Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to

the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984

International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations

from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes

the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: You remember last week Paul told us it was

foolishness to boast (2 Corinthians 11:17, 21), but he felt

compelled to boast to the Corinthians because it appears they were

dazzled by all of the boasting done by his opponents. This week

Paul treats us to some amazing boasting of his own. Let’s dig in

and be amazed!


     A. Read 2 Corinthians 12:1.  Paul has
just gotten through
telling us about all of his hardships, what
new topic is now
the subject of his boasting? (Visions and
revelations from the

     B. Read 2 Corinthians 12:2-5. Paul writes,
“I know a man…who
was caught up to the third heaven.”

          1. Who is this

          2. How can Paul
boast about the visions of someone else?

a. Assume you were interviewing me for a job.
Because you need someone with the administrative
skills to run a large company, you ask me, “Do you
have experience running a large company?” What
will you think if I answer, “Let me brag little bit
about my administrative background. Fourteen years
ago I knew a man who ran a Fortune 500 company.”

b. Are you impressed or what?

     C. Let’s read on. Read vv. 6-7. Notice v. 7.
Why does Paul say
he was given a “thorn in [his] flesh?” (To
keep him from being
conceited about these revelations.)

          1. Is Paul getting
a “big head” because he knows someone
who had this

     D. Is Paul the man who had the “third heaven”

          1. What reasons
do we have for thinking Paul is the
“third heaven”

(a. The “thorn” was given to Paul (not someone else)
because of the revelation.

b. Paul talks of “the man” hearing things that
cannot be expressed and that must be kept secret.
How would Paul know about this unless he was “the

c. It would make no sense for Paul to boast about
the vision of some unnamed man!)

     E. Why does Paul talk like this?

          1. Why would
Paul say (v.2), “I know this man…” when he
is the man?

          2. Why would
Paul say (v.5), “I will boast about a man
like that, but
I will not boast about myself….?” (Paul
is already worried
about foolish boasting. I think he
refers to himself
in the third person to make his
boasting appear
less boastful.)

     F. Where was Paul?  What is this “third

     G. Is heaven like a downtown high-rise: the
higher you go, the
more desirable the location?

          1. Seriously,
why was Paul told (v.4) not to tell about
this “third

a. Does the fact that God does not reveal to us more
information about this “third heaven” tell us
something about whether we should spend time
speculating about it? (Yes. I think this is a poor
use of our time.)

b. Then why was Paul shown the “third heaven?”

c. Do you think it had anything to do with Paul’s
terrible list of hardships that he experienced?

(1) If so, what does that tell us about God?


     A. Let’s look at this “thorn” issue in more
detail. Read vv.

     B. Explain the logic of what Paul writes: how
would having a
“thorn in the flesh” keep Paul from being
conceited based on
these revelations?

          1. Answer this
from the perspective of a parent. Read
Matthew 7:9-11.

a. If you did something very special for your child,
would you then “give him a thorn” to “make up” for
being so nice before?

(1) Would you (2 Corinthians 12:7) torment your

b. Who does Paul say gave him the thorn? (2
Corinthians 12:7 tells us Satan gave him the

c. Does the fact that Satan gave Paul the thorn take
God “off the hook” for it?

          2. 2 Corinthians
12:9 gives us the key to these answers
about the thorn.
Paul specifically gives us God’s
thinking on
the subject. Let’s read it again.

a. God makes two points, what are they?

(1) My grace is sufficient for you.

(2) My power is made perfect in weakness.

b. What does God mean when He says, “My grace is
sufficient for you?” (When I think of “grace,” I
think of the cross. The answer to all pain,
sickness and sorrow caused by Satan is the eternal
life made possible by the cross.)

c. In the meantime, how is God’s power made perfect
in our weakness or suffering?

(1) Do you remember God’s conversation with
Gideon about the number of Gideon’s troops
when they were planning the attack on the
Midianites? (In Judges 7:2 God tells Gideon he
is not weak enough, he has too many soldiers.
Why? Because at the end of the victory God
wants everyone to know that it was God and not
“the troops” who won the victory!)

     C. In light of this “power in weakness” idea,
are we ever
justified in saying that we cannot do some
task for God
because we are not properly equipped to do

     D. How many times did Paul ask to have the
thorn taken away?

          1. How many times
would you ask?

a. How many times have you asked?

          2. Did Paul only
ask three times because he understood
God’s “power
in weakness” philosophy?

     E. Let’s skip ahead for just a moment. Turn
to 2 Corinthians

          1. What approach
did Christ take when He lived with us:
power or weakness?
(Verse 4 says Jesus was crucified in
weakness, yet
lives by God’s power.)

          2. I love a song
which has the refrain, “Next Time
Around.” (It
is sung by a group I think is called “East
to West.”) The
song refers to Christ’s Second Coming.
Will He come
in power then?

a. What is Jesus approach right now? Power or
weakness? (Paul says in v.4 “He lives by God’s

          3. Look at verse
5 again. Should we test ourselves?

a. Should the “weakness” test be part of our

b. What does it mean to see if “Christ is in you?”
Is that the “power” part of your life?

(1) Do you see evidence of that power in your
life? Or do you see evidence of your own
power in your life?

(2) Do you rely on His power or your power?

(3) When the “Midianites” in your life get
defeated, to whom do you give the credit? Your
“power” or God’s power?

(a) If you have a habit of congratulating
yourself for these victories, would it
make sense for God to allow even more
weakness in your life?


     A. Of all of the Bible writers, who is the
strongest proponent
of righteousness by faith? (Without a doubt,
Paul. We
probably would not even understand the concept
without Paul’s

     B. Let’s move down and read 2 Corinthians 13:11-14.
What part
of Paul’s letter is this? (The conclusion.)

     C. If you send someone instructions, what do
you put in the
conclusion? (The conclusion is often a summary
or a recap of
the most important points.)

          1. What are Paul’s
summary points?

(a. Aim for perfection;

b. Listen to Paul’s appeal;

c. Be of one mind; and,

d. Live in peace.)

          2. Why would
someone who is the foremost advocate of
by faith make his first summary point “Aim
for perfection?”
(The two ideas are perfectly consistent.
We are saved
by grace, but the goal of our life is
perfect living.
If that is not the goal, we have not yet
“caught the

          3. Thinking back
over this letter, was the Corinthian
church “of one
mind?” How about our local church?

a. Did they live in peace? How about our church?

(1) If the answer for your church is “no” or
“maybe not,” what is Paul’s solution to this

(2) Does that solution begin with you? And not
the “other guys?”

IV. NEXT WEEK: We will recap the high points of the book of 2

Corinthians which deal with God’s promises for our ministry. Study!

(2) Does that solution begin with you? And not
the “other guys?”

IV. NEXT WEEK: We will recap the high points of the book of 2

Corinthians which deal with God’s promises for our ministry. Study!