2 Corinthians 10:5 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.
Paul’s powerful mind was saturated with God’s word, and he was ready to demolish every opposing idea. Satan has filled the world with false doctrines, false religions, and false philosophies to keep people away from God. Paul was not afraid of false teaching because Christianity is true and will triumph in the end. [For] the wisdom of the wise will perish, [and] the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish (Isaiah 29:14), wrote Isaiah.
Since Christianity is true, and everything opposed to it is false, it is no surprise that many great thinkers have been Christians. Christian thinkers should not withdraw from the intellectual arena, but challenge and refute the false ideas of their time. The more false ideas that are refuted, the more room there is for truth.
The battle for truth is also fought in the mind of every believer. Our thoughts are the first and final frontier of our discipleship, so we ought to apply Paul’s words to ourselves: take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. The more we agree with Christ, the more we will be in the truth.
2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Fourteen years earlier, Paul was taken into heaven, perhaps even physically. There he heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell (2 Corinthians 12:4). To keep him from becoming proud, he was given a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). Three times he prayed that Christ would take it away, but the Lord replied, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
The Corinthians probably knew what Paul’s affliction was, so he did not need to describe it. They may have even used it against Paul by suggesting that, if he was really an apostle, the Lord would have healed him. But Paul understood his weakness to be an opportunity for Christ to work through him even more powerfully. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10), he wrote.
The principle of strength through weakness is difficult to understand, but can be compared to a baseball glove. When the glove is new, it does not work very well, because it is too stiff. It has to be broken in through twisting, turning and bending until it becomes pliable. When it is new and strong, it is weak. When it is old and pliable, it is strong. Some Christians are so strong-willed that Christ is not able to use them very much. But when they become pliable through hardship, Christ can be strong through their weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:20 I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
The church in Corinth was almost certainly the worst church Paul ever started. They were guilty of many sins, and some were slow to repent (2 Corinthians 12:21). And yet, they were a real church, sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (1 Corinthians 1:2), wrote Paul.
The church in Corinth reminds us not to expect too much from our own church. The church is not a gathering of good people, but of believing sinners who often behave sinfully. They ought to be better than they were, but are never as good as they should be, and will often sin against each other.
If you have been hurt by people in your church, make a list of what they did wrong, then do the opposite. If they have been unkind, be extra kind. If they have been gossipy, speak all the good you know. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also (Luke 6:29). Their bad example can make you a better Christian, and you can make your church a better Christian community.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.
The Corinthians’ behavior was so deplorable that Paul had reason to question their faith. In fact, there will be many on Judgment Day who thought they were believers, but were actually deceived (Matthew 7:22). Paul did not want that to happen to the Corinthians, so he urged them to examine themselves. He did not tell them how, but the following seven questions might be helpful.
First, do you believe that Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, crucified for your sins, and raised from the dead? Second, since Jesus Christ is Lord of all, do you allow him to govern your words, thoughts and deeds? Third, do you have a sense of the Spirit of Christ within you? Fourth, do you feel more at home with Christians than with unbelievers? Fifth, are you looking forward to the return of Christ? Sixth, do you honor Christ with your time? Seventh, do you honor Christ with your finances?
Since nothing is more important than eternal salvation, the Apostle Peter also taught believers to make every effort to confirm your calling and election (2 Peter 1:10). Our right standing before God should never be assumed or taken for granted. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.
2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Paul’s final words to the Corinthians are a Trinitarian blessing. The word Trinity does not occur in the Bible, but it represents what the Bible teaches. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God—but there is only one God.
The Father, Son and Spirit are three separate persons, but not three separate Gods, because they share the same divinity. This is why Jesus told his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). We do not have to understand this, but we do have to believe it, because it is what the Bible teaches.
Reflection and Review
How can we become better thinkers?
How can we improve our church?
How can we know that we are Christians?