What does 2 Corinthians 12:4 mean?
ESV: and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
NIV: was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
NASB: was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
CSB: was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a human being is not allowed to speak.
NLT: that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
KJV: How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
NKJV: how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Verse Commentary:
This passage describes an amazing supernatural experience that happened to Paul 14 years before writing this letter. He makes no mention of this even in his other letters. He is only doing so now because the false apostles have been boasting about their own supernatural experiences. Perhaps they have even questioned Paul's legitimacy as an apostle because he does not talk about his "visions and revelations" very often.

Although Paul is telling the story, he is deeply concerned not to use it as a form of self-promotion. Rather, he initially describes it vaguely, as happening to "a man." Paul does not want to make his name great because of what God showed him. He wants to make Christ's name great. But if telling the story will help the Corinthians continue on the path of Christ, he will tell it.

Paul has written that he was caught up to the third heaven or paradise, the place where God dwells. He does not know whether this happened to him physically or in some kind of out-of-body experience. He is convinced that it really happened to him, though, and that God knows exactly how it happened.

Now he writes that while he was there, he heard inexpressible things which cannot be told. In other words, God revealed specific information to Paul, but Paul is forbidden from revealing this information to anyone else. John was given a similar command to keep certain details silent when being given his revelation (Revelation 10:4). As a result, we do not know what Paul was shown.

Some commentators wonder if the vision applied only to Paul, perhaps predicting how he would suffer, based on what Christ said at Paul's conversion in Acts 9:16. Others speculate that Paul received a kind of first-person training from the risen Christ to equip him for his ministry. The other 12 apostles were trained by Christ during his time on earth. Perhaps Paul was trained, in part, by Christ during this time.

Whatever information Paul received, this enhances his repeated teaching that our temporary suffering in this life is not worth comparing with the glory believers will experience in eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Verse Context:
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.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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.
Accessed 7/17/2024 1:27:41 PM
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