“It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:” (2 Corinthians 12:1).
Paul the Apostle spent a large portion of 2 Corinthians chapter eleven boasting of his ministerial credentials. Although Paul was reluctant to boast of himself in this manner, he felt compelled to do so in an effort to counter the growing influence exerted by a group of false apostles who had gained influence over the members of the Corinthian church.
However, the final verses of that chapter also closed with a rather humiliating event from Paul’s ministry. It involved an incident where Paul was forced to hide in a basket to avoid detection by the local religious and governmental authorities. That enabled him to escape from his pursuers when he was lowered down by a rope through a window in the city wall.
The indignity of that experience serves as a backdrop to the subject that Paul will discuss here in the opening verses of chapter twelve: “visions and revelations of the Lord“. A “vision” refers to a type of apparition (1) or supernatural appearance of a person or thing. (2) A revelation refers to “an unveiling” or the disclosure of something that cannot be known unless God divulges it.
Its possible that the false teachers in Corinth boasted of such encounters, thus establishing the need for Paul to address that subject. In doing so, Paul effectively cut off all avenues of rhetorical escape for these counterfeit apostles. For instance, if these “leaders” sought to justify their authority on the basis of a superior lineage, then Paul could do the same. If they claimed to have suffered for Christ, then Paul was ready to remind the Corinthians that he had suffered as well- and to a far greater extent.
If they sought to appeal to “revelations from God” then Paul was ready to discus one of many such encounters with the Lord, some of which are documented within the pages of the New Testament. (3) But unlike those who sought to draw attention to themselves in discussing such things, Paul will focus his attention upon the One who was responsible for these revelations. In part, this has led one commentator to offer an important observation…
“Paul’s refusal to ‘boast’ and ‘testify’ about his great ‘mountaintop’ experience in Paradise should be a good guideline for the multitude of religious ‘stars’ circulating Christendom today testifying of their ‘great spiritual experiences’ or ‘visions’ or ‘revelations.'” (4)
(1) G3701 optasia Strong’s Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3701
(4) Paul T. Butler, The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In Second Corinthians (College Press) [p. 404] Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesSecondCorinthians/132Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt