Lesson 13 Spring Quarter
Lesson Text: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Golden Text: 2 Corinthians 12:10
Our lesson this week is going to be the final lesson of the spring quarter of 2022. In this quarter, we have seen Paul’s instructions to a troubled church; remember, the believers were divided over subjects in the church of Corinth. We have also seen Paul’s encouraging words to believers to remain steadfast in the faith and to be good ambassadors of Christ.
In our final lesson this week, we are going to see Paul encourage believers to be faithful even in their weakness. We are also going to get a picture of paradise through Paul’s vision of being in heaven. Our lesson this week is being taught from 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.
Vision of Paradise
This section of our lesson is going to fit perfectly into my sermon from last week – The Finish Line. Our lesson opens up with Paul saying that it is not profitable for him to boast (about himself), but he goes on to speak about a vision and revelation that he had received from God (v.1).
Caught up to the third heaven
We will see that Paul goes on to speak about something that had happened to him 14 years prior with the end result being him temporarily called up to the third heaven (v.2). I do want to point out that Paul, not wanting to boast, speaks of this even as if it happened to someone else, but it is clear that he is speaking of something that happened to him.
The timing of this event would seem to line up with when Paul was stoned at Lystra by Jews from Antioch and Iconium (Acts 14:19). Those Jews that had stoned Paul thought that they had killed him; he was likely knocked out unconscious and must have had a really low pulse. However, Paul was not dead; he was simply busy spiritually.
Paul was caught up to the third heaven by the Lord and not by his own doing. The third heaven is an interesting talking point that I do want to touch on because we rarely talk about heaven like this. The first heaven (or level), would be considered the sky above. Now, there’s not much special about being caught up to this level as we, mankind, are able to reach this level by airplane, jet, helicopter, hot air balloon, etc.
The second heaven are the heavens that we read about in the book of Genesis. The second heaven consists of the heavenly bodies which includes our solar system, the stars, and all of space itself. Now, this second level is actually pretty unique because we cannot easily reach this level as only a few have ever been into space. Yet, with that said, man has proven that he can reach the second heaven without needing to be caught up to it by the Lord.
The third heaven is beyond our air space and space (the known and unknown universe) itself. The third heaven is where the Lord reigns and this heaven – God’s kingdom – is far beyond the limits of space.
Humble account of Paul’s heavenly vision
Think about how massive the universe is – we cannot even see the ends of it! Because the second heaven is so massive that we just can touch it, the third heaven is simply impossible for us to reach by our own might. In order for us to reach this heaven, we have to be brought there by the Lord! This is why we have to follow Jesus to get to heaven (John 14:6). This is also why Paul had to be caught up to the third heaven because there was no way he could make it there on his own.
Paul tells us that he was caught up into Paradise and that he heard inexpressible words, which are not lawful for a man to utter (v.4). Now, Paul had seen some things that he was essentially forbidden to even speak about because it was not lawful for a man to do so. The only thing that Paul really tells us is that heaven exists and that he’s been there to see it.
No need of personal boasting
Paul could have taken this moment in time to speak of heaven in a manner to boast and receive praise from others. But again, let us remember what Paul had just said to the Corinthians, it was not profitable for him to boast. To speak again about being an ambassador of Christ, we do not serve the Lord to be praised and glorified by others!
As we have seen before, the Corinthians had no problem seeking to praise and glorify others. Remember, at one point in time, the church was divided over favoritism and bias of their favorite preachers. No, the gospel and sharing the gospel is not about receiving praise but about praising the Lord and persuading and encouraging others to come to Him.
So, there was nothing more that Paul needed to say about heaven to the Corinthians other than it is real and he has seen it for himself; they would have to choose to believe him or not. The picture of heaven is actually shown to us in great detail through John’s eyes in the book of Revelation as Jesus revealed the heavenly kingdom to us.
We will see Paul again speak to the fact that he would not boast of himself because it would be foolish of him to do so (vss.5-6). It would be foolish of Paul to boast of himself because Paul knew that he did not do or accomplish anything by his own might! Glorification and praise needed to go to only one and that one being the Lord.
The only thing Paul would ever boast of himself was him going through and making it through his infirmities. We are going to see that Paul, in speaking about his infirmities, did not boast about himself but gave all the glory and praise to the Lord. The reason why Paul would do this was because he understood that he never did anything by his own might.
Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh
We will see Paul begin to speak about his infirmities, and again, he’s going to speak about what he went through not to boast about himself but to boast about the Lord. Paul said, “lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given me (v.7).”
What was this thorn in the flesh? Paul actually does not tell us specifically what this thorn was. We do know that his affliction was something physical and we often assume that his thorn was probably his vision. However, Paul does not specifically tell us what his thorn was so we can only guess what his thorn was.
Paul does tell us that he believes a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet him. However, I explained to you all before, that Paul’s thorn was actually the Lord keeping Paul on the course he had for him. To the Romans, Paul spoke of his great desire to visit them but how he was often held up from doing so because he had to go elsewhere to minister. Paul believed this was Satan’s doing but, in actuality, the Lord will send and use us how He desires; God did not desire for Paul to go to Rome until the time He had designated (Rom. 1:9-10).
So, Paul did what any believer should do in our afflictions and infirmities – he prayed. Paul tells us that he pleaded with the Lord three times about his infirmity with a great desire that it be taken away from him (v.8). I believe that Paul was in a serious need of help! I also believe that, in Paul’s mind, the Lord wasn’t moving fast enough for his liking which is why he prayed so often.
Now, I tell you that I believe the Lord heard Paul the first time. In fact, I will go a step further and tell you that the Lord not only heard Paul the first time but He knew of Paul’s needs beforehand. Jesus tells us that the Lord knows our needs before we even go to Him in prayer (Matt. 6:8). When we pray to the Lord, it shows that we are dependent on Him rather than dependent on ourselves, someone else, or something else.
Paul tells us that the Lord responded, “My grace (His love) is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (v.9).” Whatever we go through, the Lord always knows our needs and His grace is sufficient to supply us our every need whether in affliction or not.
The Lord met Paul’s need and this is why Paul would rather boast in the Lord than himself. You see, Paul did not do anything to fix his infirmity, aside from go to God in prayer. The Lord was the one who helped sustain Paul in his infirmity. So, Paul concludes our lesson by saying that takes pleasure in his infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses because God is the one who helps him in his need.
Paul then tells us that when he is weak, he is strong. What makes him strong? What gives him strength? His hope in the Lord and then God gives him the strength to keep on making. As I have preached for this past month, while we are on this journey, it is the Lord that pushes us to keep on moving forward. When we are weak in our infirmities, we are still very strong through the Lord who has overcome all things and is all powerful.