Meditations on Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
We have in this chapter both the height that a saint may rise to in his experience, and the depths to which he may sink in his conduct.
“A man in Christ” is the Christian’s standing and position before God in Christ. It is therefore perfect as Christ is perfect, and unchanging as He is unchanging, who is now living at God’s right hand.
Paul, in speaking of himself here, says, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory,” and as in the chapter before, he is compelled to speak about himself for their good, and to show the weakness of the flesh which, in the apostle, is just as good-for-nothing as in any other man, so he comes now to visions and revelations of the Lord. He was a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, and whether it was in the body or out of the body, he could not tell, God knew; and in this state was caught up to the third heaven. Christ has gone through all heavens into the immediate presence of God (Heb. 4:1414Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (Hebrews 4:14). N. T.).
Verses 3-7. He knew such a man in such a condition, how that he was caught up into paradise (garden of delights), and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful, or possible for a man to utter. Of such a one he would glory, yet of himself he would not glory, but in his weaknesses. Doubtless it was to confirm his knowledge and faith because of what he was called to go through in suffering for Christ and for the elect’s sake (2 Tim. 2:1010Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)) He is afraid to seem to glory in himself, and he will say the truth, but forbears lest any man should think of him above what he saw and heard of him, and he tells the need he had of a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure. There was no danger of his being puffed up when he was in paradise. The danger was when he came down, of his being exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, but he had to learn this from the Lord after he had come down.
Verses 8-13. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.”
The Lord will show him, but he asked three times before he was ready to receive the answer, and so sweetly it came, “He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Blessed words! to the heart that finds its rest and delight in doing the Lord’s will. Now he understands and gladly responds: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities (or weaknesses), in reproaches, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
This was not glorying in his flesh, but they had compelled him to speak of himself when they ought to have commended him, for in nothing was he behind the chiefest apostles, though he knew that in himself he was nothing.
All the marks of an apostle were seen in him in what he wrought among them in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds, and in nothing were they, through his ministry, inferior to other assemblies, except that he would not allow them to support him. He says, “Forgive me this wrong,” and then asserts that he will continue in the same way.
Verses 14, 15. This was the third time he had purposed coming to them, and he reminded them that they were his children, and that he only sought their good. “I seek not yours, but you, for the children do not lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” How like his Master is such a servant! as we have in chapter 6:3,10.
Verses 16-18. Here he refers to the way they had spoken of him as crafty, taking them with guile. 2 Corinthians 4:1, 21Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1‑2) shows that his ministry was open, and clearly avoiding all craftiness. Neither he nor Titus, nor the brother sent with them, had made a gain of them. They also walked with him in the same spirit, and in the same steps.
Verse 19. They were not to think he was excusing himself. He was speaking in the deep reality of God’s presence, and as he said, “We do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.”
Verses 20, 21. And if the first part of the chapter shows how high a child of God may have gone in his experience, these verses show how deeply a child of God may sink in allowing the flesh in him to have its way, and he, as the one sent of the Lord, would need to deal with them as to the evils they had fallen into, and had not repented, causing him to bewail with sorrow their condition.
We might all examine our ways, and ask ourselves if we have thoroughly judged ourselves of the debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults, that we may have been in or witnessed—all so different from the meekness and gentleness of Christ.