Second Corinthians 10:1–6 . . .
Apostle Paul obviously changes the subject of his epistle very sharply from what he's been talking about in chapters 8 and 9. Today's is a very helpful passage because, similar to Paul's church in Corinth, we have many false teachers in the church body today. Some are blatant and open and easy to recognize: the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, going door to door trying to convince people that their Book is authentic history; the Hare Krishna group; Scientologists; and many other groups.
Some false-teaching groups are more subtle. We find them within the body itself, such as those who espouse transcendental meditation and various self-improvement movements. There are the self-named "Christian homosexuals" who've formed churches that accept homosexuality among Christians. Then there are many who are, perhaps, unquestionably evangelical, yet they teach legalism and/or spiritual elitism, sometimes pushing a special experience as a shortcut to spiritual power. Today's passage in Second Corinthians is relevant to us; we should understand and appreciate the apostle's concern about false teaching in the church at Corinth.
Those groups and their individuals have one thing in common: Whether they know it or not, they're being used as Satan's tool, meant to derail the church and rob individual Christians of their liberty and joy in the Lord, attempting to oppose and defeat the gospel's powerful ministry of deliverance within a community or a nation. So the apostle writes with considerable feeling about our combating false teachers and their teachings.
Please read vv. 1–6 now so you can know how to carefully dig into this short passage. . . You can see that these are the words of a faithful shepherd who sees his sheep as being under attack from wolves in sheep's clothing. Associating with and appearing as Christians, they teach some very destructive heresies. Paul doesn't normally speak sharply or severely. In fact, in his first verse he refers to himself in the same way his enemies in Corinth were describing him. That's what these teachers were saying about him in Corinth: Don't pay any attention to Paul. He's just a paper tiger. He sounds very impressive when he writes, but when he comes, he's very meek and inconsequential. Paul says, That's what they're saying about me, but . . . He links this with the meekness and gentleness of Christ.
What are those weapons that Paul refers to in v. 4? First realize that you've been delivered from Satan's power through the victorious, redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Keep that wonderful truth in mind the next time you need to deal with the devil's attack on your life. Don't try to defeat a spiritual enemy with fleshly weapons and techniques, which are for fighting fleshly adversaries; they were never intended to defeat a spiritual foe. Spiritual adversaries must be fought with spiritual weapons!
Paul knew well that he was locked into his fleshly body and couldn't get out of it — nor could he trade it for another body. He'd likely have made a trade if possible, because he'd been brutally beaten and terribly abused during the course of his ministry. His physical body permanently bore the scars, marks, wounds, and disfigurement of those beatings (e.g., in 2 Cor. 11:23–25 and Gal. 6:17). Having a body free of scars and disfiguring wounds would have seemed a terrific prospect to Paul. In addition to the beatings he'd endured, Paul was a man of small stature. In fact, the name Paul means "little one." Although he was an intellectual giant, he didn't have a striking physical appearance.
Paul's message to us is important because we live in a day when people tend to judge themselves by the appearance of their bodies. Even believers judge themselves by their outward appearance. Many are in great shape physically, yet unable to win a spiritual battle. Paul was aware of the weakness and futility of his flesh. He knew that when it came to dealing with the devil, he had to rely on the realm of the Spirit where spiritual weapons existed for him to use against the devil. He knew that his greatest weapons didn't lie in his mind, his talents, or his flesh, but in spiritual weapons that exist in the realm of God's Spirit.
That's exactly what you need to do. Yes, you live in a fleshly body; yes, it likely has all kinds of limitations. But you can do a lot when you use spiritual weapons. Regardless of what you look like in the natural realm, you can be a holy terror to the devil when you fight in the spiritual realm. So, reach out and take the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When you're fully clothed in the armor of God, you can win the victory over the kingdom of darkness — every time!
Verse 4 counsels us of the fact that "effective spiritual weapons require effective spiritual strategies." Understanding this verse is vital. Basically, Paul says this: Our God-given weapons are to be used in connection with a divine strategy. But don't look to the flesh to find that strategy, for the battle plan you need isn't going to arise out of your own natural talent, mental exercises, or human effort. To find an appropriate spiritual strategy, turn directly to the Spirit, spending time and making the effort to pray and talk with the Spirit and read the Word of God. Warning: On your own, you'll never conceive a plan that will deliver you.
Verse 5 doesn't tell you to victoriously take the devil captive; rather, it tells you to take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The devil tries to invade your life through lies that he plants in your brain. If you fail to take your thoughts captive, it won't be long before the devil starts using those lies to create mental and emotional strongholds that keep you in bondage. Note: If you take your thoughts captive, they cannot take you captive!
Verse 6 advises you that, once you quash the devil's lies and face up to them, no longer permitting them to govern your life, you must be quick and alert to maintain a prompt readiness to prevent their return. That is, once you've been delivered from your inner weaknesses, you must avert their return. The problem is that we seldom use the powerful spiritual weapons that are at our disposal. Instead, we give way. May God help us understand the nature of spiritual warfare and our use of spiritual weaponry. And may we find tremendous changes in our lives beginning to occur quickly, once God allows the spiritual weapons that we'll eventually use to destroy the strongholds of darkness and evil that surround us.
Dear Lord: Please remind me that real spiritual battles are fought and won in the Spirit. Help me focus on the spiritual realm where the real battle is waged. I know that I'll need a supernatural strategy to do what's needed, a divine Spirit-imparted strategy so powerful and effective that no force can resist it. Forgive me for allowing the devil to sink his lies into my mind; help me to wear all your armor as I uproot and cast down every one of those lies. Thank you, Lord, amen.
- Q. 1 Do you spend as much time focussing on your spiritual development as you do your physical appearance? Be honest!
- Q. 2 Are your natural talent, mental reasonings, and human effort helpless to win the battles you face today?
- Q. 3 Has the devil ever tried to seize control of your mind to keep you from doing what God has asked you to do?
2 Corinthians 10:1–6
Paul's Defense of His Ministry
10 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you — I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" toward you when away! 2I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.