10:1 By the meekness and gentleness of Christ [Paul followed the example of Jesus], I appeal [Gr. parakalo means to politely ask someone to do something] to you—I, Paul [cf. Col. 1:23; Philemon 1:19 re: other places where Paul used his name in middle of letter; ironically, the name Paul means “little”], who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away! [Paul’s enemies had accused him of being timid and weak in person but bold from a distance]
10:2 I beg you that when I come [Paul wanted for things at the church to be in order; cf. 2 Cor. 13:7] I may not have to be as bold [Paul did not want to spend his time dealing with problem members of the church] as I expect to be toward [note that some people questioned Paul’s motives and standard of living…] some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.
10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war [against the forces aligned against Christ] as the world does.
Paul understood the nature of spiritual warfare. In the course of his ministry he crossed swords with critics, skeptics, philosophers, Judaizers, and political leaders. Some of Paul’s opponents sought to discredit him and others tried to kill him. Many of his opponents sought to dismiss, distort, and minimize the work of Christ.
Paul recognized that although we are human beings made of flesh and blood, our struggle “is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12). We cannot engage in spiritual warfare in a fleshly way or with the wrong weapons. To rely on human methods against the spiritual forces seeking to frustrate God’s purposes is foolish. Human strength, wisdom, and wealth are no match against the weapons arrayed against us in this struggle.
10:4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world [Paul did not depend on physical strength, worldly wisdom, or material wealth in the battle against the forces of evil]. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds [the worldviews that seek to destroy Christianity].
God never intended for us to fight spiritual battles in our own strength or with weapons that are fleshly. Human strength may be used to knock out a human opponent and human wisdom can be used to manipulate or deceive other humans. However, these weapons are useless in the spiritual realm.
We must use the mighty weapons in God’s arsenal — truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer (Eph. 6:14-18). These weapons are suited for storming and demolishing the Devil’s strongholds — the fortresses from which his snipers strategically target the destruction of God’s people and God’s purposes.
10:5 We demolish arguments [ideas that seek to deny God and keep people from the gospel] and every pretension [rebellious ideas and false philosophies that keep people from God, seek to rob Him of glory, and obscure the truth] that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
When our opponents strike with lies and distortions, we must counter with truth. When the mortars of immorality explode around us, we must stand firm in righteous living. When worldviews assault and challenge the validity of what we believe, we must intelligently articulate the gospel of peace. When the smoke and dust of battle obscure our sight, we must proceed in faith. When the exclusive claims of Christ are challenged, we must remember that there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). And, above all, we must do more to prepare for battle than spend five minutes a day in prayer and in the study of God’s Word.
The world is not a friendly place. As in Paul’s day, the world still sees the gospel as foolishness. Comedians and philosophers alike take up arms against the knowledge of God. Their no-holds-barred attacks are public, shameless, and unrestrained. They fire each volley with the confidence that there is no God who will ever hold them accountable. Their objective is to blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4) and to assault and hold hostage the minds of believers’. Unless we learn to think strategically, prepare intentionally, and fight purposefully, we will suffer many casualties.
Note: The battle for the mind is real.
The consequences of losing ground to the enemy are serious for yourself and others. Our victories and failures will be felt beyond our own generation. Too much is at stake to stay home from the fight. Make it your aim to drag into heaven with a dirty uniform. Here are a few of the rules of engagement.
D = Devil. Know the enemy. Do not be “ignorant of his intentions” (2 Cor. 2: 11) or his “tactics” (Eph. 6:11).
E = Equipment. Know how to use your weapons and always wear your armor.
F = Fight. Don’t just passively wait for the enemy to attack. Take the initiative to engage on strategic fronts.
E = Enlist. Do not go into battle alone. The “one another” passages in the New Testament remind us that we need one another. Remember that Satan is a pirate looking for a vessel without a fleet.
N = Neutrality. The failure to choose sides is unacceptable. The stakes are too high to remain unaligned, uninvolved, and uncommitted.
S = Stand. Hold your ground. Do not be intimidated. Do not walk away.
E = Endure. In the words of Winston Churchill: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
10:6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
10:7 You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he.
10:8 For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.
10:9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters.
10:10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”
10:11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
10:12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
10:13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.
10:14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ.
10:15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand,
10:16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory.
10:17 But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.