1 Although I must boast about myself [See 11:21-27], it [really] is not profitable. So, I will go on to [tell about] visions and [inspired] revelations given [to me] from the Lord.
2 I know a man in [fellowship with] Christ who, fourteen years ago, was taken [literally, "snatched"] up to the third heaven. [Note: The first heaven would be where birds fly; the second where the stars are; and the third where God is]. (I do not know whether he was in his physical body or whether it was an "out-of-the-body" experience, but God knows). [Note: Paul is obviously telling about a personal experience. See verse 7].
4 was [actually] taken up into Paradise. [Note: This is the same as the "third heaven" of the previous verse, and was a place in the presence of God. See Luke 23:43; Rev. 2:7]. There he heard inexpressible words which are not permitted for people to repeat.
5 I will boast on behalf of this person, but I will not boast about myself [anymore], except about my weaknesses.
6 However, if I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will hold back, so that no one will think more of me than what he sees or hears from me.
7 But, so that I would not become too conceited over the tremendous revelations [I received], a "thorn in the flesh" was given to me as a messenger from Satan to torment me. [Note: This "thorn" was probably some physical handicap, possibly defective eyesight. See Gal. 4:14-15; 6:11].
8 I pled with the Lord about this matter three times, that He would remove this problem from me.
9 But God said to me, "My unearned favor is enough for you, for my power is made complete in [your] weakness." Therefore, I will most gladly boast, so that the power of Christ can rest on me.
10 So, I am pleased to [endure] weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties, [all] for Christ's sake. For when I am weak [physically], then I am strong [spiritually].
11 I have become foolish [i.e., by my boasting], but you made me do it [i.e., in order to vindicate myself]. For I should have been commended by you [i.e., for my effective ministry there in Corinth], because I was not inferior in any way to those "super apostles" [See 11:5], even though I am nothing.
12 Truly, I endured [opposition] patiently, while showing evidence of being an apostle among you. I performed [supernatural] signs, and wonders and powerful miracles.
13 For in what way were you people inferior to the rest of the churches, unless it was that I was not a [financial] burden to you? Forgive me for this wrong.
14 Now, this is the third time I have been ready to come to you, and I will not be a [financial] burden to you. For I do not want your possessions but you yourselves, because children should not [have to] save up for their parents, but parents for their children.
15 So, I will most gladly spend [all I have], and [even] spend myself for the sake of your souls. If I love you so much, should you love me less [than that]?
16 So, let it be [said] that I did not become a burden to you. But being a clever person, [some are saying] that I took you in by trickery. [Note: Paul is saying that even though he took no financial support from the church, they are accusing him of taking financial advantage of them through other people].
18 I urged Titus [i.e., to go to you to arrange for the special offering. See 8:6], and I sent the brother with him. [See 8:18]. Did Titus take any [financial] advantage of you? Do we not [both] have the same attitude [in this matter]? Do we not [both] follow the same procedures?
19 You have been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves [have you not]? We are [simply] speaking [the truth] before God in [fellowship with] Christ. But everything [we are doing], dear friends, is to build you up [spiritually].
20 For I am afraid that somehow, when I come [to you], I might not find you the way I want you to be, and you might not find me the way you want me to be. I am afraid there might be quarrelling, jealousy, angry outbursts, factious spirits, slander, gossip, arrogance and [other] disturbances [there].