Paul’s Visions and Revelations
1Although it may not accomplish a thing, I need to move on and boast about supernatural visions and revelations of the Lord. 2Someone I’m acquainted with, who is in union with Christ, was swept away fourteen years ago in an ecstatic experience. He was taken into the third heaven, but I’m not sure if he was in his body or out of his body—only God knows. 3And I know that this man (again, I’m not sure if he was still in his body or taken out of his body—God knows) 4was caught up in an ecstatic experience and brought into paradise, where he overheard many wondrous and inexpressible secrets that were so sacred that no mortal is permitted to repeat them. 5I’m ready to boast of such an experience, but for my own good I refuse to boast unless it concerns my weaknesses. 6However, if I were to boast, it wouldn’t be ridiculous at all, for I would be speaking the truth. Yet I will refrain, lest others think higher of me than what I demonstrate with my life and teaching.
7The extraordinary level of the revelations I’ve received is no reason for anyone to exalt me. For this is why a thorn in my flesh was given to me, the Adversary’s messenger sent to harass me, keeping me from becoming arrogant. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to relieve me of this. 9But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. 10So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.
The Signs of an Apostle
11I have become foolish to boast like this, but you have forced me to do it, when you should have boasted in me instead. For there is nothing I lack compared to these “super-apostles” of yours, even though I am nothing. 12The things that distinguish a true apostle were performed among you with great perseverance—supernatural signs, startling wonders, and awesome miracles.
13Furthermore, how were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I didn’t burden you financially—forgive me for depriving you! 14And now here I am, ready to come to you for the third time, and I still refuse to be a burden to you. For what I really want is your hearts, not your money. After all, children should not have to accumulate resources for their parents, but parents do this for their children. 15And as a spiritual father to you, I will gladly spend all that I have and all that I am for you! If I love you more, will you respond by loving me less?
16Be that as it may, I haven’t been a burden to you at all, yet you say of me, “He’s a scoundrel and a trickster!” 17But let me ask you this. Did I somehow cheat or trick you through any of the men I sent your way? 18I was the one who insisted that Titus and our brother come and help you. Did Titus take advantage of you? Didn’t we all come to you in the same spirit, following in the ways of integrity?
19I hope that you don’t assume that all this time we have simply been justifying ourselves in your eyes? Beloved ones, we have been speaking to you in the sight of God as those joined to Christ, and everything we do is meant to build you up and make you stronger in your faith. 20Now I’m afraid that when I come to you I may find you different than I desire you to be, and you may find me different than you would like me to be. I don’t want to find you in disunity, with jealousy and angry outbursts, with selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and turmoil. 21I’m actually afraid that on my next visit my God will humble me in front of you as I shed tears over those who keep sinning without repenting of their impurity, sexual immorality, and perversion.