- Let me acknowledge up front that this can be a challenging passage. It’s not easily clear how all the pieces go together. As we wander through these six verses, hopefully we can bring them together in a meaningful way.
THE STARTING POINT OF THE CHURCH FIGHT: Paul didn’t measure up to their standards.
- 2 Corinthians 10:1-2a.
- I spoke about this in the last sermon: there were elements within the Corinthian church who were accusing Paul of being a bold letter writer but being a withering violet in person. (This is also addressed in vv. 10-11.) While they certainly had questionable motives, we can presume that perhaps he was a better writer than public speaker. In this message, though, we’re going in a different direction with these comments.
- This passage mentions “standards” in v. 2, so let’s couch what we’re saying in those terms. Paul didn’t measure up to their standards. Now, I think it’s pretty obvious that their stylistic complaints were there to emphasize their theological disagreements with Paul.
- Paul acknowledges the disagreement in v. 1 and then tells them in the first half of v. 2 that he intends to be bolder than they’d like when he is face-to-face with them on his next visit.
- I have titled this sermon “A Christian Response to a Church Fight,” so one way to think about what we’re talking about here is that this is a church fight between Paul and his accusers. It is really about a profound theological issue even though the presenting issue here is a petty “style of preaching” comment.
- I should also state here that when I speak of Paul’ opponents, we’re not talking here about a petty fight. His opponents were leading the Corinthian church down a path of theological error.
WHAT WERE THEIR STANDARDS? Their standards were worldly standards.
- 2 Corinthians 10:2b.
- Paul says that his opponents think that he lives by the standards of the world. I believe that implicit in this statement is that Paul knows that his opponents are, in fact, living by world standards.
THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE: We do not fight the way the world does.
- 2 Corinthians 10:3-4a.
- When Christians end up in church fights, usually the Christian aspect gets thrown out pretty quickly. Instead, people believe that the ends justify the means. We’ve got to defeat those who are taking our church in the wrong direction even if it means spreading rumors, even if it means rounding up people for the business meeting who haven’t been to church in years, even if it means assassinating their character.
- The idea is that you can win a church fight in a worldly way. You have to do what it takes.
- The truth is that we are expected to not only have Christian goals – we are also supposed to pursue them with Christian means.
- Here Paul speaks to that point in v. 3. He tells them that we are not to wage war as the world does. This speaks to the point I just made.
- Paul keeps going, though, with the first half of v. 4. The weapons that we use in our fight are not the weapons that the world uses. What exactly are our weapons? We’ll pick that up later in the passage.
OUR WEAPONS' POWER: Our weapons have power from God to demolish strongholds, arguments, and pretensions.
- 2 Corinthians 10:4b-5a.
- There are some big ideas that show up in the second half of v. 4 and in v. 5. Let’s divide it up.
a. “divine power to demolish strongholds.”
- “Strongholds” equals “any strong points or arguments in which one trusts.”
b. “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.”
- “Arguments” equals “counsel.”
- “Pretension” equals “a lofty tower built up proudly.”
- I don’t want to spend time trying to slice and dice the differences between the various words because they are all in the same general area. They all have to do with ideas and beliefs that people have.
- It’s interesting that this is the area that Paul says the focus should be on. Everything ultimately flows from what we believe. The gospel obviously intends to change the beliefs we have, which in turn will change the actions we do.
- Because what we believe is true, it has the power to demolish strongholds. Maybe a teen girl deeply feels that she’s worthless and she needs the gospel to demolish that stronghold.
- Maybe someone has come to believe that sleeping around is what everyone does and has no consequences and he needs the gospel to demolish that argument.
- Maybe someone founds their life on the pursuit of social media affirmation and needs that pretension to be knocked down by the gospel.
OUR PRIMARY WEAPON: Our primary weapon is the knowledge of God.
- 2 Corinthians 10:5b.
- I’ve been alluding to it in the last point, but let me state it explicitly now: our primary weapon is the knowledge of God. In v. 5 it says their arguments and pretensions have set themselves up against the knowledge of God.
- This makes sense because we know in Paul’s discussion of the armor of God the only offensive weapon mentioned is the Word of God.
- We preach and teach the truth. We proclaim the truth. And we do so knowing that the truth is powerful.
- We don’t always appreciate how powerful a tool we carry under our arms as we walk into church. Often we’ve become desensitized to its power. We forget how radical its truths are when you have been living in the lies of the world. We fail to see that the Holy Spirit has promised to work through the Bible’s truths, empowering them.
- When it comes to church fights, we concentrate on whether we are politically right (that is, do I have all the right people lined up?). Or have we created powerful arguments to use in the church business meeting (whether they have anything to do with the Word of God or not?)? Less often, though, do we deeply study the Word to discern if we are Biblically right.
- I have been in many church committee meetings and business meetings where lots of arguments flew back and forth without any reference to Scripture, even if there was a relevant reference on the issue. For instance, do we look at the reference to the qualifications for deacons when squabbling over whether someone should be given that position? Do we dig into the church discipline passages when we are dealing with a wayward member? Or do we try to solve the problem using our best worldly wisdom?
- Often, churches put people in key leadership roles who have a good reputation in the community or are well-to-do, but not necessarily are the most mature Christians. And so, when there is disagreement within the church, the arguments that go back and forth sound similar to what would be said at any given local business rather than being explicitly Christian.
- We are to focus on being in the truth of God.
- Once, when I was interviewing with a church that was coming out of a time of contention, I noted that I’d been blessed to pastor churches that were predominantly unified and peaceful. One pulpit committee member replied, “How do you keep everyone happy?” My response was that it is not our job to keep everyone happy. It’s our job to make God happy. If we do that, everything else will generally fall into place. That’s not to say that a church might not have a few members get mad and leave, but that if they’re leaving because you’re doing what’s Biblically right, that’s not a bad thing. And as you get on track with God’s will, His power will start flowing through your church.
OUR GOAL: Our goal is every thought obedient to God.
- 2 Corinthians 10:5c.
- Our goal in our lives as we pursue the truth of God is for us to make every though obedient to Christ.
- This steps beyond our actions. This is at the level of our thoughts.
- This steps beyond occasional obedience, but pursuing having every thought obedient.
- This seems impossible at first, but it’s not. As we grow and mature, we can move to where we have our lives largely lined up with Christ. I do not believe that it’s possible for us to be sinless in this life. It is possible for us to reach a point where we go days without sinning. We need to have higher expectations for the power of the Word and the Spirit in our lives.
- Note that this goes beyond just winning a church fight. This takes us over in the territory of winning the fight without our sinful self, our “natural man.” This is the ultimate goal, far beyond any church fight win.
THE RESULT OF THE CHURCH FIGHT: After a second chance to repent, Paul will pursue Biblical discipline.
- 2 Corinthians 10:6.
- Paul is giving them every chance to repent. He is imploring them to turn away from their misdeeds and libelous accusations. That opportunity will not last forever.
- Just to use Matthew 18 as an example, there are steps to go through in hopes of reconciliation and repentance, but then disciplinary action commences.
- Here to Paul is working to convince them to repent, but there will come a point when disciplinary action is required.
- This is another area where many churches do not make decisions based on Biblical teaching. Instead, they ignore the need for church discipline.