2 Corinthians 10: Spiritual Warfare

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

As a freshman in college, I took judo. Judo appealed to me for a lot of reasons, but one of the most important was the judo philosophy of using your opponent’s actions and weaknesses against them.  Instead of resisting an opponent lunging at you, you step aside, tug their collar, and trip them with a knee or ankle block.  Or, freak your opponent out with an uncommon technique—works even against a black belt!  But only for a while!  In my case, the black belt recovered his composure and I was quickly looking up from the mat on my back!

In the case of spiritual warfare, Satan is the ultimate black belt opponent—he knows all our weaknesses and has mastered all the moves.  In verse 17, Paul wisely cites the Prophet Jeremiah who writes

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

In the spiritual domain, the strongholds we face are false arguments and lofty opinions that arise, not from Christ, but promote disobedience (vv 4-6) and serve, not to build up, but to destroy (v 8).  Because our opponent is stronger and craftier than us, we boast only of God (v 17) and limit ourselves to the ministry with which God has entrusted us (v 13).  To speak about other matters is foolish (v 16) for it is the Lord who commends, not us (v 18).

Interestingly, Paul writes not about Satan and a fight with demons, but simply about his human opponents in the church at Corinth. Yet, we instinctively recognize that the physical realm and the spiritual realm share much in common.

The attack on Paul in Corinth starts with ridicule of his meekness and gentleness—attributes of Christ himself (v 1).  Yet, what do we hear today? … Don’t be a doormat like those Christians!  In Paul’s case, his critics say:  His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account (v 10).  Still, Paul’s defense is very plain—I simply practice what I preach (v 11).  He further points out that his critics simply work to make themselves look good by comparing themselves with others (v 12).

Do you think that Paul ever practiced judo?

A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust. (Proverbs 21:22)

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