved will not be altered, it will influence their fellowship with God. If we do not keep the normal fellowship with God, our spiritual life will not grow up.
4) Only when believers live in the life of brotherly love can all the spirits of divisions or selfishness be removed (see v.20). And only when we live in the holy life can all the sins of lusts be eliminated.
III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons
The Signs of the Apostles
A． Have the visions and revelations of the Lord (v.1);
B． With all perseverance (v
C． In signs and wonders and mighty deeds (v.12b);
The Good Examples of the Lord’s Worker
A. He does not boast unless it is needed (v
B. He has the visions and revelations of the Lord (v.1b);
C. Be grown and mature one in Christ ---- not baby (v.2);
D. Not desire others to think of him above him (v.6);
E. He has aim and perseverance in prayers (v.8);
F. He has experienced the Lord’s grace and power (v.9);
G. He rejoice in infirmity and tribulations (v.10);
H. He serves with all perseverance (v
I. He has spiritual power (v.12b);
J. He will not be burdensome to the church (v.13
K. He seeks believers, not believers’ money (v
L. He has the bowl of a father (v.14b);
M. He will gladly spend and be spent for believers’ souls (v
N. He loves believers (v.15b);
O. He walks in the same spirit and the same steps with his fellow workers (v.18);
P. He speaks in Christ and before God (v
Q. He does all things for believers’ edification (v.19b);
R. He does not desire to be found by believers such as they do not wish (v.20b);
S. He does not desire to see believers live in the flesh or sin without repentance (v.20-21);
T. He takes the responsibility of believers’
spiritual conditions (v
Five “Fear”s that the Lord’s Worker Is Supposed to Have to the Church
A. The fear that he shall not find the church
such as he wishes (v
B. The fear that he shall be found by believers such as they do not wish (v.20b);
C. The fear that there is the fruit of the
flesh in the church (v
D. The fear that he shall humble himself before
God because of the failures of the church (v
E. The fear that the church falls and refuses repentance (v.21b);
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou