Fighting “Friendly” Fire
“With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.“ – Vs 5 NLT
When I think of this verse, it has almost always been out of its context. In other words, I tend to fail to read it or use it within the context in which Paul first penned it under the influence of the Holy Spirit. If you read it in one of the more traditional translations you’ll see what I mean. The New American Standard Bible translates it this way: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” I read that and automatically think of it as a personal statement. This is something that I am supposed to be doing in my own life. In other words, this verse is about me taking every one of my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. I am supposed to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God in my life. While that is probably a wise and true thing to do, it is NOT what Paul meant. When he said, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (Vs 4 NASB), he wasn’t referring to “fortresses” in our own lives as believers. He wasn’t talking about doing spiritual battle with the forces of the enemy attacking us personally. No, this chapter is about war being waged within the church. Paul’s leadership is being attacked from within. There are those in the church in Corinth who are questioning his leadership. These individuals were questioning Paul’s apostolic authority and following “false” apostles. He describes them as such in the next chapter: “For such men false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13 NASB).
These men were apparently Hebrew believers (11:22) who claimed to have a spiritual superiority over Paul (10:7) and who were trying to take advantage of the rest of the believers in the church (11:20). These people were claiming that Paul had no divine influence in his life. That’s what Paul meant when he described them as, “people who think that we live by the standards of this world” (Vs 2 NIV). They were attacking Paul’s leadership, authority, divine direction, and his integrity. And he viewed it as a war. “We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods” (Vs 3 NLT). Instead, “we use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds” (Vs 4 NLT). Paul knew this was a spiritual battle. He knew he had to “break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God.” He had to use spiritual weapons to “conquer their rebellious ideas.” He had a responsibility to “teach them to obey Christ” (Vs 5 NLT).
The war goes on today. Even within the church of Jesus Christ. There will always be those who question the authority of leadership. There are those who come into the church with selfish motives and destructive desires. They will either unwittingly or knowingly keep people from knowing God. They will foster rebellious ideas against leadership in the church. Paul says the way to handle these kinds of people is to battle with them in the spiritual realm. Through prayer and in the power of God. He knew he needed God’s help in destroying “fortresses” – those false arguments and reasonings people use to fortify and defend their opinions. He knew he needed God’s help in exposing their “speculations” – those ideas that are hostile to God. He knew he needed God’s power to tear down the “lofty ideas” – those barriers or walls of ideas erected by men that were keeping others from having access to the gospel.
That’s the battle and it is still going on today. This isn’t just about me fighting my own little spiritual battle inside my own life. This is about the spiritual integrity and health of the church. Paul was willing to fight for it. Not just to defend his name and reputation. Not just to protect his power base. But because the gospel was under attack. He had been given a job to do by God and he was going to do it. He was going to fight to protect the flock in Corinth and to finish what God had called him to do. “Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us, and this plan includes our working there with you” (Vs 13 NLT).
Father, give me an increasing heart for the local church and the global church. It is under attack today. From within. There are those who would love to distract us and ultimately destroy us from within. Open our eyes to the spiritual warfare taking place inside the body of Christ today. Give us boldness to speak up and to tear down false ideas and destructive ideas that would prevent others from knowing the truth of Jesus Christ. Raise up more Pauls in the church today. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men