NOTES II Corinthians
10:1-11 (click here for
Paul has finished his discourse on generosity and returns to the recurring theme of this particular letter: the defense of his apostolic appointment to the Corinthians. While the tone of this letter has indicated that many of the Corinthians have returned to loyalty to Paul as their God-appointed teacher and apostle, in this last portion of the letter he deals firmly with the slander that is still being perpetrated against him. There are still church members who believe that the rumors about Paul are true: that he is really weak and lacking in authority in person while bluffing sternness in his letters. In this passage Paul addresses those accusations directly.
In a stroke of apparent irony, Paul addresses his supposed lack of strength by appealing to "the meekness and gentleness of Christ." In light of the accusations leveled against him of bluffing strength in his letters and of being timid in person, Christ's gentleness and meekness seem unlikely defenses. The paradox, however, is that only in Christ's gentleness and meekness is there strength. A Christ-follower can only be strong enough to stand for truth if he is armed with the rest and gentleness of Jesus.
Paul wants to show Christ's gentleness to the Corinthians, but the false teachers have instilled such doubt into their hearts that they mistrust him and his letters. Paul reminds them that Jesus was meek and gentle, and he appeals to the Corinthians to think of him, Paul, through the filter of Jesus' life and example instead of through the filter of his detractors' false claims about him.
Jesus called each of his followers to rest and peace in him. "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," he said. "I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) Likewise, the Old Testament prophets called God's people to rest. "Stand at the crossroads," Jeremiah wrote to Israel in Jeremiah 6:16, "ask for the ancient paths." He further said to walk in the good way, and they would find rest for their souls. David also said, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." (Psalm 116:7)
Paul addresses the Corinthians' accusations of him by pointing out that the "flaw" of his supposed timidity is in reality a gentleness that comes from Christ, not a passivity that comes from weakness. In fact, he goes on to say, they may be surprised at how boldly he will confront them when he sees them if they are unwilling to deal with truth before he arrives. Paul pleads with them to face the truth and renounce the lies they have embraced about him and his apostleship so he does not have to be as bold as he expects he'll need to be when he sees them. In his first letter he described his boldness by saying, "What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?" (1 Corinthians 4:21) Paul is heartsick and tired of these people, for whom he spent so much of his personal energy and for whom he suffered, persisting in defaming him and questioning his God-appointed authority.
Standards of This World
Paul points out that the boldness he suspects he will have to display when he visits Corinth will be directed toward those who persist in believing and stating that he lives "by the standards of this world." That Paul, the man who gave up all claim to a life of comfort and privilege and power to live with persecution, privation, and abandonment for the sake of Jesus, would be accused of living by the standards of the world is ludicrous. That those for whom Paul spent himself and who experienced his self-sacrifice and dedication firsthand would turn on him and perpetrate false stories about him hurt him deeply and also hurt the cause of the gospel.
Paul himself as well as Peter and John warned Christ-followers about not living by worldly standards. The things about which he is being accused are clear from the contents of several epistles to the early Christian fellowships. In fact, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul warned them about not being seduced by worldly standards of success. The wisdom of the age, the scholars, the philosophers-all these are foolishness to God, he declares. "The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Cor. 1:20, 25)
In Romans 12:1-3 Paul warned the church not to "conform to the pattern of this world" or to think more highly of themselves than they ought. He also admonished them to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, to become spiritually sensitive and discerning, that they would be able to "test and approve" God's will.
John clearly defined categories of worldly things in 1 John 2:15-16. He writes that Christ-followers are not to "love worldly things" and states that "the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does" come from the world, not from the Father.
Peter also states directly that as obedient children, we who follow Christ are not to conform to the standards of this world. (1 Peter 1:14)
The implications from those who had turned against Paul were undermining his integrity, his divine appointment as an apostle of Christ Jesus, and further were casting a bad light onto the gospel he preached. His detractors were trying to destroy him by false accusations and by creating doubt in the minds of those who did not know Paul. They were also causing people to reject the pure gospel by suggesting that Paul's life testified against the power of God's grace. Paul declared that he would deal severely with these deceived and deceiving people if they did not "clean up their act." Above all else, Paul defended the gospel and the reputation of Jesus. He was clearly NOT living by worldly standards, and the rumors about him were malicious.
In spite of the pervasive and destructive nature of the talk against Paul, however, he does not defend himself in what would seem to be a logical fashion. Instead of outlining the reasons his detractors were wrong and arguing that he was right, Paul deferred to the power of God. "We do not wage war as the world does," he said. (v. 3) "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." Earlier in this same letter Paul had referred to the fact that he was armed with "weapons of righteousness in [his] right hand and in [his] left." (2 Cor. 6:7)
The weapons to which Paul refers are spiritual. They are not products of his own wisdom or intellect or study or superiority. Paul defines the source of his weapons' strength in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 when he writes, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." The Holy Spirit is the source of Paul's power. He can face his detractors with confidence-in spite of his personal pain-because he does not have to defend himself against them by his own wits. God himself is his defense, and the Spirit's power is stronger than anything evil men might try to say or to do to destroy him.
Paul continues by declaring that his spiritual weapons will "demolish strongholds." For millennia God has been demolishing strongholds by his power through his people. When God called Jeremiah to speak for him, he told him: "I will put my words in your mouth." He promised that he would "appoint [him] over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and plant." (Jeremiah 1:9-10)
God emphasized his point to Jeremiah again when he declared that not all prophets have God's power to accomplish his will. " 'Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully,' God said. 'Is not my word like fire,' declares the Lord, 'and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 28:28-29)
God had consistently made clear to Israel that false prophets would always surface, claiming to have God's instruction for God's people. Those self-appointed prophets, however, did not have God's authority or power. They could speak and persuade all they wanted, but their words would never destroy evil or establish God's goodness on the earth. Only God's word faithfully spoken through people who devoted themselves to Him would be able to expose and destroy evil or proclaim and establish righteousness. Paul echoes this ancient truth when he says he does not wage war as the world does; rather, he uses weapons of divine power.
The strongholds which God's power destroys are not only kingdoms and nations. They also include evil strongholds in human hearts. In Romans 1:18-23 Paul states that God's wrath "is being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." He explains that all men have been able to know God because from creation, God's invisible qualities "have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Paul further explains that wicked people have not glorified God, even though they had the evidence of His power all around them. They have not thanked God, and "their foolish hearts were darkened." This darkness is a spiritual stronghold in the hearts of many people. God's power is the only weapon that can break such a deliberate denial.
In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul further elaborates on this spiritual stronghold that claims those who refuse to acknowledge God and his sovereignty. He insists that the Ephesians stop living "as the Gentiles do," futilely and in darkness. "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more."
When Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about defeating strongholds, he is referring to this very kind of spiritual darkness and denial. The false teachers have perverted the gospel and truth, and they have betrayed Paul and convinced many Corinthians that he is living a life of compromise. Paul does not take these accusations lightly. For a person who knows Paul and has accepted the gospel as a result of his teaching to be swayed into rejecting both Paul and his message, that person must be giving evil a foothold in his heart. Such deception is not innocent even though it is subtle. Christ-followers have the Holy Spirit in them to enlighten and protect them. When they fall into massive deception and actively turn on those who administered God's grace to them, they are not allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts. Rather, they are allowing evil to darken their understanding. They are choosing to make excuses for themselves instead of acting with integrity and responsibility. They are choosing to believe a titillating lie rather than holding to truth they know despite the seductive arguments against it. Further, they are choosing to believe lies about God. Deception may appear to be aimed at destroying God's messenger, but ultimately the messenger is not the target: Jesus Christ is. The call of the gospel in a person's heart is a call to truth and integrity. It is easier to create a distraction from that call by attacking the visible messenger than it is to deal directly with the call to repentance.
Paul addresses the Corinthians' deliberate denial of truth by boldly declaring that, with divine weapons, he will "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God." (v. 5) False rumors, half-truths, flattery, deception-these all lose their power in the presence of God's Spirit and the clear declaration of truth. Even though the lies may not disappear immediately, they cannot have the last word. Ultimately, truth always wins.
Divine Weapons and Armor
Paul asserts that he is not fighting the attacks on his character the way the world would fight. Instead of boasting, threatening, and defending himself, Paul will rely on the power of God's Spirit to defend him. Essentially, Paul is saying what David said to Goliath: "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord
Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (1 Samuel 17:45)
Earlier in this same letter Paul reminded the Corinthians that he comes to them with "weapons of righteousness" in both hands. (2 Cor 6:7) In Romans 13:12 Paul refers to the armor a Christ-follower will wear: "Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." Embracing the gospel and embracing truth require that we give up secret destructive behaviors. The false teachers were attacking Paul behind his back. Truth, however, will boldly walk in the light. People of truth and integrity do not need to hide or be nervous about meeting anyone face-to-face. Only when people are indulging in secret untruths or destructive behavior are they reluctant to deal directly with people of spiritual discernment.
Paul expands this theme of walking in light in 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 8-9: "You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
In this passage Paul emphasizes the openness and transparency of a Christ-follower's life. As people of light, we do not need to hide. Rather, we function out in the open, protected by faith, love, and salvation. Faith and love are the breastplates we wear that protect our hearts in Jesus, and salvation is our helmet that protects our minds from deception and the seduction of "special knowledge" or spurious doctrines.
In Ephesians 6 Paul enlarges his description of our armor that we wear as Christ-followers. He admonishes us to be strong in God's power and to put on "the full armor of God." Our enemies, he emphasizes, are not the people who undermine us. Our enemies are "the rulersthe authoritiesthe powers of this dark world" and "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Just as evil attacks aimed at us as Christ's representatives are not really against us but are against Christ Jesus and the gospel, so our enemies are not really the people who make trouble for us and for the gospel. Our true enemies are spiritual forces of evil in this world and in the universe.
When we put on the full armor of God, however, we have protection against these superhuman forces of evil. In fact, when we wear the armor of God, our job is to stand, not to fight, before the forces of evil that come against us. We are to don the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and fit our feet with the gospel of peace. We are to take up the shield of faith which will extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. We are to wear the helmet of salvation and to be armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Finally, we are to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions." (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Paul repeatedly says, in this passage, that when we are fitted with God's full armor, we will stand our ground firmly. Nowhere in any of these passages about divine weapons and God's armor does Paul admonish us to fight the enemy. We are to protect ourselves against the enemy by abiding in our relationships with Jesus and allowing his faith, hope, love, and the confidence of our salvation to cover us. We are to immerse ourselves in His word and live by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The fighting itself, however, is Jesus' responsibility. Throughout both the Old and the New Testaments, God fought his people's battles when they trusted him. When they pulled away from God and took charge of their own struggles, they failed. When they humbled themselves before God, he accomplished victory for them by means they could never achieve.
In 2 Corinthians 10:4 Paul asserts that his weapons against the falsehoods being circulated about him and against the gospel are "not the weapons of the world." They have "divine power to demolish strongholds." In chapter 6:7 Paul called them "weapons of righteousness". The weapons Paul-and all Christ-followers-hold in their hands are weapons of Christ's righteousness that covers them. They are not tools for fighting hand-to-hand with the enemy; rather, they are divine power that comes from above and protects against evil.
The power against evil does not emanate from our own cleverness or knowledge or even from our own sanctified minds. The true power against evil is the power of Christ, and Jesus himself protects and defends us against it. We protect ourselves by accepting salvation and abiding in Christ. Our armor is the result of His love and faith and righteousness covering us. Our weapons are literally Christ's power which He wields to protect us from destruction. We are merely to stand, protected, alert, and praying, while Jesus wages the war against evil in and around our lives.
Captive to Obedience
As a consequence of being armed with divine weapons and being protected with the armor of God, Paul says, he and all Christ-followers will "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient." (v. 5) Only with the Holy Spirit's wisdom and discernment does any of us have hope of dealing with the arguments and false teaching that subtly appear wherever the gospel is preached. The evil one wants to steal our freedom in Christ, and only with divine weapons can we defend ourselves against enticing rumors, teachings, and perverted doctrines.
The source of our obedience to Christ is surrender of our wills and thoughts to him. We can choose to avoid certain behaviors and habits, but it is our internal obedience that really matters. When we submit our thoughts to Jesus, he then has our permission to expose deception and give us his understanding. If our thoughts are not surrendered to him, we are reserving the right to evalutate and to think for oursleves, and the wisdom of the world can be very persuasive when we are not choosing to live by the power of the Holy Spirit's wisdom.
When we take our thoughts "captive" to make them "obedient to Christ", we are not becoming passive. Instead, we are becoming "submitted". God expects us to think and evaluate and make judgments, but he wants us to do those things from a condition of surrender to his wisdom and his love instead of from a position of self-sufficient arrogance.
Authority for Building The Church
Paul again declares that His position in Christ is as secure and certain as is that of the factions and detractors who are claiming superior spirituality. He reminds them that, unlike many of the false teachers who have invaded the Corinthian church, he boasts that his authority from Christ is for the sake of building up the church, not tearing it down. The infiltrators are slowly destroying the church from the inside out. Paul, on the other hand,, has always and will always use his authority to build up the believers. In fact, this focus on the health of the church is what sets his ministry apart from the deceptive "ministries" which are confusing God's people. He is dedicated to exposing and destroying spiritual strongholds that rob the people of their freedom. God has given him the authority to "tear down, to destroy and overthrow" the falshoods that are compromising the gospel. (see Jeremiah 1:10)
Paul is writing clearly and emphatically, boldly assesrting the spiritual danger the Corinthians face by harboring false teachers. He is calling them to integrity, to obedience to Christ instead of to a cult of personality. He is asking them to let go of whatever social or spiritual distinction they think they gain by following these persuasive teachers. Even though his words sound demanding, he is writing these things to protect them. He is using his authority not to gain loyalty for himself but to protect and nurture the body of Christ.
Jesus is callling each of us to hold his divine weapons in both our hands. Just as he gave Paul a ministry, so he has given each of us a ministry, and with it he provides his power for us to accomplish his work. Along with our call to ministry, however, we also receive God's discipline. The work God wants to do in us, perfecting us in faith and love, happens only in the context of our work and our relationships. If we embrace God's work but resist his discipline, we will end up perverting the work. If we resist God's discipline, we lose our grip on his divine weapons.
Jesus is asking you to look clearly at the places of resistance and anger in your life. If you find you are increasingly uncomfortable about certain situations, it may be that God is trying to alert you to an area in your heart or your memories that he wants to heal. Becoming whole in Christ is never without pain. Healing requires that we be willing to remember, to admit our complicity or vulnerability in traumatic events in our lives. If you find that certain situations repeatedly engender anger or resentment or a critical spirit, there is probably something in your heart God is trying to mend.
Negative reactions do not mean that you and "wrong" and the others involved are "right". Unresolved or growing reactions, however, may mean that you have a wounded spot in your heart that needs to be healed before you can deal with the situation objectively. When you face trials, both fear and anger are positions of weakness.
God's discipline often leads us into trials to bring our pain and honestly lay it at his feet. God wants us to honestly admit the "baggage" behind our fear and our anger, and if we can't remember it, he wants to show it to us. As long as we focus on the external problem, God cannot deal with our own hearts. If we allow God to touch our own weaknesses, however, he will show us the ways in which we are still broken and compromised. Such discovery is usually painful, but with the pain also comes a tremendous gift of relief. That weight of hiding a burden from our own consciousness is gone; Jesus can now carry it!
The amazing thing about God's disclosing to us the truth about ourselves is that he always reveals it in love. When we allow His Spirit to convict us deeply about our own brokenness, he wipes the blots of shame from our hearts and memories with a touch that changes our lives. If we are willing not only to know the truth but to release to Jesus the ways we compensate for our brokenness, we discover a new life.
God is calling you to be willing to give up to him everything you hold dear, even your beliefs and your relationships. He is asking you to be willing to know the truth he wants to reveal. He is asking you to accept with open hands the gift of His work-both his work in you and his work he gives you to do.
God is asking you to trust him as you bump into unsolvable situations and overwhelming opposition. He rest is enough; he strength is made perfect in your weakness. God is faithful to complete the work he has begun in you.
Let your trauma be God's concern. Allow him to hold your anger and fortify your fear. Allow the Father to discipline you and to transform your life into one of power and peace.
Praise God for being our Father and for loving us and giving us life. Praise Jesus for overcoming the world. Praise the Holy Spirit for bring new life to our souls, for placing God's love and healing in our hearts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Copyright (c) 2002 Graphics Studio, Redlands,
CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted October 6, 2002.