a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

Paul’s Visions and Revelations


It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s Concern for the Corinthian Church

11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. 13How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. 17Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. 20For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.

4. In paradise 889889     The word paradise (παράδεισος) occurs but three times in the New Testament, (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7.) It occurs often in the Septuagint, as the translation of the word garden, (גן) gan; and of the word (פרדס) pardes, in Nehemiah 2:8, Ecclesiastes 2:5, Cant. 2:13. It is a word which had its origin in the language of Eastern Asia, and which has been adopted in the Greek, the Roman, and other western languages. In Sanscrit, the word paradesha means a land elevated and cultivated; in Armenian, pardes denotes a garden around the house, planted with trees, shrubs, grass for use and ornament. In Persia, the word denotes the pleasure-gardens, and parks with wild animals, around the country residences of the monarchs and princes. Hence it denotes, in general, a garden of pleasure; and in the New Testament is applied to the abodes of the blessed after death, the dwelling-place of God, and of happy spirits; or to heaven as a place of blessedness.” — Barnes.Ed. As every region that is peculiarly agreeable and delightful 890890     Toute region delectable et excellente en fertilite et abundance de biens de la terre;” — “Every region that is delightful and distinguished by fertility and abundance of the good things of the earth.” is called in the Scriptures the garden of God, it came from this to be customary among the Greeks to employ the term paradise to denote the heavenly glory, even previously to Christ’s advent, as appears from Ecclesiasticus. (Sirach, 40, 17, 27.) It is also used in this sense in Luke 23:43, in Christ’s answer to the robber — “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” that is, “Thou shalt enjoy the presence of God, in the condition and life of the blessed.”

Heard unspeakable words By words here I do not understand things, as the term is wont to be made use of after the manner of the Hebrews; 891891     Calvin’s meaning evidently is, that ῥήματα, here rendered words, is often made use of, like the corresponding Hebrew word, דברין (dabarim,) to mean things. Accordingly דבר, (dabar,) when employed to denote thing, is very frequently rendered in the Septuagint by ῥήμα, as, for example, in Genesis 18:14, Exodus 18:17, Deuteronomy 17:1. Calvin, when commenting on the expressionwith God nothing shall be impossible, (Luke 1:37,) remarks that “a word often means a thing in the idiom of the Hebrew language, which the Evangelists followed, though they wrote in Greek.” — Calvin’s Harmony, vol. 1, p. 45.— Ed. for the word heard would not correspond with this. Now if any one inquires, what they were, the answer is easy — that it is not without good reason that they are called unspeakable 892892     Secretes, ou impossibles a dire;” — “Secret, or such as it is impossible to utter.” words, and such as it is unlawful to utter. Some one, however, will reply, that what Paul heard was, consequently, needless and useless, for what purpose did it serve to hear, what was to be buried in perpetual silence? I answer, that this took place for the sake of Paul himself, for one who had such arduous difficulties awaiting him, enough to break a thousand hearts, required to be strengthened by special means, that he might not give way, but might persevere undaunted. 893893     Mais qu’il perseuerast constamment, sans se laisser vainere;” — “But might persevere steadfastly, without allowing himself to be overcome.” Let us consider for a little, how many adversaries his doctrine had, and of what sort they were; and farther, with what a variety of artifices it was assailed, and then we shall wonder no longer, why he heard more than it was lawful for him to utter

From this, too, we may gather a most useful admonition as to setting bounds to knowledge. We are naturally prone to curiosity. Hence, neglecting altogether, or tasting but slightly, and carelessly, doctrine that tends to edification, we are hurried on to frivolous questions. Then there follow upon this — boldness and rashness, so that we do not hesitate to decide on matters unknown, and concealed.

From these two sources has sprung up a great part 894894     La plus grande partie;” — “The greatest part.” of scholastic theology, and every thing, which that trifler Dionysius 895895     Calvin refers here to one Dionysius, whose writings appear to have been looked upon by many in Calvin’s times, as having been composed by Dionysius the Areopagite, who was converted by Paul at Athens. (Acts 17:34.) A copy of the work referred to, printed at Paris in 1555, bears the following title: “S. Dionysii Areopagitae, Martyris Inclyti, Athenarum Episcopi, et Galliarum Apostoli, opera-Translatio Noua Ambrosii Florentini,” etc.; — “The works of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the renowned Martyr, Bishop of Athens, and Apostle of the Gauls — a New Translation by Ambrosius Florentine,” etc. — Calvin, in his Institutes, (volume 1,) when treating of angels, adverts to the writings of Dionysius, in the following terms: “None can deny that Dionysius (whoever he may have been) has many shrewd and subtle disquisitions in his Celestial Hierarchy, but on looking at them more closely, every one must see that they are merely idle talk. The duty of a theologian, however, is not to tickle the ear, but confirm the conscience, by teaching what is true, certain, and useful. When you read the work of Dionysius, you would think that the man had come down from heaven, and was relating, not what he had learned, but what he had actually seen. Paul, however, though he was carried to the third heaven, so far from delivering any thing of the kind positively, declares, that it was not lawful for man to speak the secrets which he had seen. Bidding adieu, therefore, to that nugatory wisdom, let us endeavor to ascertain from the simple doctrine of Scripture, what it is the Lord’s pleasure that we should know concerning angels.” — Beza, in his Annotations on 1 Corinthians 3:15, when expounding the expression — “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire,” makes mention of Dionysius, as having been, in his opinion, Bishop of Corinth, and speaks of him as having devoted himself to unprofitable speculations, and as harassing himself, for the most part in vain, in describing the Celestial Hierarchy. — The Rhemish Translators, when commenting on Acts 17:34, contend for the genuineness of the writings referred to. “Dionysius Areopaita This is that famous Denys that first converted France, and wrote those notable and divine works — ’De Ecclesiastica et Caelesti Hierarchia, de diuinis nominibus,’ and others; in which he confirmeth, and proveth plainely, almost all things that the Church now useth in the ministration of the Holy Sacrament, and affirmeth that he learned them of the Apostles, giving also testimony for the Catholike faith in most things now controuersed, so plainely that our adversaries have no shift but to deny this Denys to have been the author of them, raining that they be another’s of later age.” To these statements Dr. Fulke, in his elaborate work in refutation of the errors of the Rhemish Translators, (p. 403,) replies as follows: “That Dionysius Areopagita was author of those bookes which now beare his name, you bring no proofe at all. We alleage that Eusebius, Hierome, Gennadius, neuer heard of his writings, for if they had heard, Dionysius Areopagita should have been registered by them among ecclesiasticall writers.” — It is stated by Mosheim in his Ecclesiastical History, (London 1825,) volume 2, n. (u), that “the spuriousness of these works is now universally granted by the most learned and impartial of the Roman Catholic writers, as they contain accounts of many events that happened several ages after the time of Dionysius, and were not at all mentioned until after the fifth century.” Turretine in his Theology brings forward, at considerable length, evidence to show, that the work referred to was not, as pretended, the production of Dionysius the Areopagite, who was “σύγχρονος Apostolis,” (“a contemporary of the Apostles,”) but was written by an author of much later date — born in the fifth century.Turretini Theologia, (Genevae, 1690,) tom. 3, pp. 233, 234. — Ed. has been so daring as to contrive in reference to the Heavenly Hierarchies, It becomes us so much the more to keep within bounds, 896896     Il faut que nous soyons d’autant plus sobres et modestes;” — “It is necessary, that we should be so much the more sober and modest.” so as not to seek to know any thing, but what the Lord has seen it good to reveal to his Church. Let this be the limit of our knowledge.

VIEWNAME is study