The Weapons Of Our Warfare Are Not Carnal
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.”
What does this statement from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4 mean?
Those who rightly handle the Word of truth are rightly concerned with the misuse and misapplication of this text. It has often been misused and mishandled. So, rather than defeat all the possible misuses of this oft quoted passage, let’s instead examine what the apostle meant when he wrote it.
When we discover what the author of a certain book meant by the words they were inspired to write, when we discover God’s intended message, we are beholden to it. We must not misuse any text of Holy Scripture by purposely twisting its meaning to fit the circumstance we want to apply it to for our own benefit. This will cause misunderstanding that may lead to heresy. Tragically, those who do so with the Word, while attempting to use it for their own agenda and purpose, by doing so, rob themselves, and those they influence, of the richness of the text in question. The true contextual, intended meaning of the passage is always more rich than any twisting of it could possibly be. This is precisely what we see so often in the misuse of this passage.
Let’s look at the passage in question in 2 Corinthians 10:1-6.
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away! —I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
So, here we see the apostle dealing with those who are coming against his ministry. We see him purposefully bringing up their slander of him in the first verse. One of his reasons for writing this letter to the Corinthian church is to deal with false teachers. Throughout his career, Paul was plagued by those who would come after him and try to pervert the gospel of Christ. These critics of Paul would accuse him of living in the flesh because he lived by the Spirit and refused to live according to their false teachings.
So Paul’s plea was for the Church to believe in, and align with, the true gospel. He does not wish to come to them in the spirit of rebuke.
The apostle assures them all, both the Corinthians and the false teachers, that influence them that:
“Though we (Paul and his compatriots who minister alongside him) walk in the flesh (not in the worldly way in which he is accused, but in the physical body) we are not waging war according to the flesh.” Paul is making two things clear:
- Those who pursue and promote an agenda contrary to the gospel Paul preaches can only be doing so according to the flesh. They are living and believing contrary to the Word of God. They are then not walking by the Spirit but by the flesh.
- Paul and those who minister with him are fighting the good fight by the Holy Spirit.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
Paul’s point here is clear. The false ones may accuse me of walking by the flesh—but you will see the power of God through us when we come, and that power will be set against you if you do not repent.
Time and again, Paul has seen the power of God go before him, and work through his ministry.
Paul longs to see this power used to encourage and bless and equip the people. He does not desire to see it used to bring them low. Paul reminds these Corinthians, who should have known better by now, that God is the power behind Paul. Or more accurately, Paul is the ambassador of God in Christ. It is not Paul’s agenda that is being forwarded—rather, God’s purpose and will is being manifest through Paul, and Paul is gladly conformed to the image of Christ, who himself said in John 5:19, Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. Therefore, Paul, with great grace and great love, is pleading with the church he loves. He pleads that they cease to be influenced by those who have their own fleshly agendas and have, thereby, set themselves against the Lord.
Paul would not be so presumptuous as to assume that God empowers a mission or purpose that has not been given to him by God himself. Paul lives by the Spirit and keeps in step with the Spirit and by the Spirit lives his God-given mission.
What is that mission?
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 26:19-20).
See also 2 Corinthians 5:14-20.
Thus we see that Paul can, indeed, claim that the weapons of his warfare (his warfare is the cause of the gospel) are not carnal—that his weapons are Mighty in God. Why? Because, and ONLY because Paul’s mission, purpose, life, motivation, concern and every effort, is devoted to one cause: The gospel. The power of the living Christ continues Christ’s divine mission though Paul, just as he desires to do through all his people.
The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
It is, then, only those who, as Paul, are crucified with Christ and whose lives are no longer filled with their own purposes, plans, missions, causes and concerns—those whose minds, hearts, dreams, desires, motivations and efforts have been conformed to the image and purpose of Christ, those who have dedicated their very life to the same purpose to which the Savior and the Apostle Paul dedicated theirs, who can rightly claim to have access to Christ’s authority and power. It is only they who can make the claim with Paul, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.”
May we be among that number.
Pastor Brian TorresSeptember 1, 2022