2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Three men are in the middle of a desert when their car breaks
down. For their hike to town, they each decide to take one
thing with them.
One man takes a jug of water. The second man takes a
sandwich. The last man takes one of the car doors.
The first man says to the last man: “I’m bringing the water
because if I get thirsty, I can take a drink. And it makes sense
to bring a sandwich in case we get hungry, but why bring a
The last man replies, “If I get hot, I can just roll down the
Last week we looked at the last half of the 11th chapter of 2
Corinthians where Paul wrote about his proper boasting. He spent
most of the time boasting about his suffering for Christ, but
ended by saying that it is best to boast in our weakness
because he knows that when we are weak God is strong.
This morning we are going to turn our attention to the 12th
chapter of 2nd Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 12:1-6
A Glimpse at Heaven
Paul writes that he must continue his boasting although there is
nothing to be gained by it. He is simply responding to the attacks
of the false teachers against his character and ministry.
Paul goes on to explain his personal experience with visions and
revelation from God.
We know of his personal experience with Jesus on the road to
Damascus where he was converted.
We also read of a vision he received of Ananias coming to
minister to him. cf. Acts 9:12
He also received a vision when God was calling him to
Macedonia. cf. Acts 16:9
Next, Paul explains what he experienced when he was caught up
in the 3rd heaven.
What is the 3rd heaven?
The first heaven is the atmosphere of our earth.
The second heaven is outer space where the moon and stars and
The third heaven is the place where God dwells.
Paul also refers to it as Paradise.
This word is only found 3 times in the NT.
Jesus used it when He told the thief on the cross he would be with
Him in paradise.
It is also used in Revelation 2:7 in the letter to the church at
Ephesus about those who conquer will be in paradise and eat
from the tree of life.
It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t describe what he saw, but rather
what he heard.
The NKJV and the CSB use the phrase inexpressible words that
man cannot speak.
The point is that God let him hear something that only belongs in
heaven. Paul didn’t even speak of the matter for 14 years and
then only because he was defending his apostolic authority.
Let’s take a moment to discuss the phenomenon we have today
of all the books that have been written about people’s alleged
experience in heaven. Whether it is real or not only God knows,
but I lean towards the side of them being not true.
What brings you more comfort,
someone telling you about what they saw in heaven or
the Bible’s description of the one seated on the throne in
Our focus should be on the One who loves us and has prepared a
place for us, rather than the place He has prepared for us.
Everything true we know about heaven is written in the Bible.
God didn’t allow Paul to speak about what he saw or heard in
heaven, just that he was there. He wasn’t even sure if he was
there in body or spirit.
The truth is that God allowed him to see it. He gave Paul a
revelation of heaven and now Paul can share that with the church
at Corinth and put to bed all the rumors from the false teachers
Paul continues boasting, but again he boasts in his weakness.
And he also boasts in the truth he speaks.
He understands his purpose is to point people to Jesus Christ.
He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that.
Even though he is boasting to the Corinthians, he is doing it with
Christ as the focal point.
Paul never takes credit for the work that God has done.
And neither should we. God is responsible for the fruit.
We are responsible for obeying and surrendering to Him.
Now, let’s take a look at the last few verses.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Grace for the Thorn
Paul is grateful for the incredible revelations he received, and he
knows they were from God, unlike what the false teachers had
He understands that the thorn he is dealing with is for his own
good. It isn’t enjoyable, but it’s purposeful.
Paul understands the benefits of suffering.
Listen to what he wrote to the church at Rome.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that
suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces
character, and character produces hope, and hope does not
put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into
our heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Notice how Paul describes the thorn.
A messenger of Satan to harass me. To help me keep from
Remember Job’s affliction. Satan asked if he could afflict Job and
God allowed it.
God also allowed Paul to receive a thorn in the flesh,
What was the thorn in the flesh?
Good question. We don’t know, and that’s ok because each one
of us has or will have something in life that we will go through that
God is going to allow us to endure.
Notice that Paul prayed three times for God to remove the thorn.
Jesus also prayed three times in the Garden for God to take the
cup from Him, but it was God’s will for Christ to suffer and die and
be raised again on the third day.
For Paul, we know that God is able to remove the thorn, but He
Sometimes God, in His sovereignty, says NO!
And that is ok. He’s God and we are not.
But look what God did for Paul.
He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made
perfect in weakness.”
God gave Paul grace to endure the thorn in the flesh.
Remember how God gives grace? Grace upon grace.
Spurgeon – Great tribulation brings out the great strength of
If you never feel inward conflicts and sinking of soul, you do
not know much of the upholding power of God;
but if you go down, down, into the depths of soul-anguish till
the deep threatens to shut her mouth upon you, and then the
Lord rides upon a cherub and does fly, yea, rides upon the
wings of the wind and delivers your soul, and catches you
away to the third heaven of delight, then you perceive the
majesty of divine grace.
Oh, there must be the weakness of man, felt, recognized, and
mourned over, or else the strength of the Son of God will
never be perfected in us.”
Paul finishes his thought at the end of verse 9 and verse 10.
He continues his talk about boasting, but again centers it on his
weakness because he knows that in his weakness Christ is
And through that power he is content to deal with anything that
may come his way.
He draws his strength from the Lord.
How do we deal with adversity in our life?
Are we asking for God to remove it or are we asking for His grace
to endure it?
Two Scriptures came to my mind as I was writing the application
for today’s text.
John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you
may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But
take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I John 4:4 “Little children, you are from God and have
overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who
is in the world.”
Experience His Grace
Church, we have confidence that no matter what we face in life
God has overcome. He has conquered death and hell and He is
coming back for us.
Isn’t God good to give us a glimpse of heaven?
We don’t need to get worked up trying to figure everything out
down here. Heaven is going to be amazing because God is there.
Isn’t God good for giving us grace when we need it?
It’s not wrong to ask God to remove challenges from our lives, but
when He says no, how will you respond?
Will you get angry and run from Him?
Will you seek His face and run into His arms for comfort and
Remember, He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction…