Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and T.A.,
Would you guys give me your interpretation of 2 Corinthians:10:3-6? I don’t quite get them. Thanks.”
Tom: Second Corinthians 10:3: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds:) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
Dave, the context here for our listeners is that Paul is addressing those Corinthians, I believe, who are still being influenced by false teachers that are among them, and especially regarding accusations that Paul’s critics have made against him. So that’s the background with regard to what he’s saying here, but… “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” That’s a play on words, isn’t it?
Dave: Well, as you say, Tom, this is in response to accusations against him: he’s not really an apostle, or…you know, he goes on for a couple of chapters with that defense. And it’s quite remarkable, because of the things that he suffered - wow! Let me just quickly read them over there in chapter 11. He says, “Are they ministers of Christ?” That is, the critics. “(I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prison more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” That is, 39 lashes. “Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
So, Tom, a lot of things in the flesh. You’d think it would wear out the flesh. How could he endure all of this that he went through in - I would say that almost every city that Paul approached as he goes into it. He’s not coming there in a Learjet, he’s not coming there in a Cadillac or a Mercedes, he’s walking, and he knows he’s going to be (probably) beaten, run out of town, you know, imprisoned, lashed, and yet he keeps up. I think he’s saying, “Look, if this were just physical, we couldn’t endure it.” But we know that there is a bigger battle, and behind the hatred and the blows that they rain upon us is the enemy Satan himself, who is opposed to Jesus Christ, and he only has physical means, you know. He wants to try to destroy us, although there are spiritual temptations as well.
But Paul says, “We don’t war after the flesh. This is not a battle in the flesh.” I’ve often thought of that, Tom - years gone by when I spent a lot of time on college campuses talking to students, or going door-to-door, or beach evangelism. I would try to remind myself, “You know, this is not a war of intellect - me against this person - but it really is a spiritual battle,” and I just would continually commit myself to the Lord: “Lord, help me to say the right words.” Because the Word of God is truth and the Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, and this is what we need to use in this battle against the enemy that has captured people.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, as we discussed in the first part of the program, people have a mindset, and I think this is what Paul is referring to when he talks about “mighty in God to the pulling down of strongholds.” People set something in their mind for the flesh, for whatever might motivate them, but they hang onto something. It is a stronghold that has to be removed if they are going to come to an understanding of the truth.
Dave: He talks about in verse 5, “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself above the knowledge of God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” It’s significant that Genesis 6, where it first talks about the evil in the human heart, it says that God looked down and He saw the “imagination of man’s heart is only evil continually.”
So people are imagining things, and Paul writes to Timothy. Second Timothy 4, he says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. They will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears…” The pastors, their ears will itch for the “well done,” the compliments of the people, “…and they will turn them from truth to fables.” And whether it’s evolution in our day, or it’s psychic powers, occultism, yoga is a big thing out there today…
Dave: Islam, yes, these are all strongholds in the imagination of people’s minds that they cling to against God. And, Tom, I often say, “Anyone who believes in evolution must be so stubbornly determined not to acknowledge the existence of God that they cling to what is obviously a lie.”
Tom: Dave, this verse reminds me of John:8:31,32: “If you continue in my Word you are my disciples indeed, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The lies are the strongholds, the imaginations, the things that we put in our mind and it’s going to affect how we go about our lives, but the truth will set us free.