Paul and the Art of War: 2 Cor. 10:3-5

What can we learn from the apostle Paul about the matter of warfare? What can Paul teach us about The Art of War? There is a famous book by that title, but we want to learn what the follower of Christ can know about the subject of warfare.

First, there is much that we can review about the Bible’s teaching on warfare. The believer knows that they are to put on the full armor of God to be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10ff). Thus we know how to put on our spiritual armor. The one who follows Jesus knows that no weapon formed against him can prosper (Isaiah 54:17) and that we are protected by the Lord’s pinions (Psalm 91:4). Even though a thousand fall at our side and ten thousand fall at our right hand, evil will not approach us (Psalm 91:7-8). Those who believe in Jesus are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37-39) and can never be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But second we know that the Bible also has warnings to give us about warfare. Most importantly, we know that we must not go to the battle without the LORD by our side, for to go to battle without the LORD is disastrous. The children of Israel went up against the Amalekites after refusing to enter the land and were struck down (Numbers 14:40-45). Again during the time of Joshua, the children of Israel were defeated by the people of Ai because there was sin in their camp and because they had stolen what was under the ban (Joshua 7:1, 10-12). So there is teaching available to us in the Scripture about how to fight the Lord’s battles.

Now we are new creatures in Christ and we have been given new spiritual weapons which are unfamiliar to us. And just like any soldier who is using unfamiliar weapons, the Christian must learn to use the weapons which the Lord has provided and must no longer rely upon the world’s weapons. Indeed, the one who would engage in the Lord’s battles must forsake the weapons of the world, for they are useless in the spiritual battle, and must learn to wield the weapons of the soldier of Christ.

[ASIDE: In thinking of unfamiliar weapons, there is perhaps no clearer picture for us than when David tried on Saul’s equipment as he was preparing to fight the giant (1 Samuel 17:38-40) Here in this passage King Saul, the weak and worldly leader, the one who has already been rejected by the Lord, offers his garments and his weapons to David, the Lord’s anointed, but David wisely rejects them. David was going to fight Goliath the giant in the name of the Lord of hosts with the weapons that the Lord would give him, and he had no need of Saul’s weapons, weapons that could not even prevent Saul’s own destruction on Mount Gilboa. Just so, we enter our spiritual battles in the name of the Lord of hosts and we do not rely on some earthly set of weapons.]

And so here in this passage, the apostle Paul gives instruction to all those who would take up spiritual weapons in order to do damage to the kingdom of darkness. Here the Christian soldier learns “The Art of War.”

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 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.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS:

The spiritual battle begins in the mind as we defend our thoughts against the enemy. The goal of the believer is to have a mind that is always alert to defend against the enemy attack; a mind that is saturated with the word of God; and a mind that is fixed on Jesus Christ.

The believer must realize that we are to resist THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL (2 Cor. 2:11). We must realize that we have such an adversary and that he has such schemes. The believer must understand THE GOALS OF THE DEVIL. His aim is to neutralize, disarm, render harmless, silence and discredit every believer, beginning with the boldest and most vocal. The believer must also discern THE MEANS AND THE TOOLS OF THE DEVIL. He employs any and all cruel and wicked means to achieve his goals. So he uses discouragement, deception, isolation, lies and feelings of hopelessness to bring about his intended ends. Finally, we must defend against THE PATHS OF ATTACK OF THE DEVIL, which are the world and the flesh.

EXEGESIS OF THE PASSAGE:

10:3 – We are mere men, limited in power by the weakness if our flesh. In our flesh, we are no match for our spiritual enemies and no threat to the kingdom of darkness. But as wise warriors of the Lord Jesus Christ, we do not wage war “according to the flesh.” That is, we do not rely on the dull swords and the blunt arrows of the physical warfare.

10:4 – Because our enemies are spiritual, we forsake the physical weapons of this world and instead wield the divinely powerful spiritual weapons issued to us by the Captain of the Lord’s host (Joshua 5:14-15), Jesus Christ. When we came to faith in Christ and joined the armies of the Lord, our great King of kings gave us His Spirit and gave us heavenly weapons specifically designed to destroy the strongholds of the enemy. God “trains my hands for battle (Psalm 18:34).” “He trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle (Psalm 144:1).” That is, since the day that I came to faith in Christ and entered the battle with the adversary, the Lord has been training me in the use of the weapons of spiritual warfare. Now in prayer and in worship, in fellowship and in fasting, in praise and in persecution, in witnessing and in meditating on and proclaiming the Word, the fortresses of the enemy are being destroyed.

10:5 – Ours is a spiritual battle for the minds of men and women and there are offensive tactics and defensive tactics that must be employed in this battle. “We are destroying speculations.” This is clearly an offensive tactic, for one rarely destroys anything when on the defensive. “Speculations” (NASB) is the translation of “logismos” in the Greek. Now while the exact meaning of these speculations is difficult to determine, the context of 2 Corinthians and the context of the city of Corinth itself would suggest that Paul is referring to the musings of the wise and the influential and the powerful, musings and philosophies which obscure the truths of the gospel that God has made plain in His word. Consider that Paul intentionally forsook eloquence of speech and philosophical wisdom (weapons of the flesh and of the “old man”) when he first came to Corinth (1 Cor. 1:18-2:5) so that he could proclaim the gospel, proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and nothing else. Speculations, then, are the ongoing reasonings of worldly-wise people seeking to obscure the gospel with more eloquent or more erudite or more spectacular options for what God has already established as truth. As an offensive tactic in the battle, the believer seeks to destroy these speculations by refuting them with the truth. (Titus 1:9) We oppose these speculators and seek to stop them in their tracks so that their talk will not spread like gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17) and will not confuse and hinder those who are coming to Christ (Matthew 23:13; Acts 13:8, 10).

10:5 – We are also to be “(destroying) every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” The Greek word for “lofty thing” could also be translated “lofty tower” or “fortress.” If “speculations” OBSCURE THE TRUTH OF GOD by making it appear as just one simple option in the midst of many educated and sophisticated possibilities (“Any religion will get you to heaven” and “Christianity is just one possible option;” “There have been many religious leaders like Jesus, so He’s just one of many;” “The God of the Bible is just one god, but there is also the Allah of Islam and the many gods of the Hindus and so every person must make his own choice.”), then the “lofty things” OPENLY OPPOSE AND DENY THE TRUTH OF GOD, which has been uniquely revealed in the Bible and by the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. These “lofty things” are constructed and are defended by those who know the truth that has been stated by God on a matter and who nevertheless willfully and consciously oppose God’s truth with their own lie. As an offensive tactic, the believer must directly oppose those who defend these lofty towers by discrediting the ideas they endorse and by discrediting these people as false teachers. These fortresses must be torn down and demolished so that the truth of the gospel and of Christ may shine clearly. This is an offensive tactic that involves confrontation and it must be fought with the spiritual weapons of the proclamation of the Word and of being on our knees in prayer.

What are some examples of these “lofty things?” evolution vs. creation; no resurrection of Jesus; relative, moveable morality vs. God’s definition of sin.

SUMMARY:

The believer appears to be just like everyone else, since their outward appearance and manners hide the radical transformation that has taken place in their life. The believer has been born again and everything has changed, including the battles they fight and the way they fight them. Using the powerful and divine weapons of prayer, holy living and proclamation of the Word, the believer is actively destroying the “speculations” which obscure the profound truths of the word of God; he is opposing the “lofty things” which are raised up by the philosophies of the world to directly oppose the truth of the gospel; and he is controlling his own thinking so that only those thoughts which honor Christ and which reflect the truth of God are allowed to dwell in the mind. SDG rmb 1/26/2016

One thought on “Paul and the Art of War: 2 Cor. 10:3-5

  1. Trying to catch up. I understood what you wrote and thought it was well written but feel it was for a fairly mature believer. One has to pay attention and think (!) . Also there is a typo “do” instead of “SO”.

    Like

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