IN THE FLESH OR BY THE SPIRIT?

Paul continues to encourage the Corinthians to give generously in the Spirit, but unfortunately, this section has given translators a lot of trouble over the years. Mouse has picked up on many of those translation problems and we see that Paul’s message was much simpler than we have been told, his attitude holier, and that his behaviour was entirely “in Christ” at all times. Check it out.  >ᴥ<

You’ll find it very instructive to compare the Mouse Companion Version with your own favourite translation.

2   Corinthians 10:1-6

1     Now I, Paul, appeal to you myself, in the meekness and gentleness of Christ, whose presence in you is truly humility, so I have confidence in you in my absence,

Paul’s appeal, like everything else he does, is in Christ and thus is built on the character of Christ, in this case His “meekness and gentleness.”

Most translations get very lost here because they start off assuming that the King James version is basically correct. It’s not. Paul is not talking about himself—either being humble, “timid” or “meek” when face to face with them, or “bold” from a distance—an idea they have picked up from verse 10. He is talking about the presence of Christ in the Corinthians; there are simply not enough words in the Greek to justify their additions. In the end they get so lost in the idea that Paul is talking about himself that they actually entitle this section “Paul’s defense of his ministry” or even “Paul describes himself.” Neither being his subject at all.

Paul contrasts the presence of Christ in them with his own absence from them. Unlike most translations have it, he is not suggesting that he is only “bold” when not confronted by them, nor is he agreeing that he is “weak” in their presence. That would depict him as cowardly to the level of being unable to tackle their sin on the spot, but having to go away and write them a letter! And of course, we can see that neither is he talking about their sin at this point. He is simply encouraging them in accordance with his gifting, by telling them of his confidence in their faithful obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and giving them sound advice on the best attitude to maintain towards their flesh.

These translators don’t see that the Corinthians have a special place in his heart, and his love for them would totally override any supposed fleshly weakness or timidity anyway—the stakes are too high. And manipulative behaviour, such as sneaking off to write them a letter, would be positively dangerous for them, because Christian discipleship can only ever function correctly when straightforward, honest and true. Manipulation of other people runs entirely counter to God’s way of thinking—the Bible generally describes it as witchcraft—and would thus be sinful disobedience on the part of Paul himself.

We don’t need to worry however—he is actually simply expressing his confidence in their faith being up to fulfilling their promise from the end of chapter 9.

The word they translate as “bold,” in this situation means ‘to have confidence,’ and it says “in my absence” because his confidence is not dependent on actually being there to strengthen and encourage them—he doesn’t need to because the presence of Christ is active in them.

Paul, contrary to what most translations say, is making the point that humility in Christ and real courage are not opposites, nor even contradictory, they are in fact both important aspects of real faith in Christ, and support one another. We are to have, and demonstrate, both the humility of Christ, and His invincible courage, by our faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

2    yet I am entreating you, since I’m not present, to have courage, with the confidence I’m counting on to be fearless before any who suppose that we walk by the flesh.

Translation note: Paul is urging them to have courage, because it takes courage to give generously by faith, which is still the thrust of this section. In Paul’s understanding, their courage in giving by faith is equivalent to the fearlessness of faith he will need to obediently, and thus fruitfully, serve the Lord in the presence of the doubters at Corinth, who have assumed that he is walking by the flesh. His reference is to the power he will need to draw upon to show them that he and Timothy are not “walking by the flesh” and they are speaking for the Lord, demonstrated by the power of God accompanying their words and deeds. From this we can conclude that there are no varieties of courage or faith in the life of a disciple—all come down to complete trust in the prompting and empowering of the Holy Spirit.

3    For, though we walk in the flesh, we don’t war by the flesh:

Some of the newer translations lose the clear references to the flesh, strangely assuming that ‘the world’ and ‘the flesh’ are equivalent, and that both simply mean ‘unspiritual.’ Sadly, this betrays an ignorance of spiritual realities—the flesh being ‘the traitor on the inside’ while the world is ‘the enemy’s system of traps on the outside,’ and both are far more serious enemies to our faith than is implied by the simple word ‘unspiritual,’ which implies a technical failure, while Paul is thinking of a catastrophic spiritual failure.

The important distinction in here is the comparison of “walk in the flesh” with “war by the flesh.” Until we leave these bodies and get our resurrection bodies, we have no choice but to “walk in the flesh,” but Paul says we cannot consider waging war, on Christ’s behalf, using our (utterly corrupt) flesh, any more than we can think of fighting the flesh (the bodies) of other people. (This also shows the Satanic and fleshly source of the Crusades—they were not at all an expression of true discipleship, but an unholy land grab based on the greed and pride of the Catholic popes—much like Dominionism today is an unholy power grab by the false prophets.)

4    the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but the power of God for destroying strongholds,

Translation note: the weapons of our warfare do not “have divine power,” nor are they “divinely powerful,” as the other translations tell us, implying that there are a number of such weapons, they are the divine power required, showing that the power provided by the Holy Spirit is the only weapon we will ever need. We think of the word of God as a “weapon” from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but it still comes down to the power of the Holy Spirit through our faith in the word. The important point is that our intention, our strength, and the outcome of our “warring” is the destruction of “strongholds,” not people, religions or regimes.

By “fleshly weapons” Paul is not talking about swords, guns or bombs, his “fleshly weapons” would be eloquence, natural charisma, emotionalism, logic, reasoning, etc—all built on the power, or strength, of the soul of man and not requiring the input of the Holy Spirit. Many ‘evangelists’ today use these weapons to extend the ‘church,’ and, as a result, fail utterly to extend the kingdom of God. The means used by the apostles and the early disciples to spread the gospel were: the word of God, prayer, preaching, and example, none of which really counts as a weapon. These all work by faith in God, and only by faith; and without the faith, even these won’t work.

The “strongholds” would be ignorance, prejudice, unbelief, philosophies, theories, religions (idolatry), ideas (pride), and so on, which contradict the truth of God. We are not looking to “destroy” these in other people, we are however to be fully alert to their presence in ourselves and eradicate them from our own thinking.

5    casting down reasonings, and everything raised up against the knowledge of God; capturing every thought to the obedience of Christ;

“Reasonings” in the flesh are a serious trap for the unwary, as they allow the enemy to cast doubt on the word of God and His truth, leading us into disobedience, so we must cast them down using Christ’s faith in the power of God. This is when our ‘sensible’ head considers the pros and cons of a particular temptation or direct instruction from God compared to what the world or the flesh would say, and starts to justify and excuse our behaviour—eventually we find we have talked ourselves into sinning.

“Everything raised up…” refers to the strongholds of the previous verse and the fact that men proudly exalt their lying theories in defiance of God.

“The knowledge of God” could equally mean ‘God’s knowledge,’ ie, absolute truth, or ‘our knowledge of God,’ or ‘anyone’s knowledge of God.’ I think the last is the most likely (though all are true), as these opposing ideas are developed by the enemy to make everyone’s faith in God as difficult as possible.

We need the power (the Spirit) of God to both alert us to our wrong thoughts, and empower us to capture them and correct them so they won’t undermine our faith.

“The obedience of Christ” doesn’t really mean “to obey Christ,” as most translations put it, though it will have that effect, it means to align each thought with the thought of Christ, whose sole motive and intention was (and is) to obey the Father.

6    and holding ourselves ready to vindicate every failure to hear, once your hearing is fully trained.

All the translations assume that Paul is preparing to “punish,” “avenge” or, at least “reprimand” anyone who disobeys (presumably Paul’s own teaching but possibly God’s commands) once they have learned to obey. This is a travesty of Christianity, which is about repentance and forgiveness in Christ. (Catholicism is about punishment for disobedience, but Paul was laying the foundation for the assembly of believers—His body—not for Catholicism or “the church.”)

“Failure to hear” or, more properly, “refusal to hear” is from the Old Testament where it means disobedience, though the idea of ‘hearing’ comes up again in Hebrews 5:8 which, though it has been translated “he learned obedience by the things which he suffered,” actually means “he learned to listen attentively to the voice of God so he could obey it…” So “once your hearing is fully trained” could be rendered, “once you have fully learned to hear the voice of God.”

Paul’s “preparation” is to vindicate any apparent failures, on the part of the Corinthians, before men (God already being fully aware of their pure hearts), ‘proving’ their innocence: the completion of their “learning to hear” meaning that they were fully committed to obedience and properly trained to hear God’s voice, so they would have been living a life without sin by definition.

Paul has nothing to say here about punishment and would never have claimed the right to punish anyone: his task was apostle, not judge nor executioner. (In 1 Corinthians 5:5 Paul instructs them to “deliver” the sinner “to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.” This was not a punishment, but a surgical method of saving the offender’s spirit “on the day of the Lord Jesus.” Though painful, it actually showed how much Paul cared, even for the rebellious.)

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

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