II Cor. 12:1-21
To show further proof of his qualifications as an apostle, Paul wrote about an experience that he had fourteen years earlier—about the time he and Barnabas left Antioch on their first missionary tour. He had been caught up into the third heaven. Jews referred to the atmosphere as the first heaven; the second heaven was among the sun, moon and stars; the third heaven was beyond the starry heaven.
Paul did not write these things to boast, but to inform his critics of the facts of his life. He was not sure whether he was in the physical body or a spiritual body during his revelation, but he had heard words so wonderful that he was not allowed to repeat them.
A “thorn in the flesh” had been given to Paul to prevent him from becoming too prideful of this experience. He did not relate what this infirmity was, but it was so uncomfortable that he pleaded to the Lord three times for it to be removed. His answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” We may rest assured that even though God will not remove our infirmities, He will give us the strength to endure them.
Paul’s sufferings should have been sufficient evidence of his apostleship to the Corinthians. They should have concluded that a person must be highly dedicated to a cause to cheerfully endure the things that he faced.
The church at Corinth had received every privilege enjoyed by the other churches that Paul and other apostles had established. He had bestowed spiritual gifts among them along with other signs, wonders and mighty deeds. The only thing that they lacked; he did not accept financial assistance from them.
In referring to his upcoming visit with the Corinthians, Paul informed them that he again would not be accepting monetary support from them on this trip. He wanted their obedience to Christ instead of their material goods for himself. As a spiritual father to them, their spiritual condition was his greatest concern, even if it would cost him his life.
Paul responded to some who had accused him of taking money indirectly from them through Titus or others. He challenged them to show how he or anyone he had sent could have taken advantage of them. The Corinthians had been instructed to collect the contribution for the Jerusalem Christians and to set it aside until he came.
The spiritual welfare of the Corinthians continued to be Paul’s chief concern. He feared that many would not have changed, making it necessary for him to be severe with his words and actions when he did come to them. It would not be a pleasant reunion for either them or him if they had not repented.