Tag Archive: 2 Corinthians 12



“Looking at His disciples, He said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.'”

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If one has ears to hear, let him hear. Many verses containing the word of Christ, and indeed throughout the Bible, contain some passages that may look curious or downright scary at first glance. Furthermore, they may seem to contradict the rest of what scripture says, though with closer inspection this isn’t the case. Although this section provided me with a lot of comfort, it also alarmed me somewhat.

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It seemed to say that to follow Christ I had to be in a constant state of misery. This obviously isn’t the case. When we look at the example of Paul for instance, we find that he was content no matter what he lacked or what hardships he faced. As he says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions in difficulties.” Instead, he had a faith that produced a harvest of contentment and joy no matter what the circumstance. So what is Jesus saying here? Does it contradict the joy that Paul, the apostles, and we have? Not at all, for even Christ Himself tells us to rejoice and “leap for joy” in verse 23.

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"San Paolo," by Pompeo Batoni. oil on canvas, c. 1742

2 Corinthians 5:4 says:

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (See my Note, “On Being Swallowed up by Life”)

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Paul both groans and delights. Using these scriptures, what Christ really means in the aforementioned passage in Luke becomes clear. A Christian is not supposed to be void of laughter, or even prosperity. A Christian is warned in Romans 12:2 to, “not conform to the pattern of this world.” Though we are in the world we are not of the world, for now our eyes are focused on Christ. Our contentment rests not in the things of this world, and those activities and materials man chases after to pacify himself, but rather it rests on Christ. This being the case we ache, or groan, to be in our heavenly dwelling and away from the body and it’s meaningless desires, for we know the things of God are not momentary like those things people find “contentment” in within the world, but rather everlasting and more glorious than anything currently made up of the physical or based upon it.

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We should not find contentment or delight in mere things, for as all physicality will disappear to be renewed, so will those things based upon material. In addition, our happiness should not be dependent on man. If one constantly chases after approval of man, then he shifts more often than shadows. Such a person is deceptive to both himself and those he seeks approval from. Contentment in this is just as fleeting, for man’s support will vanish from you at anytime. The reliability of superficial friendships is a farce and often self-serving, ironically to both parties. As it is said, no one can serve two masters.

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Serve God, fix your eyes on His son and you will gain an eternal contentment and joy that is based on the everlasting, not given to decay and abandonment like the things of this world, but instead He who promises to carry you through all things. As Christians we will have heartache, hardships, and insults, but lo, how fleeting these things are, for when the physical as we know it now ceases to be, weeping will be transformed into joy, hunger to satisfaction, exclusion to inclusion, and a lack of possession into great riches within the Kingdom. To this we await and look forward to.

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“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

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"The Conversion of Saul," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

Let us not compare our Christian walk or spiritual gifts with anyone else in the Body of Christ. Romans 12:6-8 makes it abundantly clear that we differ in gifts and those godly manifestations expressed in the body. These are from God and are granted to us by His grace. This is important to realize, for even these blessed gifts by the Lord can be used by our sinful nature to feed our pride.

The enemy loves to turn our work for the Lord into something sinful. It’s not to say the work of the Lord in and of itself is sinful, of course not, but rather that we ourselves may sin in our efforts to be in complete obedience with our Lord. We may have the gift of prophecy and we may serve, teach, encourage, give, lead, or show mercy. Yet, a hidden danger might lie in wait, for instead of acknowledging the source, we may use these gifts to feed our pride. This verse suggests that Paul himself was tempted with this as he followed obediently to complete God’s great works.

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"Apostle Paul," by Rembrandt. oil on canvas, c. 1657

Yet, God in His wisdom knew that this would hinder the great work He was doing through and with Paul. This partnership would have been spoiled if the apostle would have become conceited. So, there was given to Paul a thorn in his flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” to torment him. What this “thorn” actually was has been debated for some time. These range from a physical malformation or defect of some sort, to a sin that tormented Paul. Regardless of what it was, we know that this “thorn” kept Paul grounded with the Lord, and he eventually found that “thorn” to be a blessing, for without it Christ’s power wouldn’t be able to “rest on him” to the degree it did.

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Outside Christ, who was perfect, even the most amazing men of God in the scriptures had grievous faults, which should give us some hope. It certainly does me. Moses for example was a murderer, had anger issues, was a stutterer, and was disobedient to the Lord. Though Moses was disciplined for this by not being able to enter the promised land, God used this faulty man to do an amazing work, as He can use us, as faulty as we are, to do great works as well.

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"Moses Striking The Egyptian (detail)," Amsterdam Hagadah, c. 1695

When we come to the Lord in faith, He is not beyond bringing hardship, weakness, persecutions, “thorns,” and difficulties in our lives so that we may not loose sight of Him. If we are too prideful in our walk with the Lord and in the gifts He bestows in us, we should not be too shocked when, in His sovereignty, brings about a hardship to “ground” us.

Although I don’t like speaking for God, I do feel comfortable saying that God doesn’t want to encourage sin in your life. So if you haven’t been granted gifts to a fullness yet, perhaps if they were given unto you, the glory would go to the self and not God.

Let us pray for the understanding at only comes from the Spirit, that we may be instructed on how to avoid becoming to proud in our obedience and the gifts God pours into us. Let us pray that we will give credit where it’s due, that is, to the source of the gifts we are presented and indeed all things. Let us forever strive not to pervert that which is Holy or shift the glory of God onto the self. May He be forever praised. Amen.

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“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.” -2 Corinthians 12:2

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It should be no secret to those who follow the Lord that there is indeed a supernatural aspect to our faith. The deeper our relationship with the Lord becomes, the more this is manifest within our lives. It does not follow the common course of things, causality and physicality, but rather surpasses it and our mystical (not in a pagan sense, indeed the word actually has its origins in Christianity) relationship with God becomes apparent.

A person who chases after these experiences alone, however, is in extreme danger of practicing that which belongs to the occult. Man should never initiate such experiences, but let them come at the Lord’s bidding and when He sees fit to make them manifest, and to what degree.

There are numerous supernatural manifestations that can occur when one is in the Lord. These range from prophecy, visions, dreams, miraculous healings, and even hearing, or speaking, directly from the Lord Himself. It should be mentioned there is a dualism concerning such things, for the occult has similar practices, but there is one major difference, one is perpetuated by man, the other by the Lord, and manifest in man or nature.

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Paul, no stranger to the miraculous, recounts the story of an unnamed man who was caught up to the third heaven. This, “Third Heaven,” doesn’t indicate that there are separate layers of paradise, but in this account, it suggests that wherever this person was taken, it transcends the upper atmosphere of the earth, the surpassing heaven, the firmament of the cosmos, and finally into that supernatural realm which is the dwelling place of God. What is therefore concluded by the mere existence of this third heaven is that it trumps all that is physical.

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Paul goes on to say that he doesn’t know if this person’s experience was in the body or independent of it. The interesting thing about this, among others, is that regardless, in Paul’s mind, it neither adds nor detracts from the reality of the experience. To Paul, either way, it doesn’t cease to be any less real.

There is a phenomenon some experience called, “waking dreams.” Though it has it’s ungodly representation in the occult, Christians too have these experiences, from God, where they neither know if they are awake or dreaming, or if they are of the body or a part from it. The question becomes if any of these categories negate the reality of the experience? My conviction is that it doesn’t necessarily follow that these encounters are any less real than the physical ground we walk on. In fact, they may represent to some degree true reality.

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As I have stressed before, the occult has similar practices. Apart from who initiates the experience, is there any way to tell one from another? I am convinced that there are some guidelines we should look to when approaching the subject.

The first is, who does it glorify? Realize the Lord does nothing arbitrarily and without purpose. For instance, He wouldn’t lift you up to the third heaven just to satisfy some personal curiosity you may have concerning it. Rather, the experience will be for not only your benefit, which is apparent by the mere personal nature of the experience, but the Lord will use it in order that you be a testimony before man. Thus, it will be to His glory.

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Second, where does it lead you? If one is led to a place of darkness apart from God, or if the experience makes you focus on the self, then one is in terrible danger. If such an experience leads one to become boastful of their own abilities to produce such a supernatural experience, than one can reasonably conclude it is not from God, and if it is not from God, than one is being deceived.

Deception wouldn’t be called such if it didn’t have the ability to put on a guise of something true and lead people astray. That’s why it is so effective. One should pray for discernment in the Spirit and protection of the Lord, that such deceptions may not lead you into believing a lie. We need to realize that the Great Deceiver never created anything himself, he only perverted those pure things that God set in place. Thus, there is a dualism about such things, the proper, and the sinful, or improper.

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If an experience produces fruits of a Godly nature, and it’s in perfect alignment with the Spirit and nature of God revealed in His scriptures, than one can induce that it’s from God.

Yet, on the antithesis, if an experience produces fruits of the self, pride and encourages sin, and leads people astray, along with not lining up with scripture, then one can deduce that it is not from God. Yet, it should be said that we need discernment in the Spirit, for the Spirit is capable of understanding the supernatural, while our minds are inept at knowing such things. Remember, such false supernatural occurrences are due to the actions of man and not the will of God.

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Finally, realize our God is not one of confusion. Chances are, He won’t let such experiences in your life, that are of Him, until you are ready. However, as we grow, use the faculties the Lord has given you, along with the weapons of righteousness, that in these supernatural manifestations, if they indeed occur, you may not be led astray.

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