Pulling Down Strongholds
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
What is this passage of scripture talking about? If we look closely we can understand.
Paul, the author of this letter to the Corinthians, is talking about four related things: strongholds, imaginations, high things, and thoughts. In many ways they refer to the same thing, since they all have to do with thoughts. And he says in verse 4 that the weapons of our warfare are mighty through God to the pulling down, or destruction, of these things.
The Greek word translated here as “strongholds” means fortresses or fortified places. The weapons of our warfare are mighty to the pulling down of fortresses. A fortress, of course, is a strong defense built to keep something out. What are these fortresses or strongholds trying to keep out? They are designed to keep out revelation of the word of God.
So in this context a stronghold would be a system or pattern of thinking that is contrary to the truth of God’s word. That’s what is a spiritual stronghold is generally believed to be referring to.
It is the truth of God’s word that will make us free. Jesus said in John 8:31-32:
John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
He said “If you continue in my word.” The word “if” is key here. We continue in the word so that we can receive God's truth. It is truth that makes us free. We must always be pursuing truth. Revelation of God's truth makes us free. The more we receive it the freer we become.
Let’s look at the other words mentioned in this passage. He uses the phrase” casting down imaginations.” What is an imagination? The word comes from the Greek word “logismos” which means logic, reasonings, or reckonings. I believe an even better rendering is rationalizations. Many of the things we believe as Christians are based on rationalizations, rather than truth. We desperately need to know the difference between the two.
Here’s an example. The Bible says in Matthew 8:17 that Jesus took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses. In 1 Peter 2:24 it says that by His stripes you were healed. Notice that both scriptures are in the past tense. It must have been God’s will for us to be healthy and whole. And Jesus did that for us at the cross. These scriptures are making reference to the work of Christ at Calvary.
But then someone gets sick and fails to get healed and we begin to create rationalizations. We theorize that it’s God’s will to heal sometimes and sometimes it isn’t. We depart from Bible truth about the finished work of Christ and embrace rationalizations. The truth of the word then becomes ineffective in our life, because we are now believing in something that is not in line with the word of God.
The phrase “high thing” is also used in this passage. Casting down every “high thing” that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. The Greek word for “high thing” is Hupsoma, which means an elevated structure such as a barrier, rampart, or bulwark. Bulwark means an embankment or barricade. So the phrase “high thing” means a wall or barrier set up to block revelation of God’s word from entering in. It exalts itself or lifts itself up against the knowledge of God. We might well call it a mental block.
Paul goes on to use the phrase “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” So it becomes even clearer at this point that he is referring to the thoughts of our mind and heart in this discussion. This phrase carries the idea of capturing thoughts and taking them prisoners to be forced to obey Christ, the Living Word of God. Many of the thoughts we think are contrary to truth. They must be taken captive and be brought in line with truth.
This is the war that Paul is talking about. It’s a warfare that we’re involved in as Christians that has to do with our thoughts. There is a war going on over our thoughts, and if there is a war going on then there must be an enemy.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Who is the enemy? The enemy is made up of principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. Why is this enemy arrayed against us as believers? Because the enemy wants to control us just like he controls the unsaved world around us. It is revelation of truth that makes us free from the enemy, and so he is standing against us to prevent us as much as he possibly can from receiving the truth that will free us.
1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God. We know that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. NIV
John tells us in his letter that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. How does he keep them under control? He does it through deception.
2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Through lies and deception the enemy blinds people from truth. Are we as Christians immune to the wiles and craftiness of the devil and wicked spirits? Evidently we are not immune from deception or Paul would not have said” Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
But with Church people the devil has to change his strategy. They are not as vulnerable to deception as unsaved people are. Born-again people have escaped his clutches through the new birth, which causes those who believe on Jesus to be delivered from the authority of darkness. His power has been broken. But even after the new birth there is much that God has for believers through His exceeding great and precious promises. And the promises of God must be inherited through faith and patience. They don't happen automatically.
So to stop us or to hinder us from making forward progress in the things of God the enemy must contaminate our faith, the one thing that will allow us to apprehend God’s promises in our life. He must cause us to believe things that look like faith and sound like faith, but are in reality contrary to the word of God. He must place in our minds thoughts and beliefs that sound religious and appear to be of faith, but are in fact distortions of truth.
He used this approach with Jesus in the wilderness. Satan was suddenly an expert in scripture when he confronted Jesus. But Jesus didn’t fall for it but instead corrected him with scripture. God had told Adam not to eat of the tree in the midst of the gardern, or he would die. But the serpent said to Eve in the garden, “You shall not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” He twisted what God had said and shed doubt on the word of God. And when she and her husband acted on that thought it was devastating to their lives.
Point: The enemy's approach toward Christians is to change the word of God in such a way as to make it ineffective or weak in their lives.
How much of what we believe is truth and how much is rationalization, or imaginations, strongholds placed in our thinking by the enemy to stop us or hinder our forward progress in the things of God? The only way we can know is to take the things we believe and diligently compare them with scripture. What does the word of God really say about the subject? Does it agree with what we believe? Can we find scriptural evidence to support our belief?
Until we adapt a relentless pursuit of truth in our lives we will be an easy target for the enemy’s deceptive tactics. We must think more deeply, meditate in the word, and develop our ability to distinguish between truth and deception.
A scripture that illustrates this idea in in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Hebrews 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Hebrews 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The strong meat, the deeper truth of God, belongs to those who are grown up, who by reason of much use have their perceptions exercised to the point that they are able to recognize and discern what is truth and what is deception.
Let’s begin that pursuit of truth today, not to just know religious doctrine or to blindly believe all the things that come down to us in the name of religious knowledge, but let’s look into the word of the Living God and allow the Spirit of Truth within us to be our guide and lead us into all truth. As we do that we will be able to use the weapons of our warfare to pull down strongholds of wrong thinking and unscriptural beliefs.