Read verses 2-6
Q: What is the chief distinction Paul is making between true biblical leaders and false ones?
A: The false walk and operate in the flesh but the true walk and operate in the Spirit. The surest proof of a false leader is operating in the flesh.
Q: How does this directly address the issue of Paul’s standing in their eyes?
A: They thought that because Paul did not employ carnal, earthly methods and exert the power of a strong personality that he was weak.
Q: How does Paul partially substantiate their view of him?
A: He readily admits “we walk in the flesh” – that he has all the weaknesses of the flesh that everyone else has, but “we do not war according to the flesh”. (v.3) The false leaders operate according to worldly ways, the true according to the Spirit.
Q: What are the spiritual weapons which characterize the ministry of a true leader?
A: “…not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for destruction of fortresses”. (v.4) Paul refers to the working of sin to produce an earthly fortress based on pride and rebellion which cannot be overcome by the force of personality but spiritual means. A good illustration is the fall of Jericho.
Q: Who might be a prime biblical example of having to learn the lesson that they could not accomplish God’s work and calling through the flesh and force of their personality, but only by spiritual means in personal subjection to Him?
A: One that especially stands out is Moses, who though appearing to be born in the best worldly situation to fulfill God’s calling to lead His people, had to undergo vigorous spiritual change in order to return and accomplish God’s purposes in concert with spiritual means. He began as a charismatic leader by worldly standards, but returned meek and gentle in God’s character so as to do it God’s way rather than his own way.
Q: What comprises earthly fortresses?
- “…speculations…” (v.5) This expresses a situation where people seek their own purpose and guidelines for living from sources outside of God’s Word and ways.
- “…every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God…” (v.5) This expresses the false doctrines which seek to replace the plain teachings of God, things in direct conflict with God’s Word.
- “…every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (v.5) Not just changing outward appearance, but the inner nature so as to replace the pursuit of pleasing one’s self with obedience of Christ’s Word, rejecting speculations outside of God’s Word or false doctrines in direct conflict with it.
Q: What is Paul’s ultimate goal? Is it to establish his authority and place of leadership?
A: Paul’s ultimate goal as expressed in v.6 is “to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete”. He is not seeking to establish himself, but the authority of God’s Word and ways in the character of each individual Believer. Paul would address their disobedience and embrace of lies in place of God’s Word by smashing those false teachings to bring their hearts and minds to a place of obedience.
Observation: It would seem that church problems are not solved by changing the denomination’s constitution, revising a church program, or reorganizing the church board, but by confronting the people and problems themselves with the Word of God.
Application: A true apostle uses spiritual weapons to re-establish obedience to God’s Word and ways. Obedience to Christ is the greater priority.