I want to invite you to second Corinthians chapter 10… Is where we are today. Second Corinthians Chapter 10. The Book of Corinthians wonderful book, Love this book. It’s a very personal book about Paul’s life and some of the things that he went through in order to minister for the Lord. Some say it’s the most personal letter out of all of Paul’s epistles, and it’s one of the things that I find so beautiful about this letter is that as Paul’s doing ministry, yes, none of us are the Apostle Paul, but all of us face adversity. And seeing how Paul worked through adversity in his own life is an encouragement to us as we think about living for the Lord. And the first seven chapters of the book of Corinthians, second Corinthians Paul deals with his relationship with the church directly. Those that have just they’ve had some adversity in their love towards Paul and Paul’s had some challenges in his opportunities to love them back. And so Paul’s dealt with the idea of reconciliation in those.
First seven chapters of the Book of Corinthians. And then when you get to Chapter eight and nine, he talked about the idea of generosity, which we’ve discussed, took us three weeks to get through Chapter eight and nine. As we looked at the the the idea of generosity and what it means for the body of believers. And now when you get to Chapter ten, these remaining chapters, this these are the the chapters where Paul turns his sights towards the.
False teachers that are attacking him and he starts to address them. And in a sense, they’re really individuals that are trolling the Apostle Paul. And now he puts his sights on the remainder of this book towards them and how he’s going to respond to the accusations they’re making against him. But let me ask you before we jump into this text. If someone were attacking you, how would you respond? What do you what’s your typical reaction when others malign you or come against you? Some might get physical. Some might get verbal. Some might just want to sweep it under the rug and run away. Some might show us how they can put their foot where the sun just kidding. But I think the more important question we could ask is how would, how would Jesus respond? And in a more practical way, looking this passage of Scripture, we can see How does Paul respond?
In fact, that’s the main question we want to answer today. How do you respond when you get trolled? And we’re going to look at how does Paul respond? What does it mean? How should we respond, and what is the benefit of that response? So question number one, how does Paul respond? We start to see it here in the first couple of verses.
Paul says this, “I Paul myself entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away, I beg of you that when I am present, I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.”
So Paul gives us and really in this these first couple of verses, he gives us a picture of of the accusations that are being brought against him and also his response to towards those that are that are maligning Paul or attacking Paul. And what we find in these first couple of verses is, one, they’re making fun of, Paul. They’re really calling him a wimp. In essence, what they’re saying this passage is, look, Paul writes these letters. He looks all big and bad. But when you meet him personally, he is a wimp. He talks a big game, but he does not show up that way. That’s the accusation (they’re) making about the Apostle Paul. In fact, I try to think, what does this relate to in our culture? For me, I think it’s The Wizard of Oz, right? If you remember the story, the Dorothy finally gets there.
She finally gets to the great halls. You see the the big green monster. And then all of a sudden Toto runs over, pulls the curtain, and then behind the curtain is just a little wimp. And that’s the accusation that they’re making about the apostle Paul is, look, Paul sounds like he wants you to fear him. And his letters sound like he’s tough, he’s strong. But they’re saying, but honestly, we’ve met the guy and no one’s afraid of him. In fact, they go a little bit further and they describe the Apostle Paul at the end of verse two, as he says, I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. So they’re saying Paul’s poem is spiritual. He’s not even a great follower of the Lord like he’s he just lives very fleshly in his life. But then when the Apostle Paul responds, he responds to these accusations the way Paul chooses to respond. I’ve got to say, at first glance, it’s like, Paul, you’re not doing yourself any favors here.
These individuals are coming against you. They’ve maligned you. They’ve destroyed your relationship with the Church of Corinth. You’ve had to write this letter to work on rebuilding it. It’s taken a time for you to seek this reconciliation. And these people are still in the church. And how does Paul introduce himself when he gets ready to turn his sights towards those that oppose him? He describes himself this way.
I, Paul, myself, entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ I who am humble.
I don’t know about you, but how many of you about to go toe to toe going into battle would choose these adjectives to describe yourself? I mean, what kind of trash talk is that? You ever played a sport? You get on the on the field against your enemies and you’re like, you know what? You’re about to see my meekness at a level you have never experienced this in humility and gentleness. Right. And that is not a word that’s going to put your enemies in fear of your presence. They are not going to to cower at that description. And Paul is not helping himself out. At least it looks like, when he begins to describe himself this way.
When you think about these words, though. Meekness, gentleness, humility. And then you see the way the Apostle Paul lives his life. We also find that while he carries these this sort of description or these adjectives, he also composes himself with. Incredible boldness and courage. Acts Chapter 9, verse 29. He spoke and disputed against the hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him.
Or in Acts 19, and he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the Kingdom of God. Even in the very next chapter, the end of Chapter 11 Paul starts to describe certain things that he went through in order to live a life in obedience to Christ. Paul was very brave. And yet when you look at the posture of his character and makes your mind wonder how how can someone live with such courage and in the midst of adversity, still describe himself with gentleness, meekness and humility.
What you find. It’s not only characteristic traits of the Apostle Paul, it’s also reflective of Jesus.
In Matthew, chapter 11, verse 29 This is the only verse in the Bible where Jesus actually describes for us his heart. And when he describes his heart, look what he says.
He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and lowly”, or the word is meek in heart. Jesus describes himself as meek. And then when you look at the character of Christ as it’s lived out, the way that Jesus demonstrated himself in Hebrews 12, consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself so that you may not grow weary or faint hearted, Or in 1st Peter 2, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return when he when he suffered. He did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Matthew, Chapter 12 “A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.”
Incredible courage. Extremely bold in adversity. But when you think about those words, meekness, gentleness, humility. Let’s be honest. If you ever if you’ve ever gone to a job interview and someone says to you, what are what are some characteristics that that make you who you are? What are some things that we would be interested in?
And how many of you have gotten into that? And you’ve said, you know, I’ve got to lead here with meekness, right? I wouldn’t even include that in their top 15 of character qualities that you would want to describe yourself as to someone else. When we think about that term, it’s an interesting word the Apostle Paul chooses to utilize in the midst of the opposition that he is facing.
Which leaves us to ask the. What does it mean? What does it mean to describe yourself as meek? By definition, the word meekness is said this way it’s free of anger, hatred, bitterness, and a desire for revenge. Meekness is not weakness, but rather power under control. I think one of the the best images that we could use to illustrate the idea of meekness comes from the way that the Greeks would actually use it.
There was a practice in Greek culture. where they would want to prepare horses for battle. And what they would do, they would they would go out among wild horses and they would gather them in and bring them to see if they could train them. And some horses they found were it didn’t have the ability to be trained. And so they were they were just simply released back into the wild.
And then other horses could be trained, but they found out they weren’t exactly ready for battle or battle worthy. And so they became the kind of horses that would just pull he the different items they needed to go into battle. And so when they would have a military campaign that these horses would carry all the equipment. But then there are horses.
That they determined were battle ready and battle prepared. And these horses were fierce They were they were not afraid of charging into to battle at 35 miles an hour in the face of of arrows and swords and torches. Yet yet with just with he touch of the rider, they would be obedient to turn or at the voice of a command could stop, come to a sliding stop. These horses were incredibly powerful, but yet totally disciplined.
It’s described this way that to be meek was to take from a state of of wild rebellion and make boldly loyal and dependent upon one’s master. And when these horses were prepared, they were described as praus, which is the Greek word for meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It has power under control. Paul not only describes himself as meek, but he also describes himself as gentle. And the only other time that this particular Greek word gentleness is used in the New Testament comes in chapter 24, verse four, and it’s defined or it’s described as the word kindness. So where gentleness is also uses the word same Greek word as kindness. And when it’s applied to someone who is in authority like the Apostle Paul, it means this. It means to graciously refuse to insist on the full measure of their legal rights.
And then there’s humility. When you look at these these words in the early church, the idea of of meekness and gentleness, these were virtues that were pursued by people. But the word humility was not a word that was sought after. The word humility was seen as more of a of an insult than a word that we should aspire to as God’s people. It was considered one who was ignoble or despised, not the attitude of any self respected person. In fact, in the second century, Lucian wrote this, he said, The humble witted are neither sought by their friends nor feared by their enemies.
But Paul chooses to use these words. Why? Paul is saying, there is no end short of sin to which he will not go to be a servant of Christ. So let me propose this, with these three characteristics that Paul lays out for us, I think we can only really view these three characteristics. Under two scopes. Either person, number one, who describes himself as meek, gentle and humble. Person number one, this person is either one, he’s totally insecure. And therefore, he just he walks with no esteem in this world. Because he doesn’t understand who he is and his identity. Or he is completely secure. Because he knows who he is, who he belongs to, and where he’s going. And therefore, because of that, he’s able to put others before himself. And given because we’re talking about the Apostle Paul here and have seen the way his conducted himself in this world. We would go on to say that the Apostle Paul is not one who is insecure, but rather he is completely secure in his identity.
Because he knows who he is in Christ and therefore he needs no one to give him worth, value, or meaning because he has discovered who he is completely in the Lord. And because of that he is therefore able to put others before himself. Rather than The Wizard of Oz,
Probably a better picture of him is. A champion. More specifically Rocky Balboa and the 10th round to the soundtrack of Eye of the Tiger. But. That’s who he is. You may think you have him defeated for the first nine rounds, but play a little Eye of the Tiger and everything changes. And this is what Paul is saying about himself in his identity as he describes these characteristics. He is praus. He is confident in who he is because he is confident in the Lord.
So the question then for us is, given how Paul responds to those that oppose him and understanding what it means, how should we respond? And in verse three, Paul goes on, he says this. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.”
So Paul, here he goes from he goes from the meek to now he’s talking about warfare. This is where it’s about to get serious, right? He’s not maybe that wimpy idea we had of meekness, but rather he is fierce. He is praus. He is charging the battle. Now he’s discussing the idea of warfare. And Paul is saying to us in this passage, there is something bigger happening that drives what we do. And it’s not just in the physical.
There’s something deeper. It’s in the spiritual. Paul’s saying there’s there’s something more destructive. Then just a person. What Paul is going to point to, it’s the idea of a belief. It’s something that we begin to believe in a spiritual realm that affects what happens to us personally. And Paul’s saying, look, to just take the bait and respond physical for physical here, it’s not going to get anywhere with what God wants to accomplish. And you understand there’s something deeper happening. And what’s taking place here is is happening on a spiritual level. And so Paul then goes on in verse four and he says this he goes, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments in every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.”
Paul wants us to see our real battles are not with people. But the lies we embrace. Because they become strongholds. And those strongholds destroy us. The false teachers in Corinth. He would have had no power. If they were not believed. It’s the false belief driving what these people are doing that created a stronghold. Now, when you think in terms of strongholds, all of us have them in our lives because we we all have the tendency to believe a lie rather than the truth and and strongholds can take all sorts of of different forms in our life. It’s not that we don’t know the truth sometimes. It’s that sometimes we allow something to take precedent over it. It’s like the church in Corinth. They had the truth taught to them. It’s not that they didn’t know what was true. And so they started to buy into a lie rather than the truth that Paul had taught them. And buying into lie, it became a stronghold. One of the things I was reminded of yesterday as I was reading through the book of Galatians.
I was reading about one of the Apostle Peter’s downfalls. And we know one of them. We’re familiar with it, right? When the night Jesus was betrayed. Peter denied Christ. And we’re familiar with that story. But do you know, that’s that’s not the only time the apostle Peter, the apostle Peter fell. There’s a story in the book of Galatians.
That also talks about when when the apostle Peter had a public falling. And it’s described in an Galatians chapter two. And not only does it describe it to us in Galatians chapter two, it also tells us the reason why Peter chooses to walk in a lie rather than the truth. But look at this. This is an interesting passage of scripture. But in chapter two, verse 12, it says this “before certain men came from James and Jerusalem, Peter was eating with the Gentiles. But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.” Right. Which to me is hilarious without the context, because you think, you know, if there’s something to fear in your life, it’s certainly a circumcision party. You think any party you’re going to attend, you can attend birthday parties, you can attend anniversary parties, you can attend graduation parties. Holiday parties, work parties just never attend a circumcision (party). It will not go well for you, right?. That is not a party you be hanging around in. Paul. No wonder he’s afraid of attending this party. I’m just kidding. That’s not the kind of party that this is what they’re saying. This passage is, is that the Jews. It’s another way of referring to the Jewish people that the Jews have shown up to the Paul’s life. And they are. Peter excuse me. I keep confusing that shows up to before Peter and and Peter is giving into the temptation to follow after them and start to to to really change the presentation of the gospel. He’s teaching them to to pursue law rather than grace in Christ that faith alone in Christ is not enough. And Peter’s starting to pursue after them. And it tells us in this passage the reason he’s motivated to do this. Peter knows the truth. But what drives him to live contrary to Christ? It’s fear. For Peter, it was fear.
And Paul said this to us in. In this passage of how we we tend to get to that place in our life. And can I just tell you this morning, just like Peter. If Peter can fall, so can we. I mean. Think about who Peter is. Jesus said to Peter. Who do you say that I am? And Peter confesses, You’re the Christ. And Matthew 16. And he says, Upon this rock I will build my church. And we calls… He refers to himself. I think Jesus refers to himself as the rock, but he looks to Peter and he refers to Peter for the first time as as not just Simon, but Simon. Peter, which means Little Rock, based on the profession of Christ. There’s this foundation in Jesus. When you rest there, God builds his church. But Peter gives in to fear.
And when we let fear lead us, we do such incredibly stupid things. And in this passage. Paul shows us why. He tells us, “we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of of God.” The tendency in our lives when we give in to the lie rather than the truth is that. Those strongholds. The tendency of the strongholds are to elevate man above the Lord. Or at least to elevate the opinions of man above the Lord. We raised what we think and we lower what God thinks. And he is describing it here for us in this very passage that these lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God. We want to elevate what man’s thinks and we want to diminish what God thinks. And we do this. We give in to the fear of man. Rather than the truth of God.
The strongholds can come to us not only in fear, but there’s other ways that we could describe it. Guilt or shame or the struggle in our identity. Trying to find value in places we are not intended to or to diminish our hope, to take away our hope to say and all those things that God doesn’t love you. God doesn’t really care about you. That isn’t near you. God doesn’t forgive you. God can’t rescue you. And He cares about everyone else. But you’re the anomaly, right? And we start to buy into those lies. It leads us down a path of destruction. So the question for us is then how should we respond, how should we respond? And he says to us in verse five, he tells us that we should take every thought captive to obey Christ. There are these strongholds in your life that lead us to destruction.
You don’t understand when something bad is happening, when somebody is coming against you, there’s something deeper happening there than just simply responding in the flesh. There’s a lie that’s been believed is creating destruction. And so the question for us then is how do we remove these strongholds that are destroying what God desires to accomplish in our lives and through us in this moment? Not to just attack someone else or malign, tit for tat, back and forth. That’s not what we’re about as God’s people. We’re not here to fight against people. Rather to fight for them.
Praus. Power under control.
We can live that way when we’re confident in who we are. And that confidence doesn’t come from people. It comes from the Lord. And that’s why he says we take every thought captive to obey Christ. So how do we respond? Number one, he’s saying this to us. He’s saying, embrace God’s truth. Take captive what keeps you from the knowledge of God. Truth helps us identify what’s right from wrong. You cannot defeat what you do not define. These strongholds in our life, when we can declare them as lies and understand what God communicates to us, then we can remove them from our life and continue to hear God’s truth.
To change your life by changing your mind, by embracing God’s mind. What you think will determine what you do. Because what you believe you will obey. In Scripture. It encourages us over and over again to have the mind of Christ.
Listen to these verses in Romans 8:5 “For they that are after the flesh do not mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit, the things that are of the Spirit.” In Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report. If there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Ephesians 4:23 and be renewed by the spirit of your mind that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and truth and holiness.
The Ephesians 1:18, Paul gives us his prayer for the church. He says this I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you the riches of his glorious inheritance in His holy people. To see yourself not as people say you are. But as God says you are.
It’s worth stopping and asking the question what what stronghold to Satan have over you right now? What lie do you believe? Where do you think God is not enough? Or where might you believe that He is not faithful? What is it that you might want in your life that’s more important to you then the Lord?
Then he goes on. He says, not only do we take every thought captive, but then he leaves it to this to obey Christ. The purpose of this is obedience to Christ. It’s a heart fully committed to the Lord. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to really know the motive of the heart, the motive of someone else’s heart, for sure. But we can even fool ourselves in the motive of our own heart sometimes.
So how do we know that we’re not just simply believing something but also living something? This is what he’s saying is that we obey. That we obey and a good way of of the demonstration of your obedience, if it’s an aligned with Christ to an outward way to see that is the way your character manifests itself.
How do I know my heart’s really given? Well, one is, do you understand the truth of God and align to the truth? How is your life playing it out? I can’t read your heart. I don’t know what’s on your heart. But. But we can look at the evidence of the truth that you understand and the way that your life is living it out as an indicator. If your heart is really resting in the Lord. What is your your character?
True evidence of following Christ isn’t just believing. But it’s obeying. It’s one thing to know the truth. But it’s another to let it be lived through your life and your character. True character is revealing of what you truly believe. Everyone thinks they’re right. The good test of your surrender to God is seen in your character.
Meekness. Gentleness. Humility. Does your life model those things? Can you see a contrast in your life of who you were before Christ? And now who you are in Christ through those characteristics. I know not not one of us in this room is perfected in this way. But can you see an indication in your life where the character of Christ is being made known in that way? Is the evidence there?
Now, Paul’s reminding us, look, we go into these battles. We understand that there’s the opposition and let’s not take the bait, that it’s just this fleshly fight that we’re in, because there is something far greater, far more important taking place. And it’s a battle over the truth. And we’re not here to wrestle with the flesh and blood, but to understand that God wants us to take captive the thoughts that destroy a relationship, to point us to the ultimate truth that is in Christ, that we can have right relationship with the Lord and experience good relationship with one another because of that. And this should be demonstrated in your life by the way you surrender to the truth of God, not allowing fear to dictate.
But him. The evidence of that. It’s the way that your heart leans when you embrace the truth. Are you praus? Are you able to charge into the battle with extreme confidence but still put others before yourself because you don’t need them to affirm you, but rather you know who you are and in Christ.
So then what is the benefit? And what’s the benefit for us? In verse six, he goes on and says, Being ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete. Let me read verse five again. We destroy arguments in every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ. Being ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete.
What is the benefit one for us? Freedom. We have freedom. Because we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone when we know who we are in Christ. When you’re able to find your identity in Jesus. Nothing holds you. No stronghold. There’s freedom for you personally.
Number two, the Lord is glorified in you through through obedience. When you walk in and meekness and humbleness and gentleness and God moves, it’s obvious whose hand is at work, because it’s not done by your strength, but rather his.
And number three others are able to join in. See for Paul in this moment his position of authority as an Apostle, it’s not about him gaining power. But rather it’s about him using his position to empower others that they may live for the Lord together. That’s Paul’s desire. He doesn’t want to fight a battle on an island to himself. He wants God’s people to be aligned in the truth that they may live on mission as a community together.
This is why, from the very beginning of Second Corinthians, he didn’t come just guns blazing and said, forget you all, we’re done. This is over. You’re too difficult. There’s other churches that are easier than this one. Rather he continued to submit himself. That they could strive together for what Christ has called them to.
So you think about so how does how does all this look in our lives when we live this out? What is what does this look like? As a is a good example. Let me give you a one of the best I think I’ve found in church history is “Mighty Mary” Slessor. She developed this nickname because of some of the great things she did for the Lord. But Mary Slessor she was from Scotland.
Born in the the mid 1800s when she was 25 years old, the great missionary to Africa, David Livingstone, died. And inspired a group of young people to then take up that mantle and go to Africa as as missionaries. And Mary Slessor went as a single young lady at the age of 27. She went to Nigeria. And she went to places in Africa where no European lady had had gone alone before. And she served for for 40 years.
And the Lord used her to do all kinds of incredible things. There was this superstition in Nigeria that when twins were born, they should kill the twins because of some evil spirits related to that. And so she fought to get against infanticide. And and she’s she even adopted children. She traveled into dangerous regions. She championed women’s rights. She set up a mission hospital for the locals.
And when people saw her, they saw while she was just married, they saw this this mighty figure. And so she developed the nickname Mighty Mary. She embodied the character of Prause. Of meekness. Daring. Incredibly strong. Yes. She was a humble servant. And she said these sort of things in her life.
She said, Lord, the task is impossible for for me, but not for you. Lead the way and I will follow. Or she says, Why should I fear? I’m on a royal mission. I am the service of the King of kings.
And you can think as a as a young lady in her twenties going to Nigeria single during that time period, especially the kind of remarks that she would get as being a young lady going to Nigeria, going through the jungles. And she said this about her. So she said, when you think of the woman’s power, you forget the power of the woman’s god. I shall go on.
She was meek. Because the spiritual battles were too important. She knew God’s truth. And she was determined to believe them more than the strongholds.
Friends. Can I ask you this morning? Are you confident in who you are in Jesus? Are you confident you have Jesus? You know, Matthew 7, there’s an interesting passage in Matthew 7 where religious people come to Jesus and they say to Jesus, Lord, Lord, do we not do many wonderful works in your name and casting out demons? And Jesus says to them. Depart from me. I never knew you.
We think about following after Christ. It’s not an invitation about living a good life. It’s an invitation to live in a relationship with Christ. And as Jesus has surrendered his life to you on the cross, that He could pay for your sins. Jesus then calls you to surrender your life to Him so that you might live for His glory in this world. To know him. To delighting in him.
But there has got to come a place in our lives where we surrender to him. That we understand that we cannot achieve what God desires in our own strength, that we cannot undo anything wrong that we’ve ever done against God, that stands eternally as an offense against God. That the only thing that we have is to cry out for His forgiveness. And Jesus has opened that way through his cross. It’s not based on what we do. It’s based on what he has done for us. And when we step in that. Anything that we do moving forward. It’s not about our glory, but his. Not in our power, but his. Because he’s the one that pursued us. He’s the one that freed us. He’s the one that gives us his spirit to live. His purpose in this world. By his strength.
God has given you a wonderful name. If you belong to Christ. Adopted child of God. Able to live for His glory, the King of Kings and the Lords.