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In the following text by Paul what kind of "warfare" can Christians be involved in and what kind of "warfare" must Christians not be involved in?

KJV 2 Cor 10:3-5
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; ..."

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In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Paul is speaking of spiritual warfare, the war against the false teachings of men who defy God and who seek to destroy Christianity.

NIV 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 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.”

NIV Commentary: Paul is prepared for warfare; his weapons, however, are not the weapons prized by this fallen world and fashioned by human pride and arrogance. The strongholds (in verse 4) are of arguments and every pretension defiantly raised “against the knowledge of God”, among which are the faulty reasonings by which the false apostles have been trying to shake the faith of the Christians in Corinth. The centre of man’s being thus becomes fully subject to the lordship of Christ.

NIV Ephesians 6: 12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul makes reference to “weapons of righteousness” and then describes “the armour of God” in Ephesians 6:10-18. Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare and must avail themselves of spiritual protection, to go forth in God’s power.

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  • Thanks. That is one side of the coin, what is the other?
    – user26950
    Nov 21, 2018 at 17:55
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    @ethos – I am not about to put words into Paul’s mouth. And this site does not encourage personal opinions or leading questions that try to elicit a particular view held by the asker of the question.
    – Lesley
    Nov 21, 2018 at 18:07
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    Well stated @Lesley !
    – user25930
    Nov 21, 2018 at 19:25
  • So thus what does Paul mean when he says "For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal." ?
    – user26950
    Nov 21, 2018 at 22:08
  • @ethos - Why don't you tell us?
    – Lesley
    Nov 22, 2018 at 17:38
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The question posed is:

In the following text by Paul what kind of "warfare" can Christians be involved in and what kind of "warfare" must Christians not be involved in?

In perhaps the most dangerous of all hermeneutics, the verse is being lifted out of its original context and being asked to opine about two questions it does not address:

  • what kind of war must a Christian participate in?
  • what kind of war must a Christian not participate in?

While it is entirely delightful and profitable to extract from any and every passage of scripture, it is dangerous to put much weight on an inference. That is, if Paul says:

"A Christian must participate in spiritual warfare" then we can say authoritatively that a Christian must participate in spiritual warfare. It is explicit.

But if infer from it that because it is a war that there will be tanks there then I've inferred something sort of logically but it is mistaken. Hopefully you can appreciate how different an explicit assertion is from a inference.

A common example of a bad inference is one that is based on the erroneous presumption that a passage is speaking the reader. Another is to misunderstand pronouns, assuming that the reader is included. Both of these errors are at play in the question.

The reason I say it is out of context and that the question misidentifies the referents of the pronouns is that when Paul says "the weapons of OUR warfare" he is clearly speaking of the apostles' warfare, not that of his hearers. It should be clear from the text that the "we" is not the Corinthians:

Expounding 2 Corinthians 10:1-18 KJV

It is hard for many of us to imagine now but Paul was not always liked. In the current context some in Corinth were challenging his credibility because for a man with such authority he really was a lowly, pitiful, humble specimen in person:

1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence [am] base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

So he urges the Corinthians to not push him any further into coming into Corinth like a Roman soldier, clothed in armor and wielding a sword which it apparently crossed Paul's mind to do!:

2 But I beseech [you], that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

Instead he is Christ's soldier and in place of the Roman weapons are God's weapons. These are spiritual weapons designed to destroy the forces and fortresses of evil and bring about the true knowledge of God:

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

So the "we" here is clearly Paul and the other apostles because it is they that received authority for the purpose of building up, not tearing down. Tearing down is necessary but not the purpose:

6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. 7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he [is] Christ's, even so [are] we Christ's. 8 For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: 9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. 10 For [his] letters, say they, [are] weighty and powerful; but [his] bodily presence [is] weak, and [his] speech contemptible. 11 Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such [will we be] also in deed when we are present. 12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 But we will not boast of things without [our] measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. 14 For we stretch not ourselves beyond [our measure], as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in [preaching] the gospel of Christ: 15 Not boasting of things without [our] measure, [that is], of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, 16 To preach the gospel in the [regions] beyond you, [and] not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand. 17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

So Paul was referring to the weapons (authority) that they, the apostles had been given for building up. He was hoping to avoid using his authority to judge, he "has that option at DEFCON 4".

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  • Most texts have therein a Principle to extract so what is it?
    – user26950
    Nov 21, 2018 at 22:10
  • While there is no limit on the number of applications I would say the "principle" Paul is explaining is akin to: [1Co 4:21 KJV] 21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and [in] the spirit of meekness? and [Gal 6:1 KJV] 1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 21, 2018 at 22:16
  • OK What of the injuntion on "carnel" war?
    – user26950
    Nov 21, 2018 at 22:18
  • To which injunction are you referring?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 21, 2018 at 23:32
  • I am sorry folks but I still cant see an application. @Ruminator, exactly how does the text apply to the everyday Christian. Mar 10, 2020 at 22:45

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