“Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)
“We live in the world.”
You might think it rather a statement of the obvious, but the truth is that it is a point that is often missed.
Don’t you feel sometimes, as you read the newspapers and watch TV that the world is so ugly that you’d rather just pull up the duvet and forget about it all? What can I do, after all?
Even church life can be like that, failing to engage with the problems of the area. Far better to lock the doors and sing happy songs, isn’t it?.
But “we live in the world.”
Jesus lived right there in the middle of everything. He saw the mass of people “as sheep not having a shepherd” Matthew 9:36), wandering about without help or guidance in the midst of perplexing and confusing situations which they did not understand, being destroyed because of ignorance, sin and fear.
Do you remember that moment when they told him that the crowd listening were hungry? He answered, “You feed them.” This became the prelude to an astonishing miracle, but don’t miss that opening remark: So you see the need? So do something about it!
The trouble is that having seen the need, felt the stirring of God’s compassion within us, we then try to sort things out ourselves. The verse goes on: “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.”
We simply cannot fight the world’s problems in the way the world does. We live in the world, but “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”
We do not face life the same way. We fight in another dimension, and yet our fighting is not weak; it is powerful. It wins, it succeeds, it is mighty.
And it needs to be, if we are to come against the enemy “strongholds.”
These are places and situations where evil is entrenched, where it cannot be dislodged easily, and it is powerfully defended. There are many such in our day. They abound around us on every side. Many have become issues which the world is struggling vainly to alleviate, but without success.
“We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Paul outlines two crucial points here: the source of the enemy’s strength and second, the nature of the believer’s attack.
First, you have to know your enemy. You have to investigate his tactics. Second, you have to know your weapons and their capabilities. Right here, of course, is why the church has been so weak. It is because it has neglected both of these areas. It has not understood its enemy, and it has not understood its own weapons. But what makes these strongholds so strong? From whence does the enemy derive the strength that enables him to remain entrenched in human society? Why is it so difficult to eradicate these pockets of evil in our social structures?
Why are the strongholds so strong?
First, says the apostle, they are “arguments.” In the Greek it is logismus, which means “reasonings.” Second, their strength derives from “every proud obstacle.” Pride, in other words. Literally, it is “every high thing which exalts itself,” i.e., every point of pride which expresses itself in conceit or self-praise, self-exaltation, and whose final ultimate thrust is, as Paul puts it, “against the knowledge of God.” That is where evil derives its strength. It is from these two things: reasonings and the independent pride which insists that man does not need God. These are the pillars from which evil derives its ultimate strength.
You will note immediately that there is a relationship between these two things. Reasonings, “arguments,” are the outward expression of the inward attitude of self-sufficient pride.
Remember Eden? Here stands Eve before the luscious, desirable fruit. It has made its appeal to her senses and to everything in her; it has aroused her desire. As she stands there looking at the fruit she wants to have it. There has been awakened an urge, an emotional reaction within her. As she looks at this tantalising fruit there before her, (as Ray Stedman put it), “she begins to outline in her mind the first chapter of a book in defence of eating the fruit.” “It was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise,” (Genesis 3:6). Did you see the chapter headings?
That is what Paul is referring to here. This is where evil derives its strength. It produces specious and plausible sounding arguments which make their ultimate appeal to man’s self-sufficiency, his unlimited capabilities (as he sees himself), his lack of any need for God, and which are basically against the knowledge of God. These things appeal to man’s independence, so logically and compellingly, that millions are deceived by them and follow them. That is why evil is so deeply entrenched in society.
Paul calls these “doctrines of demons.” He says they arise from “seducing spirits,” spirits at work, using the minds of men as their instruments, to present to humanity what are really lies. They are reasonable-sounding lies, plausible lies, but they are actually lies, they are not truths. They are false, seductive, they lead people astray. They do not educate the mind toward truth but toward error.
Against this, says the apostle, we are to bring the weapons of truth, love, righteousness, and faith to bear, because they destroy reasonings. They pull down arguments, they demolish them, and the pride behind them. It is by the gospel, by the declaring and demonstrating of the gospel. The gospel is, in its widest range, love, truth, faith, and righteousness. These are what the gospel is, these very things. Therefore we can demolish these strongholds by the demonstration of the gospel.
When Paul went to Corinth, where the people were buttressing their lives of immorality, shame, sordidness, and pagan barrenness, by arguments, and reasonings. Paul told them, “When I came to you, … I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified,” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ).
I did not come to debate with you.
I did not come with the wisdom of this world.
I did not come to cancel out your arguments with a counter-argument.
I did non come to debate philosophy.
I came to declare to you that in Jesus Christ there is relief, release, and deliverance from the pride of the human heart; pride is slain by the cross.
When you accept what this cross means, and what this One who died for you has done, and you kneel at his feet, there is released in your life a power that cancels out your pride.
You are brought low before him, and God begins to make you over again on a different scale.
That is the power of the gospel.
That is the power of the Christian.
It’s all we have but it’s all we need.