What does 2 Corinthians 12:5 mean?
ESV: On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses —
NIV: I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.
NASB: In behalf of such a man I will boast; but in my own behalf I will not boast, except regarding my weaknesses.
CSB: I will boast about this person, but not about myself, except of my weaknesses.
NLT: That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses.
KJV: Of such a one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
NKJV: Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has been describing an astounding supernatural experience. Fourteen years prior, he was caught up to paradise and shown things by God, details of which he was forbidden from revealing on earth. He has shared this story reluctantly, though. His primary motive seems to be that the Corinthians were being captivated by false apostles teaching a false gospel. Those deceivers probably had their own tales of spectacular experiences. Was Paul really a true apostle if he did not have experiences of his own to share?

Paul has told the story, but he described boasting about such a thing as foolishness. To reduce the focus on himself, he has described it indirectly, as happening to "a man." The following verses make it clear that this man was, in fact, Paul himself. He is not being deceptive. He is illustrating how essential it is that he not be glorified for what God did.

He writes that he will boast, in a sense, about the experience of this other man, but he refuses to boast about himself. Paul's Christlike desire to divert glory from himself was exactly opposite of the self-promoting spirit of the Corinthian culture. Paul described boasting as foolish and un-Christlike (2 Corinthians 11:17).

The one exception Paul made to his rule about boasting was that he would boast about his weaknesses. Paul insisted that the way to be strong as a Christian was to be weak so that God's enormous power was more fully on display (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). He cataloged a long list of his extraordinary weaknesses, set-backs, and suffering in the previous chapter. These showed that his success was entirely due to the power of God, not his own ability.
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.
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