1 I have to keep on boasting. There is no good to be gotten from it, but I will go on to visions and revelations which the Lord has given me. 2 I know a man in union with Christ fourteen years ago -- whether in the body or out of it, I do not know, but God knows -- who was caught up to the third heaven. 3 Yes, I know that this man -- whether in or out of the body, I do not know, but God knows -- 4 was actually caught up into paradise, and heard things that must not be told, which no man has a right even to mention. 5 On behalf of this man with such an experience I will boast, but on behalf of myself personally I will boast only about my weaknesses. 6 However, if I want to boast, I will not play the fool, for it will be nothing but the truth that I will tell. But I refrain from doing so, to keep anybody, on account of the superiority of the revelations, from giving me a higher rating than my actions and teachings deserve. 7 So, to keep me from being over-elated, there was sent upon me a physical disease, sharp as a piercing stake, a messenger of Satan, to continue afflicting me, and so to keep me, I repeat, from being over-elated. 8 Three times I begged the Lord about this to make it go away and leave me, 9 but He said to me, "My spiritual strength is sufficient, for it is only by means of conscious weakness that perfect power is developed." 10 So I most happily boast about my weaknesses, so that the strength of Christ may overshadow me. That is why I take such pleasure in weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecution, and difficulties, which I endure for Christ's sake, for it is when I am consciously weak that I am really strong.
11 I have made a fool of myself, but you have forced me to do it, for I am the man who ought to have been constantly approved by you. For I am not a single bit inferior to your surpassingly superior apostles, though really I am "nobody." 12 The marks that signify the genuine apostle were exhibited among you in my perfect patience, in signs, wonders, and wonder-works. 13 In what respect, then, were you inferior to the rest of the churches, except for the fact that I, and I only, never received from you any financial support? Please forgive me this wrong.
14 It is now the third time that I have been ready to come to see you, and I will never ask you for financial support, for it is not your money but you yourselves that I want; for children are not by duty bound to lay up money for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So in my own case, I will most happily spend my money and myself for your sakes. If I love you much more than I love others, am I to be loved less by you? 16 But let it be granted, you say, that I never received from you financial support, yet, you say, by being a trickster I cheated you by my cunning. 17 I did not make any money out of you through anybody that I sent to you, did I? 18 I actually begged Titus to go, and sent the well-known brother with him. Titus did not make any money out of you, did he? Did not he and I act in the same spirit, and take the very same steps?
19 Are you thinking all this time that I am defending myself to you? It is in the very presence of God and as one who is in union with Christ that I am speaking. And it is all for building you up, beloved, for I am apprehensive that, somehow or other, when I come I shall find you not as I want to find you, and that you may find me not as you want to find me. 20 I repeat it, I am apprehensive that, somehow or other, there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, rivalries, slanders, gossiping, haughty pride, and disorders, 21 and that when I come back my God may humiliate me before you, and I may have to mourn over some of those who formerly have committed shocking sins, and have not repented for them -- their impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality, which once they practiced.