Destroying Evil Strongholds

2 Corinthians 10:1-6

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Some people regarded Paul and the ministry team as walking in the flesh. Paul responded to that charge by explaining spiritual warfare and warned he would come back to Corinth with courage and confront his opponents. Before he returned, Paul wanted both the Corinthians and his opponents to learn the basics of spiritual warfare.

Paul started by explaining the difference between walking in the flesh and warring in the flesh. Paul indicated the ministry team certainly walked in the flesh, because they were human beings with real flesh. The ministry team, however, did not war according to the flesh. 1Paul wrote: Ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα. Paul coordinated the plural participle walking (περιπατοῦντες–present active participle–nominative masculine plural) with warring (στρατευόμεθα-present middle indicative first person plural). Notice the middle voice στρατευόμεθα, indicating the spiritual struggle was internal to them. Paul meant we are walking in the flesh (Ἐν σαρκὶ ) not warring according the flesh (κατὰ σάρκα). The opponents of the ministry team did not grasp the difference between walking in the flesh and warring according to the flesh.

Warring according to the flesh meant swords, helmets and shields–all physical items. In contrast, warring  according to the spirit meant spiritual warfare against reckonings produced by the opponents of the ministry team. Therefore, to combat the charge of walking in the flesh, Paul started with the clear statement that the ministry team was indeed walking in the flesh, but, while walking in the flesh, they were not warring according to the flesh. Notice the continual nature of spiritual warfare. While walking in the flesh, they were waging spiritual war continually. Paul implied that his opponents were also walking in the flesh, but they were waging war according to the flesh by attacking the ministry team by charging them with walking in the flesh. 

Paul then described the weapons of spiritual warring. The war itself was a spiritual conflict, not a fleshly conflict. Paul used spiritual weapons in the spiritual war. 2Paul described the weapons (ὅπλα) of our war (στρατείας) of us. Compare 1 Timothy 1:18 on the good war (τὴν καλὴν στρατείαν) and what qualities it takes in Timothy. Paul elaborated that the spiritual weapons were not fleshly, but powers in God to demolition of strongholds. 3Paul wrote: the weapons not fleshly (σαρκικὰ) but powers in God ( δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ ) to demolition (πρὸς καθαίρεσιν) of strongholds (ὀχυρωμάτων). The spiritual powers belonged to God and God exercised those spiritual powers on our behalf. Without God, we are powerless against evil strongholds in our lives.

Paul then explained the evil strongholds. Paul indicated that the powers in God targeted strongholds. The strongholds were reckonings. 4Paul wrote that the powers in God are demolishing (καθαιροῦντες–present active participle, nominative masculine plural) reckonings (λογισμοὺς). In 2 Corinthians 10:2 Paul wrote: I reckon to be daring toward some of the ones reckoning us as walking according to the flesh.   5Paul wrote: I reckon (λογίζομαι–present middle/passive indicative–deponent?) to be daring (τολμῆσαι–aorist active infinitive) toward some of the ones reckoning (τοὺς λογιζομένους) us as walking according to the flesh (κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦντας). Therefore, Paul said the powers in God specifically targeted the reckonings of the opponents of the ministry team. By undermining the work of the ministry team, the opponents had inflicted significant spiritual harm on the Corinthians.  Therefore, when people spread their own reckonings about ministry teams, those reckonings become evil strongholds. People make reckonings by appraisals of people, but they do so under the spiritual control of the devil. 

The reckonings were part of every high thing lifting itself up against the knowledge of God. 6Paul wrote that the powers in God targeted not only the reckonings, but also every high thing (ὕψωμα) lifting itself up (ἐπαιρόμενον–present middle participle, accusative neuter singular) against the knowledge of God (κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ). The powers in God were also taking captive every perception to the obedience of Christ. 7The powers in God also are taking captive (αἰχμαλωτίζοντες–present active participle, nominative masculine plural) every perception (νόημα) to the obedience of Christ. The term “perception” (νόημα) means the product of careful thought and planning. Only by the powers of God at work in you can every perception be taken captive. 

Perception describes an important spiritual process related to your heart. Evil perceptions flow out of an evil heart. The opponents of the ministry team (Paul and his companions at work in Corinth) attacked Paul with their evil, erroneous perceptions of the ministry team. The opponents had considered Paul in particular and his activities. Having observed Paul and his ways and background, the opponents formed their own perception. The ability to perceive the truth requires spiritual discernment, which only God provides to saints. Without God’s spiritual perception, the natural man considers the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to be foolishness and the natural man is unable to perceive the truth because spiritual things are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14). To those who are the called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Finally, Paul declared he was ready to avenge all disobedience, whenever your obedience might be fulfilled. 8Paul described a condition precedent, meaning the Corinthians had to be obedient to the truth before he would avenge (ἐκδικῆσαι–aorist active infinitive) the disobedience. Notice the target of the avenging was the disobedience, not the Corinthians themselves. 9Paul used the term disobedience (παρακοήν)  in contrast to obedience (ὑπακοή). That avenging would take place only when (ὅταν) the obedience of the Corinthians might be fulfilled. Paul used the subjunctive “might be fulfilled” (πληρωθῇ), indicating the action may occur in the future, but not with absolute certainty of the indicative mood. Therefore, the Corinthians had fallen into evil perceptions of the ministry team, and Paul in particular, because they had fallen prey to evil perceptions about them. The powers of God in Christ provided the only means to produce obedience to God, but they were living in disobedience to God because they had not taken captive the evil perceptions of the ministry team. Perceptions can be very convincing, but still evil. Paul would avenge the disobedience, allowing evil perceptions to continue. Only when the Corinthians practiced obedience to God regarding their perceptions could they resume a proper relationship with God and the ministry team. They must take those evil perceptions captive to Christ and use the powers in God to destroy them.  In other words, the Corinthians must obey God and see the ministry team as sent from God. Until that day arrived, the Corinthians would continue to languish in disobedience, by failing to take every perception captive to the obedience of Christ.

In our lives, we must be very careful to take every perception of people captive to the obedience of Christ. First impressions can be extremely evil and lead to evil reckonings. Holding grudges can lead to terrible reckonings. Failing to see our loved ones as unsaved only because we want them to go to heaven leads to us not sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. We have all kinds of perceptions about people and groups, but we must take every perception captive to the obedience of God using the powers in God to destroy every stronghold of reckonings. Perceptions and reckonings go hand in hand. Perceptions produce reckonings and reckonings produce strongholds. Of course, present reckonings, in turn, influence our future perceptions, forming a dangerous negative feedback loop. Using the powers in God we must take every perception captive to the obedience of Christ. Once our perceptions have been sanctified in obedience to Christ, then our reckonings will improve. Only then will we appraise people and things as God sees them and then our obedience will be made full.