In 2 Cor 12:11 Paul said, “I am become a fool in glorying.” Paul was not a man to glory in himself [2 Cor 12:5]. Yet, the attitude of the Corinthians toward him and toward the false apostles who had exalted themselves among them [2 Cor 11:13, 20], compelled him to glory for their sakes [2 Cor 12:11]. In 2 Cor 12:1 Paul said it was not expedient for him to glory. In other words, “I’m saying these things, not to bring glory to myself (doubtless that wouldn’t be expedient) but so that you won’t exalt the guys that are trying to destroy you.” We’re going to study four things in which Paul became a fool in glorying.
Paul gloried in the Lord’s visions and revelations – 2 Cor 12:1 – when Paul wrote, “I will come to visions and revelations,” he wasn’t referring to future visions and revelations. He had already received an “abundance of… revelations,” [2 Cor 12:7]. He used “come to” in the sense of “now we come to the good part.” That is, now we’re going to talk about the visions and revelations. See Acts 26:12-20 the vision on the road to Damascus; Acts 16:9-10 the vision of a man of Macedonia; Gal 1:11-12 the revelation of the gospel; and Eph 3:3 the mystery. In 2 Cor 12:2-4 he wrote about his most astounding vision, when he saw paradise.
Paul gloried in being caught up to the third heaven – 2 Cor 12:2-6 – Paul used the third person when writing about his trip to the third heaven because he didn’t use this experience to make a name for himself. He refused to bring that kind of glory to himself [2 Cor 12:5] in order to advertise his ministry. His attitude is so unlike the attitude of the modern false apostles who claim supernatural experiences in order to get a large following.
Paul said he was caught up to heaven “above fourteen years ago.” In the Old Scofield Bible, the date for 2 Cor 12 is A.D. 60 and the date for Acts 14 is A.D. 45, which is “above” fourteen years ago. So, this evidently happened in Acts 14:19, when Paul was stoned and left for dead. Paul didn’t know whether this was an “out of body” experience or not. He couldn’t tell.
Paul was caught up to the third heaven. According to Gen 1, there are three heavens. The first heaven is the realm of the earth and sky over which man was given dominion [Gen 1:20, 26]. The second heaven was created when God made the firmament that separates the waters from the waters [Gen 1:6-10]. We call this firmament “outer space.” And the third heaven is the heaven that is above the waters [Gen 1:1; Ps 148:4; Rev 4:6; Job 38:30].
Paul was caught up to paradise. In Lk 23:43, paradise was still in Abraham’s bosom in the heart of the earth. At his ascension, Jesus led captivity captive [Eph 4:8] when he took the Old Testament saints with him, who had been in Abraham’s bosom. So, paradise is up, now.
He heard unspeakable words. This is comparable to Rev 10:4, where the voice of the seven thunders was sealed up. In Dan 12:4, Daniel was instructed to shut up the words and seal the book.
When Paul said, of “such an one” will I glory, he was referring to the “such an one” from verse 2 who was caught up. Paul gloried in the glory that we will have. Rom 8:18 mentions the glory which shall be revealed in us; 1 Cor 15:43 says, concerning our body, it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. Therefore, Paul said, “Of myself I will not glory.” Though I would desire to glory, I will say the truth (no brag; all fact). He said, “now I forbear,” because he didn’t want to be put on a pedestal.
Paul gloried in his infirmities and his thorn in the flesh – 2 Cor 12:7-10 – the thorn in the flesh was possible eye problems [Gal 4:14-15]. This was a messenger of Satan to buffet him. To buffet is to attack as if by repeated blows. It was something that struck him repeatedly. The purpose of the messenger was “lest I should be exalted above measure.” No one else had been given the revelations Paul received. He was unique. That is, until John was given the Revelation. Satan was given permission to attack Paul in the same way that he was given permission to attack Job. In the end, it made both men better.
He besought the Lord thrice, like the Lord in Matt 26:44. It wasn’t necessary for him to pray more because the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” My personal prayer is for the Lord to heal the ones who have need of healing or to give them sufficient grace and the understanding to know that this is how He is answering their prayer. Paul knew the answer to his prayer.
Sufficient grace is enough to meet the needs of each attack, to compensate for each weakness. The strength of grace is the Lord’s strength. It is perfect in the fact that it is certain, dependable, reliable. It is exactly wha tis needed in each cade. Paul knew he could count on it.
Paul said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” He said, “I take pleasure in infirmities.” He was like the disciples who were to rejoice and be exceeding glad in persecutions [Matt 5:11-12]. Persecution is not joyful. Yet, they were to rejoice because their reward was great in heaven. Paul’s infirmities were afflictions, and those are not enjoyable [Prov 15:15]. Nevertheless, they resulted in Christ’s strength and power and that’s why he took pleasure in them. Like the cross in Heb 12:2. The joy was set before Jesus and so he endured the cross (but the cross was not joyful).
Paul gloried in his apostolic signs – 2 Cor 12:11-12 – Paul had the signs of an apostle. See Rom 15:19. Elymas, the sorcerer, was blinded for a season [Acts 13:8-11]. In Acts 14:8-10 he made a man walk who had been born cripple. In Acts 19:11-12 he could heal people by sending them handkerchiefs or aprons. Evil spirits departed from them. He raised Eutychus from the dead [Acts 20:9-10]. He survived a lethal snake bite [Acts 28:3-6]. He healed many sick on Melita [Acts 28:8-9].
He wrought these signs in all patience among the Corinthians in the same way that Jesus was patient with his disciples. Having shown his disciples many miracles, including his own resurrection, they were still slow of heart to believe. Paul, likewise, was patient with the Corinthians. There were some there who opposed him and didn’t believe him, despite the signs. There’s an interesting verse in Ecc 7:8 which says, “the patient in spirit better than the proud in spirit.” People who brag about signs today are proud [they use their “gifts” to promote themselves] and impatient with those who don’t “buy into” their gifts.
Paul said, “I ought to have been commended of you… in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles.” They should have been bragging about Paul and his ministry among them. But Paul never used these things for his own glory. He said, “I be nothing.” See Gal 6:3.
Conclusion: Paul had to glory to get the Corinthians back to the Lord [2 Cor 12:19] and away from the false apostles who were trying to bring them into bondage [2 Cor 11:20]. Otherwise, he would have never written about these things in this manner. Nevertheless, what he wrote has helped us, as well.