September 6, 2020 The Warfare

The Warfare

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 10:1-5.

 

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. [1]

 

Starting here in chapter 10, Paul addresses another problem that the Corinthian church had. There were some who had come to Corinth, probably from Jerusalem, and criticized Paul and Timothy. This is made more clear in chapter 11. If an apostle was criticized and if Timothy was criticized, who is called a faithful one (I Cor 4:17) and one who had a spiritual gift supernaturally given to him by the laying on of hands (I Tim 4:14), then you can expect to be criticized also.

 

Paul and Timothy’s apostolic authority was being denied by these Judaizers. Evidently, some of the members at Corinth had been listening to these criticisms and some had believed them. So, Paul is going to address this problem.

 

He begins by saying that he entreats them “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” Paul was one with Christ. He lived by Christ. The virtues of Christ had become Paul’s virtues. Paul lived by the divine life, not merely his human life.

 

Meekness means that you do not always insist on being right. It means that you are not always contrary, rather you give in to others. It doesn’t mean that we compromise the truth. It means that we don’t make everything an issue.

 

We all know what gentleness is. But this is the gentleness of Christ. Christ is sometimes gentle and sometimes not. (Consider his words to the seven churches of Asia minor – not gentle!) To possess the gentleness of Christ means that we also know when to be gentle and when to be bold. This knowledge comes by living according to the divine life within us. This is what Paul did.

 

Then Paul writes, “I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!” He is not saying that this is true. He is only repeating what others say about him (verse 10).

 

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”[2]

 

Some at Corinth think that he acts so humbly when he is with them. But Paul says that he will not be that way if he comes to visit them and they still do not accept his authority:

 

“I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness…” (verse 2)

 

Paul had the authority of Christ Himself. Because he did, this gave him confidence to deal with the opposers at Corinth.

 

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]

 

The opposers accused Paul and Timothy of walking according to the flesh, that is, according to a merely natural and self-interested way of living.

 

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. [4]

 

Paul denies this assessment. He says that, even though they live in a fleshly body, they do not obey its dictates nor is the warfare that they carry on one of flesh and blood.

 

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.[5]

 

We must see that we are in a war! There is a warfare going on everywhere around us. And, we are either fighting on the side of the Master or we have thrown away our draft papers – our conscription to service from heaven itself. The Lord has called us into battle – every believer! Here is your conscription paper! But, I tell you, some have disregarded their draft paper and said, “I’m just going to watch TV and surf the internet. I’m not going to serve.”

 

We have not had a draft for many decades in this country. But, when any country has a draft and if a citizen of that country ignores the draft and does not answer, what happens? They go to jail. That is what someone deserves who disdains their call to service. I have no respect for anyone who does not love and serve their country. I tell you, do you think it will be any less severe when the citizens of heaven ignore their conscription? It will not.

 

Are you engaged in warfare or are you sitting around at ease in Zion?

 

Are you engaged in warfare or are you sitting around at ease in Zion?

 

Are you engaged in warfare or are you sitting around at ease in Zion?

 

I asked that question three times because I want you to answer it.

 

If you answered, “sitting around,” then you need to repent, because Christ has called us to battle.

 

You see from verse 5 that we have been given weapons of divine power. You have weapons of divine power! They are so powerful that they can destroy the strongholds of the enemy! These “strongholds” are systems of thought that oppose the truth of God. Every system of thought is based upon presuppositions, that is, things believed at a foundational level by which we assess everything else. The weapons we have will destroy the strongholds of opposers. They will destroy presuppositions. They will destroy arguments. They will destroy opinions.

 

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,[6]

 

This verse shows that those statements, by those who speak against God and what He has revealed, should not just be left to stand. That is the temptation, isn’t it? If you are at work or at college and someone says something that is clearly in opposition to what God has spoken, there is an inclination to be silent because we would rather not stir up a controversy. But, if we do that, it allows the enemy to proclaim something that is not true and that will either reaffirm a lie or it may persuade others of the lie.

 

We are called to destroy opinions! If you destroy an opinion, it doesn’t mean that you do not respect the person who is making it. You are not respecting the opinion, or the argument, or the presupposition that they hold. That is different.

 

We are in a battle of ideas. Don’t be AWOL. Don’t hide in the trenches (your living room). Engage! This is your calling as a follower of the Lord Jesus!

 

What are these weapons of divine power to which Paul refers? In Ephesians chapter six he lists the weapons of our warfare. I wish for us to consider just three. These three are foundational and are significant because they may be neglected.

 

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, [7]

 

The first weapon is defensive: the shield of faith. The helmet of salvation is, indeed, foundational but most Christians do not doubt their salvation[8]; so, I wish to consider the next weapon – the sword of the Spirit. Thirdly, we will consider prayer.

 

[1] The shield of faith. What is faith? There are many misconceptions about faith. Faith is not wishful thinking. It is not a mere preference. It is not separate from facts and evidence. It is not simple agreement. It is not merely mental assent. Many were raised in a Christian household and were taught by their parents, or maybe by the church they attended as a youth, the basic truths of the Christian faith. This is a very good thing. It is good to know the truths of the Christian faith. But, just agreeing with what you were taught growing up is not true faith. Our faith must go beyond agreement. Faith must be personal.

 

What is faith? Faith is trust that is supported by evidence. It is not founded upon evidence. It is founded upon the authority of God. But, because God is always true, the evidence will always cohere with faith.

 

Faith is trust. Trust in what God has spoken. If we trust in the Lord and what he has revealed, then this trust will extinguish all the false notions and doubts - the flaming darts – that come from the evil one.

 

Faith has content. It is not something vague. The content of faith are the promises of God. What we believe is what God has spoken. When Jesus was tempted by the devil what were the first words that came out of Jesus’ mouth? Let us read them.

 

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” [9]

 

When Jesus replied to the devil and said, “every word that comes from the mouth of God,” he meant the Scriptures. Real faith lives according to the Scriptures. The Bible is not the words of men, but the very words of God because the Spirit inspired the authors to write what they wrote!

 

Thus, when you dialogue with any unbeliever, never take a so-called “neutral” position. Unbelievers will often try to get you to be neutral on matters of faith. Don’t take the bait. There is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to faith. One may be neutral regarding a sporting event or even a military conflict between nations neither of which is an ally. But one cannot be neutral regarding faith. If there is a claim to neutrality regarding faith in God or his word, it is the same thing as saying “I don’t know.” And, if you say “I don’t know” then you are not trusting and there is no faith. To be “neutral” is to be unbelieving!

 

When we trust in the words of God it is like a shield that is impregnable. All the flaming darts of uncertainty and falsehoods bounce away!

 

[2.] But the word of God is not only the content of our faith, it is also our offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit. Why is it likened to a sword? It is because a sword cleaves. It divides.

 

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.[10]

 

The human soul contains the thoughts of man because the mind is part of the soul (Psalm 13:2; 139:14; Prov. 24:14). The spirit has the deepest intentions of the heart. Thus, the word of God reveals and separates the thoughts and intentions of a person. It exposes the motives of a person. This is why it is such a powerful weapon.

 

Our Lord Jesus used this weapon against the devil. Let us look again at his temptation.

 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“ ‘On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”[11]

 

The devil was tempting the Lord, even quoting Scripture himself, to try to harm himself. How did our Lord reply? By quoting from memory Deut. 6:16. He revealed that to follow the devil’s recommendation was to put the Lord God to the test. God’s word revealed the devil’s intention.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God

and him only shall you serve.’ ” [12]

The devil gave up quoting Scripture and then tempted our Lord with authority and power. Jesus again quotes Scripture and it revealed that the devil’s desire was one that was contrary to God’s will. His intentions were sinful.

 

The word of God is piercing and revealing! This is why it is such a formidable weapon. Some would object, asking, “But, what if a person does not believe the Bible is God’s word? Quote what the Bible says anyway! You may believe that a particular gun is not loaded. You may have even looked inside the chambers and seen with your own eyes that the chambers were empty. But, if someone points that same handgun at you it makes you uncomfortable. Why? Because a handgun, if it is loaded, has the power to kill you. It is the same with the Bible. The unbeliever knows that if it is the word of God it has the power to convict you. And, they are not certain are they? They are not. (In fact, most likely suspect it is the word of God although they will not admit it.)

 

[3.] The last weapon I wish for you to consider today is prayer.

 

Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people. [13]

 

Do all what? Putting on and using the armor of God. In other words, prayer is key in carrying out spiritual warfare. When do we pray? On every occasion. How do we pray? According to the Spirit.

 

The best prayers are those that we find in the word of God itself. This is because they were composed by the Spirit. I have found these passages particularly encouraging to pray:

 

Ephesians 1:16-23

Philippians 1:9-11; 2:2-4; 3:9-14; 4:4-9; 19-20

Colossians 1:9-12; 28-29; 2:6-7; 13-14; 4:2-6

2 Thes 3:1-5

The Psalms

Proverbs

 

When you possess these three weapons – faith, the word, and prayer – you are ready and capable to destroy arguments and opinions. The power does not rest with you. It is in the weapons. Therefore, fear not. Go into battle! Get out of the trench. You have been called.

 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:1–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:16–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] For those who do doubt, see the message Assurance of Salvation here: http://nsbcwinfield.com/february_25_2018_assurance_of_salvation

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:3–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 4:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:5–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:8–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Eph 6:18). New York: American Bible Society.