A few weeks ago I asked a question about the popular usage 2 Cor. 10:4-5 . A few people chimed in with some very helpful insight. I really appreciate your interest; you really encouraged me to think and try to find an answer.
I made some time to check out Monergism.com (Monergism.com is an awesome resource!), the commentaries I have on my computer, and my study Bible notes. I read an excellent sermon by Spurgeon and followed links to commentary by Sam Storms. Monergism also provided a sermon on 2 Cor. 10 from Sinclair Ferguson. Though he barely touched on verses 4 & 5, and it was really a sermon for pastors, it was still beneficial to listen to the whole thing. As he read Chapter 10 of 2 Corinthians, it started to make more sense to me; his voice rose and fell at just the right points so that I really grasped what Paul was saying to the church at Corinth before Ferguson ever began his exposition.
Anyway, here’s Paul:
“I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away! — I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For thought we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 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 Cor. 10:1-6)
Paul is confronting those who are criticizing him because of his appearance. The Corinthians are comparing the Paul of the letters with the Paul who visits, and they are accusing Paul of being inconsistent (I’m paraphrasing Ferguson). They read his powerful writing and they expected an equally powerful speaker, but instead, Paul is “meek and gentle” with them. He knows that the battle is not won in the flesh with persuasive speech and eloquence or brute force.
Did your internal concordance take you to Ephesians 6 and our spiritual armor? Or 2 Cor. 4 where Paul makes clear that salvation is akin to the moment in creation when God said, “Let there be light!” Paul isn’t going to go to war with the Corinthians; he loves them (2 Cor. 2). He understands that the weapons Christian’s use are not taken up against people. Instead, he goes to war against arguments and lofty opinions with the gospel, with the truth. He does not commend himself (verse 18), but trusts the Lord.
The questions I raised had to do with how far Paul intends for us to take this instruction. Should the focus be a narrow one — only in reference to tearing down lies raised against the gospel? Or ought we use it more broadly — referring to any statement or idea that is untrue, even those ideas we carry about ourselves?
Without a doubt, Paul is referring to how we demolish lies that set up in opposition to Christ and the gospel. But that does not mean that these weapons are not also good for demolishing other lies and negative thought patterns. Indeed, we ought to strive to cooperate with God in His renewal of our minds so that we accurately reflect His thoughts about the world, others, and ourselves. How God sees the world is how it truly is. Therefore, it is important that we conform our thoughts to agree with Him. As Paul said, refuting lies with truth from God’s word is how we do this.
Thanks for challenging me and helping me think through my questions.