I am compelled to boast. It is not a profitable employment, but I will proceed to visions and revelations granted me by the Lord.
I know a Christian man who fourteen years ago-- whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know; God knows--was caught up (this man of whom I am speaking) even to the highest Heaven.
And I know that this man-- whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know;
God knows--was caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable things which no human being is permitted to repeat.
Of such a one I will boast; but of myself I will not boast, except in my weaknesses.
If however I should choose to boast, I should not be a fool for so doing, for I should be speaking the truth. But I forbear, lest any one should be led to estimate me more highly than what his own eyes attest, or more highly than what he hears from my lips.
And judging by the stupendous grandeur of the revelations--therefore lest I should be over-elated there has been sent to me, like the agony of impalement, Satan's angel dealing blow after blow, lest I should be over-elated.
As for this, three times have I besought the Lord to rid me of him;
but His reply has been, "My grace suffices for you, for power matures in weakness." Most gladly therefore will I boast of my infirmities rather than complain of them--in order that Christ's power may overshadow me.
In fact I take pleasure in infirmities, in the bearing of insults, in distress, in persecutions, in grievous difficulties--for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
It is foolish of me to write all this, but you have compelled me to do so. Why, you ought to have been my vindicators; for in no respect have I been inferior to these superlatively great Apostles, even though in myself I am nothing.
The signs that characterize the true Apostle have been done among you, accompanied by unwearied fortitude, and by tokens and marvels and displays of power.
In what respect, therefore, have you been worse dealt with than other Churches, except that I myself never hung as a dead weight upon you? Forgive the injustice I thus did you!
See, I am now for the third time prepared to visit you, but I will not be a dead weight to you. I desire not your money, but yourselves; for children ought not to put by for their parents, but parents for their children.
And as for me, most gladly will I spend all I have and be utterly spent for your salvation.
If I love you so intensely, am I the less to be loved? Be that as it may: I was not a burden to you. But being by no means scrupulous, I entrapped you, they say!
Have I gained any selfish advantage over you through any one of the messengers I have sent to you?
I begged Titus to visit you, and sent our other brother with him. Did Titus gain any selfish advantage over you? Were not he and I guided by one and the same Spirit, and did we not walk in the same steps?
You are imagining, all this time, that we are making our defense at your bar. In reality it is as in God's presence and in communion with Christ that we speak; but, dear friends, it is all with a view to your progress in goodness.
For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may not find you to be what I desire, and that you may find me to be what you do not desire; that perhaps there may be contention, jealousy, bitter feeling, party spirit, ill-natured talk, backbiting, undue eulogy, unrest;
and that upon re-visiting you I may be humbled by my God in your presence, and may have to mourn over many whose hearts still cling to their old sins, and who have not repented of the impurity, fornication, and gross sensuality, of which they have been guilty.