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Lesson 8: Tearing Down Walls (2 Corinthians 10:1-18)

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The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

In our study of 2 Corinthians so far, we have seen how the God who comforts us understands the many kinds of suffering we undergo in daily life. Although Paul and his friends experienced a lot of persecution that made them fear for their lives, suffering doesn’t only come from persecution. Suffering can be caused by physical danger and financial hardships. It can also come from within your circle of friends, including those whom you love the most. Misunderstandings, behavioral conflicts, and slanderous information from others can cause hurt feelings and mistrust. Regardless of the source, suffering drives us to dependence on God. We set our hope on Him more than ourselves. We see His love and grace given to us. We trust Him to work in the situation and give thanks. That’s dependent living.

In the last lesson, we saw how God teaches His children to be generous to one another as He Himself is a generous giver. This requires that we trust Him with every bit of provision we receive, recognize that it all comes from Him and belongs to Him, then ask Him to guide us as we use what He has provided to us. That’s dependent living.

At this point in the letter, Paul begins to hit hard at the charges made against him by his opponents in Corinth. We don’t know who they are except that they are Jews (2 Corinthians 11:22). Their teaching may be like the Judaizers that infiltrated the Galatian churches (Jewish Christians insisting Gentiles must be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law to be saved). We can infer from the text that these false teachers attack those who have influence over the Corinthians (Paul and his companions) in order to gain prestige and power for themselves.

When we are falsely accused, we have a choice. We can choose to get sidetracked by copying the bad behavior of the accusers, or stay on course by continuing to walk faithfully in dependence on God to avenge us and tear down the walls for us. That’s also dependent living.

Questions To Consider This Week:

  • Do you recognize a current situation in your life where you’re trying to fight a spiritual battle with worldly weapons such as deception, manipulation, and intimidation? How is that working for you?
  • Do you have a tendency to compare yourself to others to see how you measure up? Or, do you look at the world’s standards to define your achievements. How does that affect you?

Day One Study—Get The Big Picture.

Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-18. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

[To print, follow this link (or for the NIV, this one). Use your own method (colored pencils, lines, shapes) to mark: 1) anything that grabs your attention and 2) words you want to understand. Feel free to develop your own method of marking up a passage. Put a star  next to anything you think relates to dependent living.]

1. What grabbed your attention from these verses?

  • 10:1-6
  • 10:7-11
  • 10:12-18

2. What verses or specific words do you want to understand better?

3. What topics are repeated in this passage or continue an earlier discussion in this letter?

4. What verses illustrate or help you understand what dependent living on God looks like?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Two Study

Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-6. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

Scriptural Insight: Whenever he described himself as “I Paul,” he is making his point with strong emphasis and telling them that what he is about to say is indeed coming from him. See where he does this in Galatians 5:2; Ephesians 3:1; Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; and Philemon 19.

What Does The Bible Say?

5. Paul addresses accusations made against him that he is “timid.” He responds with truth.

  • By what does Paul make his appeal to the Corinthians (v. 1)?
  • How has he been described (v. 1)?
  • Some people think what about Paul and his team (v. 2)?
  • Though we live in the world, we do not do what (v. 3)?
  • Our weapons (v. 4) are not _____________ but they have ______________.
  • We are to demolish what (v. 5)?
  • We are to take captive what (v. 5)?
  • What will we be ready to do (v. 6)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

Historical Insight: The word picture Paul used in v. 5 is that of Roman siege warfare focused on tearing down walls of a fortified city in order to take it captive.

What Does It Mean?

Focus on the Meaning: Humility and gentleness were characteristics of Christ. Humility recognizes God as one’s authority and takes a servant attitude toward people. Gentleness refers to strength under control and is expressed through fairness and graciousness to others. Both are available to us under the control of Christ who is in us. Both are evidence of dependent living.

6. Review 2 Corinthians 10:1 in the ESV translation. After reading the “Focus on the Meaning” above, how has Paul’s behavior toward the Corinthians been like this? Note: We will address the rest of v. 1 in the Day Three Study.

Since the fall of Man in the garden (Genesis 3), there has been a spiritual war raging in our world concerning God’s truth versus lies being disseminated through human reasoning and demonic influence. One leads to overflowing joy and dependent living on God. The other leads to self-dependence and rebellion against God. Let’s look at this warfare more closely

7. Truth #1: We have God’s power to fight the war effectively. Note: The context in vv. 3-4 is the Church.

  • What are we fighting against? See also 2 Corinthians 2:11; 4:4; Ephesians 2:1-2; and 1 John 2:16.
  • What weapons should we not use in this kind of warfare? See 2 Corinthians 1:12; 4:2, 5; 5:16; 6:14-16; and 10:4.
  • What weapons are effective? See also 2 Corinthians 1:12; 4:2, 5; 5:16; 6:6-7; 7:2; and 10:1.

Think About It: Weapons such as intimidation, manipulation, trickery, double-talk, rumor, and hypocritical behavior are not from the Spirit of God and are not acceptable weapons for the believer to use in spiritual warfare. Victory comes from approaching life (and battles) God’s way and relying on His power to overcome the enemy.

8. Truth #2: We have God’s power to demolish strongholds. Strongholds are anything upon which one relies for security and survival. Think “castle” or “fortress.” But, these are not good castles. They are anything that takes captive the minds of believers away from God-dependence.

  • What strongholds particularly need to be demolished (v. 5)?

From the Greek: “Arguments” comes from the Greek logismos, meaning “thoughts, calculations, and reasonings.” Paul uses that to represent walls of wrong thinking standing in opposition to right Christian thinking. “Pretension” comes from the Greek hypsoma, meaning “elevated structure such as a barrier or rampart.” This represents a notion contrary to God that’s been raised up or lifted high with the purpose to intimidate. (Kelly Minter, All Things New, p. 141)

  • Give some examples of strongholds that affect believers, even you.
  • To demolish a physical stronghold takes force and power. How would you demolish spiritual strongholds?

Think About It: Satan’s strategy uses speculations (theories) and incorrect information that contradict God’s revealed truth. When approaching Bible Study, beware of speculating just to derive an answer. That would include reading into Scripture what we want it to say to match what our culture is teaching us. God has revealed much for us to know. Some things He has reserved for Himself (Deut. 29:29).

9. To complete tearing down these walls (v. 5), means you must take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (a continuous action). How would you do that for a stronghold in your life?

10. Strongholds are not just thoughts but can be associated with people who have influence over you. What should you also do? See 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and 1 Corinthians 15:33.

Focus on the Meaning: Based on 2 Corinthians 10:2 and 6, the Corinthians needed to make a clean break from the rebels in their midst. Paul needed the church to stand firm with him in disciplining his unrepentant opponents and removing themselves from that influence.

11. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 10:1-6?

What Application Will You Make After Studying Today’s Pasage?

12. Do you recognize a current situation in your life where you’re trying to fight a spiritual battle with worldly weapons such as deception, manipulation, and intimidation? How is that working for you?

Demolishing strongholds requires that you: 1) Identify the toxic thought patterns you’ve been building in your mind that work against the knowledge of God and your dependency on Him. 2) Give those to God and ask Him to help you knock them down with truth. 3) Destroy the stronghold by consistently applying the truth.

13. Follow the steps above to recognize and demolish strongholds in your reasoning and thoughts that work against the knowledge of God and dependency on Him.

To get help recognizing cultural strongholds that affect you or your children, check out the podcasts on mamabearapologetics.com.

14. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Three Study

Read 2 Corinthians 10:7-11. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

The word “boast” occurs twenty-nine times in this letter, and only twenty-six times in all the other letters put together. Paul used this conflict with the Corinthians as a “teachable moment” for them on what validates boasting for a believer. His words are still extremely relevant for us today as we learn to live dependently on the Lord.

What Does The Bible Say?

15. Let’s continue to explore the gracious yet unbending ways in which Paul addressed his opponents. Though Bible translations of v. 7 differ, we can conclude from the context of vv. 1 and 10 that Paul is telling them to look at the facts and not outward appearances.

  • What does Paul say to the one confident in belonging to Christ (v. 7)?
  • About what does he boast freely (v. 8)?
  • What are the troublemakers saying about Paul (vv. 9-10)? See also v. 1.
  • What does Paul say in response (v. 11)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

Scriptural Insight: Like so many who judge things according to the outward display of this world, Paul’s opponents interpreted meekness (humility) as weakness, forbearance as cowardice, and gentleness as indecision (cf. v. 1; 11:21)—or at least they had sought to induce the Corinthians to place this interpretation on Paul’s character. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 101)

What Does It Mean?

16. Paul refers to his authority in v. 8. Referring back to v. 1, Paul said he was letting Christ’s humility and gentleness live through him as he exhorted the Corinthians in a gracious manner.

  • According to v. 8, spiritual authority is to be used for _____________.
  • It is not to be used for ________________.
  • How are the false teachers not adhering to this principle regarding Paul and his team? Hint: what are they saying about their Christian brother Paul?

Focus on the Meaning: This does not mean Paul—or any spiritual leaders for that matter—should be a pushover who never enforces any rules. Here’s where the good tension of extending grace and applying discipline comes into play. We need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to know when to emphasize each. (Kelly Minter, All Things New, p. 148)

17. Though Paul might not be the flashy speaker like the professional orators of his day, from where did the power and influence of his teaching come so people should follow him? See 1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 11:6,10.

Think About It: In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” That’s the kind of statement that gets the apostle Paul slapped with labels like “arrogant” and “egotistical.” Maybe that bothers you, too. Why didn’t Paul just take himself out of the equation and tell people to follow Christ? The answer is that Paul knew we all need a role mode, a picture of Christ that makes the heart, mind and ways of Christ visible and tangible. To step into a role of leadership is essentially to state, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” If people are going to follow us, our primary task is following well … We all follow somebody. If you are a Christ follower, the practice of following well may be one of the greatest tests of your character. Who are you following? (Heather Zempel, Community Is Messy, pages 67-68)

18. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 10:7-11?

What Application Will You Make?

19. All of us have spheres of authority. We are to use our authority for building up those in our sphere of influence. Some of us don’t handle that authority well.

  • Do you struggle with being bossy and bearing down on others within your sphere of influence? What is the evidence and fruit of your behavior? Ask the Lord to teach you graciousness and gentleness.
  • Are you continually being walked over and struggle to assert your God-given authority in an area of your life? What is the evidence and fruit of your behavior? Ask the Lord to help you step up and lead with courage for the sake of building others up.
  • For both you can say, “Lord Jesus, I can’t do this on my own. But, you can do this in me and through me. I will trust you to show me how.”

20. We should be careful how we talk about other Christian teachers / leaders. Review 2 Corinthians 10:7-8. We are to demolish arguments, not people. What if you have a disagreement with other believers, perhaps a former church you attended the leaders of a ministry? Usually it is over leadership style or your preferences.

  • What questions should you ask?
  • What should you avoid doing so as not to “wage a worldly war” against brothers and sisters in Christ? Review the “Think About It” after Question 7.

21. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Four Study

Read 2 Corinthians 10:12-18. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

Historical Insight: The Greek philosopher Aristides said that on every street in Corinth one met a so-called wise man, who had his own solutions to the world’s problems. (NIV Study Bible, note on 1 Corinthians 1:19, p. 1736) Does this sound familiar to today’s world?

22. Paul helps the Corinthians to recognize what true wisdom is and what is really worth boasting about.

  • What does Paul not do (v. 12)?
  • What does he say is unwise?
  • To what does Paul confine his boasting (vv. 13-14)?
  • What is Paul’s hope (vv. 15-16)?
  • What does he not want to do (v. 16)?
  • In whom should we boast (v. 17)? See also 1 Corinthians 1:31.
  • For it is not the one who ___________ who is approved, but the one whom ____________ (v. 18).
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

Focus on the Meaning: Paul did “pioneer evangelism.” He did not want to build on, much less take credit for, the foundation work that anyone else had done, but to “preach the gospel” in previously unevangelized areas. He did not, however, object to others building on the foundation that he had laid, or watering what he had planted (1 Corinthians 3:6, 10). He did object to their failing to give credit where credit was due. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 103)

What Does It Mean?

23. Comparison is a huge issue for some people. Write v. 12 in the NLT (New Living Translation) and 2 other Bible translations. Then, answer the questions.

  • What does Paul say is not wise (v. 12)?
  • Why is that not wise?
  • What would that kind of comparison look like? Give examples from your culture.

Think About It: Comparison against a standard isn’t all bad. But, comparison becomes dangerous when that standard is based on worldly values, and we deem ourselves “successful” when we hit that worldly standard. And, with the prevalence of social media, we can be tempted to compare ourselves with other believers—their achievements, social platform, and even their recreational activities. This can lead to self-centered pride or feelings of discouragement and failure. Also, don’t glorify men or women by 1) depending on them more than on Christ, 2) crediting them for your spiritual blessings, or 3) namedropping to increase your own image. Gratitude is okay.               

24. The answer to this “comparison thinking” is in vv. 17-18. Considering what you have learned so far in 2 Corinthians, why should we boast about the Lord and not about ourselves? See also John 5:44.

Focus on the Meaning: The word Paul kept using for “boast” means “to glory in or on something, to rejoice.” Boasting is not bad if you are boasting about the Lord and His work (v. 17) and the assignment He has given you (v. 13).

25. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 10:12-18?

What Application Will You Make?

26. Do you have a tendency to compare yourself to others to see how you measure up? Or, do you look at the world’s standards to define your achievements. How does that affect you?

27. How does living dependently on Christ keep you focused on what He has appointed YOU to be and do?

28. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

29. Review the passage for this lesson in “Day One Study.” Add reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves to the chart below. I’ve given a few prompts.

Verse(s)

Reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves

10:1

So we can treat others with the humility and gentleness of Christ

10:3-4

We need His power to demolish strongholds holding us captive

10:5

We need His power to take captive our thoughts for Him

10:13

To find our sphere of service He has assigned to us

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

As His child, God transforms your life by teaching you to live dependently on Him in weakness and in strength.

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