2 Corinthians 10:4
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) For the weapons of our warfare . . .—We learn from the earlier words of 1Thessalonians 5:8, yet more from the later ones of Ephesians 6:11-16, what these were—the energies of spiritual powers given by the Eternal Spirit.

To the pulling down of strong holds.—The phrase is essentially military, used in the LXX. for the capture and destruction of fortresses (Lamentations 2:2; Proverbs 21:22); “casting down the strength” (1 Maccabees 5:65); “pulled down the fortress” (8:10). He speaks as if leading an attack on the strong defences of the powers of evil, possibly thinking of the great system of idolatry and impurity enthroned at Corinth and throughout the Empire, possibly of those of pride and obstinate rebellion in the hearts of his individual opponents. The context favours the latter interpretation. It has been suggested (Stanley, in loc.) that the Apostle’s language may have been coloured by national memories of the wars against the Cilicians carried on by Pompeius, which ended in the reduction of one hundred and twenty fortresses and the capture of more than 10,000 prisoners.

2 Corinthians 10:4. For the weapons of our warfare — Those we use in this war; are not carnal — But spiritual. As they were not aided in their endeavours to Christianize the world by human power and authority, so neither did they rely on learning or eloquence, or any thing which could recommend them to human regard: but our weapons are mighty through God — Namely, the word of God and prayer, attended with the influence of the Divine Spirit, in his various gifts and graces, giving efficacy to their preaching in public, their converse in private, and their holy, exemplary, and beneficent lives. The means they used to enlighten, reform, regenerate, and save the world, were effectual, because the Lord wrought with them, and confirmed their word with signs following, Mark 16:20. Pulling down strong holds — Ignorance, prejudice, unbelief, fleshly lusts, worldly affections, desires of wealth, honour, pleasure, errors and vices of all sorts, and whatever was opposed by the wit, or wisdom, or power, or malice, or cruelty of men or devils, against the progress of the gospel in the world, and the influence of divine grace in the souls of men. In the original expression, προς καθαιρεσιν οχυρωματων, the apostle appears to allude to the beating down of fortresses by means of military engines, to which engines he compares their spiritual weapons above mentioned. And as the strong holds of which he speaks were demolished chiefly by preaching the gospel, by plain and simple men, without wisdom of words, or, as he expresses himself, (1 Corinthians 1:21,) by the foolishness of preaching, there is, perhaps, also an allusion to the beating down of the walls of Jericho by the priests blowing their trumpets, and by the people shouting, Joshua 6:20.10:1-6 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 the weapons of our warfare - The means by which we hope to achieve our victory.

Are not carnal - Not those of the flesh. Not such as the people of the world use. They are not such as are employed by conquerors; nor are they such as people in general rely on to advance their cause. We do not depend on eloquence, or talent, or learning, or wealth, or beauty, or any of the external aids on which the people of this world rely. They are not such as derive advantage from any power inherent in themselves. Their strength is derived from God alone.

But mighty through God - Margin, "to." They are rendered mighty or powerful by the agency of God. They depend on him for their efficacy. Paul has not here specified the weapons on which he relied; but he had before specified them 2 Corinthians 6:6-7, so that there was no danger of mistake. The weapons were such as were furnished by truth and righteousness, and these were rendered mighty by the attending agency of God. The sense is, that God is the author of the doctrines which we preach, and that he attends them with the agency of his Spirit, and accompanies them to the hearts of people. It is important for all ministers to feel that their weapons are mighty only through God. Conquerors and earthly warriors go into battle depending on the might of their own arm, and on the wisdom and skill which plans the battle. The Christian goes on his warfare, feeling that however well adapted the truths which he holds are to accomplish great purposes, and however wisely his plans are formed, yet that the efficacy of all depends on the agency of God. He has no hope of victory but in God. And if God does not attend him, he is sure of inevitable defeat.

To the pulling down of strongholds - The word rendered here as "strongholds" (ὀχύρωμα ochurōma) means properly a fastness, fortress, or strong fortification. It is here beautifully used to denote the various obstacles resembling a fortress which exist, and which are designed and adapted to oppose the truth and the triumph of the Christian's cause. All those obstacles are strongly fortified. The sins of his heart are fortified by long indulgence and by the hold which they have on his soul. The wickedness of the world which he opposes is strongly fortified by the fact that it has seized on strong human passions; that one point strengthens another; that great numbers are united. The idolatry of the world was strongly fortified by prejudice, and long establishment, and the protection of laws, and the power of the priesthood; and the opinions of the world are entrenched behind false philosophy and the power of subtle argumentation. The whole world is fortified against Christianity; and the nations of the earth have been engaged in little else than in raising and strengthening such strongholds for the space of 6,000 years. The Christian religion goes forth against all the combined and concentrated powers of resistance of the whole world; and the warfare is to be waged against every strongly fortified place of error and of sin. These strong fortifications of error and of sin are to be battered down and laid in ruins by our spiritual weapons.

4. A confutation of those who try to propagate their creed by force and persecution (compare Lu 9:54-56).

weapons—for punishing offending members (2Co 10:6; 1Co 4:21; 5:5, 13); boldness of speech, ecclesiastical discipline (2Co 10:8; 2Co 13:10), the power of the word, and of the sacraments, the various extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.

carnal—Translate, "fleshly," to preserve the allusion to 2Co 10:2, 3.

mighty through God—Greek, "mighty to God," that is, mighty before God: not humanly, but divinely powerful. The power is not ours, but God's. Compare "fair to God," that is, divinely fair (Ac 7:20, Margin). Also above (2Co 2:15), "unto God a sweet savor." "The efficacy of the Christian religion proves its truth" [Bengel].

pulling down—As the Greek is the same as in 2Co 10:5, translate, "casting down." Compare Jer 1:10: the inspired servants of God inherit the commission of the Old Testament prophets.

strongholds—(Pr 21:22); namely, in which sinners entrench themselves against reproof; all that opposes itself to Christ; the learning, and eloquence, and philosophical subtleties on which the Corinthians prided themselves. So Joshua's trumpet blast was "mighty" under God to overthrow the walls of Jericho.

As our end is spiritual, so are our means; the means by which we manage our spiritual fight are spiritual. Whether by these

weapons he meaneth the word of God, and his preaching the gospel, or the censures of the church duly administered, it is true, they are not of a carnal nature, or fitted to the subduing of men’s bodies, and bringing them into subjection; they are of a spiritual nature, and have their effects upon the mind and inward part of a man; yet, through the concurrence of Divine grace, there is in them a mighty force and power, to pull down

strong holds: by which metaphorical expression he understands whatsoever opposeth the gospel, and seemeth to defend and uphold men in their sinful courses; subduing the will of man, which is so strong a hold that all the power of hell cannot storm it. For the weapons of our warfare,.... By "warfare" is here meant, not that which is common to all believers, who are enlisted as volunteers under the captain of their salvation, and fight his battles, and are more than conquerors through him; but what is peculiar to the ministers of the Gospel; and designs the ministerial function, or office, and the discharge of it. So the Levitical function, or the ministerial service of the Levites, is called "the warfare of the service", Numbers 8:25. The ministry of the word is so styled, because that as war is waged in defence of men's rights, properties, and liberties, and for the weakening of an enemy's power and possessions, and for the enlargement of kingdoms and dominions; so this is in defence of the truths and liberty of the Gospel, that they may continue and abide; for the weakening of Satan's kingdom, by delivering the lawful captives, taking the prey from the mighty, turning souls from the power of Satan to God, and translating them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ Jesus; and so for the enlargement of his kingdom, by spreading the Gospel far and near. The "weapons" with which this warfare is managed are the Scriptures of truth, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God; and which indeed are an armoury, out of which may be taken weapons of all sorts, both offensive and defensive; such as serve both to establish and secure the doctrines of the Gospel, and to refute the errors of the wicked: to which may be added all those gifts which Christ has received for, and gives to men, qualifying them for the work of the ministry, and for the understanding of the sacred writings; together with all those means made use of by them for their improvement in spiritual knowledge; such as diligent reading the word of God, and the labours of his faithful servants, frequent meditation thereon, and earnest prayer to God for more light and experience. Also the various graces of the Spirit, with which they are endued, may be taken into the account; such as the breast plate of faith in Christ, and love to himself, his people, word, ordinances, cause, and interest; the helmet of salvation, hope, the girdle of truth and faithfulness, and the excellent grace of patience to endure all hardships, reproaches, insults, afflictions, and persecutions, cheerfully; and finally, all the acts of their ministration, such as preaching, prayer, the administration of ordinances, and laying on of censures, with the consent of the church. Now these weapons

are not carnal; such as the men of the world fight with, not the temporal sword; for Christ sent forth his apostles without that, naked and unarmed amidst their enemies, his kingdom not being of this world, and so not to be defended and propagated in such a way; or as the weapons the false apostles used, such as natural eloquence, fleshly wisdom, carnal reason, cunning craftiness, the hidden things of dishonesty, and great swelling words of vanity; or they were not weak and impotent, which is sometimes the signification of "flesh"; see Genesis 6:3

but mighty through God: powerful and effectual through the blessing of God, and the influences of his grace and Spirit for the conversion of sinners, the edification of saints, the defence of truth, the confutation of error, the destruction of Satan's kingdom, and the enlargement of Christ's: for these weapons are not powerful of themselves; they are passive instruments, which are only efficacious when used by a superior hand; when the Gospel ministration is attended with "the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power"; and then they are serviceable

to the pulling down of strong holds. The allusion seems to be to the falling of the walls of Jericho, at the sound of ram's horns, which must be ascribed not to those instruments, which were in themselves weak and despicable, but to the power of God that went along with the sound of them. By strong holds are meant, the strong holds of sin and Satan; such as unbelief, pride, hardness of heart, &c. with which the heart of man is walled (so , "the walls of the heart", Jeremiah 4:19) against God and Christ, and the Gospel of the grace of God, and by which Satan fortifies himself, and keeps the palace and goods in peace, until the everlasting doors are thrown open, which were bolted and barred; and these walls of defence are pulled down by the King of glory, who enters in, which is usually done by the power of God, in the ministry of the Gospel: so sins are called strong holds, fortresses, and bulwarks, by the Talmudists (k), who give this as the sense of Ecclesiastes 9:14

"a little city, this is the body; "and few men in it", these are the members; "and there came a great king against it, and besieged it", this is the evil imagination, lust, or concupiscence; and built against it "great bulwarks", or fortresses, , "these are iniquities".''

And so Philo the Jew (l) speaks of , "the firm munitions of vice" being broken down. Or else by them may be meant the fortresses of a man's own righteousness, holiness, good works, and moral duties, in which he entrenches, and thinks himself safe: which the Spirit of God, in the ministry of the word, blows a blast upon, and which are cast down by it, that revealing a better righteousness, even the righteousness of Christ; or else the fleshly wisdom, rhetorical eloquence, and sophisms of false teachers, with which they endeavoured to fortify themselves against the doctrines of the Gospel, but in vain.

(k) T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 32. 2.((l) De Confusione Linguarum, p. 335.

(For the weapons of our warfare are not {c} carnal, but mighty through {d} God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

(c) Are not those weapons that men get authority over one another with, and do great acts.

(d) Stand upon the foundation of God's infinite power.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 10:4. Reason assigned for the assertion just made οὐ κ. σ. στρατευόμεθα, but not a parenthesis (Griesbach, Lachmann), since 2 Corinthians 10:5 is manifestly a further explanation of the preceding πρὸς καθαίρ. ὀχυρ., so that the participles in 2 Corinthians 10:5 f. are to be referred to the logical subject of the verse before (ἡμεῖς). Comp. 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:13.

That the στρατεύεσθαι is not κατὰ σάρκα, is shown from the fact that the weapons of warfare are not σαρκικά; for, if the former were the case, so must the latter also. By the weapons (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:7; Romans 6:13; Romans 13:12) are to be understood the means, which the apostolic activity makes use of in the strife with the hostile power.

σαρκικά] which belong to the life-sphere of the σάρξ, so that the σάρξ, the sinfully inclined human nature, is their principium essendi, and they do not proceed from the Holy Spirit,[300] as e.g. σοφία σαρκική, 2 Corinthians 1:12, the νοῦς τῆς σαρκός, Colossians 2:18, the whole ἔργα τῆς σαρκ., Galatians 5:19. Now, since fleshly weapons as such are weak (Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:19), and not in keeping with the aims of the apostolic work, the weapons opposed to them are not designated according to their nature (for it is self-evident that they are ὅπλα πνευματικά), but at once according to their specific potency (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:4), as δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ. By this the passage only gains in pith, since by virtue of the contrast so expressed in σαρκικά the quality of weakness, and in δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ the pneumatic nature, are understood ex adjuncto. Hence the inference frequently drawn from δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ, that σαρκικός here must mean weak, is too hast.

δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ] mighty for God, i.e. passing with God as mighty, which denotes the true reality of the being mighty, without, however, being a Hebraistic periphrasis for the superlative (Vorstius, Glass, Emmerling, Vater, Flatt). See on ἀστεῖος τῷ θεῷ, Acts 7:20; Bernhardy, p. 83 f. Others, not following this current genuinely Greek usage (for the corresponding Hebrew usage, see Gesenius, Thesaur. I. p. 98), have explained it as: through God (Beza, Grotius, Cornelius a Lapide, Estius, Er. Schmid, Wolf, Bengel, and others; Erasmus has afflatu Dei), or for God, i.e. so that they are to God a means of showing His power (Billroth; comp. Chrysostom and Hofmann). But the former would be superfluous, since it is self-evident in the case of spiritual weapons, and the latter would import something into the words, especially as not God, but Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), is conceived as the general; comp. 2 Timothy 2:3. For the mighty πανοπλία of the Christian, which, along with the special apostolic gifts, is also that of the apostles, see Ephesians 6:14 ff.

πρὸς καθαίρεσιν ὄχυρωμάτων] that, for which the weapons are mighty: to the pulling down of strongholds (Xen. Hell. iii. 2. 3; very frequent in the books of the Maccabees; comp. ὀχυρὸς πύργος, τόπος, ὀχυρὰ πόλις, φρουρά, and the like). The τύφος Ἑλληνικός and the ἰσχὺς τῶν σοφισμάτων καὶ τῶν διαλογισμῶν (Chrysostom) are included in the phrase. It does not, however, mean these alone, nor the “old walls of the Jewish legal system” (Klöpper), but generally everything, which may be included as belonging to the category of humanly strong and mighty means of resistance to the gospel. Examples of this figurative use may be seen in Wetstein and Kypke, and from Philo in Loesner, p. 317. The pulling down depicts the making quite powerless and reducing to nought—the καταργεῖν, 1 Corinthians 1:28, and καταισχύνειν, 1 Corinthians 1:27.

[300] Chrysostom reckons up such weapons: πλοῦτος, δόξα, δυναστεία, εὐγλωττία, δεινότης, περιδρομαὶ, κολακεῖαι, ὑποκρίσεις, τὰ ἅλλα τὰ τούτοις ἐοικότα.2 Corinthians 10:4 is an explanatory parenthesis, and the constr. of 2 Corinthians 10:5 is continuous with 2 Corinthians 10:3, the metaphor of the destruction of the citadel being carried on.4. carnal] See note on 2 Corinthians 10:2. Also on 1 Corinthians 3:1.

mighty through God] Either (1) as in the text, or (2) mighty to God, i.e. in His sight, or (3) mighty for God, i.e. on behalf of Him, or perhaps (4) an Hebraistic construction, like the one in Acts 7:20, where it is equal to exceeding, just as Nineveh is called ‘a great city of God’ (Jonah 3:3 and notes).

strong holds] or fortifications, from a Greek word signifying to fortify.2 Corinthians 10:4. Τὰ γὰρ ὅπλα, for the arms [weapons]) From the paternal rod, 1 Corinthians 4:21 [shall I come unto you with a rod?], he now proceeds to arms, with increasing severity; comp. presently 2 Corinthians 10:6; also 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 5:13.—οὐ σαρκικὰ, ἀλλὰ δυνατὰ) not carnal and weak, but spiritual, and therefore mighty.—τῷ Θεῷ [Engl. Vers., “through God,”] to God) This is virtually an accusative case.[63] So ch. 2 Corinthians 2:15, to God. In like manner, Acts 7:20; in the same way as the preposition ל is used as a prefix, Jonah 3:3 [an exceeding great city, “lit. a city of God]. The power is not ours, but of God. The efficacy of the Christian religion is an argument of its truth.—ὈΧΥΡΩΜΆΤΩΝ, of strongholds) A grand expression. [The human understanding may here suspect inflated language; but it is no common force and power, to wit, the force and power of those things, which in the case of the soul are brought out on both sides (both on the carnal and on the spiritual side).—V. g.]

[63] As the Accus. is often used adverbially, forming an adverbial epithet.—ED.Verse 4. - Weapons (see 2 Corinthians 6:7; Romans 6:13). Not carnal. He did not rely on the mere "arm of flesh," or on earthly sword or panoply. Mighty through God; literally, powerful for God; i.e. either

(1) powerful for the cause of God, or

(2) powerful in his estimate. To the pulling down of strongholds. The word for "pulling down," which implies the entire clearance of an obstacle, is only found in the New Testament in this Epistle (vers. 4, 8; 2 Corinthians 13:10). The word for "strongholds" is found here alone. These "fortresses" were the opposition aroused by factious and hostile partisans, and he hoped to subdue them by the strong exercise of apostolic authority (l Corinthians 4:21; 5:1-5). Dean Stanley suggests a reminiscence of the hundred and twenty Cilician fortresses pulled down by Pompey; but I think that these general allusions are often pressed too far. Carnal

Rev., better, of the flesh, thus preserving the play on the words. The idea of weakness attaches to that of fleshliness. See on σάρξ flesh, sec. 4, Romans 7:5.

Through God (τῷ Θεῷ)

Lit., mighty unto God, in God's sight. See on exceeding fair, Acts 7:20. Rev., before God.

Pulling down (καθαίρεσιν)

Only in this epistle. Compare Luke 1:52. Also used of taking down pride, or refuting arguments.

Of strongholds (ὀχυρωμάτων)

Only here in the New Testament. From ἔχω to hold, so that holds is an accurate rendering. Compare keep, a dungeon. The word is not common in classical Greek, but occurs frequently in the Apocrypha. In its use here there may lie a reminiscence of the rock-forts on the coast of Paul's native Cilicia, which were pulled down by the Romans in their attacks on the Cilician pirates. Pompey inflicted a crushing defeat upon their navy off the rocky stronghold of Coracesium on the confines of Cilicia and Pisidia.

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