Today: [2 Corinthians 10:] What Spiritual Warfare is – and Is Not. In our chapter today Paul addresses areas of spiritual warfare whose concepts are very different from our ideas today. What is spiritual warfare? How do we conduct it? Where does the battle rage? In today’s study, we will discover what Paul actually thought about such things.
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[2Co 10:1-18 KJV] 1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence [am] base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: 2 But I beseech [you], that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. 7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he [is] Christ’s, even so [are] we Christ’s. 8 For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: 9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. 10 For [his] letters, say they, [are] weighty and powerful; but [his] bodily presence [is] weak, and [his] speech contemptible. 11 Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such [will we be] also in deed when we are present. 12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 But we will not boast of things without [our] measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. 14 For we stretch not ourselves beyond [our measure], as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in [preaching] the gospel of Christ: 15 Not boasting of things without [our] measure, [that is], of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, 16 To preach the gospel in the [regions] beyond you, [and] not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand. 17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
In chapter 10 of 2 Corinthians Paul reproves those who objected to the tenor of his previous letters to the church in that city. The contention against Paul is that his letter to them is very strident, but his demeanor in person was not in keeping with that tone. He admits in v. 1 that he was rather mild among them in person but makes no excuse for his boldness in writing. He implores them (v. 2) to realize that he chooses a bold and denunciatory tone only toward those who “walked according to the flesh.” Who is Paul referring to and what does it mean to walk according to the flesh?
Remember that Paul’s information as to what developed in Corinth after his departure came from the family of Stephanus and the household of Chloe. Titus also brought a report back to Paul as to problems there. Today Paul would be censored for listening to gossip if he were to admit such things and the people involved would be considered troublemakers. Regardless Paul thinks nothing not only of telling what he knows but also giving the names of the people who made him aware of such things. This is a boldness and a directness that would be considered bad form in a modern church setting. Who were those who “walked after the flesh” in Corinth?
- The man who was living in a sexual relationship with his father’s wife.
The leadership who tolerated sexual misconduct in their midst – celebrating their decision as demonstrating tolerance and inclusiveness.
Members of the Corinthian church who chose one leader over another saying “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Christ.”
Members among the Corinthians who made boastful promises to donate to Paul or to impoverished saints in other cities who didn’t follow through on their pledge of support.
Leadership in the Corinthian church who demanded letters of reference from Paul even though he had founded the Corinthian church in the first place.
We can look at these shortcomings in Corinth and find many points where they have much in common with church culture today. In saying they are walking after the flesh we might ask what does it mean to “walk.” To walk means to “progress by steps.” The Corinthian believers didn’t start out in this sad condition but little by little this is the state they have now found themselves in and Paul is seeking to make the correction.
In v. 3 Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is that even though they have found themselves in this sorry state of affairs, the answer is found in an understanding of the nature of spiritual warfare. How is this spiritual warfare to be conducted? If you are going to resist the enemy, you must realize that weaponry is necessary. Not “carnal” or weapons of a fleshly nature but spiritual weapons that are mighty through God to pull down the strongholds of the enemy in their midst.
What are the strongholds Paul refers to in v. 5? Strongholds that exist not in some ethereal dimension but in the imaginations of the people. Just as the spirit of God dwells in the human heart – so demonic influences also lurk not as apparitions or ghosts but as dark and malicious spirits attached to the very imagery in the thinking of the people themselves. Bear in mind that Paul isn’t talking to unbelievers but to born-again Christians. How do we deal with such things?
In the arena of spiritual warfare, we demonstrate much ignorance. We wave our hands and pray prayers that are rooted more so in medieval concepts of exorcism than in anything the Bible actually teaches. We cast down imaginations and high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God by bringing EVERY THOUGHT captive to the obedience of Christ – having a readiness to revenge all disobedience when YOUR OWN obedience is fulfilled. There are two important aspects of spiritual warfare we are to take notice of then:
- Harnessing your own thought life.
Resisting the urge to point the finger at others rather than dealing with your own sinful tendencies.
Jesus stated in John 6:63 that His words were “spirit and life.” In reality, ALL WORDS have a spirit behind them. Words and thoughts are spiritual containers possessed of a great power to liberate you or hold you in bondage. I remember years ago when the Spirit of God constantly questioned my thought life. I would form an opinion or viewpoint or complaint in my mind, and the Lord would challenge me with “where did you get that idea?” Then he would meticulously show me how the enemy had crept into my thinking to provoke unjust judgments, opinions, and attitudes that weren’t helping me and weren’t helping anyone else. How are we to respond? In a vengeful way – not against someone else’s disobedience but our own.
The specific demonic stronghold among the Corinthians was judging after the outward appearance. The Corinthians made judgments about Paul based on his demeanor among them when he was physically present and the contradictory tone of his letters back to them at a later time. They no doubt considered this to be discernment, but it was nothing other than immature judgmentalism. The Corinthians thought Paul’s meddling would be destructive to the church, but Paul insists (v. 8) that his authority among them (that they didn’t recognize) was not for their destruction but to build them up and strengthen them.
The significant problem in this area where the Corinthians were concerned was their tendency to compare one ministry with another. Paul corrects this in v. 12 saying he did not dare to get on the bandwagon of those who “measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves by themselves were not wise…” Paul’s boast was not in the popularity he did or did not enjoy among the churches but in the measure (or metron) of authority God had given him that had nothing to do with a popularity contest. If a man glories (v. 17) Paul says – let him glory or boast in the Lord not in name dropping (as is SO common today) or commending oneself to this group or that so immature believers will be impressed.
In ministry as it is carried out today the wisdom is that we should seek out popular ministries to get a recommendation so our fame will grow. If your name is mentioned by this ministry or that ministry people will flock to you and want to connect with you. This is what some call the “Old Boy’s Network.” This has nothing to do with the favor of God and believers should have the wisdom and discernment to know the difference. Just because someone drops the name of a prominent minister doesn’t establish that person’s authority or importance other than in his or her own mind. Instead, seek the honor that comes from God only rather than the recognition that comes from man.
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