1 It is necessary to boast, though nothing is gained by it; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a (a)man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, [only] God knows—such a man was caught up to the (b)third heaven.(A) 3 And I know that such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, [only] God knows— 4 was caught up into (c)Paradise and heard inexpressible words which man is not permitted to speak [words too sacred to tell]. 5 On behalf of such a man [and his experiences] I will boast; but in my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. 6 If I wish to boast, I will not be foolish, because I will be speaking the truth. But I abstain [from it], so that no one will credit me with more than [is justified by what] he sees in me or hears from me.
7 Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself!(B)
A Thorn in the Flesh
8 Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; 9 but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. 10 So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].
11 Now I have become foolish; you have forced me [by questioning my apostleship]. Actually I should have been commended by you [instead of being treated disdainfully], for I was not inferior to those (d)super-apostles, even if I am nobody. 12 The signs that indicate a genuine apostle were performed among you fully and most patiently—signs and wonders and miracles. 13 For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except [for the fact] that I did not burden you [with my financial support]? Forgive me [for doing you] this injustice!
14 Now for the third time I am ready to visit you. I will not burden you [financially], because I do not want what is yours [not your money or your possessions], but you. For children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 But I will very gladly spend [my own resources] and be utterly spent for your souls. If I love you greatly, am I to be loved less [by you]? 16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you [with my support]. But [some say that] I was sly and took you by trickery. 17 Did I take advantage of you or make any money off you through any of the messengers I sent you? [Certainly not!] 18 I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? [No!] Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps? [Of course!]
19 All this time you have been thinking that we are [merely] defending ourselves to you. It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking [as one] in Christ; and everything, dearly beloved, is to strengthen you [spiritually]. 20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you not to be as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder; 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality and decadence which they formerly practiced.
a. 2 Corinthians 12:2: Paul had this experience prior to beginning his missionary journeys.
b. 2 Corinthians 12:2: The dwelling place of God, called Paradise by Jesus and also by Paul (v 4).
c. 2 Corinthians 12:4: Paul apparently uses “Paradise” as an equivalent of the third heaven, the dwelling place of God (cf Luke 23:43).
d. 2 Corinthians 12:11: See note 11:5. If the false teachers were degrading Paul’s apostleship, they may have wrongly ascribed a “super-apostleship” to the Twelve, especially James, Cephas (Peter), and John. See Gal 2:9.