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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Those serving in God's army wage war in God's way
Text:2 Corinthians 10:1-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Maintaining the Antithesis
 
Preached:2010
Added:2010-06-25
Updated:2010-06-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 59
Psalm 119:40 (after the law)
Psalm 2
Psalm 20
Psalm 79:5

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5
Text: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

 

It was a time of war.  The opposing forces were lined up against one another across a valley.  On the one hill was the Philistine army, on the other the Israelites.  It’s a familiar story.  You know of Goliath and how he would come out and taunt the Israelites.  Actually, in the process, he was also mocking their God.  The young shepherd boy goes out in faith with only a sling-shot.  Through God’s providential guidance, David had precise aim and that one little stone sunk into Goliath’s frontal lobe and he collapsed face-first to the ground.  Goliath and the Philistines were finished, done with their mocking of God and his people.  One little stone was mighty in God’s hand to fell all these mockers.  God’s cause triumphed through someone weak – a boy, and through something silly and pathetic -- his shepherd’s sling-shot.

 

Flash-forward some centuries now to a little slice of land between the Peloponnesian peninsula and mainland Greece.  There we find the city of Corinth, a port city.  As a port city, it was a rough and tumble place.  It went through at least two incarnations.  In its first it had a reputation as being a sort of ancient Las Vegas.  “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth.”  In its second incarnation, during the days of Paul, it wasn’t much better.  This was not the sort of place where a devout Christian family would go for a nice relaxing vacation.  And the overwhelming immorality spilled over among those in that city who called themselves Christians. 

 

When the gospel came to Corinth, opportunists soon followed.  They saw an opportunity to advance their own name and reputation and to make a few bucks.  They were men who had the appearance of spirituality, but their “gospel” was something different than what Paul and the other apostles had preached.  In fact, they mocked Paul and the true gospel message with which he’d been entrusted by Christ.  Just as Goliath was really mocking God, so also with these false teachers.  Perhaps you’ve heard how big Saul became little Paul.  Soon after his conversion, Saul of Tarsus became known as Paul.  And you’ll recall that Paul literally means, “little man.”  From a worldly perspective, that’s exactly what he was.  He wasn’t impressive in his approach or in his speaking style.  He was a nobody when compared with the great philosophers and speakers of his day.  His message of a crucified Jesus – well, that too just isn’t all that impressive, in fact, it’s rather pathetic from a human point of view.  “We’re going to take a naked man on a cross seriously?”  As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:22, Jews found the cross a stumbling block and the Greeks found it to be foolish.  So, they mocked Paul and they scorned his preaching, and they cut down his message.  That’s the background to this passage we’re looking at this morning.

 

There’s a lot of overlap between Paul’s day and ours.  Today too, the gospel has no credibility in the world.  The world thinks we’re fools for sitting here twice every Sunday to listen to one man speaking to us at length.  Faith is okay, after all it is “a personal thing,” but keep it there, on the sidelines.  They might not say it, but many in the world think of Christians as idiots:  “You losers should learn to think for yourself and do your own thing.  You’ve got to live for happiness within yourself.”  And they might present all sorts of arguments to try and make you see it that way.

 

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like war, but it is.  It always has been.  There has been a constant struggle since the fall into sin between the children of Seth and those of Cain.  Or as the church father Augustine framed it, between the city of God and the city of men.  It was a struggle in David’s day, it was in Paul’s day, it is in our day, and it will be a continual war until the day our Saviour returns.  The question is:  how do we wage this war?  All of us have been drafted into God’s army.  We’re all Christian soldiers, enlisted for the holy war of God.  This passage reveals how this war is to be fought.  So I preach God’s Word with this theme:


Those serving in God’s army wage war in God’s way

 

Paul is a general in this army and we’ll consider his:

 

1.      Appeal

2.      Artillery

3.      Aim

 

Chapter 10 begins a completely new section in 2 Corinthians.  Prior to this, Paul had been encouraging generosity among the Corinthians.  But here with chapter 10, there’s a sudden shift.  Paul turns here to the problem of these false teachers, these people whom he later calls the “super-apostles.”  There were the apostles appointed by Christ, and then there were these so-called super-apostles, men who had no commission from Christ and who were false teachers, seeking to lead the Corinthians astray with a false gospel.

 

The super-apostles had various ways to undermine Paul’s ministry and his message.  One of their strategies was to draw a contrast between the way Paul was in person and the way he was on paper.  They said that he was bold in his writing, but when he showed up, he was a 90 pound coward.  In person he was “timid,” which means that they looked at him as being weak and basically what people would today call a loser. 

 

Being up against that, Paul issued his appeal to the Corinthian believers.  He emphatically called out to them in an effort to draw them away from the enemy, to get them on the right side of the war, the safe side.  He pleads with them “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”  Those words are crucial here.  “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ” speaks of the Saviour’s way with those who are his through faith.  Our Lord Jesus could be harsh when it was necessary.  The classic example is his holy rage when he cleaned out the temple.  There are other examples too.  But Scripture also vividly portrays the meekness and gentleness of Christ with his disciples.   He calls them friends and has boatloads of patience with them.  You can think of how he interacts with Peter in John 21.  Peter denied him three times.  And yet we see our Lord Jesus gently and kindly restoring him, reassuring him.  That’s how our Saviour is with his people, also with us. 

 

Paul is working out of that in at least two ways.  The first way is his union with that Saviour.  If the Lord Jesus is meek and gentle with his people, then also Paul who is in Christ, who has union with him, we would expect the same from him.  Paul is a member of the meek and gentle Christ. 

 

And secondly, he’s also his ambassador.  Paul represents Christ before the Corinthians.  Christ’s manner of dealing with his people has to be reflected in the way the ambassador or representative deals with those people.  Sometimes little children in the church will spend some years thinking that the minister is God.  After all, we go to God’s house, and we listen to God’s Word.  Therefore, the minister must be God.  It seems like a logical conclusion to a four or five or six year old.  The logic is impeccable, but the little brother or sister doesn’t get the idea of ambassadorship or what it means to be a minister, a representative of God or of Christ.  But imagine what that little one would think with a minister who was harsh and demeaning, a minister who was cruel and demanding, a minister who was always angry.  They would soon think that this is God.  Paul is an ambassador of Christ, and therefore his manner reflects that of Christ.  Loved ones, in some sense we’re all ambassadors for him.  Certainly, through faith we all have union with him.  The meekness and gentleness of our Saviour should be evident in our lives too, particularly when we’re relating to God’s people. 

 

Paul’s meek and gentle appeal is that he wouldn’t have to deal with the Corinthian congregation the way that he’s going to deal with the “super-apostles,” the false teachers.  They made much out of the fact that this apostle of Jesus Christ was quite ordinary and mundane.  Outwardly there was nothing special about him.  As he said in 1 Corinthians 2, he didn’t have persuasive words of human wisdom.  He lacked in credibility and so did his gospel.  Paul says in verse 2 that when he comes to Corinth in person, he’s going to challenge these people boldly.  He’s going to deal with them the way the Lord Jesus dealt with the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders.  It’s going to be a no-holds barred throw-down.  He’s going to take them to the mat and school them.  Verse 6 also speaks of this when it says that every act of disobedience is going to be punished.  Now the appeal is to stay out of the way, so that they don’t get caught in the cross-fire.  The appeal is for the Corinthian congregation to take the right side, take the side of the gospel in the battle that’s about to come.  Things are not going to work out nicely if you either take the side of the “super-apostles,” or try to take some position of neutrality.  There is no neutrality in this war. 

 

In verse 3, Paul speaks of the manner in which this war is waged and that leads into the weapons of this warfare, the artillery if you will.  He says that we live in the world.  In his day, Paul spoke Greek like everyone else.  Paul was a tent-maker by trade, and he made his tents just like the man down the street who wasn’t a Christian.  Yes, he made those tents for the glory of God, but his stitching technique wouldn’t have been different because he was a Christian.  His materials were the same, and so on.  Paul was Jewish so perhaps he didn’t eat pork and other unclean foods just out of custom, but otherwise he probably ate the same food as everybody else.  “We live in the world.”  Paul did and so do we.  In quite a number of ways, we are the same as those around us.  We’re Canadians like everybody else.  But yet, for Paul and for us there is a difference.  A big difference.  Because we’re cognizant of the spiritual aspect of the world in which we live.  And brothers and sisters we know that that aspect has a profound bearing on everything else.  And there’s a radical antithesis, an opposition between unbelief and belief.  There is a holy war. 

 

The world has its own way of waging this war, its own weapons and tactics.  Think of those “super-apostles” again in Corinth.  What kind of weapons did they have?  They had power and prestige.  They claimed to have grandiose visions and spiritual experiences.  They were famous for their speaking abilities and powers of persuasion.  We could well imagine them as the unrighteous of Psalm 73.  They’re trim and good-looking, they never have any problems, things are always on the up and up.  They’re on the front cover of People magazine and they’ve got an Oprah-like message that will tickle your ears and massage your self-esteem.  They’ve got something for everybody.  For the person who works 10 hour days at physical labour they’ve got a message that connects.  You’ve worked hard, you deserve this.  For the person who likes philosophy and deeper thinking, they’ve got something that will engage your mind.  The details will vary, but it all comes down to the same weapon that the evil one has used from the beginning:  the lie.  The father of lies deceptively disguised himself as a snake and came to Eve with a whopper:  you shall be like God.  “Come on Eve, break free from God, he just wants to spoil your fun.  You won’t surely die.  God is the liar here, not me.”  Eve bought it, Adam bought it, and so we’ve been in a world of lies ever since, and the deceitfulness of sin has tripped us up too.  In the great holy war, the lie is the basic weapon, the M-16 of the city of men.  Every other weapon has been developed from this one basic instrument of death and destruction: the lie.                  

             

Our weapons are different, says Paul.  They’re not the weapons of the world.  They’re completely different.  It’s tempting at this point to jump to Ephesians 6 and it’s description of the Christian soldier and his armour.  In some ways that would be a good move.  There is a logical connection between these two passages in that both of speak of the life of a Christian in military terms.  However, there is a difference.  Ephesians 6 describes the Christian life in terms of what we would call an infantry man, a foot soldier.  He’s the basic front-line fighter.  However, 2 Corinthians 10 speaks in terms of artillery, the big guns used against enemy positions.  In the Roman world, artillery took the form of catapults.  Those were the Roman artillery, used especially against fortifications.  But then what is the divine artillery?  What has God given to his army in terms of big guns?  If the enemy’s weapon here is the lie and the various forms it takes, then our artillery, our howitzer has to be the truth.  The Lord Jesus told us in John 17:17 that God’s Word is that truth.  Similarly, Ephesians 6 tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.  It is the only offensive weapon that Christians have.  In Ephesians 6, it is the weapon of the foot soldier, suitable for personal combat.  Here in 2 Corinthians 10, it is the artillery of the Christian army, used for attacking and destroying enemy fortifications.

 

I almost became an artillery officer in the Canadian Forces.  As part of the application process, I spent an evening at the offices of an artillery unit at CFB Edmonton.  They wanted me to understand what I was getting myself into.  It was clear that being in the artillery takes two things:  a willingness to sacrifice your hearing, and a commitment to practice.  Like other military units, artillerymen have to practice, practice, practice to be proficient and deadly with their weapons.  So, it is with us too.  There’s no way that we can be effective in God’s army when we neglect his truth, his Word.  It’s something with which we need to be busy, constantly.          

 

This weapon, the truth, the Word of God, is overwhelmingly powerful.  Those who oppose the gospel don’t see it.  It’s like a stealth weapon – you can’t see it and how powerful it is.  But it is powerful and it has been proven through the history of the church to be so.  Slowly, steadily this weapon hammers away at strongholds and demolishes them, takes them apart.  This is a weapon that is the divine equivalent of nuclear firepower. 

 

What are those strongholds, these strong fortifications that this divine artillery demolishes?  Paul describes them in verse 5 as being “arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.”  “Arguments” can be intellectually sophisticated things.  So can these “pretensions” that Paul writes about.  Unbelief comes with all kinds of philosophies and worldviews which are opposed to the truth of God.  From postmodernism to relativism to materialism and all sorts of other –isms, it’s all about the lie again.  Same thing when it comes to other religions and even to various corruptions of the Christian faith.  The divine artillery has power to smash and demolish these, to bring them all to nothing. 

 

But these arguments and pretensions can also be things that are not so intellectually sophisticated.  Narcissism isn’t that sophisticated, but it’s very popular, even among people who claim to be Christians.  Narcissism is just an obsession with yourself.  It’s everywhere and it’s encouraged.  Some time ago there was a documentary about the millennial generation and its narcissistic ways, brought on by a style of parenting called hyper-parenting.  It’s produced narcissistic young people, who think that the world revolves around them and they’re entitled to everything.   The expression “paying your dues” means nothing to them.  They can’t hold a job for long periods of time, and their parents even call up their employers when they get a poor performance review.  Narcissism is an infectious and unsophisticated pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  It too is a child of the lie.  The divine artillery needs to be aimed at narcissism and when it is, narcissism will fall.

 

That is the aim in this holy war.  It was the aim of Paul and it has to be the aim of everyone in God’s army.  Our aim is to see the strongholds fall.  To see the enemy defeated.  To see one and all in submission to Christ and his Lordship.  That’s what Paul is referring at the end of verse 5 when he says that “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  That’s the aim. 

 

That aim has two directions.  The one has to do with those on the other side of this holy war.  Our prayer is that those who are opposed to the gospel would come over to our side and serve Christ.  To accomplish that, we use the weapon of divine truth.  We speak of humanity’s sinfulness and its problem with a holy and just God who will judge.  We speak of the divine solution in Jesus Christ, the perfectly righteous Saviour through whom we can be right with God.  We demonstrate how the truth of God stands over against every lie.  We testify with Paul that is in God that we live and move and have our being.  Unless the Bible is true, nothing is true.  Here we’re speaking about apologetics and our calling to defend and promote the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Christian faith and worldview.  That calling comes explicitly in passages like 1 Peter 3:15, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”  That’s the one direction.


The other has to do with those who are sometimes traitors in the holy war.  That would be me.  It’s fair to say that it would also be you.  In principle and in public, we all claim to be Christians, but in private we can be as unbelieving as the next person.  That’s why the Holy Spirit here speaks about “every thought.”  Words are easy, actions can be easy too (though not always), but it’s the world of thoughts where we really live.  One way in public, another way in our private thoughts.  We put on a good show.  It happens with all of us.  And before long, it does have a bearing on the way we live.  One commentator said it well:  “We are to be transformed, not by improving our public life, but by renewing our mind.”  How does that happen?  How do achieve that aim of taking our thoughts captive, making them obedient to Christ?  On one level, the answer is simple and I think you know what I’m going to say.  It’s through the Word.  The Bible is everything when it comes to how our lives are to be transformed from the inside out.  God works his transformation in us through Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s not difficult to understand, but it can be challenging to implement.

 

The most basic way to implement it is through regular church attendance.  Sitting under the regular preaching of the Word is a means that God uses to grow us in grace and knowledge.  It should never be taken for granted.  Showing up at church isn’t enough.  Warming a pew by itself doesn’t stimulate spiritual growth.  It’s being engaged with the Word, taking it in, embracing it in faith, looking to Christ, hearing his voice, trusting him, and following him.

 

Of course, the Word also has to feature elsewhere in our lives.  Taking every thought captive to Christ will take place as we embrace his Word every single day, both in our families and in our personal lives.  Loved ones, let me remind you again to be busy with Scripture every day.  We have busy lives, true enough, but remember that saying, “beware of the barrenness of busyness.”  We can be so busy with things that matter little for eternity that we neglect those things which matter much.  If you would never let your flower beds and garden get overgrown with weeds, why are you allowing your spiritual life to be choked with weeds?  Taking every thought captive to Christ can’t happen without the Word of Christ.                                                            

 

Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.  Continue to be committed to your Saviour and look to him in faith, resting and trusting in him alone.  Rely on his Word of truth alone, as you do battle with your remaining sin and as you face a hostile and unbelieving world.  We’re in a war.  Through Christ victory is assured.  V-Day is coming, and when it does, let’s all be there to celebrate and to glorify our commander-in-chief.  AMEN. 

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father,

 

The battle that we face is a tough one.  We have enemies outside and within.  Father, if left to our own resources, we couldn’t do it.  We rely entirely on you and your resources for this holy war.  We praise you for our Lord Jesus who gives us his Spirit and his Word.  We thank you for the nuclear firepower of your Word and for the might of your Spirit.  We pray that you would use as your soldiers, as your artillery men in this great war.  Father, please use us to further your cause in this world, for your glory.  Help us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, both in our lives and in the lives of others. 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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