2 Corinthians 12:1-6
1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:
2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.
6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
Paul was walking a fine line here (in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit). On the one hand, he wanted to show indisputable evidence to the Corinthians that he, and not the Judaizers, was God’s appointed messenger to them. This evidence included his message, his sufferings for Christ, and the revelations he had received from the Lord—all powerful stuff. But on the other hand, Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to focus on him. All that he was, all he had to boast about, was entirely from Christ without any merit on Paul’s part at all.
third heaven (v.2) — where God is. The first heaven is the atmosphere. The second heaven is space.
Of the [“man in Christ,” Paul] could boast, for … having no conscious physical being, enjoying an experience of which a man in the flesh could not boast, for it was an exertion of Divine power in which man had no part. Self and everything that could exalt him as a man were forgotten. He, as a man, had no share in a power which raptured him into Paradise. It was “a man in Christ” that was so raptured. Of such a man he could boast; but of himself he would not boast except in his infirmities.
If he wished to boast (v.6) he could do so truthfully, for he had very much to boast about. — Williams, page 907.
Paradise (v.4) — another word for the third heaven. It’s from a Persian word meaning “beautiful garden.”
The apostle may be referring here to an event that had indeed taken place some 14 years previous. Having been stoned at Lystra he was dragged out of the city and left there, supposedly dead. But while the disciples stood around “he rose up and came into the city” (Acts 14:19-20). While Paul does not specify the place, but only the time when the experience of 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 took place, the details match closely.
He does not even state—though he implies—that this experience was his own; evidently because he is speaking of the new man “in Christ.”
Note that the word “glory,” used several times here at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 12, is the same Greek word as “boast” in 11:16. Actually the Greek here has two meanings, or two shades of meaning, according to the context in which it is used. In 11:16 it clearly means to boast, but here, in chapter 12, the sense is to rejoice as in victory, and this agrees with the context here. In today’s English, we might render verse 1 above: “It is not profitable, indeed, for me to rejoice too victoriously; I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord,” and this was far more important. — Stam, pages 219-220.
[Paul] never speaks of “my gospels” (in the plural), but always of “my gospel” (Romans 2:16; 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8). Nor does he ever say or imply that the revelation of Christ to him concerned different messages, but rather that one message was gradually committed to him in a series of revelations (Acts 20:24; 26:16; 1 Corinthians 9:17; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4; Galatians 1:11-12, 15-16; Ephesians 3:1-4; Colossians 1:24-26).
Soon after his conversion, when he returned to Jerusalem, he again saw the Lord and heard Him speak. Hear the apostle as he bears witness to this fact: “And it came to pass that when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple I was in a trance, and saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me” (Acts 22:17-18).
So again, Paul both saw the risen, glorified Lord, and heard Him as He imparted further light on His program for the present dispensation of grace.
These are only two examples, but it is clear the that Lord often appeared to Paul with further revelations. It was when he was first converted that the Lord spoke to him, making him “… a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16).
And now, 25 years later, he says: “I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1). — Stam, pages 220-221.
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