1 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you– I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:1-6 NIV)
I have very few things in common with the Apostle Paul. One of them is that I find it easier to address a difficult situation in writing. This is as far as the similarity goes. Paul is willing to do whatever it takes to get the church at Corinth back on track and expects that this task will not be complete until he is with them in person.
These are extremely popular verses in the study of spiritual warfare. While the weapons and posture of the armed soldier in Ephesians are defensive, this description describes a person on the offensive. A human army on the offensive will use whatever weapons are available to kill the enemy and physically destroy their territory. In Paul’s day these weapons would have been swords, spears, and fire. Our weapons are not physical. When we choose human weapons, either guns or tongues, we are defeated before we begin because we have denied the power of God to defeat the enemy we are facing.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:17-18 NIV)
There are two things that Paul lists in his instructions on the armor of God that could be considered offensive weapons. The first is the sword of the Spirit. We think of this as the Bible, but that is probably too limited. Thinking of the sword of the Spirit as the Bible removes the supernatural activity of the Spirit. We may speak the words of scripture and even comment on them, but for the truth of the words to have power they must be delivered by the work of the Holy Spirit to the heart. My spoken words go from my mouth to the listener’s ear and then into their mind. I believe that the movement from head to heart is the work of the Spirit.
We may not be able to force the truth of God’s word to move from head to heart, but we can pray. Four times is Ephesians 6:18-20 Paul instructs us to pray. Paul believes that prayer makes a difference. Every time we pray, we should be reminded that there is a war going on in the spiritual realm. It is God who has the power to change what to us seems unchangeable. Paul is confident that the power of God can demolish any barrier.
Despite Paul’s confidence, I struggle with prayer. I believe that God is good and powerful. I also believe that an element of His goodness was His willingness to give us free will. When I pray for change, either for myself or for someone else, I do not doubt God, but I do doubt the willingness of the person I am praying for to change. Nevertheless, I will keep praying. Hearts do change under the power of the Holy Spirit.