The Exceeding Greatness of His Power

Ephesians 1:19-20 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places

‘To us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.’ Again, and again the apostle emphasizes the doctrine of power for believers, not unbelievers (3:16-21; 6:10-18; 1Cor. 1:7; 4:18-20; 12:1-11).

‘Wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.’ Six things that God did for Christ: He raised Him from the dead (1:20; John 21:14; 1Cor. 15:1-23). He exalted Him at His own right hand (1:20; Ps. 110:1, 5; Matt. 26:64; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33-34; 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; Php. 2:9-11; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 10:12; 12:2; 1Pet. 3:22). He gave Him authority over all powers, good and evil, under Himself (1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Rom. 8:38; Php. 2:9-11; Col. 1:15-18; 2:10-17; 1Pet. 3:22; Rev. 1:1, 7, 18; 11:15; 19:11 – 20:10). He gave Him a name above every name except God the Father (1:21; 1Cor. 11:3; Php. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:4). He put all things under His feet (1:22; Col. 1:16-18; 2:10-17; Heb. 2:5-18; 1Cor. 15:24-28). He gave Him headship of the Christian congregations (1:22; Col. 1:18, 24; 2Cor. 11:3).

Revelations of the Lord

2Corinthians 12:1-5 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 

‘It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.’ Paul admits that it was not profitable for him to boast, but since it is necessary to answer his enemies at Corinth, he will continue his boasting about visions and revelations.

‘Revelations’ [Greek: apokalupsis] unveiling of things not known before and which God alone could make known.

‘Fourteen years ago’ – this takes us back to about 46 A.D., some 14 years after Christ died. Just where he saw the vision is not known.

‘In the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell.’ It could have been in the body, as in the case of Enoch, Elijah, and John (Gen. 5:24; 2Kin. 2:1-25; Rev. 4:1). The fact he did not know proves the possibility of a natural body going to heaven. It also proves that he believed in the consciousness of souls after leaving the body (5:8; Php. 1:21-24; Heb. 12:23).

‘Caught up to the third heaven’ – caught up, like in 1Thessalonians 4:16-17. Paul was not doubtful about being caught up to the third heaven. He was certain about that (12:2, 4). It was whether in the body or out of it that he was doubtful (12:2-3).

‘Third heaven’ – there are three heavens: the clouds or atmospheric heavens (Gen. 1:8; Ps. 77:17-18; 104:2-3); paradise (12:4; Luke 23:43; Rev. 2:7); and God’s heaven (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 14:12-14; 66:1; Rev. 21:2, 10).

‘Unspeakable words’ – this simply means that human lips and tongues could not express them. They were too sacred to repeat.

‘It is not lawful for a man to utter’ Paul may have been forbidden to utter these words like John was commanded to seal up and write not what the seven thunders uttered (Rev. 10:4).

‘Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory’ – again he repeats that he will not glory in himself and his attainments, but in his infirmities and other experiences suffered for Christ (12:1, 5; 11:30).

Paul’s Sufferings Part 1

2Corinthians 11:21  I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 

‘I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak.’ Paul refers to these Judaizers reproaching them because they were uncircumcised, and as if they were weak or inferior to them.

‘Bold’ Fifty-five things that Paul could boast of: He was just as bold as they were (11:21); he was a Hebrew as they were (11:22); he was an Israelite as they were (11:22); he was of Abraham as they were (11:22); he was more a minister of Christ than they were (11:23); in more abundant labours (11:23); stripes above measure (11:23); in prisons often for Christ (11:23); often at the point of death (11:23); five times scourged (11:24); three times beaten with rods (11:25); once stoned to death (11:25; Acts 14:19); three times shipwrecked (11:25); twenty-four hours in the sea (11:25); in journeyings often (11:26); in perils of water (11:26); in perils of robbers (11:26); in perils by the Jews (11:26); in perils by the heathen (11:26); in perils in the city (11:26); in perils in the wilderness (11:26); in perils in the sea (11:26); in perils by false brethren (11:26); in weariness and pain (11:27); in watching often (11:27); in hunger and thirst (11:27); in fastings often (11:27); in cold and nakedness (11:27); daily care of all congregations (11:28); strength in God (11:29; 12:10); zeal for the congregations (11:29); many infirmities (11:30; 12:5, 9); absolute truthfulness (11:31; 12:6); miraculous deliverances (11:32-33); boasting was of necessity (12:1); visions and revelations (12:1); translation to heaven (12:2-4); experiences beyond knowledge (12:2-3); hearing unspeakable words (12:5); unlawful knowledge (12:4); freedom from self-glory (12:5); true quitting sense (12:6); genuineness equal to glory (12:6); special persecutions (12:7); answers from God (12:9); resignation to God’s will (12:9); power of Christ upon him (12:9); pleasure in sufferings (12:10); endurance for Christ (12:10); no boasting unless compelled (12:11); equal with chief apostles (12:11); humility in greatness (12:11); signs of apostleship (12:12); unselfishness (12:13-16); his judgment power (12:21; 13:10).

False Apostles

2Corinthians 11:12-15 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 

‘For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.’ Sixteen marks of false ministers in 2 Corinthians: They hold secret things of shame (4:2). They walk in craftiness (4:2). They handle Word deceitfully (4:2). They walk and war after the flesh (10:3). They look on outward appearance (10:7; cp. 1Sam. 16:7; Matt. 23:27-28). They commend selves (10:12). They compare selves to others (10:12). They prey on the works of others (10:15-16). They are greedy of income (11:7-12). They are false; they seek the highest offices (11:13). They are deceitful workers (11:13). They try to counterfeit apostleship (11:13). They pose as righteous ministers (11:15). They seek occasion to glory (11:12). They are boastful and self-exalting (11:18). They are destitute of apostolic signs (12:12).

Thirty-four other marks of false ministers: They lead people away from God (Deut. 13:1-5). They speak presumptuously (Deut. 18:20). They propagate errors (Pro. 19:27; Isa. 3:12; Jer. 23:32). They have no sense of righteousness (Isa. 5:20; Jer. 11:1-23; 14:1-22; 32:1-44). They are destitute of light (Isa. 8:19-20). They teach lies (Isa. 9:14-16). They live like sinners (Isa. 28:7). They are ignorant of spiritual things (Isa. 29:10-11; 56:10-12; Jer. 2:8; Hos. 4:6). They compromise truth (Isa. 30:10). They are greedy and lazy (Isa. 56:10-12). They deal falsely (Jer. 6:13; Ezek. 22:27). They do not pray (Jer. 10:21). They destroy and scatter (Jer. 12:10; 23:1). They preach lies (Jer. 14:13-16). They commit adultery (Jer. 23:14). They encourage sin (Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 13:22). They are deceitful (Jer. 48:10; Ezek. 13:10; Rom. 16:18; Eph. 4:14; Col. 2:4-8; 2Tim. 3:6-13). They are sinful (Ezek. 22:25-28). They are liars (Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 13:19-22). They are selfish (Ezek. 34:2-3). They are unfaithful (Ezek. 34:4-10). They are covetous (Mic. 3:11). They teach doctrines of man (Matt. 15:9). They work iniquity (Matt. 7:15-23). They are blind (Matt. 15:14). They cause divisions (Rom. 16:17; 1Cor. 11:18; Php. 1:15-16). They corrupt truth (2Cor. 2:17). They teach doctrines of devils (1Tim. 4:1-16). They have a seared conscience (1Tim. 4:2). They are proud and perverse (1Tim. 6:3-21; 2Tim. 2:14-18; Tit. 1:10-14). They teach damnable heresies (2Pet. 2:1; 2Jn. 1:7-11). They deny Christ (2Pet. 2:1; 1Jn. 4:1-6). They are consecrated to destroy the Christian faith (2Pet. 2:1-19; Jude 1:4-11). They are hypocrites (Matt. 7:15; 23:1-33; Luke 11:35).

‘For satan himself is transformed’ – satan inspires his ministers to imitate Christianity and even to do miracles (Matt. 24:24; 2Thess. 2:8-12; Rev. 13:1-18; 16:13-16; 19:20). Where are his ministers who are transformed as ministers of righteousness? Wouldn’t they be amongst Christians?

‘An angel of light’ ten symbols of satan: A serpent (11:3; Gen. 3:15; Luke 10:19; Rev. 12:9, 15; 20:3); a crocodile (Job 41:1-34; Isa. 27:1); great red dragon (Rev. 12:1-17; 13:4; 16:13; 20:2); an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14); a roaring lion (1Pet. 5:8; Ps. 91:13); fowls (Matt. 13:4, 19); scorpions (Luke 10:19); wolf (John 10:12); fowler (Ps. 91:3); adder (Ps. 91:13).

The Simplicity that is in Christ

2Corinthians 11:1-5 Would to God you could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. 

‘Would to God you could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.’ He states that he wishes for them to bear with him a little in his folly. Since they gloried in the boasts of those who opposed him, he stated some facts for them. If they thought of him as a fool in boasting, he was doing so because it was necessary to answer them properly and the false apostle who was disturbing them (11:16; 12:6).

‘For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband.’ The apostle here alludes to the custom of special care of virgins to see that they are educated and kept pure for marriage.

‘Virgin to Christ.’ Paul was jealous of his converts that he might present them to Christ just like a chaste virgin is presented to her husband. It was not Paul’s job to present all of the congregation to Jesus Christ. Each man will have rejoicing in his converts (1Thess. 2:19).

‘So your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ Here Paul fears for his converts that they may be turned away from Christ, as Eve was beguiled by satan to turn away from God.

‘For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached.’ Here Paul refers to the false apostle who had come to Corinth after he had left.

‘I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.’ Paul told them that they can judge whether he was behind the very chiefest apostles. He may be rude, as he was accused to be (10:1-2, 10), yet not in knowledge, as they well knew (11:5-6).

The Measure of the Rule

2Corinthians 10:13-18 But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God has distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glories, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. 

‘Measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.’ Here Paul seems to be using the figure of a stadium or racecourse in the Olympic and Isthmian games. The measure [Greek: metron] was the length of the course, and the rule [Greek: kanon] 2Corinthians 10:13, 15-16] was like the white line which marked the boundaries of the stadium. The verbs of reaching and stretching in 2Corinthians 10:13-14 refer to the exertions in winning the race.

‘For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ.’ This verse simply means that Paul had not gone beyond them, further west in preaching the gospel, but had turned southward from Macedonia into Greece to establish their congregation.

‘Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly.’ They boasted only of things which God has done by them. They did not attempt to go where other men have laboured. They stayed within the bounds of the guidance of the Holy Spirit and worked according to this rule. Paul’s hope was that when they have grown in faith and grace enough for him to leave them that he could take the gospel to other places where it has not been preached (10:15-16).

‘But he that glories, let him glory in the Lord.’ Quoted from Jeremiah 9:24. The man who boasts, let him do so in the Lord. It is not the one who brags on himself that is approved, but the one whom the Lord recommends (10:17-18).

Casting Down Imaginations

2Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. 

‘For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.’ Here Paul denies the charges of 2Corinthians 10:1-2. Though he lived in the flesh he did not war after the flesh (10:3-5). His weapons were not carnal (10:4-5; Eph. 6:10-18; 1Tim. 1:18; 2Tim. 2:3-5; Rom. 13:12).

‘But mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.’ Four great conquests of spiritual weapons: [1] Destruction of strongholds – we destroy reasonings of pagan philosophers and Jewish rabbis and their dogmas that nullify the Word of God and the facts of the Gospel. These fortifications we pull down and demolish. We put to flight the demon powers and alien armies, raising the banner of the cross high on the field of battle (10:4). Destroying all ideas or opinions about ourselves, others and God that is in contrast with His Word on these matters. [2] Casting down imaginations – we demolish all theories, reasonings, and any high system of ethics, religion, mythology, metaphysics, sublime doctrines or philosophy set forth to defy the knowledge of God (10:5). All the boasted gods, lords, sacrificial and mediatorial systems fell before the Gospel. The high-sounding phrases of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, church doctrines and even Judaism fell before the preaching of the crucified and risen Christ. Heathenism shrank before the Gospel and called on secular powers to defend it. [3] Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ – we take every thought prisoner and lead it into captivity to obey Christ (10:5). Lascivious, vain and evil thoughts of all kinds are brought down and made obedient to His laws. That includes any thinking which is contrary to virtue, purity and righteousness. We cannot allow any unholy thoughts (standard set in Philippians 4:8) to come into our minds and defile us.  See Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21-22; 1Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 5:19; Philippians 4:8; Genesis 6:5; Proverbs 15:26; Isaiah 55:7; 59:7 and Jeremiah 4:14. [4] Having in readiness to avenge all disobedience – we stand at all times ready, so to speak, to court-martial any opposing the Gospel of Christ, after separating ourselves from them (10:6). The whole picture here is that of a strongly fortified city where the enemy makes his last stand; entrenching himself about the walls; raising towers and preparing engines of defence and offence upon the walls to ensure victory. The fortifications, walls, towers, and castles are taken by the Gospel and the whole opposition is destroyed and taken captive. We have no excuse for sinful thoughts; we are to wear the helmet of salvation (Eph. 6:17) a state of repentance, which mean to renew our minds (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) so that God’s mind and thoughts (as given in His Word) can become ours.

All Grace Abound

2Corinthians 9:6-8 But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work 

‘But this I say, he which sowed sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sowed bountifully shall reap also bountifully.’ An unfailing law taught by Jesus (Luke 6:38); Solomon (Eccl. 11:1; Prov. 11:24-25; 19:17; 22:9); and David (Ps. 18:25; 41:1-2).

‘Every man according as he purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity.’ Four things a person must do in giving: He must give willingly from the heart. He must not give grudgingly. He must not give of compulsion. He must give cheerfully.

‘Cheerful’ [Greek: hilaros] cheerful, joyful, hilarious; the opposite of grudging and of feeling one is forced to give.

‘God is able to make all grace abound toward you.’ God is able to: Give you much more than this (2Chron. 25:9). Deliver you (Dan. 3:17). Raise children from stones (Matt. 3:9). Destroy body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28). Graft them in again (Rom. 11:23). Make him stand (Rom. 14:4). Make all grace abound (2Cor. 9:8). Subdue all things (Php. 3:21). Keep all committed to Him (2Tim. 1:12). Help the tempted (Heb. 2:18). Save from death (Heb. 5:7) and to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25).

‘Always having all sufficiency in all things’ – if this is not true of any believer he is coming short of gospel provision. Such grace is measured out according to the sowing (9:6). This is the law and there is no exception to the rule. That this is the cause of failure to reap is further proved in 2Corinthians 9:9-10. If we give to the poor it shall be given to us again (9:6; Luke 6:38). If we sow seed we shall reap a harvest (9:10).

‘To every good work’ – this does not refer only to good works to the poor, but also to miraculous works of the gospel, for it is “every good work,” not certain ones (1Cor. 15:58).

Not As of Covetousness

2Corinthians 9:1-5 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has provoked very many. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, you may be ready: Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, you) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof you had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. 

‘I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.’ Paul had been boasting of their giving, to the congregations of Macedonia, and of Greece which was ready to contribute a year ago (8:10). Their zeal for charity has provoked many to do their best in giving to the poor (those who had suffered financially because of the fierce persecutions amongst Christians).

‘I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, you may be ready.’ Paul sent the brethren, lest their boasting is in vain, and so they may be ready with their gift when the time comes. Paul didn’t want the brethren from Macedonia to come with him and find the congregation of Jerusalem unprepared. In that case, Paul would be ashamed that he had boasted about them (9:4). Because of this, he thought it necessary to exhort the brethren that they would go before them and prepare their gift beforehand. They wanted this to be a matter of the fruit of blessings poured out from willing and beneficent hearts, not from a grudging and covetous spirit (9:5).

Covetousness breeds the following: Greed and murder (Prov. 1:19; Isa. 56:11; Jer. 22:17); poverty and rebellion (Prov. 11:24); oppression and violence (Prov. 22:16; Jer. 22:17; Mic. 2:2); denial of God (Prov. 30:8-9); injustice (Isa. 1:23; Mic. 7:3); backsliding (Mic. 3:11); deceptions (Matt. 13:22); defilement (Mark 7:21-23); temptations and lusts (1Tim. 6:9-11; 1Jn. 2:15-17); a short life and a fool’s end (Jer. 17:11; Luke 12:16-21). Examples of covetousness: Eve-forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6); Lot-lands (Gen. 13:10-13); Jacob-birthright and his father’s blessing (Gen. 25:31; 27:6-29); Balaam-rewards (2Pet. 2:15); Achan-money (Josh. 7:21); David-woman (2Sam. 11:2-5); Ahab-vineyard (1Kin. 21:2-16); Gehazi-gifts (2Kin. 5:20-27); Rich fool-security (Luke 12:17); Judas-silver (Matt. 26:15-16); Pharisees-riches (Luke 16:14); Simon Magus-Holy Ghost power (Acts 8:18-23); Festus-money (Acts 24:26); Demas-pleasures (2Tim. 4:10).

Expedient for You

2Corinthians 8:8-15 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which you have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. 

‘I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.’ Paul did not order them to do this. He had no authority over their property. What they gave to charity should have been a willing work on their part. He took the occasion of the quickness of other congregations to help the poor (8:2-5), to prove the sincerity of their love.

‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich.’ The grace of giving was not by commandment (8:8), but by the example of other congregations (8:2-5), and especially by the supreme example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He became poor for all Christians, that by this poverty they might be rich.

‘Rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.’ If Jesus Christ was a mere man, as some contend, in what sense was He rich and how could He make many others rich by His poverty? His family was poor. He possessed no property from the manger to the cross. He died a poor man and was buried in a borrowed grave. The answer to these questions would have to be that He was and still is more than a mere man. He was God from all eternity (Mic. 5:1-2; John 1:1-2). He created and owned the vast universe (Eph. 3:9; John 1:3; Col. 1:15-18). He laid aside His divine form and riches and took human form to redeem. He became poor and died as man’s substitute. He now saves all who believe (John 3:16). They become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ of all God owns (Php. 2:5-11; John 3:16; Rom. 8:17-18; Col. 3:1-4; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:10; 11:15; 22:4-5).

‘A year ago’ – about a year ago they started the growth of this grace. Now is the time to finish it (8:10-12).

‘For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened’ – Paul did not mean that some are burdened and others eased, but that there be equality and he explained as follows: At this time they can share your abundance and supply their need. It may be that circumstances will change and they may by their abundance supply your need (8:13-14). ‘He that had gathered much had nothing over, and he that had gathered little had no lack.’ Quoted from Exodus 16:18.