Lesson 19: 2 Corinthians 12:1-21

by | Jun 19, 2023 | 2 Corinthians, Cornerstone Women's Bible Study

Read 2 Cor. 12:1-6 – Paul’s Vision

1. It appears that those who were undermining Paul’s authority in Corinth boasted of spiritual experiences such as visions and revelations. Paul boasted in his sufferings, and yet he now reluctantly shared this experience. Visions and revelations were quite common in the New Testament: see Acts 7:55-56, Acts 9:10, Acts 10:17-19, Acts 16:9-10, Acts 18:9-11, Rev. 1:1. Often visions came through an angel: see Lk 1:8-23, Lk 24:22-24, Acts 12:9, Acts 27:23-25.

2. So we should not be surprised if God should speak to us through some type of “visions and revelations of the Lord”. But we do understand that such experiences are subjective and prone to misunderstanding and misapplication. In addition, whatever real benefits there are to “visions and revelations of the Lord”, they are almost always limited to the person who receives the “visions and revelations”. We should be rather cautious when someone reports a vision or revelation they have regarding us. – Guzik What are your thoughts on this?

3. Paul waited 14 years to share this experience, and even then, he did it reluctantly. Summarize Paul’s experience. (re: 3rd heaven – Paul is using  terminology common in that day, which referred to the “blue sky” as the first heaven, the “starry sky” as the second heaven, and the place where God lived and reigned as the third heaven. – Guzik)

Read 2 Cor. 12:7-10 – A Thorn in the Flesh

1. The word translated “thorn” in verse 7 isn’t something that simply causes a minor irritation, but rather it suggests more of a tent peg. It refers to something that frustrates and causes trouble in the lives of those afflicted. According to the end of verse 7, what was the purpose of this “thorn”?

2. God permitted Satan to afflict Paul, just as he had Job. (see Job 1 and 2) The word “buffet” in verse 8 means to strike repeatedly with the fist. With this  understanding, describe the effect of Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

3. Paul took his affliction to God in prayer. According to verse 9, how did God answer this prayer?

a. Referring to God’s answer to Paul’s prayer, Paul begins the next two sentences with “Therefore”. How did God’s answer affect Paul? (vs 9-10)

b. Compare this answer to prayer with the promise in Phil 4:6-7. What do you see? What is your ongoing prayer request? How might these verses deepen  your perspective on this request?

4. This section concludes with this: For when I am weak, then I am strong. What does Paul mean by weak? How does this make him strong?

Read 2 Cor. 12:11-13 – Foolish Boasting

1. The Corinthians had failed to defend Paul’s character and his standing as an apostle to those who criticized and undermined him. Rather than share about Jesus, Paul had been forced to write about himself. Speaking of himself in verse 12, Paul says “I am nothing”. What does he mean?

2. The only way the Corinthian church was inferior to the other churches was that they had not supported Paul. In Corinth Paul did not receive money from the church, but rather supported himself as a tentmaker. Thinking back on previous studies, what was the reason for this?

Read 2 Cor. 12:14-18 – Paul’s Next Trip

1. Paul expects to visit the Corinthians again and at that time he plans again to not receive financial support from them so as not to be burdensome. Paul says, “For I do not seek yours, but you.” What does that mean? This is the heart of a godly pastor, the heart of a shepherd rather than a hireling.

2. Paul received support from other churches, but not the Corinthians. Consider this explanation from Guzik: It is as if Paul is saying, “You Corinthian Christians are not mature enough to support me yet. You are still spiritual children. When you grow up some, you can be partners with me in the work and support me. But until then I am glad to support myself.” How does this fit into what we have learned about the Corinthian Christians?

3. (vs 15) What does it mean to “spend and be spent”? What does this tell us about Paul? Would you gladly spend and be spent for others? Yet how was Paul treated? (vs 15b)

4. (vs 16) Paul sarcastically calls himself crafty and cunning, probably referencing the accusations being made against him. How does Paul defend himself against these accusations? (vs 17-18)

Read 2 Cor. 12:19-21 – Please Repent!

1. Define edification.

2. What do you think Paul had in mind when he spoke of “all things”? (vs 19)

3. Doing all things for the edification of others is a selfless and humble act. Could you say this about the way you serve others? What might keep us from serving in such a God-honoring way?

4. Paul is concerned that when he arrives in Corinth, he will find the same problems and the same unrepentant hearts. To be sure they are clear on what he is talking about, he lists his concerns in verse 20. How would you describe these sins? What effect would these sins have on the church?

5. According to verses 20 and 21, how would Paul respond to their unrepentance?

6. How do these verses add to our understanding of the heart of a pastor?