Chapter 11 is the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3:12. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Note the contrast: He has been glorying in things which had no glory in men’s eyes, ending with a humiliating experience of being “let down” in a basket to escape the wrath of a Gentile governor.
In chapter 12 he turns our attention abruptly from being “let down” to being “caught up” to heaven, where he received visions and revelations.
v. 2—“I know a man in Christ.” Paul is speaking of himself. Paul was “caught up to the third heaven.” A likely time for this to have happened would be when he was stoned at Lystra. How Paul ever kept this secret for fourteen years is a miracle.
v. 2—He was caught up to the “third heaven.”
v. 4—He was caught up “into Paradise.”
Paradise and the third heaven is the same place. To the thief on the cross Jesus said, “Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” This then is where the Lord is. The dwelling place of God. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” This was indeed a unique experience. What an honor. Not one of his accusers had been honored in this way by God.
Note the remarkable fact—Paul’s body was lying in the dirt outside Lystra, but the real Paul was in Paradise. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” While there, he heard “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” That is, he heard and saw things which are impossible for man to describe, and which God evidently did not want him to reveal or discuss.
The nearest he ever came to discussing this was when he quoted from Isaiah 44:4.
Such an experience could have made Paul an inveterate boaster. But verses 5-6 show us that while he may boast of these experiences, yet personally he will boast in his infirmities, lest anyone should think of him more highly than they should.
v. 7—Paul mentions here a “thorn in the flesh” that God gave him to keep him humble. This thorn or splinter was “for the flesh.” It both hurt and humbled. This thorn or splinter was of considerable magnitude. It was like a beam. It weakened physically and possibly affected his speech. 1 Corinthians 10:10. Notice how he mentions infirmities or weaknesses in verses 9 and 10. God’s grace and Christ’s power more than compensated for his weakness.
Verse 10 epitomizes the life and experiences of Paul showing his weakness to avert these things. He closes the section with a tremendous statement of triumph—“When I am weak then I am strong.”
v. 11-13—Paul regrets at having to boast like a foolish person. It was their belligerent attitude that had forced him into this situation. Surely they know now, on account of what he had written, that he was not inferior to the false teachers. Also, they themselves knew the signs that indicate apostleship performed among them, miracles, wonders, and mighty works.
v. 13—this verse would give the idea that when Paul was serving in Corinth and realized that there was opposition to his apostleship, he refused to take support money from them. He was supported by gifts from other churches. Then rather scathingly he adds, “Forgive me this wrong.”
v. 14—Paul is ready to take another trip to Corinth. He assures them that he will not be a burden to them financially. “I seek not your support, I seek you for Christ.”
v. 15—He expresses his deep concern and love for them. I will gladly lay my life down if it will be for your good. Even thought he more I love you, the less I be loved by you.
v. 16—This verse describes what his enemies were saying of him. They said, “He tricked you by his so-called humbleness and lowliness. He really did this to holy you under his power.”
v. 17—Paul reminds them that, no matter what his enemies thought, I did not make gain/money of you personally, nor through any of the messengers I sent you.
v. 18—Did Titus, or the brother I sent with him, take advantage of you? He and I acted in the same spirit, and walked the same paths.
v. 19—Have you been supposing, during my absence, that in my writing I have been defending myself? That is not so. What I have written, I have written before God and Christ, and it has been to build you up spiritually.
v. 20—This verse describes the condition of the assembly at Corinth, as the evil spirit of fault-finding took hold of them. In their midst there were: “debates” (several people fussing over unimportant things, quarreling), “envyings” (jealous of other people’s works), “wrath” (envy leads us to bitterness, fault-finding, anger), “strife” (in-fighting between brethren), “whispering” (a very dangerous practice, fault-finding by a little group), “back-bitings” (talking behind a person’s back, never to his face), “conceits” (arrogance, self-assertion), “insults” (internal disorder).
v. 21—As I look at your spiritual condition I am afraid that when I come to you I will be terribly upset. Because despite my letters and admonitions there are some who have not repented of the impurity, sexual vice, and sensuality which they formerly practiced.
Paul as a true man of God firstly would grieve over the situation. Then he would act with authority, rebuking evil and urging repentance.