Often we confront problems in our individual lives, or in our families, and after we have exhausted all the possibilities in our hunt for a solution, we ask others to pray for us. “Oh,” some might be tempted to think. “Has it come to that?” We must learn to begin where we are sometimes tempted to end.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
Summary of the Text
We walk in the flesh, Paul says. We have bodies. But our warfare is not pursued after the flesh (v. 3). We do not war after the flesh. The reason for this is that our weapons are not carnal (sarkikos, fleshly), but rather are mighty through God in the pulling down of strongholds (v. 4). Empowered by God in this way, our weapons are capable of accomplishing three things. First, they cast down imaginations. Second, they cast down every high thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. And third, our weapons capture every thought in order to make them obedient to Christ (v. 5). They cast down, they cast down, they capture.
A Quick Review
We have learned thus far that our cultural degradation is following the pattern described in the Scriptures, and it is following that pattern exactly. We have refused to honor God as God, and refused to give Him thanks. Therefore, the wrath of God is being exhibited against us. The end result of this is necessarily sodomy in the public square. We have also learned that there is no neutrality in the war between light and darkness. Either one is with Christ or one is against Him. You must either gather or scatter. But one of the devices noted for evading the total claims of Christ was the device of creating a two-tier universe, spiritual and material. We then crown Jesus the Lord of all that is spiritual, and think we have given Him great glory. But this is disobedience, and we come now to see how this skews a right understanding of the text before us this morning.
What is Carnal?
In the grip of unbiblical assumptions, we tend to think that spiritual means ethereal, rather thanequipped and empowered by the Spirit. And we think that unspiritual means physical, instead ofdisobedient to the Spirit. Now there is a divide, right down the middle of human history, but it is not a divide between physical and ethereal. It is the divide between Spirit-empowered obedience and Spirit-resistant disobedience. The divide is ethical. Now test yourself. When Paul says here that our weapons are not carnal, what do we immediately tend to think? We translate this to “not physical” and we retreat further into our gnostic fortress.
But what does the Bible tell us? “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11: 32-34). The point here is not one of shallow triumphalism; we read in the same context of those who were martyred and (in the eyes of some) defeated, and they also lived by faith. They also died very physical deaths. Faith always has an incarnate form.
King David was one of those who, according to this passage, turned the armies of aliens to flight. And he gives the glory to God. “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war,and my fingers to fight” (Ps. 144:1). This means that David’s weapons were not carnal either. He did what he did through faith. Physicality is inescapable—it is not whether, but which. And when you have selected your physical weapon, the question of faith is before you. Will you be carnal or not?
Some Men Trust in Chariots
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Ps. 20:7). The issue is trust—David, who wrote this psalm, did not go out on to the battle field to perform the martial arts equivalent of air guitar. He had material weapons, just as his enemies did. But he had faith in God and they did not.
But because we are so prone to place our trust in the means God has provided (which is idolatry), there are times when God requires an amputation. The rich young ruler is told to give away his wealth (Mk. 10:21)—but his life after doing so would have been just as material as it was before. He was told to give away money, not to evaporate. Jehoshaphat decided to send the choir out in the vanguard of the army (2 Chron. 20:21), but the choir was every bit as physical as the army was.
Remember the Name of the Lord
Now the question before us is not whether we will oppose the current corruption, or whether we will use physical means in order to oppose the advancing politics of Sodom. We are material creatures; we must do so. Our worship here is just as physical as writing our congressman. And moreover, the one to whom we pray is not on the take.
Why do we not throw ourselves into what is called “activism?” Our view is that American Christians are idolatrously addicted to politics—and not as ordinary means which they by faith ask the triune God to bless. Rather, our approach to politics as a secular activity positively excludes the Lord Jesus Christ—and this is normal for most activist Christians. We test for this idolatry by noting how our potent opposition is interpreted by Christians. “But you are doing nothing!” Worship and prayer are treated as though they were the civil equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.
The call is to worship God through Christ. But in order to do this rightly, the Baals must come down first. What might that mean in our modern circumstance? Our modern form of disobedience is the secularist Mammon State. What would happen in a particular community if the public schools had to close because of all the Christians choosing the various forms of Christian education? Right—there would be a very physical confrontation, but it would be for very spiritual reasons.
What would happen if North Korea and Saudi Arabia allowed complete freedom of worship? Anybody could attend church or Bible study as they desired, with no repercussions. With no guns, no armies, no legislation, their regimes would not last a year. They know something that many Christians in the West do not.