Ministry, Warfare and Paul - Part 2

Ministry, Warfare and Paul - Part 2

Aug 04, 2013

By: Emilio Ramos

Passage: 2 Corinthians 10:4-6

Series: 2 Corinthians

Text and Exposition

5“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”

4c λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες 5 καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 6 καὶ ἐν ἑτοίμῳ ἔχοντες ἐκδικῆσαι πᾶσαν παρακοήν, ὅταν πληρωθῇ ὑμῶν ἡ ὑπακοή.

Preliminary Thought

“Paul continues his assault on the spiritual strongholds of his adversaries and their fallacious reasoning.  Here Paul targets the fallacious nature of worldly thinking and its unbiblical postures.  He first takes aim at the fact that carnal reason is patently false.  His opponents are doomed simply because their argumentation whatever it may have been was contrary to sound doctrine and biblical truth.  Second, more than simply being mistaken, Paul’s opponents are rebellious in their prideful opposition to the knowledge of God.  Because they do not possess a true knowledge of God; they have become a hindrance to true knowledge and gospel truth.  Third, Paul uses the language of captivity in order to disrupt the enemy’s schemes and imprison their autonomous thoughts until they are subdued under Christ’s authority.  Fourth and last, Paul emphasizes the ecclesiastical nature of his spiritual war by stressing the necessity for solidarity of purpose with the Corinthians themselves.  Without the church working in conjunction with the apostle by their own personal obedience to the gospel, and thus to Paul, final punishment for his opponents would be an impossible mission for any minister.”

1.) THE TARGET OF PAUL’S ATTACK

v.5-6,

5“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”

Paul begins his attack on the “fortresses” (ὀχύρωμα) of false ideologies in v.4b, “destroying speculations” (Greek UBS4, NA27) which is added to v.5 in the NASB and in most EVV (but see, NET).  While Paul’s opponents attack his conduct and his supposed walking “according to the flesh”; Paul attacks the root of all behavior— theology.  This is where all ethical norms are born.  The deeds of a person’s life are the mere outworking of his/her doctrine.  So Paul attacks the philosophy and standards of the flesh i.e. the world that is dominated by the flesh including now his opponents. Paul zeroes in on four distinct aspects of faulty reasoning or sophistry.  These are the pillars of man-made strongholds of false spirituality (cf. 1 Cor. 1.18-2.14; Prov. 21.22). Ultimately, Paul views fallen reason collectively as fallen.  Regardless of what aspect of human reason and man’s world and life views apart from Jesus Christ— Paul sees the mind of man as darkened:

Romans 1:21 21 “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Ephesians 4:17–18 17 “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;”  

What follows is one of Paul’s most powerful exposes’ of fallen reason.  This is the type of reason that Paul’s opponents had and ironically it is the reason they are accusing him of operating under, and it is the fallen, darkened, godless reason that characterizes every person who has ever been born under the corruption of Adam.  This is where all fallen “speculations” begin; they arise out of sin.  Sin has so tainted the nature of man that every part and aspect of man is ruined by the fall.  Paul’s focus here has to do with the noetic effects of sin i.e. sin’s influence on the mind.  Sin has rendered sinful man’s mind full of fallacious forms of reason; all of which need to be renewed by God’s word and truth (Rom. 12.1-3).

1.1, The fallacious nature of fallen reason

speculations (λογισμοὺς):

The first facet of this type of thinking is that it is false. This type of reason is not new it has been part of man’s way of thinking since humanity’s initial fall into sin and death (Gen. 3).  Paul’s method of waging war with unbiblical doctrines, philosophies, and standards is in “destroying speculations” (λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες).  To destroy a thought is abstract so we know that Paul is speaking metaphorically and more importantly spiritually about “destruction” (καθαιρέω).   It is the destruction of false thought process and regressive reflections on metaphysical subjects like God, religious and the afterlife.  Because the world does not have a proper view of God it does not have a proper view of itself and the reality it is in. Paul had already taught this to the Corinthians in his first letter where he argued powerfully for man’s inability to know spiritual truth apart from God’s Spirit:

1 Corinthians 2:14–16 14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Because of sin, the natural man will always end in self deception and delusion, “the customs of the people are delusion” (Jer. 10.3).  When Paul says he destroys these “speculations” he has in mind the effects of the gospel on all competing worldviews.  The word “to destroy” (καθαιρέω) speaks of a systematic dismantling of something (cf. BDAG).  Here, Paul’s divinely powerful weaponry equips him to take apart his opponents fallacious reason one level at a time.  Paul here is thinking of the gospel’s power (e.g. “divinely powerful” v.4) to systematically demolish the world’s fallacious reason like a wrecking crew demolishes a building! (cf. 1 Cor. 1.18-2.16).

1.2, The rebellious nature of fallen reason

every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God(καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ):

Secondly, Paul takes aim at the rebellious nature of fallen reason.  It is not just that man’s reason is fallen but it is volatile, arrogant (ὕψωμα) and contrary to “the knowledge of God” (τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ)—where all true reason comes from (Ps. 111.10; Prov. 1.7; 4.7; 9.10). 

Because man refuses to come to God for true knowledge and understanding he is without knowledge so that Paul says emphatically that man’s wisdom is insufficient to know the truth about God— he is in need of special revelation:

1 Corinthians 1:21 21 “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

Every “lofty thing” (ὕψωμα), whereby man professes to be wise, refers to postures, philosophies, and perspectives that are contrary to God and indeed hostile to God (cf. Rom. 8.7).  It is the believer’s job to tear down such spiritual rebellion by authoritatively proclaiming the gospel in the power of God’s Spirit (1 Cor. 1.22-24; 2.1-5).  The warfare Paul is waging is spiritual and gospel centered. It is through the gospel that Paul envisions spiritual strongholds of the world being overcome and literally “destroyed” (καθαιρέω) and brought low.  The “lofty”, arrogant and prideful rebellion of man can only be subdued through the heart-conquering power of the gospel (cf. Acts 16.14).   Like Sennacherib king of Assyria, the world’s rebellious worldviews are blasphemous and they are an affront to the holiness of God:  

2 Kings 19:22 22 ‘Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? And against whom have you raised your voice, And haughtily lifted up your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel!”

Exegetically, these “arguments” (λογισμοὺς) which Paul refers to have to do with his immediate context i.e. the arguments leveled against his apostolic ministry (this will become clear in v.6).  The thought cannot stay there however because by extension any attack against Paul’s apostolic authority is a departure from the gospel which is rooted in the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2.42; Rom. 6.17; 1 Tim. 6.20).  Thus, he is vigorously fighting for the purity of the gospel in Corinth much as he does among all the other churches (e.g. Gal. 1.6-9).  That the gospel is at stake is clear by Paul’s later indictment against the church and his description of the heretical nature of these false teachers, “For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” (11.4).

In his rebellion, man so easily goes astray from the purity of the gospel:

2 Corinthians 11:3 3 “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

As man hides in the fortresses of his vain speculations, he does so with a lofty and hostile heart, he does so with a prideful posture and with haughtiness against heaven.  The world hates God so much they can hardly stand to even think of Him, and when they do it is only in blasphemous prideful rejection of God and His wisdom (1 Cor. 1.23).  The result is that God often gives up a person (1 Tim. 1.20), a whole group of people (Acts 17.21; Tit. 1.12), or a whole nation and culture to its own depraved and reprobate ways (cf. Dt. 9.4,5):

Romans 1:28 28 “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,”

1.3, The autonomous nature of fallen reason

taking every thought captive (αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα):

Thirdly, Paul continues the military metaphor by depicting man’s thoughts are enemy combatants who have chosen rather to run and barricade themselves in the strongholds of their own imaginations than to submit to God’s authority.  Paul’s attack on the heretics means that he must corral his enemy’s “thoughts” (νόημα) and take them “captive” (αἰχμαλωτίζω); a word which can be used negatively (Rom.  7.23; 2 Tim. 3.6) naturally (Lk. 21.24) or metaphorically to serve a positive purpose (2 Cor. 10.5).  

The fact that Paul must move to capture “every thought” (πᾶν νόημα) speaks to the desire for autonomy in fallen reason and the desire to think independently of God and apart from God (cf. Mt. 16.23).  Such autonomous reasoning must be taken “captive to the obedience of Christ” (αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ).  Paul’s word of choice for “thought” (νόημα) is also a term that is used for intent.  It is that element of thought that is imagines certain designs yet to be fulfilled and for the purpose of pursuing its hidden motive.  Paul uses this word to describe the things Satan has designed against us:

2 Corinthians 2:11 11 “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

Paul’s theology therefore is that the gospel by its power brings the rebellious autonomous schemes of man into the precinct of God’s authority.  This is the power of God to subdue our rebel wills from fulfilling their own evil schemes (νόημα) and designs whatever they may image to be.  It is not just that God stops us dead in our tracks when we stand against Him; but also that He takes us captive as it were to surrender to the Lordship of Christ (cf. Is. 45.23; Phil. 2.9-11).  This has happened to every believer by becoming “slaves of righteousness” (cf. Rom. 6.17, 18, 22).

1.4, The ecclesiastical nature of fallen reason

punish all disobedience (ἐκδικῆσαι πᾶσαν παρακοήν):

Fourthly, Paul now supplies the context of his spiritual warfare as that which pertains primarily to the church.  What applies in a general sense to all forms of worldly wisdom applies directly and specifically to the Corinthians and their present situation.  The reason this last point is crucial is to see the proper sphere of correcting fallen reason and indeed punishing those who engage in fallen and unbiblical ways of thinking.  It is ecclesiastical because Paul has the church primarily in mind in the entirety of this context.  The “punishment” (ἐκδικέω) can only be meted out within the sphere of God’s society in the church.  Paul is not interested in “punishing” those in the world: 

1 Corinthians 5:9–13 9 “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”

Paul is not interested in overturning the authority of the court systems in the land, or overturning the political climate of his day through political maneuvers or political integration; like Jesus— the kingdom for Paul was not of this world:

John 18:36–37 36 “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Paul’s discipline was going to be complete once the church took its stand with Paul and against his opponents— this is what he is so strongly “urging” them to do (10.1).  In the case of the Corinthians, once they had fully expressed their support for Paul and their rejection of his opponents; Paul was ready to deliver apostolic apologetic, polemics, even discipline.  This harkens back to his earlier statements:

2 Corinthians 10:2 2 “I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.”  

Paul’s purpose in verse six is to be in complete solidarity with the church.  He knew that this church discipline issue could get ugly if the church was not lock step and in sync with.  To allow the church to, even a few of them, to side with his adversaries would be a disaster in the making.  The church need to stand together on matters of church discipline (cf. Mt. 18.15-20).  The only “politics” Paul cares about are the dealings of the church.  The picture we get from the text is not so much Paul as politician as much as Paul as soldier or a warrior for God equipped with divinely empowered weaponry. 

It begins with Paul’s resolve to be “bold” in battle, with godly weaponry he is ready to wage war and destroy spiritual strongholds.  He begins by destroying fallacious speculations and every pompous ideology that hinders and contradicts the knowledge of God.  He also captures the evil schemes of false teachers and false worldviews in order to bring them into submission to the Lordship of Christ.  Finally, Paul has prepared himself to exact punishment on every and any disobedient person or group that seeks to overthrow his authority and undermine his unity with the church. 

This should be the posture against anyone who seeks to erect unbiblical fortresses of false teaching and worldly philosophy or against anyone that is hindering and rejecting the knowledge of God through sinful pride, against those who do not want to submit to the Lordship of Christ by undermining His word and destroying His church.  This is a far cry from playing political correctness with false teachers and divisive people in the church; it is a full frontal attack that is relentless until the objective of spiritual warfare is achieved. 

With this text and this example, Paul shows us what is worth fighting for in the church and how to fight for it.  We should always strive to combat any all doctrinal heresy and all worldviews which undermine the gospel and seek to pull the church in an unbiblical direction.  We should also avoid the influence of the world’s resources and perspectives on things pertaining to how ministry is done and how a church should be ran.  And we should mark those who cause division in the church and seek to set the people against their leadership and ultimately against the Lordship of Christ.  Paul gave some similar and strong advice to one of his young protégé’s in Titus:

Titus 2:11–15 11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. 15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”


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