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OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST   # 27

Paul Confronts the Enemy in Jesus' Name

2 Corinthians 10: 1-18 (NKJV)

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Río Grande Bible Institute

Introduction

Paul begins the last major section his epistle with his need to face the false prophets who were actively undermining the integrity of his message and person – never an easy task.  We can only infer from the passage (10:1-12:21) who these false "prophets, deceitful workers are . . .And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians (11:13, 14). Paul identifies them openly with Satan, a measure of the serious nature of this section.

Some have conjectured that they may have been those who considered themselves a part of the faction of "Christ" or the super-spiritual party (1 Corinthians 1:12).  In all probability they were a smaller group of judiaizers working from within raising serious questions about Paul's apostleship.  Earlier Paul has shown his tender love for the majority of his converts who have responded well (9:13-14). These deceitful workers, at last, had to be dealt with and now openly. Hence Paul's confrontation on the basis of the Message of the Cross.                                            

Paul's Approach to the Problem with his Message from the Cross,  2 Corinthians 10: 1-6

As Paul so often does, he shows a measure of tenderness and humility but with a touch of iron and irony as he faces the problem "Now I, Paul, myself" a forceful reference to his person but followed by his ironic use of what his detractors have said of him – in presence lowly . . . but being absent am bold toward you." He immediately counters it by rejecting that caricature. He will be bold when he comes shortly to deal with their rebellion. We hear the echo of Paul's earlier disclaimer when accused of duplicity in planning his visit to Corinth: "Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that there should be a Yes, Yes, and No No?" (2  Corinthians 1:17).

Paul grants that they do serve in the mortal body (flesh), but "We do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are no carnal but mighty in God for pulling down  strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (10:4.5).

For Paul this is the essence of spiritual warfare and the ultimate goal is seeing the victory of the Cross realized in this demonic encounter. The enemy is not flesh and blood; in this case, not the false prophets per se as much as their source, Satan and the hosts of evil ranged against God's church and his people. The opposition is rooted in the basic enmity between God and Satan. In fact, God had said to the serpent in the moment of its apparent triumph: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).

Only spiritual weapons engage the enemy. In speaking of strongholds there may be an echo of "A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the trusted stronghold" (Proverbs 21.22). The Christian, whether he knows it or not, is a part of this conflict. All too often we are AWOL. C.S. Lewis is quoted as say: "There is no neutral ground in the cosmos. Every square inch is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan."

Paul rejects out of hand any thought of a ministry in the flesh. In today's scientific and secular world such opposition to the gospel would not be generally attributed to "principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). The fierce anger of the Islamic world and secularism are fostered by Satan himself. But Paul recognizes that the gospel engages the demonic world that can only be encountered and conquered on the basis of the victory of the Cross where Satan was defeated once and for all.

An Overview of Spiritual Warfare from God's Perspective

A primer on spiritual warfare will serve as a backdrop for Paul's confrontation with this specific Corinthian opposition.  From the Garden of Eden, God has set in motion his ultimate triumph through his son at Calvary. The Old Testament fleshes that  plan in historical narrative. John, the apostle, has said clearly: "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the Devil" (1 John 3:8). The writer to the Hebrews echoes that same message: "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14, 15).

Christ himself stated: "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). In the very shadow of the Cross he said: "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out, and I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples unto Myself. This He said, signifying by what death he would die" (John 12:31-33).

Paul draws the only conclusion possible: "Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (Colossians 2:14, 15) Our Lord's last words suffice: "It is finished."

An Overview of Spiritual Warfare from Our Perspective in Union with Christ

Ephesians responds clearly to this question seldom touched on by the present day church. We stand amazed to hear the magnificent Trinitarian doxology of grace with the thrice repeated "to the praise of the glory of his grace" and his choice of us in love from before the foundation of the world. This is all to the end that "we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (1:3-14).  Our assured standing before him in union with his son becomes the basis for Paul's fervent prayer.

The scope of his prayer reveals the divine nature of our standing.  He asks that the spirit of wisdom be given to us to know the hope of our calling and the riches of his grace, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us who believe according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand above all principality and power . . . ‘"and He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head overall things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (1: 15-23). This prayer and our union with Christ grant us a share in his throne room power.

The capstone of our position is confirmed: "Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together, and made us to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (2:5, 6). Ephesians 6:10 concludes with: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."

Paul addresses spiritual warfare as the climax of his epistle by giving the full panoply of the believer's armor, defensive and offensive. "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (6:13). We stand, then, in a victory purchased and made ours by our dying in his death to self (Romans 6:6), to sin (1 Peter 2::24) and the world (Galatians 6:14) and in faith taking our place united to the Conqueror himself (Romans 6:11-14).

Let it be said clearly that our victory is only in the measure in which we rest in His victory. When he died at the Cross, he conquered Satan, but he also dealt once and for all with our sin and our sin nature.  He nailed it to the cross. Our co crucifixion with him grants the Holy Spirit's power so we can wield the weapons of our warfare, not carnal but might in God. 

How often I heard my mentor, Dr. F.J Huegel say: ". . . but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and cast into the sea, it will be done'. And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing you will receive" (Matthew 21: 21, 22).  He often prayed for one in this fashion: "Lord, garrison him about by the victory of the Cross."  In my many frequent times of prayer with him God gave me insight into the power of prayer, grounded in the power of the Cross. 

We wage warfare with the enemy from a position of victory already won. We are encouraged to ask and receive in faith what that victory means in any given situation. Isaiah's promise may seem very bold to us: "Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: Ask of Me of things to come My sons: and concerning the work of my hands, command thou Me. I have made the earth, and created man on it. It was I---My hands that stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded" (Isaiah 45, 11, 12).

Paul's Confrontation of the Problem   2 Corinthians 10: 6-12

With this kind of Biblical authority Paul meets head on their unreasonable charge that his letters are "all bark and no bite." "When I came--and he would come shortly--I will exercise my authority in Christ. My authority is not for destruction but for edification (v 8)". 

Paul does not lower himself to answer their cowardly statement: "His bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible."  That surely was a low blow and could easily have engendered an equally carnal response. In any conflict the believer must guard his tongue and fleshly reactions.

Paul, on the contrary, says we are not in the business of comparing ourselves with ourselves, a fruitless exercise. "We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God has appointed us – a sphere which especially includes you. For we are not extending ourselves beyond our sphere (thus not reaching you), for it was to you that we came with gospel of Christ" (10:13-14). Paul's solid but restrained defense is that Corinth was in God's initial plan as evidenced by his being the apostle who founded the church. As God's chosen instrument he has the right and authority to share the gospel and enforce its righteous demands.

Paul Turns the Attack into the Challenge of the Regions Beyond   2 Corinthians 10: 13-16

In true Christ like fashion Paul serenely responds to their innuendo that his goal is to preach Christ in the regions beyond and not to measure his success by carnal means. As always Paul turns the carnal approach into an opportunity to honor his Lord. He will wage his warfare from  his throne room seated in heavenly places in Christ.  What a lesson for the Christian worker to  allow God to be the defense of his calling in step with the ultimate good, God's glory!

Paul is not troubled by such carnal charges but rather keeps his full focus on God's approval. Let others say what they will! His final charge is masterful: But "He who glories let him glory in the LORD" ( Jeremiah 9:24). For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends" (10:17,18).

Paul's handles the essence of the satanic attack by not stooping to their level of boastful comparisons. Rather as he began with a measure of humility and restraint yet with the firmness of the strength of the Truth, the triumph of the Cross that humbles man and truly glorifies God.

Yours in the Message of the Cross,

Gordon E. Johnson

Gejohnson1928@gmail.com    www.kneillfoster.com  I welcome comments and correspondence