2 Corinthians, Lesson 19: Paul’s Planned Third Visit

Adam and Eve Sinning in the Garden (610x350)Having shown how he exalted in his weakness, so Christ may be exalted all the more, Paul now concludes his boasting in is weakness.

Conclusion of Paul Boasting in His Weakness

Read 2 Corinthians 12:11-12

  • Paul asserts he is not inferior to whom?


  • Why?


Excursus: “Signs and Wonders”: From Exodus to Corinth

“Signs and wonders”: Greek, semeiois te kai terasin. Not that Paul adds a “te,” which we will get to after the excursus. When we find the words “signs and wonders” or “wonders and signs” being used together, that’s the classic biblical expression used, in particular, to refer to the wondrous deeds that accompanied the Israel’s exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34, 6:22, 7:19; Acts 7:36).

In the book of Acts, Luke specifically mentions that many “signs and wonders” were being done through the Apostles (Acts 2:43, 5:12). We would be poor readers if we didn’t notice Luke’s use of the passive voice, which meant that God was doing those “signs and wonder” through the Apostles. But, again, Luke specifically mentions that such “signs and wonders” were done through the Apostles, not others.

And that’s what we find in the in the book of Acts—but not exclusively. Luke credits some signs and wonders to both Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:3, which Acts 15:12 later recounts). It could be that Barnabas’ close association with Paul enabled him to participate in such “signs and wonders.” For in Acts 19, we find that Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons brought healing to people (Acts 19:11-12), just because Paul had earlier touched them! Thus, being someone or something associated with an Apostle may have been God’s way of affirming the work the Apostles were doing.

But what then of Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Philip (Acts 8:13)? They were both deacons, not Apostles, and yet they also did some signs and wonders (Acts 6:8, 8:13). Could it be that they could do such wonders because they worked with the Apostles and were a direct extension of their work? If so, Luke doesn’t explicitly state that connection; thus, we can’t say for sure. We can only say that God did use them to perform some signs and wonders.

We do know this: After Acts 15, Luke no longer mentions “signs and wonders,” although we know that Paul continued to work some “signs and wonders”, which he mentioned to the congregation at Rome (Romans 15:17-19) and which he did at Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:12).

What is interesting is that, Paul says that such “signs and wonders” were the “signs of a true Apostle,” not someone else, not even Pastor Timothy, his co-writer (2 Corinthians 12:12). Further, nowhere does Scripture say that “signs and wonders” are signs of a “true pastor.”

We do know that Jesus performed “signs and wonders,” which Acts 2:22 and Hebrews 2:4 later recall, using that expression. But when we look at Jesus’ use of that phrase, He uses it as a way to call people to repentance:

  • Jesus told him [an official, whose son was in need of healing], “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” [John 4:48]
  • “[In the last days,] False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even those whom God has chosen.” [Matthew 24:24]

All this implies (note only implies) that such “signs and wonders” were meant to cease after the time of the Apostles. For those “signs and wonders” were the “signs of a true Apostle” (2 Corinthians 12:12), but, in the last days, they would become signs of “false messiahs and false prophets” (Matthew 24:24).


“mighty works”: Paul doesn’t say “signs, wonders, and mighty works” but “both signs and wonders, and mighty works.” Here is what the added “te” in the Greek does: semeiois [signs] te [both] kai [and] terasin [wonders]. When Paul added “te” to the stock expression “signs and wonders,” he turned “mighty works” into a restatement of what “signs and wonders” were: “mighty works.”

Read 2 Corinthians 12:13

  • For what reason does Paul seek forgiveness? What then is his point?


Paul Prepares for His Third Visit

Paul now replaces his strong censure with expressions of love and concern. By using the word “idou” (“here,” ESV), Paul shows that he is now moving on to a new topic: his planned third visit. His first trip to Corinth lasted over 18 months (Acts 18:1-17). His second visit, however, proved to be a short and distressing (2 Corinthians 2:1). Paul’s wish is that his third visit will be one filled with love.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:14-15

  • Although Paul just said that he was “wrong” for not financially “burdening” them (strong implication, for his wages), what does he do here?


  • What is his rationale?


“save up”: Greek verb, thesaurizo. By using this word, Paul uses the imagery of a father setting aside an inheritance for his sons. The “treasure” (thesauros, noun) that Paul as their spiritual father bequeaths to them is the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Paul is bringing out his role as their father in faith—something the “super-apostles” cannot claim. Elsewhere, Paul reminds a congregation, through Pastor Timothy, that adult children have the “religious duty” to provide care for elderly parents (1 Timothy 5:4, 8). But in this verse, Paul is going out of his way only to demand his “saving up,” not the children providing for their parents.

  • When Paul says, “If I love you the more, am I to be loved less?” he is leaving to door open for the Corinthians to do what during his next visit?


Read 2 Corinthians 12:16

  • Yet, what did some conclude about Paul not expecting a salary from the Corinthian congregation?


  • What were those who were undercutting Paul mean when they said he was being “deceitful” when it came to the collection for the saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15)?


Read 2 Corinthians 12:17-18

  • Not only did Paul not expect his wages, but how else did this pattern take place with his co-workers?


“Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?”: These are both rhetorical questions, expecting a “yes” answer. Paul uses a repetition of metaphor to emphasize the questions. In the first, he used “walk” (peripatao); in the second, “footsteps” (ichnos). Further, both questions start out with percussive sounds, adding strength to these questions: “Ou to …” “Ou tois …”


Paul’s Fears

Read 2 Corinthians 12:19

  • What does Paul not want the Corinthians to conclude? (vs. 19a)


“all along”: Greek, palai. This is the only time Paul used palai. Being a rare word for Paul, this brings out that he doesn’t want to Corinthians to conclude that he and Timothy have simply been defending themselves since 2 Corinthians 10:1. Instead, he wants them to come to another conclusion.

  • In whom have Paul and Timothy been speaking? What does that mean?


  • For what purpose does Paul and timothy “speak in Christ”?


Read 2 Corinthians 12:20

  • What does Paul fear about himself? About the Corinthian congregation?


Excursus: Paul’s List of Division-Causing Vices

We know that the Christian congregation at Corinth had engaged in quarreling and rivalries almost since its founding (see 1 Corinthians 1:11). So, despite Paul’s earlier praise, it’s not strange that he would also call them away from such divisive behavior. Paul does this through a listing of their various vices.

“Quarreling”: Strife, discord, or division is first on the list. (See also 1 Corinthians 1:11, 3:3; Romans 1:29, 13:13; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:15.)

“Jealousy”: Also envy, which erodes relationships. (See also 1 Corinthians 3:3, Romans 13:13, and Galatians 5: 20.)


Paul lists the next six vices using plural nouns, which reveal how common those named behaviors were.

“Anger”: In the plural, this can mean “outbursts of anger.” (See also Galatians 5:20.)

“Hostility”: Outbreaks of selfishness. (See also Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17, 2:3.)


The fifth and sixth vices pertain to speech.

“Slander”: Evil speech that is more open and public. (See also Romans 1:30, which has a related form this noun.)

“Gossip”: This is quietly passing on tales about another person, whispered speech that ruins another. (See also Romans 1:29, which has a related form of this noun.)


The last two vices are actions grounded in conceit that result in disorder.

“Conceit”: Arrogance, arrogant behavior, an inflated opinion of oneself. This is the only instance where the New Testament uses this noun. However, we find the verb form in 1 Corinthians 4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; and Colossians 2:18.

“Disorder”: unruliness and rebellion. (See also 1 Corinthians 14:33.)


In all cases, Paul lists ways that members of the Corinthian congregation have torn apart what God had brought together, for each vice undermines the unity of a congregation.


Read 2 Corinthians 12:21

  • What does Paul fear about how God may humble him when he visits Corinth?


  • What is it about unrepentant sin that would cause Paul to mourn?


In Galatians 5: 19-21, Paul sandwiched the vices of strife, conflict, and arrogance between the sins of immorality, drunkenness, and carousing. In Romans 13 13, he listed the division-causing vices and sexual vices together. But here, Paul separates them. This allows each grouping of vices to stand on its own and be considered separately and be repented of separately.


Excursus: Paul List of Sexual Vices

“impurity”: This refers to defilement and pollution, and the shame or dishonor that is connected to the persons who do such acts. (See also Romans 1:24, 6:19; Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 2:3, 4:7.)

“sexual immorality”: An act of fornication or prostitution. In Paul’s day, such deeds were sometimes associated with idolatry. (See also 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3.)

“sensuality that they have practiced”: an act that is lawless and reckless. It also implies overtones of violence that one person does to another in any illicit sexual relation. Some of the Corinthians thought that life in the Spirit had nothing to do what someone did with his body (See 1 Corinthians 5, 6:12-20, and 10:14-22). (For other uses of “sensuality,” see Romans 13:13 and Galatians 5:19.)


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