Several weeks ago, I sent out an email to everyone, requesting that you send me arguments and perceptions that you have encountered from people who are part of the mainstream and/or “prophetic” church. “Spiritual Warfare” was mentioned quite frequently, so I thought I would address that first. I probably will have to do several posts to cover this topic, but we have to start somewhere, right? So, let’s discuss the “weapons of our warfare”!
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [are] not 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, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
Let’s take a look at these verses in context for a moment.
Prior to this verse (and after), Paul is speaking about people who were belittling his ministry. In verse 10, Paul recites what he heard was being said about him.
“For [his] letters,” they say, “[are] weighty and powerful, but [his] bodily presence [is] weak, and [his] speech contemptible.”
Paul knew that if/when he came back to Corinth, it would be time to put his detractors back in their place.
Now, many people like to apply this verse to spiritual warfare, but contextually it just doesn’t apply.
The Wrong Way
When addressing troubles or conflicts in their life, one can expect hear “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds!!!” … and it ends right there!
I’ve heard this verse recited with PASSION and VOLUME in the middle of warfare prayer sessions in some sort of attempt to ward of evil spirits.
Paul did not write these verses to be used in some sort of spiritual warfare prayer. Let’s take a closer look.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.”
Paul was not going to come back to Corinth and hack someone’s ear off like Peter did. He knew that the wrath of man did not accomplish God’s purposes (James 1:20).
“For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,”
Paul knew that these uncarnal (spiritual) weapons were used to pull down strongholds. Let’s see what kind of strongholds that Paul was talking about.
“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God”
OK, so we have (1) arguments … we know that people were speaking against his ministry (both his preaching style and general demeanor). That was an argument that needed cast down.
Next we have (2) “high thing(s)”. In Greek, the word is “hypsoma” [G5313], which is an elevated structure that “exalts itself”. The Greek for “that exalts itself” is actually one word, “epairo” [G1869] means “to lift oneself up in pride”.
Could this “high thing” ever refer to demonic principalities? Perhaps, but it’s a bit of a stretch in this case. The entire surrounding chapter talks about men and their prideful stance against Paul’s ministry.
Spiritual warfare just doesn’t enter the picture.
What is the end result of the use of spiritual weapons?
“bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”
The Greek for “thought”, in this case, is “noema” [G3540], which means:
- mental perception
- an evil purpose
- that which thinks, the mind, thoughts or purposes
So you see here that the conventional definition of “thoughts” is only a minor piece of the definition. Rather, the thoughts that are being addressed are the evil purposes of those coming against Paul’s ministry, the perceptions of his accusers, and the perceptions of those hearing the accusations.
Again, spiritual warfare just doesn’t enter the picture.
Paul was going to come and set the record straight with spiritual weapons. What are the spiritual weapons? Well, check out Ephesians 6 and you will get a good idea. I don’t have time to go in to each one (that will be in a later post), but notice that the only offensive weapon in our spiritual armor is the sword?
“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
It amazes me how many people want to separate the Spirit (ruach – breath) from the Word of God! (that’s also a post in-and-of itself!)
Setting the Record Straight
To sum it up, Paul was saying that he really didn’t want to have it out with the naysayers over his ministry, but if they persisted he would come and “punish all disobedience”. With what? The weapons that God had given him, with the “End Goal” of bringing everything into obedience to Christ.
Spiritual Warfare is Real
After reading this, you may (wrongly) assume that I don’t believe in spiritual warfare … nothing can be further from the Truth! I’m completely familiar with, and have participated in spiritual warfare. I’ve felt the blessing of the Holy Spirit when a battle is won, and I’ve found myself picking up the pieces when the battle goes wrong. I just know that so many of the different teachings and fads out there are way off base, and they go unchallenged because people don’t want to read the Word!
One thing I’ve learned for sure. Entering into spiritual warfare with out-of-context scripture snippets and strange unscriptural practices is like confronting an intruder in your house, and yelling “Look at my purple candy cane!!!!!”
It’s foolish, pointless and accomplishes nothing.