Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal . . .”). (2 Cor. 10:3, 4). Today it may be possible that some of us are putting too much trust in a physical weapon to help us win a spiritual victory. To allow ourselves to be thus misguided would be like trying to win a Navy victory with trucks and tanks, or like trying to win a football game with tennis balls. By use of a gun or a club a woman would seldom win the love of a man, for the weapons of her warfare in the battles of love are not those that involve violence. Just as surely as God “Dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands” (Ac. 17:24, 25), likewise His people cannot fight His battles with those things that are material in their nature. just as certainly as the mountains of Samaria and the temple at Jerusalem would both be unimportant for true worship to God, for true worship must be “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:21-24, likewise today acceptableness to Him and fruitfulness in His service is determined by our use of those things that are spiritual and not carnal.
Are We Really Soldiers?
It often may be wise for us to be reminded that we are indeed engaged in a very real warfare. Every Christian is a soldier in the Lord’s army. We are all volunteers for the Lord does not conscript us. Yet, though we be altogether willing soldiers, we are, nevertheless real warriors, and we must accept the weapons God has given, train ourselves in their proper use, and wield them with vigor and courage.
Our enemy is Satan and his soldiers are those people who are subjects of sin and victims of deception and false doctrine. Satan’s soldiers need no special qualifications, and transgression, ignorance and wilfulness are perhaps the three most potent snares he has to gain and to keep his soldiers. John wrote that sin is transgression (I Jn. 3:4). God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (Hos. 4:6). In 2 Peter 3:5 the Holy Spirit teaches us about those who are willingly ignorant of God’s ways and God’s word, and how that such brings destruction. Satan’s army is full of men and women who have all transgressed God’s word and who go on in transgressions, either ignorantly or deliberately. These are the soldiers against whom God’s army is arrayed. The task of God’s people is to eliminate ignorance and to try to provoke the willful ones to surrender to the Lord.
Throughout all the centuries past the faithful have been engaged in a warfare, and indeed “truth is stranger than fiction” and the stories of the battles fought in behalf of truth and righteousness are the greatest stories ever told. Because he walked so closely with God and pleased Him so completely Enoch was spared the ordeal of death and was thus given a very significant “decoration” for his victory over Satan. Abraham’s battles were fought by faith and it (the faith) was counted unto him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Elijah overpowered the prophet of Baal through his faith in God. John the baptizer lost his head to a wicked woman but even in death portrayed victory in righteousness. Jesus the Christ emerged as the greatest warrior of all time, for he not only demonstrated power over the winds of the sea, over the afflictions of the flesh and over the forces of gravity, but most significantly he exhibited himself to be master of sin and of death and of Satan. For us today, the example of Jesus is truly convincing, for he did his warfare entirely with the spiritual weapon, the word of God which it has also pleased Him to give to us for our use in the same kind of warfare.
Perhaps we should each ask ourself if we really qualify as a good soldier in the army of the Lord? Are we really trying to win a victory in the hearts of men and women for our Saviour and theirs? Let us remember that it is not enough for us to just volunteer, but we must fight! We are indeed added to the Lord’s army when we obey the gospel of Christ (Ac. 2:47), but such does not constitute us as truly good soldiers unless we go on from that beginning to engage ourselves in battle against sin, Satan and error.
Choosing Our Weapons
When Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare ire not carnal, he was surely stressing the truly spiritual nature of the Kingdom of Christ. He was suggesting that the ordinary means used by men to gain their objectives in this life are not to be used in opposing Satan and in defending truth. I take it that he not only meant to forbid the use of unscrupulous ways and means but that he would also have us know that material things, even those that are honest and good in themselves, could not win spiritual victories. We need so badly
to learn this lesson today. Let us notice some ways in which we may be inclined to forget Paul’s words and lean too heavily upon fleshly, human means:
- The power of the old-fashioned gospel, unadulterated with the fancy phrases of modern theology, is still God’s only way to bring sinners to salvation. Paul himself said that he was sent to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of non effect – I Cor. 1 :17, and that his speech and his preaching was “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (2 Cor. 2:4). And so today there is an evident need for the truth that will make men free, and for preaching that possesses no theological ambiguity. The cultured words of man’s wisdom may fill the church houses of our day, but only the unvarnished truth of God’s word will concert the sinner from the error of his way. The fancy technology learned in the speech classes, the illustrations and quotations from the newest and best of men’s literature and the “good mixer” qualities learned in the psychology classes (and from Dale Carnegie’s book) may all combine to make us successful “church builders,” but only the sharp, two edged sword of the Spirit separates sinners from sin and brings them to the Lamb of God to be washed in the blood He shed.
- Under the guise of a means to a worthy end we build great and expensive church buildings today, spending huge sums of the Lord’s money, adding much that is entirely of vanity and human pride instead of building only that which is a necessity for proper assembly. Strangely and sadly we note that so many Christians today hardly recognize the existence of the church in any community until a church building is erected. At least many do equate the presence of a church building with the existence of a church. And after the building is erected still more and more funds are poured into the “physical plant” in the form of additions and improvements. In most places any sum suggested can easily be had to pay for these physical things. But out in the destitute fields of the world the people in sin and ignorance are starving for the bread of life and the preachers of the word are often sacrificing significantly while their pleas for help fall upon deaf ears. Ask many churches for a thousand dollars for a carpet for the aisles and the rostrum and it will be forthcoming immediately, but ask the same church for one hundred dollars for support for a preacher in a new field and the appeal is not only rejected but often ignored.
We need to remember that not one soul was ever won to Christ by a church building, either fancy or ordinary. Let us not forget that pews and carpets, air-conditioners and nurseries and all other such material things appeal only to the fleshly and not to the spiritual. When plain, commodious church buildings are filled with godly, consecrated men and women and when the Lord’s money is expended freely and abundantly for more and more spiritual food and when less and less is used for physical advantages, we will then be more closely imitating Paul and his companions of the first century.
- Slides, films and projectors may certainly have their place in the teaching activities of God’s people today, but such mechanical things will never replace consecrated Christians and devoted students of the word. The problem here is not so much regarding the item used but in the attitude toward it. When people must “see a show” in order to study the word of God their attitude is wrong and any action they take will likely be from a wrong concept or motivation, also. (Let this not he construed as a criticism of visual aids is such, but only as an effort to point out abuses. The same is true of former paragraphs regarding education and church buildings).