Paul has just finished being lovingly stern with the Corinthians regarding the offering that they had promised to the church in Jerusalem. He told them that he didn't want to find out that they were just giving lip service, but that they still intend to gather it and give it. Now he says,
Remember that Paul had heard that some people were saying,
2Cor. 10:10 ..."His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible."
He didn't have a problem with admitting to being unimpressive in outward appearance. Even his name meant "little." He freely admitted:
1Cor. 2:1-5 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
And here he's saying, "I am writing you using strong words, yet when I am with you, I am being meek and gentle like Christ. I don't want to have to be bold and in-your-face when I visit. If some of you judge me according to my appearance instead of my authority, then you are judging me according to the flesh, and in that case I'll have to get spritually tough."
When you're dealing with spiritual authority, you don't have to be tall and strong. You can be small and have great spiritual power.
Paul said that his desire was to be meek and gentle. When we hear those words, we often think of weakness and wimpiness. But the word "meekness" means "strength under control." Jesus was meek, but He was by no means a wimp. We know that He had been a carpenter for the better part of 30 years. This is a very physical job even today, but back then, they didn't have table saws and electric drills. Certainly, He was in good shape physically. But He also had incredible spiritual strength, which He kept under control. Remember when Judas led the cohort to arrest Him,
Matt. 26:51-53 ...behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"
With all the resources of God Himself at His disposal, Jesus refrained. He kept His strength under control in humility and gentleness. He was meek. As Christians, we are called to be the same: meek and gentle. Yes, there are often times that you can spiritually blow someone away in a debate, or physically take them down with one punch. But we are not to be that way. The world uses and abuses power for ungodly purposes, we are to keep power under control for godly purposes.
Matt. 5:5 "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
We are to be meek, gentle, and uncontentious. It is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23), and the wisdom from above (Jam 3:17).
Paul says, "Yes, I do have a fleshly body which might not intimidate people, but we don't war according to the flesh. The way we war is with divine power, not fleshly strength."
When we encounter persecution, oppression, and opposition, we must not strike out in the flesh. We must not use the world's ways of defense or retaliation. We must wage the war spiritually, not fleshly or physically.
Also, we need to realize that it is not people and circumstances that we fight against. Too often, we look at people who are mere pawns of the devil, and think of them as the enemy. They're not, they're just the pawns that our enemy uses. Paul wrote in Ephesians,
Eph. 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
He recognized that these people who opposed him, put him down, persecuted him, and fought against his authority were just people that God loved and the devil used.
Don't lose sight that we fight a spiritual battle, not an earthly one. And because it is a spiritual battle, we fight it with spiritual weapons. These weapons are, Paul says, "divinely powerful." He alluded to them back in chapter 6,
2Cor. 6:4, 7 ...commending ourselves as servants of God... in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left
For the right hand and the left. That indicates both offensive and defensive weapons. Like a sword in one hand and a shield in the other.
So what are these divinely powerful weapons? Ephesians 6 tells us,
Eph. 6:10-17 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Notice that all but one of these items are defensive weapons. In the case of spiritual warfare, the best offense is a good defense. This armor is about the way you walk your walk, the way you live your life: truth, righteousness, prepared with the gospel, faith, and salvation.
The best way you can win the spiritual battle and defeat the enemy is by having a strong defense. Living righteously. Living in truth. Being prepared with the gospel message. It is not about "binding spirits," "casting out the devil," or anything spiritually weird that the church has bought into. It is about living a godly life of holiness. If you're living in holiness, you'll have a strong defense. If you're not, then going on the offense can be a big mistake.
When the disciples tried to cast out a demon and weren't able to, they asked Jesus why they couldn't. Jesus told them,
Matt. 17:21 ..."this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
They weren't prepared defensively to be on the offense. Even worse, if you try to have a spiritual battle without the one most basic piece of armor to keep you alive, the helmet of salvation, you're asking for big trouble and danger. Remember that we read in the book of Acts of seven guys that weren't saved, yet tried to wage spiritual war:
Acts 19:13-16 ...Some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Don't go messing in the spiritual realm unless you're prepared defensively. James wrote,
James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
You have to first be submitted to God before you can resist the devil. Jesus submitted Himself to the Spirit as He allowed Himself to be led out into the wilderness. There, He was tempted by satan, and was able to resist him.
It was then that He was able to use the one offensive weapon in the armor of God: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God Each time the devil attacked, Jesus answered by quoting Scripture. He fought with the Sword of the Spirit.
Hebr. 4:12 ...The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The word is a sword, a powerful weapon. That is the weapon you use to wage a spiritual offensive war.
And once you know how to use that awesome weapon, it is then that you can get on the offensive.
Paul said that these weapons for the right hand and the left, defensive and offensive, were divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. Fortresses often seem impenetrable. High stone walls, surrounded by a moat with crocodiles living in them. Towers enabling archers to pick your army off as they attempt to break their way in There doesn't seem to be any way to penetrate them. And for you, there's not. Fortunately,
Matt. 19:26 ..."With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
With God, all things are possible. There is no atheist too intellectual, no satanist too evil, no sinner too ungodly for God to use you to break your way in to that fortress. Practice your swordsmanship - learn the Word, memorize the verses, study the Scriptures. The better you can use that sword, the more God can use you to engage the enemy, and carry off his captives.
There were two fortresses specifically that Paul was waging war against. The first was outside, the second was inside.
First, there were speculations and philosophies that rationalized away the knowledge of God. That is a fortress that is still strong today. But the Bible tells us,
Ps. 14:1 The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God."...
Atheists and agnostics will try to intellectualize things away. They will use arguments using things like evolution and humanism to justify their lack of faith and immoral lifestyles. But Colossians 2:8 warns us,
Col. 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
It takes more blind faith to believe the evolution myth than it does to accept creation. It takes more blind faith to believe that humanity is the highest form of all life, and that we have it in ourselves to lift mankind up to a higher level. Nonsense. Mankind is inherently sinful, and left to our own devices, we will certainly destroy ourselves.
That brings us to the second fortress that Paul fought against: the inward fortress. He says, "we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."
Paul fought against his own fleshly desires and had his own personal spiritual attacks. And the only way to win those is to defeat them in the mind, before they manifest physically. Remember that James told us,
James 3:8 ...No one can tame the tongue...
The only way to bring your flesh under control, whether it be lust, or gossip, or coveting, or addiction, any other fleshly thing, is to capture it in your mind, before it manifests itself physically. James also told us that
James 1:14-15 ...each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
If you take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, then those temptations will not conceive and give birth to sin.