Lesson 117: 2 Corinthians 10–13

“Lesson 117: 2 Corinthians 10–13,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 117,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 117

2 Corinthians 10–13


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 described how his weaknesses proved to be a blessing. Before ending his epistle, Paul exhorted the Saints in Corinth to examine themselves and prove their faithfulness.

Suggestions for Teaching

2 Corinthians 10–11

Paul writes about spiritual warfare, Satan’s deceptions, and his own tribulations

Write the word war on the board.

  • In what ways are we engaged in a war against Satan?

  • What are some of the most difficult battles we face in this spiritual war?

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 10:3–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught we must do to be successful in this war against Satan.

  • What must we do to be successful in this war against Satan?

  • What do you think it means to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”? (verse 5).

  • What principle can we learn from verse 5 about how to be successful in the war against Satan? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: As we control our thoughts in obedience to Jesus Christ, we will be more successful in the war against Satan.)

  • What can we do to control our thoughts? (Among other things, we can pray, memorize scriptures, and sing or memorize hymns.)

You may want to share an experience that illustrates how controlling your thoughts in obedience to the Savior has helped you overcome Satan’s influence. Consider inviting students to share their own experiences as well. Invite students to set a goal to better control their thoughts in obedience to the Savior.

Invite a student to read aloud the following summary:

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 recounted the suffering he had endured as a true Apostle of the Savior.

2 Corinthians 12

Paul recounts being caught up into heaven and teaches how acknowledging our weaknesses can benefit us

Bring a thorn to class, or draw a picture of one on the board similar to the one shown. Invite students to consider times when they have been hurt by thorns.

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
  • In what ways can thorns make life difficult?

Explain that Paul used the concept of a thorn to symbolize a trial or weakness he experienced.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen and consider what kinds of trials or weaknesses they or their loved ones have experienced:

Oaks, Dallin H.

“Some have lost a loved one to death or care for one who is disabled. Some have been wounded by divorce. … 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).

Invite students to look for truths as they study 2 Corinthians 12 that can help them as they experience trials and weaknesses.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 12:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a vision Paul had. (Explain that these verses refer to Paul in the third person.)

  • What do you think it means that Paul was “caught up to the third heaven”? (verse 2). (He had a vision of the celestial kingdom.)

Explain that the phrase “whether in the body … or whether out of the body, I cannot tell” (verse 2) means that Paul did not know whether he had been taken to the celestial kingdom or had seen a vision of it.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 12:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Paul responded to this vision.

  • How did Paul respond to this vision?

  • What did Paul worry might happen if he gloried of himself? (Paul was concerned that others might think too highly of him when he still had mortal struggles to overcome.)

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 12:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord helped Paul remain humble. You may want to explain that to “be exalted above measure” (verse 7) means to be prideful.

  • How did the Lord help Paul stay humble?

  • How many times did Paul pray to have this “thorn in the flesh” removed?

Point out that in spite of Paul’s prayers, it seems that the Lord chose not to remove Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”

  • What can we learn from Paul about why the Lord may allow us to experience weaknesses and trials? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: The Lord may allow us to experience weaknesses and trials so we can learn to be humble. Write this truth on the board.)

Invite students to read 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 silently and look for truths Paul learned that helped him endure his weaknesses. Ask students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals the truths they identify.

  • What truths did Paul learn that helped him endure his weaknesses? (Students may identify several truths, such as the following: 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.)

Remind students that grace is the “divine means of help or strength” made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (Bible Dictionary, “Grace”).

  • What does it mean that the Savior’s grace is sufficient to strengthen us in our weaknesses? (Through the strength we receive from the Savior, we can do all that He asks us to do.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

Oaks, Dallin H.

“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).

  • How can the truths we identified in verses 9–10 help us as we experience weaknesses and trials?

  • When have you or someone you know been strengthened by the Savior? (Remind students not to share anything that is too private or personal.) How was that experience a blessing to you or them?

2 Corinthians 13

Paul exhorts the Saints to examine themselves and prove their faithfulness

Remind students that there were false teachers among the Corinthian Saints who challenged Paul and his authority as an Apostle.

  • What are some examples of how people today might challenge those who are called to leadership positions in the Church?

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 13:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what some Church members in Corinth were seeking proof of.

  • What were some Church members in Corinth seeking proof of?

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 13:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul exhorted the Corinthian Saints to do rather than question whether the Lord spoke through him as an Apostle. Explain that a reprobate is a corrupt or immoral person.

  • According to verse 5, what did Paul exhort the Corinthian Saints to do? (You may want to encourage students to mark the verbs examine, prove, and know in this verse.)

  • What did Paul say these Saints needed to examine about themselves? (Explain that to “be in the faith” [verse 5] means to be faithful to the Lord’s Church.)

  • What principle can we learn from these verses about what we should do instead of criticizing Church leaders? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: Rather than criticizing Church leaders, Church members should examine their own faithfulness.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

Brother Joseph

“[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 [2007], 318).

  • What will happen if we criticize our leaders instead of examining our own faithfulness?

To help students examine their faithfulness and their attitude toward their Church leaders, provide them with copies of the following questions. Give students sufficient time to read and answer the questions silently.

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual—Lesson 117

  1. On a scale of 1–10 (10 is perfectly), how well do you follow the counsel of Church leaders?

  2. What is one standard taught by prophets and apostles that you could follow more faithfully?

  3. On a scale of 1–10 (10 is every opportunity you have), how often do you express gratitude for your Church leaders, either in person or in prayer?

  4. What could you do to show more appreciation for the sacrifice and effort your leaders make on your behalf?

After sufficient time, ask:

  • What blessings can come from regularly doing a spiritual self-examination such as this?

Summarize 2 Corinthians 13:7–14 by explaining that Paul exhorted the Saints to avoid evil and strive for perfection.

Testify of the truths you have discussed in this lesson. Invite students to write down a specific goal of how they will apply one of these truths in their lives.

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Scripture Mastery Review

Students’ understanding of scripture passages will increase as they create their own questions about those passages. Divide the class into two (or more) teams. Invite the teams to write clues that point to specific scripture mastery passages. (You may want to select a group of passages that you would like students to learn or review.) Encourage students to not make their clues too challenging. After sufficient time, invite the teams to take turns reading their clues aloud to see if the other team can identify the correct passage.

Note: If you do not have time to use this activity as part of this lesson, you may use it on another day. (The following lesson is fairly short. You may have time to use this activity then.) For other review activities, see the appendix at the end of this manual.

Commentary and Background Information

2 Corinthians 12:4. “Not lawful for a man to utter”

Like Paul, who “heard ‘unspeakable words’ that were ‘not lawful for a man to utter’ when he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4), we too may have spiritual experiences that we should share only when directed to do so by the Spirit. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“‘I have come to believe … that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others’ [‘The Candle of the Lord,’ Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53]” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 407).

2 Corinthians 12:7. What was the “thorn” that troubled the Apostle Paul?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles suggested that Paul’s thorn might have been “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).

2 Corinthians 12:9. “My strength is made perfect in weakness”

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drew from his personal experience with physical challenges to explain how the Savior’s grace can make us strong in weakness:

“In the past two years, I have waited upon the Lord for mortal lessons to be taught me through periods of physical pain, mental anguish, and pondering. I learned that constant, intense pain is a great consecrating purifier that humbles us and draws us closer to God’s Spirit. If we listen and obey, we will be guided by His Spirit and do His will in our daily endeavors.

“There were times when I have asked a few direct questions in my prayers, such as, ‘What lessons dost Thou want me to learn from these experiences?’

“As I studied the scriptures during this critical period of my life, the veil was thin and answers were given to me as they were recorded in lives of others who had gone through even more severe trials. …

“On a few occasions, I told the Lord that I had surely learned the lessons to be taught and that it wouldn’t be necessary for me to endure any more suffering. Such entreaties seemed to be of no avail, for it was made clear to me that this purifying process of testing was to be endured in the Lord’s time and in the Lord’s own way. It is one thing to teach, ‘Thy will be done’ (Matt. 26:42). It is another to live it. I also learned that I would not be left alone to meet these trials and tribulations but that guardian angels would attend me. …

“The experiences of the last two years have made me stronger in spirit and have given me courage to testify more boldly to the world the deep feelings of my heart” (“The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 6).