Friday, May 29, 2015

The Apostle Paul’s Threefold Ministry of Spiritual Warfare

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretentiousness that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we have real power to punish every act of evil’s disobedience.
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NIV modified)
THE Apostle Paul had more on his hands than invisible powers of evil. The Corinthian churches had ways about them that effused the flesh and the world, not primarily spiritual warfare. Indeed, Paul’s challenge was to fight a threefold sophistry — a spiritual trinity — the spiritual person’s common enemies — evil, three-in-one — with an abundantly more powerful threefold ministry of spiritual warfare.
The World, the Flesh, and Satan are beaten by an approach to war that Paul calls us to in the above passage. The steps are simple. They are ninefold (3 x 3).
1.     We demolish strongholds — which, for Paul, are presented as fraudulence and arrogance, as presented in the flesh. When people are intentionally dishonest to us and are arrogant about it, what do we do? We must find a way to demolish the stronghold of their bitterness by grace — for grace will smash anything through the most powerful thing in all eternity — love. But there are strongholds we need to demolish, in Jesus’ name, that are from the world: habits, greed, addictions, etc. There are also strongholds we must demolish that we can never see; those temptations to sin from Satan. These latter two strongholds are demolished by “taking every though captive…”
2.     We rescue every thought — again, for Paul in his situation, these thoughts were presented as the persecutions against him. Many times in our lives we have had people definitely against us; bullies, people who were envious of us, even people who were afraid of us. That’s why many of us have ended up at the very end of ourselves — broken, confused, and started on a bad road. But we demolish every argument and pretentiousness that sets itself up against the knowledge of God — that is, every good thing — by taking captive the very destructive thoughts we have as a consequence. It’s the same when the enemies of this world and Satan close in; they always close in on our minds. We are courted by the world and we are seduced by the Devil. This is why we are to train our awareness, by the coaching and mentoring — the very wisdom — of those who’ve gone before us; those who got through who will show us how to get through. We need to learn the skills of taking thoughts captive — routinely, promptly, effectively. Others who have learned these skills will teach us if we will fall under their guidance.
3.     We punish evil’s disobedience — Paul had to take issue with the Corinthians, and he was doing so in his letter as it’s recorded for us. Paul was meek in Christ and the Corinthians saw that as weakness. It wasn’t weakness, but humility — the very noblest of virtues. Our concern is to punish not the persons who do evil against us, but to punish the evil behind these persons. We see that the people who do us wrong are motivated by fear or greed or inadequacy. Maybe they are jealous. They think that offending us or even abusing us will make us buckle. And to fight them at their own game would be to not only defeat the purpose, but it would defeat us in their midst. We would certainly buckle. The only way to punish evil’s disobedience against the knowledge of God is to fight the way that evil cannot win — because it cannot understand it. Evil is shrouded in fear and so it cannot conceive of love’s grace. When we trust love as a response to fear or hate or jealousy or slander we trust something that cannot be worn down or defeated. This works whether it’s our flesh we are dealing with — we love ourselves with acceptance. It works whether it’s the world we are dealing with — we love God and the things of God more than the world that competes for our allegiance. It works whether it’s Satan inciting his rage from within us — again, we remind ourselves that the enemy is up to no good. We love ourselves through acceptance. We go gently. And we get alongside others who will help; our mentors, good friends, counsellors, confidants, and coaches.
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A threefold ministry of Spiritual warfare: 1) demolish enemy strongholds; 2) take captive every thought; make it obedient to Christ; and 3) punish evil’s disobedience by unconquerable love.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

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