Summary: When Paul said what God told him was unlawful to repeat, what was He saying?
Introduction: Last week, I said the Word of God mentions the word "unspeakable" three times:
- 2 Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable Gift."
- 2 Corinthians 12:4, "How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."
- 1 Peter 1:8, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
I also said that, in these verses, we find God's unspeakable Gift, His unspeakable Words, and our unspeakable joy.
- God's unspeakable Gift is Jesus. The fact, that God gave Jesus, leaves us unable to declare its wonder.
- God's unspeakable Words were too sacred to divulge.
- Our unspeakable joy is joy so full it defies description.
In this message, I wish to emphasize God's unspeakable words. The story surrounding 2 Corinthians 12:4 is just as amazing as the truth found in it. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:2 that he knew a man above 14 years ago who was caught up to the third Heaven. In this passage, the man Paul knew was Paul himself. What was it that had happened fourteen some odd years before?
The Apostle Paul had journeyed to Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra. There, he ministered the Word of God and performed miracles in the name of Jesus. In particular, Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit, had brought healing to a man who was crippled in his feet from birth and had never walked. The Word of God records that Paul "Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked." (Acts 14:10) Because of this, Paul and Barnabas were viewed as gods by the people of Lystra. Then, the Bible says in Acts 14:19, "And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead."
I believe that Paul was indeed stoned to death, but God performed a miracle, and Acts 14:20 records, "Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe." It is a difficult thing to survive a stoning. During this time, Paul apparently visited Heaven, and, just as Lazarus was returned to this earth, so Paul was returned to continue his ministry. Lazarus was dead for four days, and Paul for only a few minutes. Both were brought back to life by the power of God. This is the story Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 12. In these verses, he relates what happened to him when he went to Heaven.
2 Corinthians 12:4 tells us that Paul was told things he could not repeat to anyone on earth, "How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." In other words, God said to Paul, "I'm going to tell you some things that I don't want you to tell anyone else." What did God tell him? We don't know, because God told him not to tell anybody, and Paul kept God's secret. These were God's unspeakable words.
Why didn't God want Paul to reveal the secrets of Heaven to anyone on earth? Because it wasn't time yet. It wasn't until more than 51 years later God revealed to the Apostle John the mysteries of Heaven.
I find it interesting that God trusted a man to keep one of His secrets. This teaches us that there are things God reveals to some and not to others. I think this is proven in the fact that all of us have met Christians who seem to know God and His Word more intimately than we would ever hope to. Have you ever read a passage over and over again only to have another Christian teach you something about the verse that you had never known before? I believe this is not because people are stupid, but because there are some people to whom God gives understanding because of their trustworthiness. God reveals His truth to those who will use His truth for others. The Bible makes this very clear.
- "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)
- "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." (Psalm 25:14)
- "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD." (Psalm 107:43)