2 Corinthians 10:3
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) For though we walk in the flesh.—The phrase is generally used by St. Paul for the simple fact of bodily existence, with all its incidental infirmities and trials, but, commonly, without implying sin, as “after the flesh” does (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:22-24; 1Timothy 3:16). The thought of participating in the sin of which the body is the occasion is, however, very close to that of sharing its weakness; and the phrase appears with this sense in Romans 8:8-9.

We do not war after the flesh.—Strictly, we are not carrying on our campaign. See Note on Luke 3:14, where the same word is used. As so often in St. Paul’s style, the word—especially any word like this, connected with the soldier’s life—becomes the germ of an elaborate figurative imagery, almost of a parable.

10:1-6 While others thought meanly, and spake scornfully of the apostle, he had low thoughts, and spake humbly of himself. We should be aware of our own infirmities, and think humbly of ourselves, even when men reproach us. The work of the ministry is a spiritual warfare with spiritual enemies, and for spiritual purposes. Outward force is not the method of the gospel, but strong persuasions, by the power of truth and the meekness of wisdom. Conscience is accountable to God only; and people must be persuaded to God and their duty, not driven by force. Thus the weapons of our warfare are very powerful; the evidence of truth is convincing. What opposition is made against the gospel, by the powers of sin and Satan in the hearts of men! But observe the conquest the word of God gains. The appointed means, however feeble they appear to some, will be mighty through God. And the preaching of the cross, by men of faith and prayer, has always been fatal to idolatry, impiety, and wickedness.For though we walk in the flesh - Though we are mortal like other people; though we dwell like them in mortal bodies, and necessarily must devote some care to our temporal needs; and though, being in the flesh, we are conscious of imperfections and frailties like others. The sense is, that he did not claim exemption from the common needs and frailties of nature. The best of people are subject to these needs and frailties; the best of people are liable to err.

We do not war after the flesh - The warfare in which he was engaged was with sin, idolatry, and all forms of evil. He means that in conducting this he was not actuated by worldly views or policy, or by such ambitious and interested aims as controlled the people of this world. This refers primarily to the warfare in which Paul was himself engaged as an apostle; and the idea is, that he went forth as a soldier under the great Captain of his salvation to fight his battles and to make conquests for him. A similar allusion occurs in 2 Timothy 2:3-4. It is true, however, that not only all ministers, but all Christians are engaged in a warfare; and it is equally true that they do not maintain their conflict "after the flesh," or on the principles which govern the people of this world. The warfare of Christians relates to the following points:

(1) It is a warfare with the corrupt desires and sensual propensities of the heart; with eternal corruption and depravity, with the remaining unsubdued propensities of a fallen nature.

(2) with the powers of darkness; the mighty spirits of evil that seek to destroy us; see Ephesians 6:11-17.

(3) with sin in all forms; with idolatry, sensuality, corruption, intemperance, profaneness, wherever they may exist. The Christian is opposed to all these, and it is the aim and purpose of his life as far as he may be able to resist and subdue them. He is a soldier enlisted under the banner of the Redeemer to oppose and resist all forms of evil. But his warfare is not conducted on worldly principles. Muhammed propagated his religion with the sword; and the people of this world seek for victory by arms and violence; The Christian looks for his conquests only by the force and the power of truth, and by the agency of the Spirit of God.

3. For—Reason why they should regard him "beseeching" them (2Co 10:2) not to oblige him to have recourse to "bold" and stern exercise of authority. "We walk IN the flesh," and so in weakness: but not "ACCORDING TO the flesh" (2Co 10:2). Moreover, though we WALK in it, we do not WAR according to it. A double contrast or antithesis. "They who accuse us of walking after the flesh, shall find [to their cost] that we do not war after the flesh; therefore compel us not to use our weapons" [Alford]. There is a great difference between walking in the flesh, and warring after the flesh. The best of men in this life walk in the flesh, as their souls are not in a state of separation from, but union with, the body; but they do not walk after the flesh, as their fleshly appetite is not the principle of their actions, nor the satisfaction of it the end of their actions. The apostle, in the latter part of the verse changeth the verb; in the former part he called our conversation, a walking; in the latter part he calleth it a warring; which he describeth negatively in this verse, positively in the following verses. In calling it a warring, he lets us know that it is, and will be, a life of opposition, in which a Christian will have many enemies; though his hand be against none, yet many hands will be against him. But though they be men of strife and contention, in a passive sense, yet they are not so in an active sense, according to the usual notion of warring; for they war not after the flesh, neither as fleshly men, nor in a carnal, fleshly manner, nor yet for fleshly ends. The men of the world war for their honour and glory, or for revenge and satisfaction of their lusts, or for the enlarging of their territories and dominions; but

we do not thus war after the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh,.... The apostle removes the calumny of walking after the flesh, by owning that they were in the flesh, in the body, in a state of imperfection, attended with many weaknesses and infirmities, and surrounded with a variety of afflictions and sorrows; in this sense they were, and lived and walked in the flesh; but then he denies the charge exhibited against them,

we do not war after the flesh: every Christian's life is a warfare with Satan, and his principalities and powers, with the world, the men and lusts of it, and with the corruptions of their own hearts; and much more is the life of a minister of the Gospel, who is called forth to meet the adversary in the gate; to stand in the hottest place of the battle, and sustain the whole fire and artillery of the enemy; to fight the good fight of faith, endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ, and with the weapons he is furnished with to war a good warfare: which is not done "after the flesh"; in such a manner as the men of the world wage war with one another; or upon carnal principles; or with carnal selfish views; or in a weak way and manner; but in a spiritual way, with all simplicity and disinterested views, with great courage and intrepidity of mind.

{2} For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

(2) Secondly, he witnesses that although he is similar to other men, yet he comes furnished with that strength which no defence of man can match, whether they resist by craft and deceit, or by force and might, because he battles with divine weapons.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 10:3 does not introduce the refutation of the previous accusation (so that, with Estius and Billroth, we should have to supply a quod falsum est), since γάρ may quite naturally find its logical reference in what was expressed before. Nor does it assign the reason for τῇ πεποιθ. ᾗ λογίζομαι τολμῆσαι, since there is nothing whatever against the reference, which first and most naturally suggests itself, to the chief thought of the previous verse. Hence it assigns the reason of the δεόμαι δὲ κ.τ.λ.: “I entreat, let me not become bold, etc.; for the position of matters with us is quite different from what the opponents believe: we do not march to the field κατὰ σάρκα,” etc. Do not therefore run the risk of this!

ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπ.] Paul wishes to express the thought: for it by no means stands with us so as those think, and hence says: For, though we walk in the flesh, for although the existent form of the sinful bodily human nature is the organ, in which our conduct of life has its course (σάρκα μὲν γὰρ περικείμεθα, Chrysostom), still we do not take the field according to the flesh, the σάρξ is not the standard, according to which our official working, which resembles a campaigning, is carried on. Observe that even in ἐν σαρκί the notion of the σάρξ is not indifferent, expressing the mere life of the body (comp. Galatians 2:20; Php 1:22): this is forbidden by what goes before and follows. If taken in this way, ἐν σαρκὶ περιπ. would contain something very insignificant, because self-evident, and would form no adequate contrast to κατὰ σάρκα—a contrast, which only results when the notion of σάρξ is alike in both clauses. For the stress of this contrast lies in ἐν and κατά (in the flesh, not according to the flesh); instead of περιπατοῦμεν, however, there comes in στρατευόμεθα, because it was highly appropriate to the context (2 Corinthians 10:1-2) to give thus a military character to the apostle’s περιπατεῖν in presence of his enemies (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:7). On the idea, comp. 1 Timothy 1:18.2 Corinthians 10:3. ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ κ.τ.λ.: for though we walk in the flesh, sc., as all men must do (see reff.), we do not war, i.e., carry on our campaign against evil and the enemies of God, according to the flesh (cf. John 17:15)—for the weapons of our warfare (see on 2 Corinthians 6:7) are not carnal (see on 2 Corinthians 1:12), but are mighty before God, i.e., in God’s sight, in His estimation (or, perhaps, “exceeding mighty,” which is the force of τῷ Θεῷ at Jonah 3:3, Acts 7:20; the A.V. “mighty through God,” i.e., “by His aid,” cannot be right), to the casting down of strongholds, which is the ultimate object of every campaign, and which, being achieved, is the seal of victory; καθαίρειν τὰ ὀχυρώματα is the regular LXX phrase for the reduction of a fortress (see Proverbs 21:22, Lamentations 2:2, 1Ma 5:65; 1Ma 8:10).3. in the flesh] To walk in the flesh is to possess the fleshly nature with its many infirmities (see Romans 7). To walk after the flesh is to neglect the dictates of the higher spiritual nature, and to live as though the desires of the body were the only ones that needed satisfying.

war after the flesh] The metaphor of a warfare, as applied to the Christian life, is a common one with St Paul, though it is more usually used of the internal conflict of the Christian soul than of the external warfare waged against the evil around. See 1 Corinthians 9:26; Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:7. Bp Wordsworth remarks on the fact that “the armies of Imperial Rome, her camps and her campaigns,” and the rest, were “objects that presented themselves to St Paul in his travels, and were very familiar to his readers.” Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.2 Corinthians 10:3. Ἐν σαρκὶ, in the flesh) with weakness. See the following verse.—[62] στρατευόμεθα, we war) By this word he opens the way for a transition to what follows; and the reason of the boldness, τοῦ θαῤῥῆσαι [2 Corinthians 10:2], is included.

[62] Ἐν σαρκὶοὐ κατὰ σάρκα, in the flesh—not according to the flesh) There is a great difference.—V. g.Verse 3. - We walk in the flesh. St. Paul does not disclaim the possession of human infirmities, but maintains that such trials and temptations were not the guiding force of his life. We do not war after the flesh. His campaigns (Luke 3:14) were fought with spiritual weapons. The metaphor is a constant one with St. Paul (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Ephesians 6:10-17, etc.). In the flesh

Being human, and subject to human conditions.

War (στρατευόμεθα)

Serve as soldiers: carry on our campaign. See on Luke 3:14; see on James 4:1.

After the flesh

Or according to (Rev.). Quite a different thing from being in the flesh.

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