Weapons of Warfare

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (1 Corinthians 10:3-6).

   I know for some this might sound a little scary.  Overcoming barriers and “pulling down strongholds” sounds like hard work.  It sounds like war.  It sounds like it might be hard, hurtful, and/or something we might fail at doing.  What if we try and we don’t succeed?  What if we dare to hope and then fall short? 
   While there are many opportunities to fear going into battle, might I suggest one simple reason to be excited about it?  Jesus ordained this scripture as a promise for us.  That means He has determined to give us victory over strongholds.  Do you see and understand that in His leading us down this path, He has already determined for us the victory!  The battle is won; we must merely walk through it with confident obedience believing that He will accomplish what He has set out to do in and through us. Praise the Lord!
   Still not excited?  Then let’s break down the verses and take a closer look at what they mean in the original language and text.

   For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” (I Cor. 10:3)

    Paul was speaking to the Corinthians who had somewhat discredited his apostolic claim over them due to his humble and meek demeanor when he was with them.  As you read his letters in the New Testament you see that he was pretty straight forward and tough.  Yet when he was with them in person he was meek and mild. 
   This bothered them because his actions in person did not meet with social custom.  Great orators were supposed to be awe inspiring with whit, intelligence, and be able to captivate their audience.  Therefore, Paul’s meek, personal behavior threw them off because they were yet carnally minded.  They desired great oration, not humble service. 
   Here in this verse, Paul in part, explains the why.  Paul’s first use of the word flesh speaks to the body we inhabit on this earth.  We walk around in a body of flesh.  Yet his second use of the term goes a little further than flesh and bone to the human condition.  Although we walk as human beings, we do not have to battle (war) as human beings: debating, arguing, physical fighting, and bringing men into submission to men.  Making men submit to men might make our lives easier and more comfortable, but it does nothing for the eternal life of those made to walk according to our will.  Paul, therefore, does not battle with his own strength nor should we.
   There were those in the Corinthian church that needed to change their behaviors to look more like the church and less like the world.  The Corinthians wanted Paul to come and fix those problems.  Yet, in Paul’s wisdom, he knew that demanding outward actions without inward regeneration would hurt the church in the long run.  He much more desired for those people to find Jesus and be regenerated by Him from the inside out.  What a great example.  We could stop here; yet, Jesus desires so much more for us. 

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God . . .”

 Paul continues on to state that not only are our weapons not carnal (flesh) but that they are “mighty in God” (NKJV) or “they have divine power” (NIV).  THIS is why we can take heart in these verses.  WE ARE ABLE to overcome, because the weapons we war with are divinely empowered!  Breaking it down more, divinely means, by God who is ultimately wise and powerful; and power which means ability.  In God, we are able to war against those strongholds. 
   YOU are able.  You are able not only to overcome strongholds in your own life, but in the lives of others through this divine power.  That is good news!

“. . . for pulling down strong-holds, casting down arguments and every high thing . . .”

I’ve grouped these phrases together, because they are build on one another. 
   Pulling down” can be translated as tear down, demolish, or destroy.  “Casting down” can be translated as to take down, demolish, or overthrow.  It carries the idea of taking something down without violence.  There is a destruction of defenses. 
   A “stronghold”can also be translated as fortress or prison.  “Arguments” can be translated as a thought, argument, or reasoning.  When we put these all together we begin to understand what Paul was saying to the Corinthians.
    “Pulling down a stronghold”is to tearing down, demolishing, or destroying the arguments and reasonings that someone holds onto to strengthen their opinion and defend it against, in this case, Christian teaching or morals.  “Casting down arguments” is to take down, demolish, or overthrow the subtle reasonings of the resistant.   “Every high thing” includes anything that would set itself up against something.  It is added to be all encompassing of anything that would set itself against the truths Paul was trying to teach the Corinthian church and us.
   When our words are empowered divinely, we do not have to yell, hit, or speak with rudeness or condescension toward anyone to get our point heard.  We can speak in loving tones the truths of scripture and the wall the unbeliever or immoral person has built will come tumbling down, heart exposed to hearing and receiving the truth.
   That sound great when we envision a staunch unbeliever and watching as their defenses are broken down and seeing them hear and receive the truth.  It is a beautiful thing the Lord does.  However, we also need to turn this inward. 
   There are defenses we have build within ourselves. Whether it is our own hearts lying to us or our inability to see the truth that will set us free of our own bondages. (Jer. 17:9)  We must endeavor to use the weapons of our warfare that are divinely empowered to break down the arguments and strongholds in our own lives that keep us in bondage to this world and choke out the total freedom that Jesus died in order to give us.  Don’t you want to be completely free in Jesus? 

“. . that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,”

    “That exalts itself” is possibly the most interesting find in searching original meanings.  This is anything that brings in besides or in addition to.  How subtle is our enemy’s work.  Satan is a subtle foe, and will rather than continually confronting face to face, rather adds to what is already there so that we hardly notice the change. 
   A simple example of this is when he asks Eve in the garden what the Lord had said, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Ge. 3:1)  When what the Lord actually said was, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Ge. 2:16, 17)  Eve took in the devil’s reasoning and she disobeyed scripture.  It was a subtle deception. 
   There are times when the arguments will be straight forward and easily understood in light of scripture.  Yet there are also times when something is set up against the truth in such a subtle way that we have difficulty making an argument against it. 

“The knowledge of God”

    Paul is speaking of anything that exalts itself against “the knowledge of God.”  That is, the knowledge of God such as is offered in the gospel as Paul preaches it and is found in the New Testament of our Bibles.  Specifically in this verse, it is referring to Jesus Christ as Savior.  Anything that exalts itself or challenges this teaching or adds to this teaching is what Paul is speaking to the Corinthians about. 
   There is no need for the style of delivery when preaching, teaching, or simply sharing the gospel in the marketplace.  I think of the traditions of the Jews that added to God’s law and even at times excluded God’s law to the detriment of themselves and those who followed them. (Mark 7:9-13)
   There are the Darwinists who would assault Christianity face to face, but also accept Christians adding evolution to God’s plan.  Their religion of evolution both confronts Christianity directly and subtly.  There are many examples to choose from, but I desire not to write to you an entire book.  So let’s move on.

  “. . . bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .”

  “Every thought” includes mind, scheme, plot, or mental perception.  Wow!  That encompasses all things that pass through our minds, doesn’t it?  I especially like the “mental perception.”  It is so easy to perceive to know something and be completely wrong.  I think of the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  That is because we can all perceive something different from the same picture because we bring to it our life experiences, education, understanding, world view, etcetera.  Just think, if we merely took all those perceptions captive to Christ, how much could our lives change?

   “Into captivity” is fairly simple to understand.  It is to take captive, take prisoner, or gain control over.  It is also figuratively to subjugate or bring under control. 
   We see here that there is an active role we must take in our own thought processes and/or motivations.  We are responsible to be in charge of every thought as explained above.  Every action that we chose in response to every thought will have to be accounted for before the Lord one day. (1 Pe. 4:5)
   “To the obedience of Christ,” these things must be taken into captivity.  We understand who Christ is, but how do we bring these arguments and reasonings to the obedience of Christ?  There is more here than what we see on the surface.
   The word for obedience comes from two root words.  One word simply means obedience.  We understand what that means.  However, the other word can be used in several ways and when we see them together we will receive the deeper meaning.
   The second word gives us the idea of submission.  It is to be under physically as well as by authority.  We add to that, to hear, pay attention, and understand.   Again we see the active role we must take in bringing our thoughts, perceptions, and motivation “into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 
   This is why it is so important to know what God’s Word says.  The way to battle this kind of deception, especially in our own lives is to be in the Word.  Continually presenting ourselves to the Word of God with an open mind and heart will allow God to convict us, show us those places where we have built walls to protect unrighteousness in us.  Then we can use those divinely empowered weapons to overcome them.  The key is to approach the Word of God with a spirit that is teachable.  We must be willing to be convicted by God’s Word, by His Holy Spirit so that we can bust down those walls of false security and be free – truly free in Jesus.  Don’t you want that?

 “. . . and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

   Doesn’t this verse stick out in as though it does not belong to the rest of the verses?  However, with a little more background we can have better understanding and find application for our own lives.  Paul wrote this second letter to the Corinthians and was still dealing with issues that existed when he wrote the first letter.  Specifically, he was dealing with those who were divisive in the church and were not submitting to Paul’s apostolic authority. 
   Paul had already defended his position in the former letter.  He appears here to be addressing both parties.  To the divisive party, he warns that he is prepared to deal with them when he comes.  While yet inferring that he expects and has given time for all who would choose to submit to his authority and his gospel.
   We can apply what Paul was saying to the Corinthian church to ourselves with the help of two other scriptures.  We must understand that as Paul was giving the Corinthian church time to work out their submission issues, so Jesus is giving us time to work out our salvation. (Phil. 2:12)
   We know Jesus is giving us time because we know that He is not willing that any should perish. (2 Pe. 3:9).  We also have the parable to help us out.  We are taught in the parable about the tares (weeds) and the wheat which represents the wicked and the righteous. 
   The farmer does not want to pull up the weeds for concern of ruining any of the wheat. He waits until the time of harvest so that he can harvest both together and then separate the good from the bad. 
   Jesus is also waiting for the time to harvest souls and to separate the unrighteous from the righteous. However, because He is not willing that any should perish; He is giving the full measure of opportunity for us to mature into the righteousness of Christ.  He is giving us time to learn how to apply our spiritual weapons of warfare both for our benefit and for the benefit of those around us.
   A point we can make for ourselves right now is that we really need to take our unrighteous behaviors seriously.  We need to realize that just because Jesus isn’t doing anything right now doesn’t mean that He doesn’t mind.  He does mind.  Yet He is giving us the opportunity for transformation.  However, we must participate in the transformation process.  We must be in His Word daily with a heart that is open to correction and a spirit that is willing to implement changes.  We must bring ourselves, our whole selves under submission to Jesus.  We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to hear when He is warning us and to follow when He is leading us.  We must take every thought, motive, perception, and imagination into captivity and submit it to Jesus before we chose how we will act upon it or respond to it. 
   We must do these things to work out our own salvation as well as speak life and truth into the lives of others.  According to Paul, we can do this with a gentle and meek presence trusting our divinely empowered, spiritual weapons to strike the blow in the right place with the perfect amount of force. 
   Hopefully, you see the good news in these verses.  While there are strongholds in the world that stand against our God; while there are strongholds in our families that stand against God; and while there are strongholds in our own selves that stand against our freedom in Christ and stand against God, there is hope.  We possess weapons that are divinely empowered, which means they are able to overcome in us and through us those things that wage war against our souls, our church, and our God – through us! 
   Won’t you begin today to ask God what strongholds may yet exist in your own life?  He has ordained this time to bring to your attention this very need.  Remember that by bringing us to this place He is really promising a victory –  or many victories.  He is guiding us to this place to give us victory over some things we never thought we would have victory over.  Praise the Lord!  This is exciting!!!
   Pray and ask Him where in your family, your church, and/or in your community He wants to use you to pull down strongholds and cast down arguments.  Just be willing and see what He will do through you.  We all need to remember as we walk with Jesus through this process that we merely have to walk in obedience with humility and meekness trusting Him with the results.  We are wielding the weapons of His ability not our own.  We merely get to participate and rejoice with Him in the victories.  
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