STUDY II Corinthians
12:1-6 (click here for notes)
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. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is no 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. (NIV)
In this chapter Paul finally reveals the unrepeatable event that has truly set him apart from the false apostles who are trying to claim superiority over him: his rapture into paradise where God revealed unspeakable things to him. He also explains that he was subsequently afflicted with an unnamed "thorn in [his] flesh" to protect him from conceit and to continually drive him back into dependence upon God.
1. What does Paul mean when he says he was "caught up" to paradise, or the third heaven? (see verse 4; Acts 1:9; 8:39)
2. What is meant by "the third heaven", or "paradise"? (v.4)? (see Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7; Ephesians 4:10; 1:23; Hebrews 4:14; 7:26; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23)
3. Paul is sure of this experience, but he's not sure if it involved his body or not. Again in this narrative he reveals the confidence he has that makes it unnecessary for him to defend or explain himself to others' satisfaction. What is that confidence? (see v. 2-3; 2 Corinthians 11:11, 31)
4. Paul refuses to boast about his totally unique experience, choosing instead to boast about his weaknesses. Where else did Paul declare his weakness? (1 Corinthians 2:3; 4:10; 9:22; 2 Corinthians 11:29-30; 13:9)
5. Why does Paul not want people to "put him on a pedestal", or to "think more of [him] than is warranted" by what he says and does? (see Romans 12:3; 15:17-19; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
6. This rapture Paul experienced occurred 14 years before he wrote 2 Corinthians (see verse 2), or 41 A.D. This time predates all of Paul's epistles. What significance does this fact have when considering his teachings regarding our place with the Lord after death (2 Corinthians 5:6-9, Philippians 1:22-24), the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3), the pure gospel devoid of legalism or other requirements (11:4; Colossians 2:13-23, Galatians), God's sovereign and eternal choice of us (Ephesians 2:10, Romans 11:22-32), the return of Jesus and the rise of the antichrist (1 Thessalonians 4 and 2 Thessalonians 2), and other theological issues which many churches attempt to distort or discredit?
7. What Christian doctrine(s) have you had the most trouble believing, either now or in the past?
8. What has caused you to doubt?
9. What has caused you the most spiritual pride over the course of your life?
10. What circumstances most make you feel the need to defend yourself?
11. What advantages do you have, spiritual or material, that God is asking you to surrender to him?
12. What doctrinal issues do you need to surrender to God, asking him to teach you the truth and to make your heart willing to know the truth when He reveals it?
13. Ask God to remove your pride and to make you humble before him. Ask
him to open your heart and mind to know the truth and to be willing to learn
from the word and from the Holy Spirit. Ask God to teach you to have confidence
in Him rather than in what you know.
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CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted January 19, 2003.