2Co 12:1-6 False religious teachers, including those opposing Paul in Corinth, often boast of their sublime spiritual experiences as evidence of God’s favor for them. How did Paul feel about such boasting, and why did he typically refrain from it? See 2Co 12:1,6. Who was the man that Paul knew who experienced the marvelous revelations he relates? See 2Co 12:7. Why does he refer to himself indirectly in this manner? See 2Co 12:5. What is the third heaven? See 2Co 12:4. What are the first and second heaven? Note: the Hebrew word for heaven/heavens always occurs in the dual (not the singular, nor the plural); the first heaven is the terrestrial heaven in which the birds fly (see Gen 1:20) and that we call the sky; the second heaven is the celestial heaven in which the sun and moon and stars are located (see Gen 1:14-17) and that we call outer space; the third heaven is God’s heavenly paradise (see Deut 10:14). Why do you suppose that the things Paul heard were “unspeakable” and he was not permitted to relate them? What do you suppose was the purpose of these revelations in Paul’s life, since he was not permitted to relate them?
2Co 12:7-10 For what purpose was a thorn in the flesh given to Paul? What was the spiritual nature of this physical affliction, and who was the agent responsible for inflicting it? What does this teach us about the possible cause of afflictions in our life? What does it teach us about the way God uses Satan to accomplish His own purposes? Was Paul’s fervent prayer in regard to his affliction answered according to his desire? What does this teach us about the possible cause of unanswered prayer? Is it always God’s desire to deliver us from our physical afflictions? Why not? See 2Co 12:9. Note: “perfected” means finished, completed, as in Christ’s last words on the cross in Jn 19:30. In light of this truth, how did Paul view his afflictions and weaknesses? See 2Co 12:10. Is it significant that the word Paul uses for “weakness” (Greek avsqe,neia) is the same word used throughout the Gospels and Acts for sickness and infirmities? (See Mat 8:17, Mark 6:56, Luke 5:15, 8:2, 13:11-12, Jn 5:5, 11:4, Acts 4:9, 5:15-16, 28:9, etc…). What does all this teach us about how we should view our own sicknesses and physical afflictions? See 2Co 12:9b-10.
2Co 12:11-13 Paul considered it foolishness on his part to have to commend himself to the Corinthians. Did those opposing him in Corinth, or many today who present themselves as spiritual giants, consider it so? Who ought to commend true servants of God? See 2Co 12:11. In what two respects was Paul not inferior to the “super-apostles” opposing him? See 2Co 12:12 and 13. What is the significance, both to the Corinthians and to us, that the signs Paul performed among them as an apostle were done “with all perseverance”? Do we persevere in the midst of our weaknesses, trials and hardships to see the power of God made manifest?
2Co 12:14-18 Does the fact that Paul was prepared for the third time to come to Corinth necessarily mean that he had been there twice before? See 2Co 1:15. How was Paul’s attitude toward those whom he had begotten in the Lord different from that of the false apostles? See 2Co 12:14-15. How does his attitude reflect the true love of Christ? Those opposing Paul charged that he was taking the Corinthians by deceit and sponging off them by means of those whom he sent. How does he answer this charge? See 2Co 12:16-18.
2Co 12:19-21 Throughout this epistle Paul has been defending himself against those in Corinth who were opposing him. However, was this Paul’s purpose in writing to the Corinthians? What was his purpose? See 2Co 12:19. Why? See 2Co 12:20-21. Did whether or not the Corinthians accepted Paul’s authority affect the reality that he was in fact a true apostle of God, with authority to exercise necessary discipline in the church? Was it Paul’s desire to exercise that authority in discipline? See 2Co 13:10, 1 Cor 4:20-21. Why would it be humiliating for Paul to have to do so (2Co 12:21)? Would he not expect more from a church that he himself had established?