2 Corinthians 10
The apostle Paul was familiar with controversy and in his
experience there were many who opposed what he preached and did. Sometimes,
instead of directly attacking the gospel, opponents would go right after Paul,
the man. They would say things about him, accuse him, misrepresent him; in an
effort to undermine his work and advance their own agenda.
In this case (2 Cor. 10) Paul responds to the charge that he was bold when writing letters from a distance, but timid when actually present with people (see verses 1, 10). Paul responds by affirming he is pleading with people by the meekness and gentleness of Christ - but that meekness should not be confused with timidity.
And he says - "though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh." That bring us to verse 4. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds."
One simple analysis of this verse would be, there are two things here:
Paul identifies the kind of weapons he used. Then Paul identifies the purpose of those weapons. The kind of weapons - not carnal, but mighty in God. The purpose of the weapons - pulling down strongholds.
First, consider the kind of weapons. Not Carnal; so Paul did not use physical violence, psychological manipulation, a campaign of lies about his enemies, political power, money, or sectarian loyalty.
In holy warfare against sin and error, Paul used only the mighty weapons of God: teaching, preaching, the influence of good works, prayer, persuasion and encouragement of faithful people.
The enemies of the gospel, the false apostles and deceitful workers, wanted to attack Paul regarding his methods. They had no cause, no evidence. Paul said, "though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh." Then he said, "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds."
ESV: "The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds."
Now in our case, Christians today are to be militantly opposed to sin; we are to fight the good fight of faith and stand against the wiles of the devil. But we must refuse to use carnal weapons in this warfare.
For example - we cannot hold people at gun point and take them to the baptistery.
I heard a story that was reported to me as true about a farmer out in the country of west Arkansas, who one day decided his teenage boy would be baptized. He had had enough of his boy's sinful ways. So in a moment of impulse, he took the boy up physically and carried him out to the stock pond. They both went into the water, fighting with each other - all you could see was flying elbows and blood. And the mother reported, there was this torrent of foul language from the boy. Finally, his father immersed him. Nobody's sin was remitted. The boy didn't enter into Christ; he didn't become anything but a wilder boy!
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. And, we are defeated by other kinds of carnal weapons that may not be physical. I gave us a working list of examples a moment ago. I listed things like: psychological manipulation . . . a campaign of lies about our enemies . . . political power . . . money, or sectarian loyalty. I tell you we need to learn this: Even when our message is right, our methods need to be right too! We can defeat ourselves, damage the name of Christ's cause, divide churches and put stumbling blocks before people, when we resort to the methods of the world.
We should be able to say what Paul said: "we do not war according to the flesh." "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal."
By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
From Expository Files 14.2; February 2007