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“SPIRITUAL WEAPONS”

Sunday, May 22, 2022:

Commentary (The UGP Curriculum)

 

  1. Lesson Text:  II Corinthians 10:1-12, 17-18. 
  2. Time of Action: 56 A.D. 
  3. Place of Action: Paul writes to the church at Corinth from Macedonia

 

Lesson Text: II Corinthians 10:1-12, 17-18

King James Version (KJV)

I. SPIRITUAL WARFARE (II Corinthians 10:1-6)

1. Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

2. But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

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;

6. And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

 

II. APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY(II Corinthians 5:7-12)

7. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? if any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.

8. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:

9. That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.

10. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.

11. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.

12. For we dare not make ourselves of the number or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

 

III. DIVINE APPROVAL (II Corinthians 5:17-18)

17. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

18. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

 

 

Golden Text:  “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” (II Corinthians 10:5).

 

I. INTRODUCTION.  We would be hard pressed to find anyone who does not believe that there is a spiritual realm and a physical realm.  The problem is that most people focus only on the physical world or what they can see.  But just as important, if not more important is what is going on in the spiritual world.  Whether we believe it or not there is a spiritual war going on all around us.  There are two sides to this war.  One side is headed by God and His heavenly armies, and the other is headed by Satan and his demonic armies.  But because this is a spiritual war, it must be fought with spiritual weapons.  This week’s lesson teaches us how to do just that.

 

II. THE LESSON BACKGROUND.  The Apostle Paul wrote this Second Letter to the believers in Corinth while in Macedonia within a year of the first letter. Paul’s spiritual burden for the Corinthian believers was great.  In addition to the problems, he had to deal with in his first letter (see I Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-4; 5:1, 9-13; 6:1-8; 7:1-16), great distrust regarding Paul invaded the church.  Some said that he was not sincere and others questioned his apostolic authority (see I Corinthians 9:1-6).  So, the book of Second Corinthians deals mostly with Paul’s defense of his apostolic authority making the book very personal (see II Corinthians 3:1-5; 4:1-7; 5:11-21; 6:3-10; 7:2-7).  In II Corinthians chapter 8, Paul turns his attention from defending his apostolic authority to requesting financial help, asking the Corinthian believers for money to help the poor saints in Jerusalem (see I Corinthians 16:1; II Corinthians 8:1-15).  The Corinthian believers had started collecting money to send to the poor Christians in Jerusalem (see Acts 11:27-29), but for some reason they didn’t finish taking up the collection (see II Corinthians 8:10-12).  In order to encourage the Corinthians to finish the offering they had promised to send to the needy saints in Jerusalem, Paul spoke of how the churches in Macedonia, even though they were poor themselves, willingly and generously sent a collection to the poor saints in Jerusalem (see Romans 15:25-28; II Corinthians 8:1-6).  In chapter 10 from which our lesson text comes, Paul returns to defending his apostolic authority and continues to do so through II Corinthians 10:1-13:10.  In those four chapters, Paul deals with the problem of false apostles (see II Corinthians 11:13) who had come to Corinth and who were opposing his authority as an apostle.  Our printed text comes from chapter 10 verses 1-12, 17 -18.

 

III. SPIRITUAL WARFARE (II Corinthians 10:1-6)

          A. Paul’s appeal (II Corinthians 10:1-2).

               1. (vs. 1).  Our first verse says “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you…”  Paul addresses the Corinthian Christians in a very mild and humble manner saying, “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”  In the introduction to this letter, Paul included Timothy with himself; but now he speaks only for himself, because the false apostles had particularly spoken against him.  Yet, in the midst of all the opposition he faced, the blessed Apostle showed humility and mildness, when he added that he was appealing to his readers “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”  It appears that Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to think that he was writing to be harsh with them.  He wanted them to know that he was not writing in anger, but with “meekness and gentleness” that came from “Christ.”  Paul then said, “who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you.”  With this statement, Paul was expressing how the false apostles were describing him.  They were saying to the Corinthians that when Paul was present or face to face with them, he was “base” or timid; but when he was “absent” and writing to them he was being “bold toward” them.  The word “bold” here can mean “outspoken” or “fearless.”  In essence, Paul was saying “Some say that I am bold when I am writing you from a distance, but not when I am there with you.”  Paul’s point was that the false apostles were accusing him of being a coward—presenting himself as “meek” when he was with the Corinthian believers, but big and bad when he was away from them and writing to them.  

Note:  When we find ourselves tempted or inclined to be harsh and severe towards others, we should think of the “meekness and gentleness of Christ,” that He demonstrated when He was in the world.  How humbly also does this great apostle speak of himself as if he was one of the Corinthian believers!  Paul’s enemies spoke of him with contempt but he had humble thoughts about himself and spoke humbly of himself.  We should be aware of our own weaknesses and think humbly of ourselves, even when men think otherwise.

 

               2. (vs. 2). This verse says, “But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.”  Here Paul continued his appeal to the Corinthians saying, “But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some.”  In other words, he was appealing to them not to give him any reason to exercise his apostolic authority or show them the same boldness that he intended to show to those who were “against” him.  Paul described those who were “against” him as those “which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.”  This means that those who opposed Paul and his companions saw them as living like the world or living like men without the Holy Spirit.  The term “flesh” refers to worldly behavior.  Paul was being accused of having worldly views and conduct, even in his ministerial work.  Paul had renounced that type of conduct (see II Corinthians 5:16), which was contrary to the Holy Spirit, the gospel (see I Corinthians 6:19-20), and the aim of the apostle (see II Corinthians 5:17).

          B. Paul identifies his weapons (II Corinthians 10:3-4).

               1. (vs. 3). This verse says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh…” Paul here defended the accusation that he and his associates “walked according to the flesh” (see verse 2).  He declared “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.”  In other words, he was saying that although they “walk in” or live in this world, they “do not war” or fight their battles the same way the world does.

               2. (vs. 4). This verse says “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds).”  Paul goes on to describe the work of the ministry as “our warfare” and said “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.”  As with any war, “weapons” are used to defeat one’s enemies.  Unlike the “weapons” of the world, the Christian’s “weapons” are “not carnal;” they are not of the world.  Our “weapons” are spiritual because “our warfare” is spiritual.  Our battle is not against each other or even against sinners.  It’s against spiritual enemies (see Ephesians 6:12) led by Satan (see Ephesians 6:11; I Thessalonians 2:18) and it has spiritual purposes.  “The weapons of our warfare” are the gospel, prayer, the Bible, our faith in Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.  When we fight with these spiritual “weapons” we are guaranteed victory over the wiles of the devil, even though the victory may not be immediate.  However, victory will come because our spiritual weapons are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.”  In other words, our “weapons” have power from “God” and can destroy the enemy’s strong places.  These “strong holds” are “pulled down” or destroyed by the gospel through the grace and power of “God.”

          C. Paul’s argument (II Corinthians 10:5-6).

               1. (vs. 5). This verse says “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…”  Here Paul continued to declare that the “weapons of our warfare” are powerful in “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.”  The word “imaginations” refers to sophisticated human philosophies and opinions of non-believers which have no real basis.  The phrase “every high thing” refers to any exalted and proud thing.  Paul said that both these things “imaginations, and every high thing exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.”  Simply put, these things raise themselves up in opposition to the true “knowledge of God” or the wisdom of God.  Paul’s point was that “God” had sent him armed with spiritual weapons to “cast down” or destroy all worthless worldly wisdom that hindered the preaching of the gospel.  When he did this, he would be “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”  This means that as Paul preached the gospel and used his spiritual weapons, he would take rebellious thinking and human philosophies captive and make it obedient to “Christ” and His gospel.

               2. (vs. 6). This verse says, “And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”  As Paul and his companions preached the gospel bringing every disobedient thought under obedience to Christ (see verse 5), Paul here declared that they had “a readiness to revenge all disobedience.”  The phrase “a readiness” means that Paul had God given power and authority “to revenge all disobedience,” or to punish the disobedient in the church.  The apostle is not talking about personal “revenge,” but about punishing disobedience to the gospel, and disorderly walking among church-members.  This punishment would most likely be in the form of church discipline (see I Corinthians 5:1-13).   Paul didn’t want everyone to fall under punishment so he made it clear that although he and his companions were ready to punish any believers in Corinth who did not obey, he said they would only do it “when your obedience is fulfilled” or when the church was fully obedient.  When that happened, it would be easy to determine who was being obedient and who was not.

 

IV. APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY(II Corinthians 5:7-12)

          A. Authority to preach the gospel (II Corinthians 10:7-8).

               1. (vs. 7). This verse says “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? if any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.”  With the question “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?”  Paul was actually making a statement, for there were believers in Corinth who judged Paul and other missionaries by such external appearances as style, speaking ability and the way they conducted themselves.  Unfortunately, even today, great value is placed on a speaker’s imposing personality and oratorical skills. But as Samuel learned, appearances can be deceiving.   A person’s heart condition outweighs any outward abilities (see I Samuel 16:1-7).  A man or woman may seem to be learned in Christ and appear virtuous, but they don’t demonstrate the principle of grace in their hearts.  Then Paul said, “if any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.”  It appears by this statement from Paul that his adversaries boasted about their relation to “Christ” as his ministers and servants.  So Paul was saying that if anyone who opposed him was confident that he or she was “Christ’s,” they should first reflect and consider that just as they are “Christ’s,” so too were Paul and his associates.  

Note:  Just because someone might have differing opinions than we do, we must not cut ourselves off from them.  The truth is that there is room in Jesus Christ for many; and those who differ a lot from one another may still be one in Him.  It would also help to heal the differences that are among us if we would remember that regardless of how confident we may be that we belong to “Christ,” we must accept that those who differ from us may belong to Christ as well.  Therefore, they should be treated accordingly.  We must not think that we are the only people who belong to “Christ.”  When we think this way, no matter how spiritually weak we may be and are being judged by those who oppose us, we should be confident that just as they are “Christ’s” so are we.  We profess the same faith, we walk by the same rules, we build upon the same foundation, and hope for the same inheritance.  Any weaknesses we see in other believers should not divide or separate us from one another, for all believers are “one in Jesus Christ, and members of one another” (see Romans 12:5; Galatians 3:28).

               2. (vs. 8). This verse says “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the LORD hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed…”  Here Paul again defends his apostolic authority.  He tells his readers that he “should boast somewhat more of our authority” because the LORD had given “authority” to him and his associates, and it was more than his adversaries could justly pretend to have.  He said that “the LORD hath given us our authority” for the Corinthian Christians’ “edification, and not for your destruction.”  The term “edification” can mean “to build up.”  So Paul was saying that God gave him his apostolic “authority” to build up the Corinthians and not to destroy or tear them down.  He then clearly stated that he was comfortable boasting about his “authority,” which was given to him by God, and therefore it was certainly something that he “should not be ashamed of.”

          B. Authority challenged (II Corinthians 10:9-10).

               1. (vs. 9). This verse says, “That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.”  This verse is a continuation of the previous verse.  Having declared that God gave him his apostolic authority for the edification of the Corinthian church, he continued to say, “That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.”  In other words, even though he wrote with authority in his “letters,” it was not his intention to “terrify” or intimidate them.  Even though at times in his letters sharply corrected sinful or inappropriate behavior by the Corinthians, he wanted them to know that he wasn’t writing out of anger or simply to criticize them.

               2. (vs. 10). This verse says, “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”  Here Paul gives the reason why he said what he did in the previous verse.  He said, “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”  The Apostle had earlier in our text indicated that the false apostles were claiming that he only demonstrated his apostolic authority when he wrote letters to them (see commentary on verse 1).  So he said “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful.” The pronoun “they” here refers to the false apostles who opposed Paul.  These false apostles were saying that because Paul was not present with the Corinthians, he made “his letters” sound “weighty” or important and “powerful.”  But “they” also said that when Paul was with the Corinthians “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”  In other words, the false apostles were saying that in person Paul’s physical “presence” was not impressive and his speaking was “contemptible” or horrible.  

Note:  When it came to the Greeks, a speaker’s presence and delivery were as important as his message.  The Greek orator Demosthenes said that the three most important elements of a speech are delivery, delivery, and delivery.  But Paul didn’t follow those rules because the message of salvation does not need to be presented with fanfare in order to reach the hearts of the audience.

          C. Authority and integrity (II Corinthians 10:11-12).

               1. (vs. 11). This verse says, “Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.”  Here Paul said that anyone who thought that his “letters” appeared important and powerful, but his physical present was weak, needed to “think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.”  Simply put, Paul was telling the Corinthian Christians that those people needed to know that when we are there with you, we will show the same power that we show in our “letters.”  The conduct he reflected in his “letters” would be the same as when he was “present” with the Corinthians.

               2. (vs. 12). This verse says, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”   With the statement, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves” Paul was refusing to act by the same rules as the false apostles did.  Neither he nor his associates counted “themselves” as part of “the number” of such vain men.  He makes it plain that the false apostles were wrong to “commend” or approve of “themselves” by “measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves.”  Paul declared that this was “not wise.”  The false apostles were pleased with “themselves” and prided “themselves” in their own achievements, and never considered that there were those who far exceeded them in gifts, graces, power and authority.  Of course, this way of thinking made them haughty and insolent.

 

V. DIVINE APPROVAL (II Corinthians 5:17-18)

          A. Boast in Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 10:17). This verse says, “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the LORD.”  The false apostles were lacking in humility because they boasted or “glorieth” in themselves, not giving God credit for any gift they might have had.  As a result, Paul said “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the LORD.”  The person who “glorieth” or boasts in their God-given gifts are lifted up in pride which can only lead to destruction and a fall (see Proverbs 16:18).  If Paul had anything to boast about or “glory in,” he would only boast or “glory in the LORD.”  He was well aware that even though he was called by God to be an apostle, he was compelled to preach the gospel (see I Corinthians 9:16) and he had nothing to boast or “glory in.”  Regardless of how gifted God has blessed us, we must remain humble in sharing those gifts.  The truth is, we did nothing to earn them or had anything to do with getting them.  A good way to keep us humble is to “compare ourselves” (see verse 12) with others who are more gifted than we are us.  We should be pleased and grateful for gifts or graces God has given each of us.  We should never take pride in ourselves because of our God-given gifts as if there was no one to be compared with us or was more gifted that we were. 

          B. God’s approval (II Corinthians 10:18).  Our final verse says, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the LORD commendeth.”  Unlike those who opposed him, Paul would only measure himself by God’s standards, not by the standards of others.  Having acknowledged that it was not wise for the false apostles to “commend (or approve) themselves” (see verse 12), Paul said the reason why was “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the LORD commendeth.”  In other words, the approval people give to themselves means nothing; but what really counts is the approval we get from “the LORD.”

 

VI. CONCLUSION.  Although Paul’s language in this lesson appears to be militant, he reminded the Corinthian believers that the war Christians are engaged in is not against others. As believers, we must not seek revenge when we are wronged neither can we control what others do to us.  Since we are renewed inwardly, we must not give in to the flesh and its desires; instead, we must submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ.  Paul agreed with his enemies that his appearance was not impressive, but he was quick to say that his work in Corinth was fruitful which proved that God was working through him.  He refused to pat himself on the back, but he was eager to boast in the LORD as we should also be.

 

PRACTICAL POINTS FOR DISCUSSION:

1. When sharing the gospel, we should be bold with the message, but humble in the presentation (II Corinthians 10:1-2).

2. The Christian’s war is a spiritual one and can only be won with spiritual weapons (II Corinthians 10:3-6).

3. Our God-given spiritual authority to preach the gospel and share His Word is intended to build up others not to tear them down (II Corinthians 10:7-9).

4. Believers should never be timid when sharing God’s Word, whether in writing or in person (II Corinthians 10:10-11).

5. Christians must avoid imitating those who think more of themselves than they should because it is not wise (II Corinthians 10:12).

6. Believers have nothing to glory about in themselves, but we have plenty to glory about in the LORD (II Corinthians 10:17-18).

 

***The Sunday School Lesson; Union Gospel Press Curriculum; The Bible Expositor and Illuminator***

 

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Thanks

Pastor Poleon L Griffin
ogbc@myogbc.com
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