What does 2 Corinthians 12:10 mean?
ESV: For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
NIV: 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.
NASB: Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
CSB: So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
NLT: That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
KJV: Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Earlier, Paul warned readers he was going to start sarcastically bragging about his qualifications as an apostle. This was meant to satirize his self-promoting opponents in Corinth. In reality, Paul mostly described his weaknesses and suffering. The previous verse made his motivations clear. God said His "power is made perfect in your weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Greek word being used there teleitai, refers to completion or accomplishment. Paul wanted to show how much weaker he was, as a person, in comparison to his opponents. Then the Corinthians would know just how powerful Christ was, as they looked to and through Paul's life.
In that way, Paul has turned boasting upside down. It's not that he doesn't care if others think he is weak. It's that he truly is weak and he wants everyone to know it. For the sake of Christ, he is content, even with all sorts of trials and suffering. He has made peace with the fact that such weakness in his life is exactly what is needed. It is what pulls Paul's earthly self aside, leaving room for Christ's strength to accomplish what God has called Paul to do.
Believers must trust God the most in areas of their lives where they are weakest, or where they suffer the most. God's power is never more convincing than when a human perspective produces no answer about how to get through what confronts us. In that same seemingly-backwards way, Christians who are trusting God are most powerful when they have the least self-reliance. God's power is far and away more capable than our own.
Second Corinthians 12:1–10 contains Paul's description of an astonishing experience. He was transported, in some sense, to the third heaven or paradise, where he received an unspeakable revelation from God. To keep him humble afterwards, God gave him a ''thorn in the flesh'' and refused to remove it despite Paul's pleas. Instead, God told Paul His grace was more than enough, and that His power was made perfect in Paul's weakness. Paul declares once again that he will boast in his weakness and be content in his suffering—because when Paul is weak, it more clearly proves that Christ is powerful.
With as much humility as possible, Paul describes an astounding experience. He was caught up to the ''third heaven'' and received a revelation from God that he cannot reveal on earth. He refuses to brag about it, but mentions it in order to introduce the consequences of that experience. To keep Paul humble, God gave him a ''thorn in the flesh,'' some malady which the Bible does not explicitly explain. Paul has learned to be content in his suffering since God's power is made perfect in his weakness. He chastises the Corinthians for not commending him since they know him. He defends himself against a charge of crafty swindling, and he expresses concern that he will find some still living in sin when he arrives in Corinth.
Second Corinthians 12 follows Paul's sarcastic ''boasting'' about his suffering for Christ. The chapter continues with Paul refusing to take credit for an astounding revelation from God. Given a ''thorn in the flesh'' to keep him humble, Paul learned to be content with his suffering since God's power was made perfect in his weakness. Still, the Corinthians should have defended him to the false apostles and not believed lies about him swindling money from them with no evidence. He is concerned that when he comes to visit them, he will find some still unrepentant of specific sins. This leads Paul to his final warnings and the close of his letter, in chapter 13.
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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