He boasts the greatness of his revelation
1And so I come now to the visions and revelations vouchsafed to me, which have been numerous and impressive. I speak as a fool. 2-4There exists a man in Christ, — and whether this man were in the body or not, I will not take upon me to speculate, but leave such matters in the hands of God — but as to this man who lives in Christ, I will say that on a certain date now fourteen years ago he was caught up to the third heaven. This is not a seemly form of boasting, my brethren, but it appears that one must do it to retain one's character as a messenger of the Spirit. On another occasion this same man whose being is in the Christ — and again whether in the flesh or no I will not speculate but leave the matter to the All-knowing — such a man was caught up into Paradise, and heard words spoken which cannot be uttered by human lips and which it is sacrilegious to disclose. 5Of that man, as he is in Christ, I will boast, but of myself I will not boast, except to show the weakness of this same self. 6For the greatness of these revelations has been indeed beyond measure wonderful, and were I to boast of them, I should speak no longer as a fool, but as wise — but as true, for the revelation was truth. But I forbear, for experience teaches me that on account of these revelations men look curiously upon me, as something more than I seem, as other than my words and appearance show me to be, and therefore I am slow to speak of them, for the vastness of this revelation has little to do with this outward man, myself, whom the world knows, but with the spiritual man who dwells in Christ. Hence to haunt this carnal man, and for-ever to check his boasting and self-sufficiency came an angel of Satan, one of his servants and messengers, to dog my steps, and harass me continually.
The persecuting “thorn”
7-8Therefore I once three times cried out to God that this persecuting thorn might leave me, 9and He said: “Sufficient is my grace for thee, for power is most perfectly manifested in weakness.” Out of that weakness then looms the great power of the Christ. 10The almightiness of it overshadows me, clothes me, and makes me able to boast that very weakness of the flesh as nothing, nay, as the instrument of God's glory. Then come — weakness, insult, persecution, difficulty and distress! For the Christ's sake they are even welcome to me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul's desire to spend and be spent for them
11All this has been the speech of a fool, — but of one who has been driven to it because of your failure to defend him before his enemies. You know yourselves that whatever claims to apostleship may be put forward and enlarged upon by others, my own are more striking than any; 12and even in your very midst — although they say I am nothing when present and only weighty by letters from afar — even in your midst have come to pass those signs of God, those wonders and evidences of His power, which were wrought in patience and meekness. You were not less favoured than other churches, and the “signs following” were as numerous when I uttered the gospel message to you as they were when I preached and sojourned amongst the other churches. 13In only one respect did I treat you differently from the other churches, and that was that I never lived at your charges, but paid my own way, earning my own living, as I have not always done in Asia and elsewhere. Was this a crime, my friends? Forgive me, if it were. 14But I intend, so far as I am able, never to be at your charges, but to support myself again and draw no salary from you, on this the third occasion on which I am coming to you. For I intend shortly to be with you again for the third time, and shall ask nothing from you. I seek not yours, but you; the father should work for his children, and support them, not be supported by them. 15I shall spend myself, and be spent for you, and in so doing, will you love me less? Because I will take no money from you, will you think the less of me for that? 16Is it possible that you think I maintained this attitude in order to take you captive, and did it all craftily and hypocritically, in order to spoil you in the end? But have I ever taken advantage of you? 17Have any of those I have since sent to you done you any wrong? 18Has Titus? Has the brother who went with him? Have we not all walked in the same spirit — in the same footsteps?
19No doubt you have long been thinking that I am putting forward a defence of myself, of my authority and conduct, but it is more than that. I speak in the Christ and as in the presence of God, and I speak that my words may build you up, and not cast you down. 20For I fear lest coming to you I find you not as I should wish. I fear lest you find me a different one from such as you desire. I fear lest in your midst there be revealed the spirit of envy, of rivalry, strife and jealousy, calumny, slander, pride and insubordination — 21so that when I come to the church of Corinth I be there humbled, and cause great heart-searching and remorse to many of those who sinned before and have not yet repented of their disgraceful sins, their fornication and uncleanness.