[3] For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. [4] For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4

I wonder what Paul thought when he heard that people were accusing him of reliance on human ability and ditching reliance on the Holy Spirit? Jesus faced worse accusations (Matthew 12:22-32), “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

Paul was happy to acknowledge that he walked or lived “in the flesh,” but he strenuously opposed any suggestion that he waged spiritual war fare among the Corinthians “according to the flesh.” In fact Paul insisted that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

There are couple of observations I would like to make before applying these now famous verses to today.

So firstly, Paul’s use of the word ‘flesh’ in verse 3. When he says that “we walk in the flesh” he is referring to life in general. This is simply his way of saying all human life, Christian or non Christian. Everything that humans are and do.

Next, when he says that he is not waging spiritual warfare “according to the flesh” he has in mind not our physical bodies but human methods, means, ways, resources, anything that does not come from God.

For example human wisdom.

Paul implies that the World is his sphere of activity but that does not mean the world dictates the agenda, still less that it provides the tools for the job.

So, after saying that he walks in the flesh but does not wage war according to the flesh he does tell us clearly that he is the midst of a battle, a war, a fight. He believes this war is ferocious and dangerous but that he is more that up to the task. We haven’t got time but have a look at Romans 13:12, 2 Corinthians 6:7, Ephesians 6:11-17, Philippians 2:25, I Thessalonians 5:8, and more.

So, what do Paul’s opposers have in mind when making the accusation that his apostleship is “according to the flesh?” They probably meant his lack of eloquence, his alleged reliance on self-commendation, his bodily weakness, his choice not to accept money for his labours, as well as the absence from his CV of supernatural encounters and revelatory experiences. In short to them, he was not up to much compared with….

Ok, let’s have a go at applying this to the present day. Starting with what is clear, that all humans live “according to the flesh,” that has not changed and that our achievements are mostly “according to the flesh.” In short we do not need God, we can do better.

Moving on, let’s look at today’s ministry styles, values, resources, what do we find? If we are honest we find a lot of ministry is “according to the flesh” these are some of my observations.

We find pragmatism. So many books and courses tell us that if we follow a method or a strategy or a set of goals then we will achieve. For some who are desperate to see “God move” they will follow these methods even if they are questionable and unbiblical.

Promotion, and self promotion. I have done this now I need to do THIS. Some make their decisions and formulate their theology based on what they believe will most greatly enhance their position.

For some it’s about a career and money, good old fashioned greed.

For others it’s about numbers and numbers impress. How many in my church, how many listen to my Youtube channel.

I have known some that will not lead in certain places but rather telling God where they will serve. The fashionable place, the nice place, the place to get me recognised.

For some they are addicted to power, they like to control and influence.

Whatever enhances their grip on the church or elevates their influence in the congregation is most highly prized.

Turn that around and you get fear, fear of not being recognised, of not being heard, of being marginalised within the broader body of Christ.

When we turn to the standards or ideas that give shape to how we pursue life in the body of Christ, many are guided by human ingenuity, glib ‘how-to formulas’ to obtain instant spiritual maturity and success. We are pulled by the culture of the day. Churches compete against each other for who has the best. Where has God’s way, Gods activity and God’s timing gone?

For you this may be Nigel moaning and being very negative, or am I waging war “according to the flesh” and if so does that demand our full attention right now?

We are not governed by pragmatism but by biblical principle, not by self promotion but sacrifice, not by greed but contentment, not by quantity but quality, not by our preferences but obedience, not by success but humility and suffering, not by fame but willingness to labour wherever Christ places us, not expecting promotion but servant hood. Not with eloquence but dependence on God.

As Paul says in verse 4 our weapons are “not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

This phrase translated “divine power” has been variously interpreted, all of which are both possible and carry significant meaning. Among the options are that our weapons are “made powerful by God,” or perhaps are “divinely” or “supernaturally powerful,” or are “powerful in God’s perspective,” or even are “powerful for God” or “in God’s cause” or with a view to achieving God’s purpose.

Better people than I have an opinion on that, but in my simplistic thinking it’s this, these weapons work! They are divinely effective. They get the job done because God works in and through them to accomplish his purposes.

D. A. Carson says this: “The contrast Paul is drawing must not be overlooked. He is not comparing, say, tanks, rifles, and missiles with prayer, fasting, and preaching. The fleshly or worldly side of the contrast depends on the interpretation of 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 – worldly weapons in this context are the kinds of tools of the trade relished by the intruders: human ingenuity, rhetoric, showmanship, a certain splashiness and forwardness in spiritual pretensions, charm, powerful personal charisma. Such weapons they will not find in Paul’s arsenal, so they think him inferior; but Paul responds by openly disavowing such weapons. He would not want to defend himself on that score, for his weapons are of an entirely different sort. They are spiritual weapons, and they are divinely powerful.”

What these weapons are, and what they actually achieve, we will work out together as we proceed through these verses. But for now it is vitally important to maybe re-evaluate church and ask the question what are we doing that is “according to the flesh”.

[33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

[34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?”[35] “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” [36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36