In this passage Paul may have had in mind Joshua’s victory at Jericho (Josh.6). It was an unusual battle fought with unusual weapons, but Joshua and the Israelites were mightily successful through God.
It is an occupational hazard for a church leader to be criticised and misrepresented (1b, 10). At times you will have bad things, and even wrong things, said about you. So you have to develop a thick skin without becoming hard hearted. In dealing with all people, and especially those who give us a difficult time, we must seek to act in a Christ-like way (1a). By God’s grace, show Jesus to all people. Make this your aim. But being Christ-like is not incompatible with grasping nettles in the ‘field’ of the church (2). Some tables need to be tipped over; there will be that which requires removal from the temple. There will be rebuking words to speak. Jesus’ loving gentleness did not accept all behaviour uncritically. Church leaders, likewise, have to exercise discipline in certain circumstances (6).
Sorting problems out in the church is part of our spiritual warfare (3). The local congregation is not immune from the devil’s influence. In fact, Satan loves to ‘go to church’, but in disguise, so that he is not spotted until it is too late. By then he is, no doubt, wreaking all kinds of havoc. If God were to pull back the curtain and show us all that goes on in the unseen world to try to cripple the local church, we would probably all turn the colour of whitewash. This war is real and more savage than any worldly war. But we don’t wage war with tanks and guns and bombs and lies/deception etc. We have spiritual ”weapons” filled with ”divine power” (4). You might like to take a moment to write a list of as many of these as you can think of. But it’s not knowing that you have them in the cupboard that counts. It’s actually reaching in there and making use of them. When we do we find they have a devastating impact on the enemy’s kingdom. They really do work, but again, you do have to use them. They must not be like weapons put on display in an armouries museum. As you look at them in their display cases, you can easily see what they have been capable of, but it’s not happening now. I knew a man once, and he had a fascination with weapons. They were hanging on the walls all over his house. They were on display, but thankfully not in use! There are Christians who simply hang their weapons on the walls of their lives, but they never take them down and fight the devil with them. Or rarely do they do so. If they were to really take the Christian fight seriously, and stop playing toy soldiers, they would be open-mouthed at what God would do through them.
Fundamentally, the battles are for men’s minds (5). This is true both inside and outside the church. The devil sets up strongholds that are formed with ”arguments” (against God and His truth), and ‘pretentions’ and unruly thoughts that don’t want to obey Jesus. Our battle is to see Christ’s Lordship established over every mind and heart and life. There will be an end to trouble in any church where Jesus is truly allowed to reign as Lord. I read a question today in ‘Search the Scriptures’. You might like to consider it: ”Have you known in your own experience: (a) of lawless elements in your own thought-life brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and (b) of winning such victories for Christ in the thought-life of others?” We need to ensure that our thoughts are not like mutinous soldiers. May they all come under the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.
”…every thought of the soul, which is hostile to the authority of the divine Truth, must become a prisoner of war in the camp of Christ.” F.B.Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.429.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am aware of a great war that rages in me, and often spills over to affect the life of the church. But I give myself afresh to you today, and my desire is that every thought will march in line behind you.