INTRODUCTION: The Corinthian Text: Verse 3.---“For though we walk in the flesh.” Paul does not disclaim the possession of human infirmities, but maintains that such trials and temptations were not the guiding force of his life. “We do not war after the flesh.” His Campaigns (Luke 3:14) were fought with spiritual weapons. The metaphor is a constant one with Paul (chap. 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Ephesians 6:10-17), etc.
Verse 4.---“Weapons,” see 6:7; (Romans 6:13). “Not carnal.” He did not rely on the mere “arm of flesh,” or earthly sword or panoply. “Mighty through God;” literally, powerful for God; i.e. either (1) powerful for the cause of God, or (2) powerful in His estimate. “To the pulling down of strongholds.” The word for “pulling down,” which implies the entire clearance of an obstacle, is only found in the New Testmant in this epistle (verses 4, 8; chap. 13:10). The word for “strongholds” is found here alone. These “fortresses” were the opposition aroused by facetious and hostile partisans, and he hoped to subdue them by strong apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 4:21; 5:1-5).
Verse 5.--- “Casting down.” This agrees with “we” understood, not with “weapons.” “Imaginations;” [possibly, disputations, or reasonings, emphasis, mine, MLH.] “Every high thing that exalteth itself;” [or, every heighth that is exalted.] “Against the knowledge of God” (see 1 Corinthians 15:34). There, however, we have a passive ignorance, here active opposition. “Bringing into captivity.” When the fortresses are razed, their defenders will be taken prisoners, but for a beneficent end. “Every thought.” Even intellectual result. The word (noema) is not common in the New Testament. It occurs five times in this epistle (chap. 2:11;3:14; 4:4; 10:5; 11:3), but elsewhere only in (Philippians 4:7).1 The Ephesian Text: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quinch all the firey darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17).
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5) ---The true soldiership. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh,” etc. The passage leads us to notice the weapons and victories of a true soldiership.
I. THE WEAPONS OF TRUE SOLDIERSHIP. The apostle states two things concerning these weapons. 1. They are not carnal. The word “carnal” here may be regarded as standing in contradiction to three things. (1) To miraculous agency. Miracles, though employed at first, are not the regular weapons by which Christianity fights her battles. (2) To all coercive instrumentality. The civil magistrate now for fifteen centuries has sought by exactions and penalties to force Christianity upon the consciences of men. Such weapons disgrace and misrepresent it.
(3) To all crafty inventions. In nothing, perhaps, has the craftiness of men appeared more than in the connection with the profession of extending Christianity. What are the tricks of rhetoric, the assumption of priests, and the clap-trap of sects but craft? 2. Though not carnal, they are mighty. “Mighty through God.” (1) They are mighty through God because they are his productions. Gospel truths, the weapons of which the apostle speaks, are God’s ideas, and those ideas are mighty---mighty with truth and love. (2) They are mighty through God because they are his instruments. God goes with his ideas and works with them.
II. THE VICTORIES OF TRUE SOLDIERSHIP: What are the victories? 1. They are mental. Paul is speaking about imaginations, and things pertaining to mind. They are not over body. There is not any glory in destroying the bodily life of man. The lion and bear, the poisonous gust of air, will excel man in this. The victories of a true soldiership are over mind. And indeed you do not conquer the man, unless you conquer his mind. 2. They are corrective. These victories do not involve the destruction of the mind nor any of its native faculties, but certain evils that pertain to it. What are they? (1) The evil fortifications of the mind. “The pulling down of strongholds.” What are they? Prejudices, worldly maxims, associations, passions, habits; behind these strongholds the mind entrenches itself against God.
(2) The corrupt thinking of the mind. “Casting down imaginations.” The word “thinking” comprehends this, for the faculty which we call imagination thinks as well as the intellect. It is against evil thinkings, therefore. (3) The antithestic impulses of the mind. “And every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” Every feeling and passion that rises against God. These are the victories of true soldiership. (4.) They are Christian. They “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Thought is everything to man, [from God’s vantage point, because, in reality, man is what he thinks, moreover, man is the sum-total of his thoughts, he never rises any higher than his thoughts, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7); emphasis, mine, MLH]! Now the work of a true soldier is to bring this fontal force into entire subjection to Christ. 2
III. EPHESIANS 6: Verse 10---The secret of spiritual strength. This strength is needed under all the burdens, in all the conflicts and temptations of life, beneath its sorrows and its cares---strength of heart, strength of purpose, strength of will. ”BE STRONG.” This is a strange command, just as it would be for a physician to say to a weak man, “Be strong.” It is like the command, “Rejoice in the Lord;” but it seems more difficult by any volition of our own to add to our strength than to add to our joy. Yet as we can do much to regulate our emotions by determining which set of thoughts shall engage us, we can equally provide for an increase in our strength by a direct recourse to the secret and source of it. Our obedience to this command stands on the same footing as our obedience to God’s other commandments; and if we continue to be weak, it is more than our misfortune, it is our fault. But there is nothing strange when we consider the secret of the origin of this strength. We are conscious of a sense of feebleness, of heartlessness, of hopelessness which of itself goes far to disqualify us for duty, and gives us up an easy prey to the adversary of souls. It is to meet this want that God reveals himself to us as the great giver of strength. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7, 8).
”BE STRONG IN THE LORD, AND IN THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT.” The strength poured into us is strength in Christ, springing out of a realizing apprehension of the continued presence, love, and help of the Redeemer. “My strength shall be made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9c). A fly is able to walk upon the ceiling of a room. The cause is to be found in the vacuum in its webbed foot caused by its very weight, and it is thus enabled to hold on by the smooth surface of the ceiling. So our safety lies likewise in our emptiness. The soldier fights with greater confidence when he is led by a general who has been always successful! Wellington calculated the presence of Bonaparte at the head of an army as equal to a hundred thousand additional bayonets. Thus we understand the invincibility of the French army under his leadership. Thus the Christian fights with greater resolution because Christ is the captain of his salvation!!
“THE COMMAND IMPLIES A CONTINUED DEPENDENCE UPON THE LORD.” The strength is not given at ounce and in full measure, but according to the desire, the capacity, the faith, the need, the duty, the trial. Our lowest powers, those of the body, we get by growth, and they grow by exercise. Such is the law of our physical childhood, and no other is the law of our spiritual being. The sense of weakness obliges us to repair every day afresh to him for fresh supplies! “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:29).
IV. EPHESIANS 6: Verses 11, 12---The Divine panoply; its necessity and design. Christians have a spiritual warfare on earth, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). They have to fight for God "…Because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord…" (1 Samuel 25:28c) For truth (Jude 3), and for themselves (Revelation 3:11).
THE DIVINE ARMOR. It is so called because God provides each individual part of it. It is armor for offence as well as defence---forged on no earthly anvil and tempered by no human skill. The armor of Rome---celibacy, poverty, obedience, asceticism---is for flight, not for conflict. This Divine armor we are not required to provide, but merely to put on, and its efficacy depends entirely upon the power of him who made it. Consider this, "But let us who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalalonians 5:8).
ITS PURPOSE. "That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." The great enemy of the church is the devil, a superhuman tempter older than man. This language implies (1) The personal existence of Satan; (2) his possession of immence resources of cunning and craft; (3) His power to inject evil into the minds of the saints; (4) his great end to destroy the souls of men and the whole moral order of the world; (5) the possibility of resisting his wiles in the strength of the Divine armor. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
ITS NECESSITY. The Divine equipment is indispensable in view of the serried ranks of evil which are leagued against us under the leadership of Satan. Our conflict is not with feeble man. It is with fallen spirits. The language of the apostle implies (1) that these spirits have a hierarchy of their own of different orders; (2) that their malignant activity is exercised in the world of men under a reign of darkness;) (3) that their moral character is wickedness; (4) and that, as Satan is the prince of the power of the air, they seem to have their abode or the scene of their activity in the atmosphere that surrounds our earth.
We need, therefore, to be strong and valiant in this warfare, (1) because we are fighting for our life; (2) because, though our enemies be strong, our Captain is stronger still; (3) because nothing but cowardice can lose the victory "Submit yourselves, therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7); (4) because, if we conquer, we shall ride triumphantly into heaven "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto them also that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).
V. EPHESIANS Verses 14-17---The Divine panoply in its separate parts. The spiritual equipment of the Christian is here described in detail---the belt, the breastplate, the sandals, the shield, the helmet, and the sword.
TRUTH IS THE BELT, AS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE BREASTPLATE. "Having your loins girt about with truth." As the belt or girdle kept the armor in its proper place, giving strength and buoyancy of action, so truth acts in relation to righteousness, faith, and peace. If truth were wanting, there cold be none of these things, and nothing Christ-like or noble. The truth here does not mean truth of doctrine [necessarily], emphasis, mine, (MLH), as the word of God is referred to, nor even sincerity in the sense of truthfulness, but the truth subjectively apprehended, that is, the knowledge and belief of the truth! It is the conscious grasp of the truth which gives the Christian boundless confidence in his great conflict with evil. Error as a principle of life, dissolves strength and unnerves for the great fight with sin. Truth is our proper girdle, because we fight for a God of truth. "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2), and against Satan the father of lies (John 8:44). Without it we are spiritless, heartless, and weak.
THE BREASTPLATE. "Having on the breastplate of righteousness." The Roman soldier wore it to protect his heart, the center of physical life. The breastplate of the Christian is called "the righteousness," evidently in allusion to (Isaiah 59:17a) where Jehovah puts on "righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head." It can hardly mean moral rectitude, which, after all, would be a poor guard against the reproaches of conscience or the assaults of Satan This righteousness is that which the apostle Paul desired for himself---"the righteousness of God by faith" (Philippians 3:8, 9). "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
It is emphatically "the righteousness,' so perfect that it satisfied every demand of Law, and is perfectly proof against all assaults from within or from without. Let us not show the bare breast of our righteousness to the tempter, but rather the righteousness of God himself, imputed to us and received by faith [and obedience], emphasis, mine, MLH. This breastplate was purchased by Christ at a dear rate; none are His soldiers who have not put it on; without it, God Himself will fight against you; if you have it, you are sure of ultimate triumph (Romans 8:31, 32), "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
SANDALS. "Having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." The legs of the Roman soldier were covered with greaves, and below these were the sandals, or caligoe. Swiftness of foot was of great consequence in military movements. Christians are to show a readiness, a celerity, an alacrity of movement, in doing God's will. This preparedness is the effect of the gospel of peace which inspires us with severity and courage, and liberates us from those doubts which generate weakness. The unready warrior is liable to sudden and secret attacks. The Christian ought ever to be prepared to advance against the enemy, to obey His great Captain, to fight, to suffer, and to die in the cause of God and truth!"
THE SHIELD. "Above all, taking the shield of faith." The shield covered the whole body, as well as the armor itself. Faith is a shield in the spiritual warfare. It is that faith of which Christ is the Object, at once, "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;" that confidence which defends the understanding from error, the heart from weakness or despair, the will from revolt against Divine command. It is, in a word, "the victory that overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4, 5)
"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that beieveth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Its special service is "to quench all the firey darts of the wicked one." Satan showers his burning arrows upon the soul of the Christian, either in the shape of blasphemous suggestions, or unholy thoughts, or dark despair; but faith makes the soul impenetrable to such destructive missiles, because it falls back upon the Divine Word, and apprehends the mercy of God, the merits of Christ, and the help of the Spirit! "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 Corinthians 10:5).
THE HELMET. "And take the helmet of salvation." The helmet protects the head, the most exposed part of the body, enables the soldier to hold it up without the fear of injury, and to look calmly round upon the enemy's movements. Salvation, and not the mere hope of it "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8), is the helmet that covers the head is our true defense against the devil. It will make you active in all duties, courageous in all conflicts, cheerful in all conditions, and constant to the end of life.
THE SWORD. "And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." The other parts of the armor were defensive; this is both offensive and defensive. 1. The Word of God is a sword, because it pierces like a sword in the heart "For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12), because it pierces through all disguises of error, because it lays bare the "wiles" of the devil. It was wielded by Christ Himself in His great temptation. Ii is still the saint's only weapon of offense. Whether the temptation is to atheism, to impiety, to despair, to unbelief, to covetousness, to pride, to hatred, or to worldliness, the legend, "it is written," stands clearly revealed on the handle of this sword. 2. It is the sword of the Spirit, because He is its Author, its Interpreter, and he who makes effectual to the defeat of all enemies---T.C. 3
1.The Pulpit Commentary, 2 Corinthians, and Ephesians
2.The King James Version of Bible, Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th Improved Edition
3. The American College Dictionary
4. The American Heritage Dictionary
5. The Expanded Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
6. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
7. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
1 The Pulpit Commentary, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, pages 238 & 239, Exposition by F. W. Farrar
2 The Pulpit Commentary, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, pages 241 & 242, Homiletics by David Thomas
3 The Pulpit Commentary, Ephesians 6:10-17, pages 267-269, Homilies by Various Authors, T. Croskery
(E-mail Address: email@example.com) Dear Reader, in the event you find mistakes in this sermon, spelling, scripture references, etc., please feel free to inform me of the same!! Thank you! (MLH).
Marlin L. Harless