Vision of Paradise
Verse 1 – It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:
As an apostle, Paul received direct revelations from Christ. The visions mentioned here by Paul, are nowhere else in the Bible.
Verse 2 – I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out-of-body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
Paul is talking about himself. (This event could very well have taken place when he was stoned and perhaps died.) The third heaven is God’s dwelling place. The first heaven is the atmospheric sky, and the second is the planetary sky.
Verse 3 – And I know such a man – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows –
Verse 4 – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
What Paul saw could not be expressed. It was so astounding he could find no words to describe, so he didn’t.
Verse 5 – Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.
Paul chose to speak of himself in the “third-person” and keep himself out of view. Though he keeps himself out, he says of such a man, it would be proper to boast.
Verse 6 – For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I forbear, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
Paul could have elaborated more on what he had seen or heard but decided not to. He wanted the Corinthians to evaluate him on what they had seen or heard directly from him.
Thorn In the Flesh
Verse 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 buffer me, lest I be exalted above measure.
Let’s not take this one verse out of context and assume that Paul had some physical aliment. He does not say what Satan used to “buffer” him. Paul distinctly says it came from “a messenger of Satan.”
Paul had been a Roman soldier confident in everything he did. Now, as an apostle, Paul had great success in preaching the gospel and planting churches, not to mention all his writings. Paul may very well have been in danger of “spiritual pride.” There is no sin that is more subtle, insinuating, deceptive; none that lurks more constantly around the heart, than pride!
Perhaps Paul had kept this vision quiet for 14 years because of the flattery from his friends that would have puffed him up.
Paul doesn’t speak of this thorn as an affliction. He doesn’t complain of it; he does not say it was sent in cruelty.
The thorn means anything pointed. Whether it refers to some infirmity or pain in the flesh or the body, Paul doesn’t say. Whatever this thorn was it was to prevent “spiritual pride.”
Sometimes, our sufferings and trials are used to keep us humble. (Just a thought.)
Verse 8 – Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
I find it interesting that Paul chose to use the word “depart” and not “to remove.” This makes me think; rather than a physical disorder, it was spiritual. Also notice, Paul prayed three times in his request, and then he submitted to the will of God. Could that be a lesson for us when asking for something?
Verse 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 may rest upon me.
When we admit to ourselves that we cannot do anything without Christ, His power and strength will be all we need to accomplish His will.
Verse 10 – Therefore take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Should we not all have this attitude? In our infirmities (our weakness), in reproaches (scorn and persecutions), while they may be painful and very uncomfortable while going through, nothing compares to the joy of Christ always giving His grace!
Paul’s Signs Support His Apostleship
Verse 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.
Verse 12 – Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
Paul had performed divine signs in front of the Corinthians and that should have been proof that he was called by God.
These signs and wonders were not just for the apostles. Jesus said in Mark 16:17, 18 – “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; (Verse 18) “they will take up serpents and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on thee sick and they will recover.”
Now, my question is: Have you read anywhere after Jesus said this that the signs stopped? No!! These signs will follow those who believe! What the apostles did when preaching the gospel should be evident today also, but it’s far and few.
Verse 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.
Once again, Paul was being sarcastic to the Corinthians.
Verse 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.
As a father provides for his children, Paul tells them he has labored and provided for them spiritually.
Verse 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.
There is nothing that hurts so deep than to not have the love for your family returned. When we are believers, we have a family of other believers, and the church at Corinth was Paul’s family. They had hurt him deeply with their actions.
Verse 16 – But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile!
Verse 17 – Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you?
Verse 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?
Perhaps some feed-back had come to Paul concerning a collection from them for the Jerusalem church. I’m sure the false apostles had something to do with it because they were charging for their preaching.
Verse 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.
Verse 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, backbiting’s, whispering, conceits, tumults;
Verse 21 – and 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 licentiousness which they have practiced.
The Corinthian church had allowed the secular society dictate to them. Has this very thing happened today in our churches? You bet it has. Christ is coming for His church, and you can rest assured that it won’t be a church that is not separate from the world.