Daily Devotion Text

March 25, 2020

2Cor12- 2020-03-25

By carmenhsu In 2 Corinthians, Devotion Text with Comments Off on 2Cor12- 2020-03-25
  • Journal
  • 2 CORINTHIANS  12 – COMMENTARY

    v.1 “Paul is reticent to speak about such things (visions and revelations) because he does not believe that recounting one’s extraordinary mystical visions will do anything to build up the community.  It only serves to build up the teller’s ego and therefore is perilous.  It certainly offers no proof of apostleship.  History is littered with the tales of frauds who have seduced and deluded followers by claiming to have some divine mission from some divine vision.  Consequently, Paul’s rehearses this extraordinary episode in a way that only stresses how useless it is to prove anything about him.  True apostleship is established by the building up of the community (1 Cor 14:3-5,26; 2 Cor 5:13), not by how many ecstatic experiences one can claim.”[1]

    vv.2-3I know a man . . . this man. Paul’s hesitancy to boast of his visions is reflected in his use of the third person (as if it had happened to someone else). the third heaven (i.e., the highest; see 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron. 2:6; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 148:4). This phrase does not imply belief in a simplistic “three-story universe” but reflects a commonsense distinction between (1) the atmosphere where birds can be seen to fly, (2) the higher area where the sun, moon, and stars can be seen, and (3) the unseen realm where God dwells. This third area is equated with paradise (Gk. paradeisos, a Persian loan-word used in the Septuagint to refer to the garden of Eden [see Gen. 2:8–10; 13:10; Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 28:13; 31:8–9] but in the NT to refer to a place of blessedness where God dwells [Luke 23:43; Rev. 2:7]). Both terms would be recognized by Jewish readers as references to the realm of God’s direct presence.”[2]

    “Private mystical experiences have no value for the church because they cannot be adequately communicated to others.  They are useless in trying to make arguments in a public forum that requires logical argument.  The danger of basing teaching on private heavenly revelations is that it will create a division between those blessed with such visions and the rank and file who are not.  Matthew 28:19-20 makes clear that the teaching of the church is based on what Jesus had already commanded on earth, not on the latest visions from paradise.”[3]

    v.6 “Validation as God’s minister does not come from one’s own self-endorsement or from otherworldly experiences.  […]  What is important are not the transcendent moments when he has become spiritually airborne, but his obedience in the daily chore of preaching the gospel faithfully despite ‘weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties’ (12:10).”[4]

    v.7a thorn was given me (by God, who is sovereign over all things) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan. The nature of this ‘thorn’ or ‘messenger’ is much disputed. The most frequently proposed possibilities include: (1) Paul’s inner psychological struggles (such as grief over his earlier persecution of the church, or sorrow over Israel’s unbelief, or continuing temptations); (2) Paul’s opponents, who continued to persecute him (cf. Num. 33:55 and Ezek. 28:24, where thorns refer to Israel’s enemies); (3) some kind of physical affliction (possibly poor eyesight, malaria fever, or severe migraine headaches); or (4) some kind of demonic harassment (‘a messenger of Satan’). Most commentators cautiously prefer some form of the third view, since ‘thorn in the flesh’ would seem to suggest a physical condition.”[5]

    “The word translated ‘thorn’ occurs only here in the New Testament.  It refers to something pointed such as a stake for impaling, a medical instrument, or a thorn.  ‘Stake’ would be a better translation, though ‘thorn’ has dominated English renderings of the word.  The metaphor carries ‘the notion of something sharp and painful which sticks deeply in the flesh and in the will of God defies extracting.’”[6] 

    “The ambiguity about what Paul’s stake in the flesh might be allows others to identify their own personal ‘thorns’ with Paul’s and to appropriate the theological lesson.  Stakes in the flesh are not good, but they also are not bad because they may convey a word from God if we are attuned to hear it.  What is important to Paul is the theological word-to-the-wise that his stake in the flesh provided him.  It was a constant reminder of God’s grace and God’s power working through him.”[7]

    v.9 “We learn from the message given to Paul that God’s grace is not just the unmerited favor that saves us but a force that also sustains us throughout our lives.  The modifier ‘my’ in ‘my power,’ is important.  Paul is not speaking about power in general, but ‘the power of Christ’ revealed in the crucifixion and resurrection: ‘For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power.  Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you (13:4).”[8]

    “Illusions of our own strength cause us to overlook divine power and results in our rebelliousness against God.  For this reason God brings low the proud who lift themselves up and believe their own hype that they are special in and of themselves.  God requires total, unconditional surrender of our pride.  In Paul’s situation God’s grace did not come to him as a prop for his failing strength, but as the decisive question: ‘Will you surrender, utterly surrender, to God’s dealing—will you know yourself to be a sinner before God?’ When we accept our own weakness, we then also learn that we must totally rely upon God.”[9]

    v.11super-apostles. Paul was probably using a sarcastic title to describe the false apostles who were troubling the Corinthian church, by preaching ‘another Jesus’ and ‘a different gospel’ (see vv. 4, 13–15; see also 12:11). Although Paul may have been unskilled in speaking (lacking formal training in rhetoric), his knowledge of the gospel greatly surpassed that of his opponents.”[10]

    vv.14-15 “Paul continues the theme of being a loving parent (11:11) with emphatic expressions: but I will gladly spend everything I have and will be spent for your souls.  Here is the best litmus test for the sign of an apostle.  A true apostle of the crucified Christ is one who is willing to spend and be spent on behalf of a congregation.  He serves at great cost to himself for the great benefit of others.  They should recognize the depth of his love for them from the magnitude of his sacrifices enumerated in 11:23-29.”[11]

    [1] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 509.

    [2] ESV Study Bible, Notes for 2 Corinthians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2238.

    [3] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 516-17.

    [4] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 518.

    [5] ESV Study Bible, Notes for 2 Corinthians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2238.

    [6] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 519.

    [7] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 521.

    [8] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 524.

    [9] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 525.

    [10] ESV Study Bible, Notes for 2 Corinthians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2236.

    [11] David Garland, “2 Corinthians,” The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999) 533-34.

Bible Text:

2 Corinthians 12:1-6 (ESV)

1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Reflection & Application

2 Corinthians 12:1-5; 11

“The striking absence of references to visions and revelations in Paul’s letters demonstrates his own lack of interest in sharing such private, spiritual experiences. He viewed them as without benefit … for building up the church.” [1] 

  • Even though Apostle Paul did not want to “go on boasting,” he says the Corinthians “forced [him] to it” (v. 11) because they thought he was “inferior” to the false teachers, whom he refers to sarcastically as “super-apostles.” What does this reveal about the nature of the boastful claims made by the false teachers?  
  • In recalling his own experiences, why would Paul choose to refer to himself in the third person? 

“Accordingly, Paul restrains himself from such boasting so that no one will brag about him beyond what can be evaluated objectively (cf. 5:12–13; 10:7, 11–14, 17–18)…what counts is what others can observe concerning his words and deeds (12:6).” [2] 

  • According to v. 6, on what basis did Paul want to be thought of or judged?  Why is this the appropriate gauge to evaluate the authenticity of a Christian, rather than claims of supernatural experiences?
  • In what ways do I seek others’ approval through image-maintenance of some sort?

[1]  Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).

[2]  Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).

Prayer 

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