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2 Corinthians 12 The Passion Translation (TPT)

Paul’s Visions and Revelations

12 Although it may not accomplish a thing, I need to move on and boast about supernatural visions and revelations of the Lord.[a] Someone I’m acquainted with, who is in union with Christ, was swept away fourteen years ago in an ecstatic experience. He was taken into the third heaven,[b] but I’m not sure if he was in his body or out of his body—only God knows. And I know that this man[c] (again, I’m not sure if he was still in his body or taken out of his body—God knows) was caught up in an ecstatic experience and brought into paradise,[d] where he overheard many wondrous and inexpressible secrets[e] that were so sacred that no mortal is permitted to repeat them.[f] I’m ready to boast of such an experience, but for my own good I refuse to boast unless it concerns my weaknesses.[g] However, if I were to boast, it wouldn’t be ridiculous at all, for I would be speaking the truth. Yet I will refrain, lest others think higher of me than what I demonstrate with my life and teaching.

Paul’s “Thorn”

The extraordinary level of the revelations I’ve received is no reason for anyone to exalt me.[h] For this is why a thorn in my flesh was given to me, the Adversary’s messenger sent to harass me,[i] keeping me from becoming arrogant. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to relieve me of this. But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you,[j] and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.[k] 10 So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.

The Signs of an Apostle

11 I have become foolish to boast like this, but you have forced me to do it, when you should have boasted in me instead. For there is nothing I lack compared to these “super-apostles” of yours, even though I am nothing. 12 The things that distinguish a true apostle were performed among you with great perseverance—supernatural signs, startling wonders, and awesome miracles.

13 Furthermore, how were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I didn’t burden you financially—forgive me for depriving you![l] 14 And now here I am, ready to come to you for the third time,[m] and I still refuse to be a burden to you. For what I really want is your hearts, not your money. After all, children should not have to accumulate resources for their parents, but parents do this for their children. 15 And as a spiritual father to you, I will gladly spend all that I have and all that I am for you![n] If I love you more, will you respond by loving me less?[o]

16 Be that as it may, I haven’t been a burden to you at all, yet you say of me, “He’s a scoundrel and a trickster!” 17 But let me ask you this. Did I somehow cheat or trick you through any of the men I sent your way? 18 I was the one who insisted that Titus and our brother come and help you. Did Titus take advantage of you? Didn’t we all come to you in the same spirit, following in the ways of integrity?

19 I hope that you don’t assume that all this time we have simply been justifying ourselves in your eyes? Beloved ones, we have been speaking to you in the sight of God as those joined to Christ, and everything we do is meant to build you up and make you stronger in your faith. 20 Now I’m afraid that when I come to you I may find you different than I desire you to be, and you may find me different than you would like me to be. I don’t want to find you in disunity, with jealousy and angry outbursts, with selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and turmoil. 21 I’m actually afraid that on my next visit my God will humble me in front of you as I shed tears over those who keep sinning without repenting of their impurity, sexual immorality, and perversion.


  1. 2 Corinthians 12:1 Or “from the Lord.”
  2. 2 Corinthians 12:2 Although there are Jewish traditions that present a cosmology of seven levels of heaven, most scholars conclude that the third heaven is the highest realm of the immediate presence of God.
  3. 2 Corinthians 12:3 There are a number of compelling reasons to conclude that the “man” Paul refers to in vv. 2–4 is himself: (1) He knew the exact time this ecstatic experience took place. (2) He knew that what was overheard in the third heaven was “inexpressible” and not to be repeated. (3) He was not certain about what state he was in (embodied/disembodied). (4) In v. 7 he uses the first-person pronoun me (“a thorn in the flesh was given to me”) as a counterbalance to the high level of revelation that Paul had received. It was a common literary device, a rhetorical ploy, to avoid speaking of oneself directly in this fashion and by using the phrase “Someone I’m acquainted with” (v. 2) when he, in fact, was referring to himself. It is a sign of Paul’s humility and integrity that he did not “boast” of this event that took place fourteen years earlier. Many today who have experiences with God are quick to tell what happened. Paul veiled his heavenly encounters with God and waited to share them only when it was appropriate and faith-building for others. Not every experience we have is meant to be shared immediately. This is what got Joseph the dreamer thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers.
  4. 2 Corinthians 12:4 What Paul described as the third heaven in v. 3 is now called paradise. It is possible that Paul is recounting two different experiences, or possibly one experience in which he ascended into two levels or two realms of encounter (third heaven and then paradise/seventh heaven). The third possibility is that it was one and the same place, described with different terms. For more on the term paradise (Hb. pardes, Aramaic pardesa, Gr. paradeisos), see Gen. 2:9; Luke 23:43; Rev. 2:7.
  5. 2 Corinthians 12:4 Or “words” or “matters” or “things.” Paul was privileged to see and hear of mysteries that are beyond the reach of human language and unable to be spoken by human lips.
  6. 2 Corinthians 12:4 See also Rev. 10:4.
  7. 2 Corinthians 12:5 The Aramaic can be translated “afflictions.”
  8. 2 Corinthians 12:7 The true character of spiritual revelations is that they exalt Christ, not people. It is a paradox that the greater our understanding of God, the less we truly know and the more humble we become. Paul refused to be exalted in the eyes of others. This is the nature of true apostolic ministry.
  9. 2 Corinthians 12:7 Or “to slap my face” or “to box my ears.” Paul did not have a demon, though it was possible that a demon followed him to harass and hinder. This is more likely a metaphor of the harassment he endured, the constant misunderstanding and persecution that came to him because of his faith in Jesus. There is no indication that this “thorn” was a sickness. In Paul’s list of hardships (2 Cor. 11:23-27) he does not mention a sickness or disease.
  10. 2 Corinthians 12:9 Or “My grace is continuously sufficient in you” (to ward it off).
  11. 2 Corinthians 12:9 Or “The power of Christ rests upon me like a tent or tabernacle” (providing me shelter).
  12. 2 Corinthians 12:13 Paul appears to be addressing a complaint that he had treated the Corinthians differently than the other churches when, in fact, he had refused their financial support and was helped instead by the Philippians, who aided him financially while in Corinth, and for this he should have been commended by them. The five marks of Paul being a true apostle are (1) supernatural signs attesting to God’s presence and authority, (2) wonderful deeds that could be explained only by a supernatural God, (3) powerful miracles that point to Christ, (4) treating the churches with respect and not wanting to burden them if at all possible, and (5) becoming a true spiritual father to the churches (see v. 15).
  13. 2 Corinthians 12:14 It was during Paul’s third visit to Corinth that he wrote the letter to the Romans.
  14. 2 Corinthians 12:15 Or “for your souls.”
  15. 2 Corinthians 12:15 Some manuscripts indicate that this is not a rhetorical clause but make it into a concessive clause subordinate to the first half of the verse, effectively changing the meaning to “I will gladly spend all that I am for you, even though you love me less for doing so.” Sacrificial love is always the key to opening the hearts of people we minister to and serve.
The Passion Translation (TPT)

The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.
Used by permission. All rights reserved. thePassionTranslation.com

2 Corinthians 12 New International Version (NIV)

Paul’s Vision and His Thorn

12 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s Concern for the Corinthians

11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,”[a] even though I am nothing. 12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. 20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.


  1. 2 Corinthians 12:11 Or the most eminent apostles
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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