9-30-2018 Punishable By Obedience 2 Corinthians 10:1-6
For the last couple weeks, have been looking at the end of Ephesians exploring the seriousness of spiritual warfare. My first priority was to expose the seriousness of the attacks from satan and then to show you the strength of our Commander and also the weapons we have at our disposal. Warfare is a substantial part of the Christian life. I don’t have to say much to remind you of the recent attacks on our church here and of those who have not done well at using ALL the weapons that Ephesians chapter 6 lists for us.
This morning I want to look at a church that struggled through major spiritual warfare. History tells us that this church triumphed for a season after a few letters of sound rebuke, but then eventually collapsed from repeating the same mistakes! This church is the Church of first century Corinth. This church had many problems and these problems were apparently so abundant, the issue of spiritual warfare was more than a daily occurrence. As Paul rebukes them in his letters, one gets the idea that this warfare was a minute by minute loosing battle with no end in sight; however, they did succeed in fighting satan’s battles for a while when they were repentant and fighting.
Although most of the Corinthian congregation sided with Paul, a persistent few continued to slander him. The group questioned Paul’s integrity by pointing out that he was bold in his letters but a wuss in person—in other words, too scared to exercise any authority when he visited them. Paul’s enemies saw this as an opportunity to prove that Paul truly didn’t possess the spiritual authority he claimed.
The passage I want to explore with you is the start of a harsh section in 2 Corinthians chapter 10. Chapters 10 through 13 are Paul’s direct response to his critics in Corinth. This section begins with kind and gentle words. Paul had the authority to command, yet he consciously refused to exercise his authority in an overbearing manner. Instead, he pled with them:
1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Paul believed that the danger of people defecting from him and his gospel were very real. By appealing for obedience, he tested the confidence that Titus said the Corinthians had in him
16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.
Christ was Paul’s model in the approach he took here with this troubled church. Although Jesus possessed complete heavenly authority, he came to this earth as a servant Instead of demanding obedience and respect, Jesus simply asks for people to believe in him and encourages obedience. Following Christ’s example, the apostle Paul, who possessed full authority from Jesus, merely pleaded with the Corinthians.
Let us consider what Paul says of the weapons of our warfare and what they can accomplish—even in a battle torn church much like ours.
I. An Accusation of Weakness (vv.1-2)
I. An Accusation of Weakness (vv.1-2)
Alongside recognizing our source of strength, Paul brings the element of the converse by way of personal humility
1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—
Paul’s loving demeanor as true servant of Christ often came across as meek to those around him as this verse indicates.
Paul begins with an emphatic emphasis on his own person, I, Paul, myself. Paul entreated/urged/beseeched/exhorted or encouraged them [παρακλεω, “call them along side”] by the influence of/ or on account of the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Paul wants to become more Christlike because he realized that true spiritual power is found in meekness and gentleness not in throwing his weight around.
Paul's purpose was to exalt Christ, not himself. He refused the dictator leadership style that would make them dependent on him and the strength of his own will. He wanted his church to trust the Lord and not the servant so he deliberately played down his own authority and rights.
Paul is also addressing his aggressive accusers who pointed out that he was lowly while with them. His enemy portrayed his mild and non-dominating presence as weakness. Yet he was only following his Lord's example of inner strength not outer show.
The Greek word for “gentleness” has the idea of “forbearance”—like that of a benevolent judge being lenient on the guilty. “Kindness” speaks of friendliness and cheerfulness. In other words, Paul wasn’t going to act like a harsh and overbearing judge. Meekness is more than self-control, it is a humbleness that wants God's to control. Kindness or gentleness is the opposite of roughness, bad temper, short-fused anger. It is non-violent, non combative attitude that does not press for all one's own way.
Paul continues in verse two
2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.
Here Paul explained why he was writing this letter.
He earnestly desires them to put their house, their church, their life in order so that he may not be forced on his arrival to demonstrate that he is not only capable of writing them bold letters but also of being courageous in their midst. Paul is also letting them know that his inner strength is indeed spiritual strength. There was spiritual energy in him that he interestingly calls, “boldness” which they would do well not to provoke. You could almost picture him shaking a fist as he wrote this! He had been entrusted by Christ, Himself, with authority which he wanted to use to build up the church, not to tear down.
Paul was confident that God would be fully with him in his boldness because of his apostolic position and because of all the battles of faith he had fought in Christ’s service through the years. But Paul refused to govern by demand even when it was within his right as an apostle to do so.
There is a popular misconception that meekness and gentleness are incompatible with sternness. Somehow, I am misinterpreted when I must be stern as being mean, rude, and even arrogant. Yet Christ Himself could be stern against false teachers and hypocrites with some very choice words! Let’s read Mt. 23:13-33 to hear Jesus speak:
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
Hypocrites! Blind Fools! Serpents! Children of hell! If you think people are leaving the church now, just wait until I start using the same terms on them as Christ did! No, but seriously, it is not that Paul is too weak in person before the Corinthian Church, nor am I too scared to confront sin in this church, it is rather that both he and I would rather choose meekness and patience.
So the accusation of weakness is, in one sense, true that Paul and we here are too weak to fight spiritual battles on our own, but in another sense, based on Christ, the accusation crumbles.
II. THE ANSWER OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH (vv.3-5)
II. THE ANSWER OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH (vv.3-5)
Here we have clear distinction drawn again between living in the world and using worldly conduct and techniques in verses 3 & 4. In verse 3 Paul states that he was not guided by the principles of ordinary men, who act out the influence of their fallen nature.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
Paul equates the Christian life to a war yet again.
Because the Corinthians, lead by their false teachers, judged Paul's ministry by outward appearances they completely missed the power that was there. They evaluated things according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit.
But Paul took a different direction in life not walking after the pattern of the flesh or according to the natural man but he walked in the Spirit depending on the Spirit. Yes, he lived in a fleshy body like every other man, subject to the limitation that are common to all human flesh. But he did not depend for success on anything the flesh (that is, human nature) could muster.
The Christian life is a spiritual war against spiritual forces aligned against Christ. Fighting this spiritual war with weapons of the world—with physical strength, worldly strategies, and material wealth is to lose the war. A spiritual battle requires spiritual weapons that can only come from YHWH.
The Greek term war [stratos] is literally "lead an army." Paul states that though he does not fight according to the flesh, he does still fight a real--he even admits that he leads an army to war. This war though was not against flesh and blood. Our foes are the devil and his demonic agents—not people! Paul warred against the power of darkness. Thus Paul used spiritual weapons because you cannot fight spiritual battles with fleshly weapons against other people. We too must put on the full armor of God and fight with spiritual weapons against satan and his demons. The Christian life is not a comfortable walk but a fierce war. Stop expecting a comfortable home here on Earth! I fear that new believers and seeking unbelievers get the wrong idea from too many well intentioned Christians that once we trust in Christ, life gets easier. YES! Life does get better when you come to Christ, BUT better does not always equate to easier and comfortable. Don’t believe me? Then answer me, which one of the twelve disciples of Christ had a life of ease and comfort after following Christ?
Verse 4 encourages us to abandon worldly methods (weapons) to rely on spiritual weapons.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
Thanks to last week, we know what these weapons are! YHWH’s weapons are faith, truth, righteousness, the gospel message, salvation, and the word of God through prayer.
Anyone can use fleshly weapons, but only a few in Christians will actually use spiritual weapons. We must have the weapons with which to fight. We absolutely need divinely powerful weapons. We need weapons that are forged by YHWH, Himself. Paul's attitude of humility is one more weapon, since pride places us in the control of Satan.
Only spiritual weapons are divinely empowered for overthrowing the strongholds of evil. What exactly are these strongholds? Stubborn sins! tasty temptations! habitual hurts! (my own alliterations by the way!)
There is a temptation to meet a challenge of one in the flesh with fleshly weapons of human wisdom and strength but that is not where true victory lies.
This verse is a promise to those who recognize and use spiritual weapons in the power of the Holy Spirit. YHWH’s weapons are for “the destruction of strongholds.” These stronghold are in our lives, in the lives of our loved ones, dare I say in our church and in our community where we battle the forces of sin and satan. However, our hope when engaging our true enemy with these weapons is we have sure victory (Mt. 16:18-19
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Verse five of our passage demonstrates the destructive and constructive capacity of God's divinely empowered weapons.
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
YHWH's weapons destroy reasonings and things that stand “against the knowledge of God.” The indication is that there are sinful speculations or thoughts that invade and lay siege to the mind. The Bible treats them as fortresses or strongholds that need to be destroyed. These reasonings are walls of resistance build up by demonic influence in the minds of people.
Some people get the wrong idea about this verse that it is saying apologetic argumentation is against “The knowledge of God” and we should therefore not engage in apologetics. Others take an opposite dogma to say that this verse is saying we are to use “godly arguing” in our witness in order to destroy the enemy’s arguments and “lofty opinions” However, neither extreme is what this verse is teaching!
These strongholds are more of so-called knowledge from the will and intellect of man. They are reasonings within man that are naturally (or perhaps unnaturally) opposed to the truth of God's Word. It is arrogance! The exalted proud human mind and the selfish will are both the target of this verse and they both determine our unregenerate conduct. Attitudes and thought patterns [whether conscious or unconscious] are strongholds that effect our presuppositions and false philosophies which will dictate what we do or don't do. The proud human mind which sees the cross of Christ as foolishness is a prime example (1 Cor. 1:18) of a stronghold but there are many more deceived reasonings within each of our minds where satan has built up his fortress within our way of thinking.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Hence, Christian warfare is aimed at pulling down these proud reasonings, these rationalizations of self-centered man within each of us stand against our true knowledge of God. These strongholds are fortified by the lies of satan so that they are part of our life, even our belief systems as Christians which blind us from the truth.
But there is hope! Not only can we destroy these strongholds of depravity by God’s powerful weapons, but also we can use them “to take captive/capture/or subdue every thought to obey Christ.” After destroying our own arguments and lofty opinions, we can take possession of the actual thought patterns so that they can become conformed to God’s way [of thinking—that is hope! We like to believe that we are just victims to our own wrong thinking habits, but that is simply not true for the Christian! These rebels thoughts, preconceptions, and intentions are made captives and brought into obedience to Christ. Scripture tells us on several occasions that the obedience of Christ is the only stronghold that the enemy can not enter into and conquer therefore that is fortress we so desperately need in our life.
This is the strength we have in Christ IS very dependent on the level of obedience that we take captive, which brings us to the third point:
III. THE ACTIVITY OF COMPLETE OBEDIENCE (v.6)
III. THE ACTIVITY OF COMPLETE OBEDIENCE (v.6)
How do you know for sure if you have torn down Satan's strongholds in your life and are fortifying your life in obedience to Christ? Paul tells us in verse six.
6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Is Paul actually saying here that he wants us to be ready to punish the disobedient? YES! But wait!! before you grab for your pitchforks, there is a condition he gives.
Paul is really saying that he wouldn’t hesitate on his next visit to use those spiritual weapons entrusted to him to punish those who remained disobedient. But notice at the end of this verse how Paul mentions a condition to his exercising his authority. He would not do so until the rest of the Corinthian believers recommitted themselves to be obedient to the Gospel. awwww… According to Titus’s recent report, the majority of the Corinthians had already done this. So we don’t need our pitchforks after all. The church had been filled with godly sorrow about the recent problems and had made steps toward reconciling themselves to Paul (chapter 7:7–13). HOWEVER, From the way Paul carefully defended his ministry in this letter, it is clear that there was still a rebellious minority in the church (see 2:17). At the end of this letter, Paul promised to deal sternly with this minority on his next visit.
Only when you have torn down all the strongholds in your life, and taken every thought captive for Christ, you become ready to punish all that is not of Christ in your life. Always there are places that as we grow in God's truth we discover are still not in line with His Word. When these raise their ugly head in our life we relentlessly jump on them for we realize what would happen if they again gained a beach head in our life. Complete obedience means that we will not tolerate disobedience in our life.
Armor and weapons are not sufficient to win a battle; there must be the motivation and energy to fight. Our energy comes from prayer. We use the sword of the Spirit, and we pray in the Spirit: the Holy Spirit empowers us to win the battle. The Word of God and prayer are the two resources God has given the church to overcome the enemy and gain territory for God’s glory. Christian soldiers must pray with their eyes open. “Watch and pray” is God’s secret for overcoming the world!(Mark 13:33),
Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
the flesh (Mark 14:38),
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
and the devil . We should also “watch and pray” for opportunities to serve Christ (Col. 4:2–3).
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—
What thoughts come up against you when you attempt to apply yourself to Christian teachings? If your thinking is not consistent with obedience to Christ, you are being deceived by false teachings, pride or sin. For if you were wholly Christ's you would cast out anything in your life not of Him. Tear down the strongholds and open your life more fully to being obedient to Christ. Fight the good fight of faith with divinely empowered weapons with Christ as your Commander- in-Chief.