The Apostle Paul taught about the spiritual war that the children of God are engaged in. He defended himself against those who opposed him. He recounted how he was caught up into the third heaven, and he described how his weaknesses proved to be a blessing to him. Before ending his epistle, Paul urged the Saints in Corinth to examine themselves and to prove their faithfulness.
What thoughts come to mind when you see the word war?
Think of ways in which we are engaged in a war against Satan. What are some of the most difficult battles we face in this spiritual war?
Read 2 Corinthians 10:3–6, looking for what the Apostle Paul taught we must do to be successful in this war against Satan.
The instruction to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) means to control our thoughts, including avoiding inappropriate thoughts, and to focus on good, uplifting things. One truth we can learn from verse 5 is that as we control our thoughts in obedience to Jesus Christ, we will be more successful in the war against Satan.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Consider what you will do to control your thoughts in obedience to the Savior. Some people find praying, reading or memorizing scriptures, and singing hymns to be helpful.
In 2 Corinthians 10:7–18 we learn that Paul gloried in the Lord and taught that his own weaknesses should not be used to justify not listening to him.
In 2 Corinthians 11 we read that Paul mentioned additional ways Satan seeks to corrupt our thoughts and lead us away from Jesus Christ, including the use of false Christs and false Apostles. Paul told of the sufferings he had endured as a true Apostle of the Savior.
Think of a time when you have been hurt by thorns. In what ways can thorns make life difficult?
The Apostle Paul used the concept of a thorn to symbolize a trial or weakness he experienced.
As you read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, consider the kinds of trials and weaknesses you have experienced: “Some have lost a loved one to death or care for one who is disabled. Some have been wounded by divorce. Others yearn for an eternal marriage. Some are caught in the grip of addictive substances or practices like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or pornography. Others have crippling physical or mental impairments. Some are challenged by same-gender attraction. Some have terrible feelings of depression or inadequacy. In one way or another, many are heavy laden” (“He Heals the Heavy Laden,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 6).
As you study 2 Corinthians 12, look for truths that can help you as you experience trials and weaknesses.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:1–4, looking for a vision Paul had. (In these verses Paul was referring to himself in the third person when he told about “a man.” In verse 2 the statement “whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth” illustrates that Paul was seeing a vision.)
Read 2 Corinthians 12:5–6, looking for how Paul responded to this vision of the celestial kingdom.
Notice that though Paul had this vision, he would not “glory” (or boast) about it. Perhaps he was concerned that others might think too highly of him when he still had mortal struggles to overcome.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles commented that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was “some unnamed physical infirmity, apparently a grievous one from which the Apostle suffered either continuously or recurringly” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:448).
Notice how many times Paul prayed to have this thorn in the flesh removed. (The word thrice [verse 8] means three times.)
Consider marking the phrase in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that explains that the Lord chose not to remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
From these verses we learn that the Lord may allow us to experience weaknesses and trials so we can learn to be humble. You may want to write or note this truth in your scriptures near 2 Corinthians 12:7–9.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, looking for truths Paul learned that helped him endure his weaknesses. As you read, keep in mind that grace is “divine help or strength … given through the mercy and love of God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Grace,” scriptures.lds.org).
You may want to mark words or phrases in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 that teach the following truths: The grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient to strengthen us in our weaknesses. The Lord does not always remove our challenges, but He will strengthen us as we endure them faithfully.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks testified, “The healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ—whether it removes our burdens or strengthens us to endure and live with them like the Apostle Paul—is available for every affliction in mortality” (“He Heals the Heavy Laden,” 8).
Answer two or all of the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What does it mean to you that the Savior’s grace “is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9) to strengthen you in your weaknesses?
How can the truths taught in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 help you as you experience weaknesses and trials?
When have you or someone you know been strengthened by the Savior to help with a weakness or during a trial?
Some people today challenge the teachings and the authority of those who are called to serve in leadership positions in the Church. Similarly, there were false teachers among the Corinthian Saints who challenged Paul and his authority as an Apostle.
Read 2 Corinthians 13:3, looking for what some Church members in Corinth were seeking proof of.
Read 2 Corinthians 13:5–6, looking for what the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian Saints to do rather than question whether the Lord spoke through him as an Apostle. (A reprobate is a corrupt or immoral person.) Consider marking the action words in verse 5 that tell what the Corinthian Saints should do.
When Paul asked the Corinthian Saints to examine whether they were “in the faith” [verse 5], he was asking them to consider whether they were faithful to the Lord and His Church. From 2 Corinthians 13:5–6 we learn that rather than criticizing Church leaders, Church members should examine their own faithfulness.
Read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith, looking for what he taught will happen if we choose to criticize our leaders instead of examining our own faithfulness: “[If a man] rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 318).
Take a few moments to ponder the following questions. Then sign your name in your scripture study journal to indicate that you have completed this assignment.
On a scale of 1–10 (where 10 is perfectly), how well do you follow the counsel of Church leaders?
What is one standard taught by prophets and apostles that you could follow more faithfully?
On a scale of 1–10 (where 10 is every opportunity you have), how often do you express gratitude for your Church leaders, either in person or in prayer?
What could you do to show more appreciation for the sacrifice and effort your leaders make on your behalf?
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What blessings can come from regularly doing a spiritual self-examination such as this?
In 2 Corinthians 13:7–14 we learn that Paul exhorted the Saints to avoid evil and strive for perfection.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied 2 Corinthians 10–13 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: