Spiritual warfare: Demolishing strongholds
2 CORINTHIANS 10:1-6
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!
I ask that when I am present I need not to be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some who regard us as if we walk according to the flesh.
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.
For 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 (NASB).
Have you realized that accusation has become more common today than almost at any time in history? People are being accused of everything today. Some accusations are legitimate, but others are false. Therefore, we must be careful when an accusation is leveled against people. Some people can conspire to accuse someone.
Do you know that next to temptation, the most frequent and insistent attack from Satan to which we are vulnerable is accusation?  However, in the Christian faith, some believers become the vessel of the devil to carry out his attack on other Christians, especially those who are using their spiritual gifts to serve Christ.
Apostle Paul had his share of accusations from many angles in the churches that the Lord used him to establish. A case in point is the biblical text that is before us. Therefore, I appeal to you to pay attention as we explore this biblical passage. The title of my message today is “Spiritual Warfare: Demolishing Strongholds.”
I. THE ACCUSATION AGAINST THE APOSTLE (VV. 1-2)
An accusation is not difficult to find. You do not need a college degree or
diploma to accuse another person. Neither do you need permission from an authority to bring an accusation. Everyone can level an accusation against another person or persons. However, what we need to determine is whether the accusation is true. What is the motivation of the accusation? What is the source from which the accusation is made?
In this correspondence, Paul does not want the Corinthians to mistake him for another person as the writer of the letter. Therefore, he states, “Now I Paul myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”
The phrase, “I Paul myself” is in the emphatic position. He puts great emphasis upon the fact that it is he himself who is writing the letter. Paul is the founding Apostle of this Corinthian church. As an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul is vested with divine authority to deal with any insubordination and disobedience in the local church.
What has happened to discipline in the Christian Church in the twenty-first century? It is no wonder that our churches have become anemic and devoid of the empowering presence of Christ in our worship. Paul makes his appeal by the meekness and gentleness of Christ (v. 1).
Among the various attributes of Christ, Paul chose meekness and gentleness to address his audience. The word meekness (praut?s) carries the idea of “mild and gentle friendliness.”
In the ancient culture, this was a highly prized social virtue. It is the opposite of sudden anger or curt and offhandedness. In the Graeco-Roman world, it was virtuous to show mildness to one’s own people and harshness to one’s enemies.
In the Gospel of Matthew 11:29, Jesus is depicted as “gentle and humble.” His meekness was not a condescending softness by which the demands of God were lowered. Jesus showed meekness when He dealt compassionately and gently with sinners, but without any way minimizing their sin. It is in the light of the meekness of Christ that Apostle Paul makes his appeal.
The word translated gentleness (epieikeia) means basically “suitable” or “fitting,” and when used in a moral sense, ‘reasonable’ or ‘fair.’ Applied to rulers it denotes kindness, equity, and leniency (cf. Acts 24:4). When Paul established the church at Corinth, his purpose was to exalt Christ and not himself.
Can this be said of you today? What role does Christ play in your life? What role does He play in your ministry? When the false teachers who have invaded the church at Corinth accused Paul, he appealed to the humility and gentleness of Christ.
Their accusation was that Paul was bold when he wrote them his letters, but he was timid when present with them. Therefore, they concluded that Paul was walking in the flesh or acting from a human standpoint. These false teachers were overbearing in their attitudes and the people loved them (2 Cor. 11:30).
The false teachers were authoritarian in their service, but Paul was humble and gentle. The truth is that Christians grow the way they were born. “If they are born in an atmosphere of dictatorial leadership, they grow up depending on man’s wisdom and strength” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Encouraged, 109).
However, if they were born in an atmosphere of humility and love, they learn to depend on the Lord. Therefore, in their accusation of Paul, the detractors and false prophets who have hijacked the Corinthian church were revealing their true nature or character.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to trust the Savior, not the servant. He wanted them to trust the Master, not the messenger. He wanted them to trust the Lord and not the laborer.
Therefore, Paul intentionally or deliberately played down his authority. The Corinthians were ignorant despite what Paul had taught them. They failed to realize that genuine spirituality is demonstrated in meekness and gentleness, not in pride and showmanship.
Paul’s attitude in these verses has disarmed his accusers and opponents. Do you realize that the strategy of the devil is to destroy the church from within if he could not destroy it from the outside? Therefore, he sows the seed of discord, disharmony, and dissension among the Body of Christ from within. Therefore, Christians should be concerned about many splits in the local church.
I can guarantee you that if a church is split into three or four congregations, the motive of some of the leaders of the splinter churches is not Christlike. Some of them stem from ill-motives, inordinate ambitions, and bad intentions.
This is exactly what was going on in the church at Corinth. What is disheartening is that in such cases the accusers or dissenters are few in numbers. However, they use their influence to destroy the beauty of the Body of Christ. Therefore, in these two verses, Paul has exposed the opponents for who they really are.
Paul was saying if you consider me as a “weakling” then so was Jesus Christ; for Jesus displayed “meekness and gentleness” (Matt. 11:29). However, when you read the Gospels you quickly notice or observe that Jesus was no weakling. He could be strict and angry when the occasion demanded it (Matt. 15:1-2; 23:13-33; John 2:13-16).
Paul was warning them in a loving manner, “Please, do not force my hand to come and demonstrate how bold I can be.” The enemies were accusing Paul so that he would lose his cool and come and do something dramatic or drastic so they can tell the Corinthians, “we told you so.”
That is the work of the devil. The devil uses carnal believers to do his dirty work for him in churches. Therefore, believers should be vigilant, for we are not ignorant of the devices of Satan and his demons. Do not become a tool in the hands of Satan to destroy the work of Christ.
When a false accusation is present in a local church, it a sign that Satan is at work in the church. However, when a congregation gathers and lift the pastoral team in a prayer of intercession, it indicates the Spirit of God is present. Let the church be known for its intercessory prayers and not for accusations of the spiritual leadership.
II. THE ANSWER FROM THE APOSTLE (VV. 3-6)
The answer that the Apostle Paul provides reveals what Spiritual Warfare is all about in the local church. Because the Corinthians led by the false teachers judged Paul’s ministry based on outward appearances, they completely missed the power of God that was there.
They were judging things according to the flesh (v. 2) and not according to the Spirit. The false teachers of Corinth like some religious personalities today impressed the people with their overpowering abilities and their oratorical skills and their commendations from church leaders.
Paul, however, took a different approach; for though he was as human as anyone else, he did not depend on the human, but on the divine power, the spiritual weapons provided by the Lord Jesus Christ. This warfare was not according to the flesh, because Paul was not fighting against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:10ff). You cannot fight spiritual battle with carnal weapons. You cannot combat spiritual warfare with human weapons.
The word warfare (strateia) in verse 4 means, “expedition,” “campaign.” Paul was not fighting a little skirmish in Corinth; the attack of the enemy there was a part of a satanic campaign. The powers of hell are still trying to destroy the work of God (Matt. 16:18).
The powers of hell are trying to destroy the work of God from the outside and from the inside. Therefore, do not become a weapon or a tool of the adversary to destroy the church. Do not yield any ground to the enemy. Has your church yielded ground to the enemy’s assault? Has your church become a gossip headquarters?
Do you spend most of your time maligning or disparaging your pastor? When was the last time you prayed for your pastor and the pastoral team? There are strongholds in the minds of people that should be dismantled like the walls of Jericho. The word is (achuroma), which means “stronghold or fortress.” In the papyri, the word also means “prison.”
Paul may have had Proverbs 21:22 in mind. What are these mental walls that must be destroyed? They are human reasonings that are opposed to the truth of God’s word. When the way to reason and act are contrary to the truth of God’s word then you have a mental stronghold.
That means the way you reason and act are in direct conflict with the truth of God. Another wall that should be dismantled is the pride of intelligence that exalts itself. When pride rears its ugly head in the life of a believer that person is walking on a thin line just like the devil. Paul was not attacking intelligence, but intellectualism.
Intellectualism is the high-minded attitude that makes some people think they know more than they really do (Rom. Rom 12:16). Paul had faced this “wisdom of men” when he initially began the church (1 Cor. 1:18ff) and it has resurfaced at the intrusion of these false teachers (Judaizers).
The truth is that Paul’s attitude of humility was one of his strongest weapons, for pride plays right into the hands of Satan. Pride originated from him. Watch out for pride in your life. Let others discern whether you are walking in humility or you are inflated with pride. For pride goes before a fall and a fall before destruction.
The meek Son of God had far more power than Caesar and Pilate put together during His early ministry. Where is Caesar today? Where is Pilate? They are almost forgotten but the name of Jesus can even be found in the lips of children today. His kingdom is spreading like wildfire, but the kingdom of Caesar is an ancient history.
Paul used spiritual weapons to tear down the opposition marshaled against him. He used spiritual weapons to destroy the stronghold of opposition that came at him from any level. Some of these spiritual weapons are prayer, the Word of God, love, fasting, and the power of the Holy Spirit working in the life of the believer.
The Apostle Paul did not depend on personality, human abilities, or even his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, he was ready to punish the offenders, if necessary, once the congregation has submitted to the Lord.
Many Christians today do not realize that the church is involved in spiritual warfare. Those who do understand that the church is amid spiritual warfare sometimes do not know how to fight the battle.
They try to use human methods to defeat demonic forces, and these strategies are doomed to fail. When Joshua and his army marched around the walls of Jericho, the people of Jericho might have said or thought to themselves, these people are crazy.
They might have concluded that Joshua and his army were insane or had lost their minds. However, when the army trusted the instructions of God and did as they were told at the seventh time, the walls of Jericho came crashing down.
They brought down the high walls and conquered the enemy (Joshua 6:1-20). Upon what stronghold are you relying? Upon what fortress are you leaning? The people of Jericho thought that their walls were impregnable until they were destroyed not by human weapons but the weapons of God.
As I wrap up this message I would like to share my insight in combating spiritual warfare with you. First, you must know who you are in Christ (identity). Second, you should know your position in Christ, and third, you should know your authority in Christ. These are crucial.
Finally, you must know the word of God, be filled with the Holy Spirit, pray in the Spirit (I am not talking about speaking in tongues here), and put on the complete armor of God. With these weapons, you can wage victorious warfare against the adversary with his cohorts and help others find freedom in Christ.