If you're looking for a church to affirm every part of your life, the true Church is not for you, but there's good news!
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2 Corinthians 12 (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.
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.
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,
a thorn was given me
in the flesh,
a messenger of Satan
to harass me,
to keep me from becoming conceited.
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
9 But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ
may rest upon me.
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
For when I am weak,
then I am strong.
11 I have been a fool!
You forced me to it,
for I ought to have been commended by you.
For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles,
even though I am nothing.
12 The signs of a true apostle
were performed among you
with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches,
except that I myself did not burden you?
Forgive me this wrong!
14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you.
And I will not be a burden,
for I seek
not what is yours
For children are not obligated to save up for their parents,
but parents for their children.
15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.
If I love you more,
am I to be loved less?
16 But granting that I myself did not burden you,
I was crafty, you say,
and got the better of you by deceit.
17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you?
18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him.
Did Titus take advantage of you?
Did we not act in the same spirit?
Did we not take the same steps?
19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you?
It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ,
and all for your upbuilding, beloved.
20 For I fear that perhaps when I come
I may find you not as I wish,
and that you may find me not as you wish—
that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
21 I fear that when I come again
my God may humble me before you,
and I may have to mourn over many of those
who sinned earlier
and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
2 Corinthians 12 Summary
Paul has spent considerable time over these past chapters comparing fad religion, represented by the super apostles (literally super-duper - v11), with the true Church. In chapter 12, it becomes clear that he's just as exasperated writing about this as what we are reading about it.
In the opening verses, he very sarcastically writes of what was likely his own personal experience being taken up into heaven. His point here isn't to tell us about what heaven is like (he's been forbidden to tell about that - v4), but rather to illustrate that his goal in ministry is not building up his own ego driven empire, but rather to point people away from himself and towards Christ.
The most famous part of this chapter comes where Paul tells about the thorn that was given to him (isn't it interesting that all things - both good and bad - can be considered gifts from God?). Even after multiple sincere prayers to have the thorn removed, God let it be, and instead replied with a promise much more powerful than the burden:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (v9).
We often think of church as the place we go to find some respite from the burdens and stresses of life; the place we go for a break from the temptations that constantly bombard us.
These chapters in 2 Corinthians remind us that there's a tension in the role the church plays in your life. Indeed the church is a place of respite, inviting us with the words of our Savior: Come all who burdened and you will find rest (Matt. 11:28).
Paul is reminding the Corinthians that although you are more than welcome to come into church filthy from sin, you must make every effort to keep yourself clean after you leave. If you don't make this effort, which the Corinthians were not, then it's discipline, not comfort, that you'll find waiting for you from the church.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our caring Father who gives us all sufficient grace and power in our weakness (v9).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will find Christ's strength even in your own weakness (v10)
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: