The destruction of fortresses
2 Corinthians 10 from the daily reading in the One year Bible
Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.
7 You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame, 9 for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present.
12 For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, 16 so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. 17 But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. 18 For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.
In today’s text Paul says: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (some translations say pulling down strongholds). We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. This portion of scripture is similar to but not the same as Ephesians 6:12-13 where Paul talks about spiritual warfare saying: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. The Ephesians passage is dealing with our struggle against outside forces; the things which come against us. While the trials and difficulties in our lives may happen at the hands or the words of other people, it is not the people themselves who we should war against. Rather, it is the forces of evil and darkness that motivate those people which we should engage in battle. The Ephesians passage and the strategy of putting on the armor of God, to resist evil and stand firm is critical to every believer because as Jesus says: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There will be difficult and hard times in the life of every believer and some of those difficulties will seem to be caused by other people. Jesus says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) We are to pray for people, even those who are against us, forgiving them, seeking their redemption, even as Jesus did, when on the cross He said: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) We are to pray against the real enemy behind the attacks against us, the spiritual forces of darkness and wickedness, that through the overcoming power of the cross, both we and our enemies would be delivered.
As opposed to this external struggle we all face daily, today’s text is referring to the internal struggle we all also face. The fortresses or strongholds we war against are not in the flesh, they are not physical at all. Unlike what Paul talks about in Ephesians, neither is this struggle from the outside, in the spiritual realm. Instead what Paul is talking about is the struggle we face, the battle for our own minds. The fortresses and strongholds we must tear down are built not with bricks, steel or concrete, but rather they are built upon improper thoughts and beliefs, in our own minds. Fear, doubt, worry are all things which build strongholds in our minds. Faith is what overcomes fear, doubt and worry. In Ephesians the first thing we are to put on to stand against the enemy is the belt of truth. Everything that comes against us from the outside is based on lies so we need truth to overcome lies. The same thing is true regarding the internal battle in and for our minds. We need to know and hold to the truth of God’s word, the truth of His love, the truth of the overcoming work of the cross. Paul says: we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Taking our thoughts captive to Christ does not only mean that we do what Jesus would have us do. It also means we believe Him. He said: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 1 John 4:18-19 says: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. When we take every though captive to the truth of God’s love, demonstrated in the cross, that Christ died for us even while we were sinners, we tear down the strongholds of fear, doubt and worry. God’s love is perfect love and His perfect love casts out fear because we no longer need to believe there is punishment for our sin.
When in our minds, we believe the lies or hear the words of others who have said we are worthless. We need instead to hear God’s word which says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3) God does not seek to punish us, He draws us to Himself with perfect love. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” When we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and to the overcoming power of God’s perfect love, no lie can exist or build up a stronghold in our minds. As Paul says: We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. In Romans 8:31 Paul says: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Indeed if we believe the truth of God’s word, the truth of His everlasting love, if our faith is based on the truth of His love, there is nothing that can come against us. Romans 8:35-39 says: Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Proverbs 18:10 says: The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe. Let that truth be the only stronghold in your mind.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit I believe Your word. I am confident in Your love and through faith I tear down and overcome all lies that I have allowed to be built in my mind. I receive Your perfect love, casting out all fear in my life. I am safe in Your love. Thank You. Amen.