Pulling Down Strongholds
Robert Wurtz II
But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 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 (2 Cor. 10:2-6 NKJV).
The context of our passage reveals that there were some at Corinth who did not “gladly receive” Paul’s first letter to them, but rather “reckon” that he was moving in the flesh when he wrote it. Undoubtedly, they didn’t like his tone, the message, or both when he exhorted them regarding those who were involved in various levels of fornication—including the incestuous relationship between a man and his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5:1f). Having dealt with the fornication, he must now deal with the people who were offended by the necessary action he took.
It is common for “friends” or family members to come to the defense of someone who is caught in a moral scandal. This is particularly true if the “friends” have morally offended in similar ways in the past. As the old adage says, “birds of a feather flock together.” Yet Paul could not back down in the face of some who claimed that he was acting in the flesh by dealing with those who would destroy the church.
The Enemy Never Quits
The enemy wanted to use the “some” who reckoned that Paul was moving in the flesh to bring division in the church. This group seized on the fact that Paul is “feeble” and in speech “beneath contempt,” and that only from a distance, “by word, not deed” (2Co 10:11)—that is, by a letter that “frightens” (2Co 10:9)—is he anything. Clearly, these things were being vocalized and they got back to Paul. Some have suggested that these critics appear to be contrasting the ineffectual discipline attempted by Paul during the second (“painful”) visit with the success of the “Severe Letter” written afterward in place of the expected return visit (see 2 Cor. 13:2). Thus, they see him as “… at once a coward and a bully.” [NIC, Plummer, 275.]
Perhaps they thought that Paul should have come and handled the situation in person rather than by letter. Not that this would have changed things. When people don’t like what’s being exhorted or directed—it makes no difference whether the apostle is present or writes a letter. I suggest he could have sent the message in smoke signals (a text in modern terms), looked them in the eyes and told them boldly, or any other method one can imagine and they still wouldn’t have liked it. Why? Because they apparently didn’t want their people dealt with. They were more concerned with their relationships with the offending ones than with the well being of the church.
Paul recognized that he was involved in warfare for the very soul of that church (so to speak). If the fornicators themselves had gone unchecked, fornication would have infiltrated like leaven in bread dough. And the church that God intended to be refined would be ruined instead. To battle this and other dangerous enemies within the church, “Paul ‘wages war’ (2 Cor. 10:3) and has ‘weapons of warfare’ by which he ‘demolishes strongholds’ (2 Cor. 10:4), whereupon he takes ‘captives’ (thoughts and reasonings that are contrary to God’s word) and ‘punishes’ the rebellious (2 Cor. 10:5)” (Ibid. NIC). This is the pattern of it.
An Ancient Strategy of the Enemy
How often has the enemy followed a similar pattern that we find at Corinth? He finds one or more people who are morally corrupt and uses them to ultimately split the church. Paul asked them in I Corinthians, “What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Cor. 4:21). Understand that it wouldn’t make any difference how Paul dealt with the moral offenders at Corinth, their family and friends probably wouldn’t like it and would rather shoot the messenger or decry his methods than focus on the real and present danger that the fornicator(s) posed to the church. Paul’s strategy?
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 (2 Cor. 10:4-6 NKJV).