Saturday, July 26, 2014

2 Corinthians 10: Substance, not Style


2 Cor 10:1-12 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. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and 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. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ's, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ's, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account." Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

In outward appearance and speech, Paul was not impressive. Compared to the eloquence of Apollo, Paul looked and sounded decidedly boring. In fact, he once spoke so long that a young man listening to him dozed off and fell out of the third-story window onto the street--dead! Despite his spiritual authority and anointing, Paul was not a scintillating speaker. Apparently, Paul had zero "stage presence" and spoke with a monotonous voice. In a world where image is everything, Paul would be rejected for senior pastor appointment in our star-studded mega-churches.

Yet, no one would doubt he was a man of authority. Though in the flesh, he was unimpressive, in the spiritual realm, he wielded "divine power to destroy strongholds... arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." His weapons of warfare is not "of the flesh" (carnal) but spiritual, because the real spiritual battle is fought not "against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Those who can impress the crowds may not impress the spiritual hosts of darkness arrayed against the churches.

Church growth is not the point, but kingdom growth is. A church can attract believers from other churches and "grow" but the real test of spiritual authority is not church growth but kingdom growth -- when captives and prisoners of Satan are being delivered from their demonic strongholds and set free to become obedient to Christ. We can always attract crowds with a scintillating program packed with star-studded speakers and singers led by an glittering worship team of high-powered musicians. But it would not make a dent in Satan's kingdom of darkness if its focus is only the edification of believers.

Paul was not engaged in winning popularity contest. He was not very popular among the Corinthians and compared badly to other more scintillating speakers in the Corinthian church: "Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding" (v.12). But being able to speak well is no guarantee that demons will tremble at the mention of our names. The demon told the seven sons of Sceva: "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" (Acts 19:15). Paul might not impress humans, but demons were terrified of Paul like they were of Jesus. He was a man of spiritual substance, not just a man of style.

We need to remember our warfare is spiritual and our weapons must be spiritual, not humanistic. We cannot wage war against the demonic hosts of darkness with our stage presence, our scintillating eloquence and our star-studded performance. Only the Holy Spirit's presence and power can drive out demons, set captives free: "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28).

At the end of the day, man's opinions of us don't count. What counts is what God thinks of us and what makes the demons tremble and talk about. Do demons see you as a threat to their hold on people's lives? Demons don't care how much you know and what stage presence your church has. They are worried by men and women of authority who has substance, not style.

Father, deliver us from the need to impress humans rather than God and the demonic hosts of darkness. Amen.







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