2 Corinthians chapter 12, he says: “I must go on boasting though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on with visions and revelations of the lord…I know a man 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.”
Now here’s the setup, he has been trying to defend on more than one occasion throughout his book; Paul has had to defend his apostolic authority because between the writing of first Corinthians and second Corinthians, there in the church at Corinth, he’s authority as an Apostle has been called into question.
Now, here’s what you need to know; first Corinthians was actually the second letter that he sent to them. Second Corinthians is actually the fourth letter he sent to them. Yes, we have two letters that were not in the scripture and therefore are not recorded here in your bible. But those two letters predate both of the ones that we have. One came before first and another came between the first and second. So actually, I tell people all the time, what we have here are four Corinthians. And the reason I am telling you this is that they have known him and interacted with him for years. This is not the second time he has engaged them, he has been there in the city with them. He has performed supernatural apostle-exposing aspects of who he is to affirm that he holds the authoritative office of apostle.
This letter, to them, was a grieving reaction to the fact that somewhere between first and second Corinthians; they have lost belief in his authority as an apostle. There’s about a five year gap between the two. And somewhere in that five year window, they have lost faith in him as an apostle of the lord Jesus Christ.
So, throughout the letter, he is having the need to defend his apostolic authority and have them live out the calling and the gospel that he has placed upon their lives out of the office that he holds as an apostle. And I love that he did that for eleven chapters and then he turned into bragging. Because when he turns into chapter 12, apparently because he was annoyed by having to do that for eleven chapters, he gets sarcastic. He says “I’m not going to talk about myself; I’m going to talk about a man. We’ll just talk about a guy”. Now what you need to know while you’re reading it, is the guy he is talking about is himself.
Are you tracking with that? While you’re reading this, recognize that Paul is being tongue and cheek- he’s mocking them. It’s sarcasm. He’s not talking about someone else. He’s saying “I don’t want to talk about me, I want to talk about someone else”; but through the entire story he gives is the story regarding himself. What does he say regarding himself?
In verse two he says “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body, I don’t know”- he knows, he knows. He knows the answer; but then the sarcasm says “God knows”. And “I know that this man was caught up into paradise, whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows- and he heard things that cannot be told, which men may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast except in my weakness.”
He’s saying- “I don’t want to brag about myself- so I’m going to tell you about another person-the third party- the one who you do not know…