Read 2 Corinthians 10
Paul’s Defense of His Ministry
1 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
7 You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ.15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. 17 But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
In this passage, Paul talks about the ineffective ways the Corinthians try to fight the enemy. It’s as though they’ve forgotten that as Christians, they have the power of Christ in them. Instead of waging war with the weapons they have as Christ followers, they’re attempting to fend off the enemy with their own words or “good sounding” arguments, and it never works. However, before we judge them, we do the same thing today. And, when we do, it’s like showing up to WW3 with a water gun. It doesn’t make sense, and we are bound to lose if we play that way! As Paul says here, Jesus has given us a different weapon–a better one, and we need to use it. Because of Jesus, we have the ability to destroy strongholds and anything that sets itself up against Christ through His power within us.
How do we do that? We take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. The way to live obedient lives fully surrendered to Christ starts with every thought that comes in our mind. If a thought goes against Jesus and what He stands for, then we reject it. We refuse it. We don’t dwell on it or let it step one foot further into our brains. Strongholds can’t be built if we reject those thoughts at first sight.
Sure, it’s not easy, and we won’t be perfect at it. But if we want to live surrendered lives, if we want every part of our lives to be in step with Jesus, if we want every word we say, every single thing we do to line up with Scripture, it starts in our minds. That’s where the battle is won or lost. Once we take our thoughts captive, we reject anything that is out of line with Christ and we only dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). And when we do that, through the power of Christ in us, the enemy doesn’t even stand a chance.
In what ways do you give the devil a foothold through your thought patterns? What are some particularly unhelpful, damaging, or destructive thoughts that you dwell on often?
What does it practically look like to take every thought captive?
Paul spends the remaining part of this chapter calling out the Corinthians for the way they compare and measure themselves against each other. Do you struggle with comparison? What fuels comparison in your life? In what way can you stop comparison before it takes over your mind?
Did You Know?
When Paul talks in this passage about the limits of the sphere, he’s referring to the lanes that were allotted for runners in a race. The Corinthians recognized this language because they loved races; they even held the famous Isthmian Games in Corinth. Here, it’s as though Paul is saying, “I’m running in my own lane and not in someone else’s”–a concept that we understand today.