Summary: This challenging passage gives us insight into Paul's handling of contention.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.