***NOTE: I am not a Greek scholar nor a cat person. However neither one of these things stopped me from writing this essay. Enjoy.***
Last week I spent some time meditating on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. This passage of scripture is familiar to a lot of Christians, especially to Pentecostals. Verse 4 is one of those good old fashioned, foam at the mouth, whip everyone into a frenzy, screaming verses. Using ye olde KJV it readeth like this:
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 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;
Looking at the context of this passage we see that Paul is expressing to the Corinthians that he is aware of certain criticisms that people are making concerning the carnality of his leadership. His reply to them is that he is not operating from a carnal standpoint, and that he has the right and ability to use spiritual weapons to combat such mindsets in the church.
As I studied this passage, and dug deeper into its meaning, I quickly realized that we often take these scriptures way out of context. I can feel your deep sense of awe, at the depth of the revelation, of my thought, that we preachers might take a scripture out of context in order to make a point at the pulpit. Setting sarcasm aside for a second, this does happen and the sad part is that when we turn the Bible into a collection of sound bites, we miss out on the power of true life change.
For example, we often use 2 Corinthians 10:4 to encourage people to rush out into the world, and tear down Satan’s kingdom. However, more times than not, people leave the church itching for a Holy fight, only to discover they don’t really know what to do next. So they do nothing, and the next week the pastor has to hype them up all over again. It really is a vicious cycle.
By now you might be asking what my great revelation has to do with anything. So, without further ado, I will drop the knowledge bomb. Here it goes – Paul was talking to the church. BOOM! Did you feel it?
Paul was addressing the use of spiritual weapons to tear down carnal mindsets in the church. This passage of scripture isn’t about waging holy war on the devil as much as it is about fighting the war between our ears. The devil is only as strong as we let him be, and for many our own thoughts do his work for him.
Paul was addressing the entire Corinthian church, but we can make his words personal and focus them on our own minds. All of us are fighting a battle of the mind. If we can assemble a collection of believers that are individually winning their specific wars, then we will have a church that is winning victories in the world.
Let’s start with verse 4. Paul says that through the Spirit, we can “pull down strongholds”. In the Greek this phrase is rendered “kathairesin ochyromaton”. Catchy, huh? It literally translates to this, “Destroying false arguments in which a person seeks a safe place to escape reality”. In a culture that encourages us each to create our own reality this verse takes on a new sense of importance. We are told that what is good for me is good for me, and what is good for you is good for you, but Paul is letting us know that we have to utterly demolish this sense of individual reality. Take that Postmodernism!
As humans we can rationalize almost anything. One minute we can tear down someone that was caught in the act of adultery, but then we can turn around in the next minute and justify our own sin. If we are going to live a life in victory, we have to see things as they really are. Our reality must be changed to that of God’s kingdom. Having eyes we must see and ears we must hear.
When we are filled with God’s spirit, it gives us the ability to step out of the carnal world and in to the spiritual realm. We leave behind our old reality and step into a new reality of God’s kingdom. We were all born into a sinful reality, and every day we must war against falling back into it. To quote the great philosopher Morpheus, “Like everyone else you were born into bondage; into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch, a prison for your mind”.
Verse 5 continues this theme. It says that next we are to cast down imaginations. This isn’t condemning using your imagination. As annoying as he may be, Elmo is not the antichrist. The word imagination is better expressed as argument. In the Greek it looks like this, casting = kathairountes and imaginations = logismous. A paraphrased version of these two terms might read like this “I choose to destroy for myself, the way I see the world”.
The verb casting is similar to the word used for pulling in verse 4; however in this use it becomes personal. I cast down. I forcibly remove. I destroy. It is declaring that you choose to make the mission your own. Paul used this to show that he was personally involved in what was happening in Corinth, but I think that today we can use his word choice to see that this fight is our own. We can control what’s in our own heads.
Logismous refers to arguments or imaginations at a base level. It can be thought of in terms of assigning weight to particular factors that we use to form our personal opinions. For example, a man with a family will, hopefully, give this part of life weight when making decisions, whereas a single guy wouldn’t. It speaks to how personal opinions are formed.
We are responsible for dismantling for ourselves, the value system of our carnality. Jesus presented this concept in Matthew 6:33, when he said “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”. We are to assign weight to the things of God, and let the rest fade away. This is why Jesus could say that it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of needle, than for a rich man to enter into heaven. We must daily fight against our love for the things of this world. Your quest for being cool can’t trump your desire to please God.
This is another daily battle; the battle to make what’s important to God, important to us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25, that the difference between the goats and the sheep will be that the sheep saw the world in the way that Jesus saw the world. It’s kind of a big deal to do this.
Verse 5 continues by talking about high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. This phrase takes a little different tack on the battle of the mind. High things can also be translated as bulwarks or obstacles. High things that exalt themselves could be expressed as “obstacles that I lift up”. In other words, this part of the verse is urging us to completely destroy any obstacles that I might raise up to keep me from the knowledge of God.
When this verse speaks of knowledge, it refers to a type of knowledge that is only obtained through first-hand experience. In other words, “I know it because I’ve done it”. This type of knowledge is powerful, because it is indisputable. Especially in today’s culture, the personal experience is held as sacred.
However, we can erect barriers that insulate us from having these personal experiences. Or even worse, we can raise up barriers that let us have a shallow level of experience, but they don’t let God get to the core of us. It is a scary thing feel that we are Godly, but in reality to be far from it. No man ever encountered God and stayed the same. If we are to be like God, then we must remove every mental barrier that would prevent us from encountering Him.
What can separate us from the love of God? We can. We can put up walls that God refuses to walk through. We can fit together bricks of bitterness, doubt, anger, hurt and fear until they are so tight even God’s light can’t penetrate the cracks. We must fight daily to demolish the bulwarks that would keep us from touching God.
Verse 5 also tells us that we can take captive our thoughts to the obedience of Christ. I hear people say things like, “The heart wants what the heart wants” and “I can’t control how I feel about that”. These phrases are dumb. You can control your thoughts; you just have to decide what is more important to you, pleasing God or pleasing your flesh. That is not to say that this is easy, and that mistakes won’t be made, but if you keep trying to catch your thoughts eventually you will bring them under submission to Jesus. They are slippery little suckers though.
When Paul chose the phrase “Bringing into captivity”, He is again using a phrase that is personal. It is “I take captive my thoughts”. We are responsible for what we think. Contrary to what some saints, and some pastors, might think, the man of God cannot control your thoughts. Preachers preach and people choose to act on this or not.
Our thoughts are not just the little flashes of insight that streak across our mind’s eye. Paul uses a word that refers to all of who we are internally. It concerns our heart, mind and soul. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”. We are to take captive our feelings and our thoughts, and submit them in obedience to the Jesus. It is stupid for us to think that we can compartmentalize ourselves so that there is a portion of us that loves God, but then another that loves the world, and this is ok.
This is part of the verse tells us that we are to take all that we are and submit it to obedience to Jesus. Just when you thought I’d stopped talking about Greek words, I bust out one more. Obedience comes from the word hypakoen. It means submission to what is heard. We are to do what Jesus tells us to do. So putting it all together it might sound something like this, “I detain my thoughts, in order to obey the words of Jesus”.
GET TO THE POINT
Throughout these two verses we see that Paul is speaking to the Corinthians, and to us, about the difference of living a carnal life and a life that is spent in worship to God. Worship is admitting that God’s way is better than ours, and then submitting ourselves to life that life. Worship is life! The decision to live a life of worship is a direct result of the battle between your ears.
This way of life demands all of us. It is a complete surrendering of the self to Jesus. The daily fight is to make us zero and God everything. Jesus would say it like this, “Not my will Lord, but your will be done”. John the Baptist would put it a little different, but with the same gist, when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease”.
We must use weapons such as prayer, fasting, studying, worship, praise, meditation, service, silence, journaling and evangelism to tear down the strongholds in our minds. With these weapons, through God, we can:
Destroy our false realities, and accept God’s reality
Dismantle our carnal value system, and see the world as God see’s it
Demolish the barriers to experiencing God, and encounter Him in our lives
Detain everything inside of us, and submit it to the word of God