When Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, he was writing to a group of believers who found themselves living in the midst of a culture that was immersed in pagan worship and immorality. The basest behavior was taking place all around them, and unfortunately some of the immoral attitudes and behavior found in society had seeped into the church. Paul had to remind the Corinthian believers they were in a war and gave them instructions how as soldiers of Christ they were to successfully wage the war. He wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
There are several key words found in our text that beg our attention: walk, war and weapons.
First, Paul uses the word walk (V. 3). Paul lets the Corinthians know that when they were saved, the Lord didn’t take them immediately to heaven, but left them on earth to walk in this world as a witness for Him, to shine His Light of revelation of the truth. Though now saved with a new spiritual nature, Christians are still clothed in the weakness of the flesh as we walk here below. The question is, how are we to live a victorious life as a spiritual person who is still clothed in a robe of flesh and still living in a culture that is under the grip of sin? How can the Christian reflect Christ in their walk and not succumb to the weakness of the flesh and the influence of a sinful society?
Second, Paul uses the word war. Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us, the Christian is in a war. We are in a constant battle against evil. The word translated “war” (v. 3) and “warfare” (v. 4) come from the Greek word “stratos,” referring to a full-fledged campaign taking place, a strategic plan of action. The word “stratos” is from where we get our word “strategy.” The imagery is that of a bitter and relentless strategic warfare. For the Christian who fails to realize they are in war, in a war that is strategically planned by the enemy, is doomed to failure. Two things the Christian must always remember: (1) The battle we are in can’t be fought in the flesh; and (2) we must understand the strategy of the enemy. A football coach once remarked, “I could win every game if I knew beforehand every play the opposing team was going to run!” Well, Paul tells us the strategy of the enemy.
Third, Paul uses the word weapon. We find in these verses a contrast in weapons: (1) Satan’s Weapons and (2) Saint’s Weapons
(1) Satan’s Weapons. Satan’s strategy or weapon is found in four words Paul uses, all four being intertwined: “strongholds, imaginations, high things, and thoughts” (v. 4-5). An examination of each of these words give us an understanding to Satan’s strategy against Christians and Christianity.
(a) “Strongholds” (v. 4) is a translation of the Greek word “ochuroma” that means fortresses or fortified places, like a castle. It referred to military positions with massive walls that appeared inaccessible. The word was used figuratively of the arguments and reasonings by which a disputant endeavors to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent. A fortress, of course, is a strong defense built to keep something out. The question is, what are these fortresses or strongholds trying to keep out?
(b) “Imaginations” (v. 5 )is a translation of the Greek word “logismos” which means logic, an argument, or reasonings. A good rendering of the word would be rationalization.
(c) “High things” (v. 5) is a translation of the Greek word “hupsoma” which means an elevated structure like a barrier, rampart or bulwark. The purpose of a “high thing” was to keep something from getting in and to give a sense of security from attacks to the one residing behind the bulwark.
(d) “Thoughts” (v. 5) is a translation of the Greek word “noema” which means a thought, purpose, design, or schemes. Noema is used in 2 Corinthians 2:11 to speak of the devil’s schemes or devices.
So, what are these fortresses and high things of the Devil designed to keep out? They are specifically designed to keep out the revelation or knowledge of God’s truth (v. 5). In their context, the words “strongholds, imaginations, high things, thoughts” reveals that the strategy or weapon of Satan would be a system of thought or arguments which is contrary to the truth of God’s Word. Satan always provides for unregenerate man (and the regenerate man) a system or pattern of thinking that is contrary to the truth of God. As “strongholds” and “high things” were for the purpose of not letting something in, the Devil’s barriers of rationalizations and arguments “against the knowledge of God” (v. 5) are designed for the purpose of keeping the revelation of truth from entering into people’s hearts. The Devil is always ready to offer arguments, logic, schemes, human reasoning as barriers set up to block the revelation of God’s truth from penetrating walls of error and falsehood. This is why there is always a push to silence Christians and the watering down of the Word of God, because the unsaved man (and sadly, some saved people) seeks security behind walls of antichristian reasoning and arguments and doesn’t want the revelation of God’s truth penetrating his fortresses and high places.
The Devil always supplies man with a fortress/high place of rationalization or argument to hide behind to resist the truth of God’s Word. We see this very pattern of thinking beginning with our first parents, when the Devil said to them, “Has God said?” (Gen 3:1). And he provided them with reasoning why it was ok to disobey God’s revelation. Our enemy continues to offer men arguments to disobey God’s revelation. The revelation of God’s Word reveals that human life begins at conception, yet the Devil supplies fortresses of elaborate human logic and arguments why terminating the life of a child created in the image of God is ok. The revelation of God’s Word reveals that all matter of sexual promiscuity is destructive individually and societally, yet the Devil supplies fortresses of human logic and arguments why such behavior is acceptable. The revelation of God’s Word reveals that the cross of Jesus Christ is God’s only plan of redemption, yet the Devil supplies man with fortified towers of philosophical arguments and reasoning whereby he can resist the truth in an effort to thwart God’s plan of redemption. Any time man is faced with the truth, the Devil has always had a system of thought ready to implement which will provide the human heart with fortresses of arguments that will allow one to feel secure in their own self-sufficiency and sin. Not wanting the Light of revelation penetrating and disturbing his self-constructed strong towers, silencing the Christian voice is often the goal of society. But what is to be the Christian’s response?
(2) Saint’s Weapons. The Christian is not defenseless against the Devil’s arguments. The Christian must realize our weapons are not of the flesh but “mighty through God” (v. 4). In verse 5 Paul is literally saying we are called upon “to demolish arguments and every false thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Paul tells us we are to take on the systems, philosophies and man-centered thinking of unregenerate man. How do we do this?
This warfare is a war over thoughts, thinking and what’s right and what’s wrong; it is war over the revelation of God’s truth (v. 5). We are not to run from the battle but our weapons are two-fold: (1) keep proclaiming the Word; and (2) and being obedient to the Word.
First, we must keep proclaiming the Word and not compromise the truth. The only way we can counteract the false arguments of man, is to continue proclaiming the supernatural, life giving Word of God which contains the revelation of God’s Light. The Word has the power to penetrate the darkness with His Light and pull down those strongholds of false fortresses provided by Satan where men seek to hide. We can never penetrate those strongholds by watering down the Word or compromising with the world. It is past time to return to proclaiming the Word and make known “the knowledge of God” (v. 5). The Word is more powerful than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12).
Second, we must be obedient to the Word (v. 5). Unscriptural “thoughts” (v. 5) are to be brought under subjection to the obedience of Christ’s Word. If the Word doesn’t change our lives, we cannot expect it to change the lives of others. We can’t change the world by being like the world. While we are in the world, we are not of the world. While we walk on earth in a robe of flesh, we are spiritual beings headed for a City beyond the bonds of earthly gravity. We must seek daily to impact and influence others by our personal pursuit of the truth as found in His Word. We must continually shine the Light through obedience whereby others can find their way out of the darkness.
We are living in turbulent and dark times. We are in a war and our path to victory is found in continuing to shine the Light of Christ’s revelation through proclamation of the Word and walking obediently in the Word. Only then can we effectively witness the weapons of our warfare penetrating and pulling down strongholds of entrenched unscriptural thinking and beliefs, in our lives and the lives around us.