The Weapons of Our Warfare are Not Carnal
by Dr. Tom Malone, Sr. (1915-2007)
(Faithful Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Pontiac, Michigan)
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” —II Corinthians 10:4.
In this chapter Paul is defending his apostleship.
In order to understand what he said in this verse, you have to understand that people had said, ‘Well, this Paul is not a very imposing looking man. In fact, his speech is not very powerful. His letters are weighty and strong; but his presence is weak, and his voice is not so good.’
Paul is writing to them and saying, in defense of his apostleship, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.”
Notice four things that are most thought-provoking in this text.
I. There Is a War Going On
A lot of folks don’t seem to know that to be a Christian is to engage in a warfare. And the Bible describes that warfare. When Paul wrote to a young preacher named Timothy, he said, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy… that thou by them mightest war a good warfare” (I Tim. 1:18). He was saying, “Young preacher, you are in a battle, in a warfare, and it is not going to be any picnic.” Paul wrote to this same young preacher, “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 2:3).
Now what are soldiers for? Soldiers are not just to be on parade. They are to carry a gun and fight. Soldiers are to engage in a warfare.
Many of the Lord’s people don’t know that they are in a warfare.
First, I read a verse that just absolutely amazes me. Revelation 12:7 says, “There was war in heaven.” We think about Heaven as a place of peace, but God talks about a war there.
Now doesn’t it stand to reason that on this earth Christians are going to be engaged in a warfare? Paul was always conscious of this warfare. At the end of his life’s journey, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).
Notice Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 11: “Put on the whole armour of God….”
God says to every Christian, ‘Put on the armor.’ Why an armor? Because you are a soldier. Why armor? Because you are in a battle. A spiritual war is going on, God says. So, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
Now what I want you to see is verse 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.” This is not a battle against people. This is not a battle against mere human beings. We are in a warfare against supernatural forces. Do you feel that conflict? Do you realize you are in a spiritual conflict, a great agelong struggle?
What is it all about? It is about who shall have the supremacy, Christ or Satan. It is a struggle for the souls of men. It is a battle to keep people out of Hell. It is a struggle to get people saved. It is a warfare, a conflict until the final finish. And every one of us is engaged in it. Do you realize that you are in a warfare?
Some great Christians have entered into this warfare and have been so close to God that they knew they were in a conflict. Thank God for men like Martin Luther who have been willing to go against the tide and against tradition and against common opinion and go against the way that many other people were going.
One day Martin Luther felt such great conflict going on in his room, and he was the only one in it, visibly. But he began to wrestle and struggle with the Devil. The Devil became so real and his power so strong that Luther picked up an inkwell, threw it at the Devil, and it splattered against the wall on the other side of the room. He realized he was in a spiritual warfare, in a great conflict. No wonder God used Martin Luther as a Christian.
The average Christian is not a soldier. He doesn’t have on any armor. He is not really engaged in a spiritual struggle. He is not fighting anything, not really standing for anything. If we don’t stand for something, we are apt to die for nothing!
If this Bible makes anything clear, it is that God’s people are in a spiritual struggle against the forces of evil. And they are supernatural forces that operate in the realm of darkness, and we are to penetrate them with the light of Christianity.
We are in a warfare. That ought to keep us from folding our hands and taking it easy. That ought to make us sit up and take notice. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1).
And while the Christian church and the people of God are taking it easy, the forces of evil are at work as never before. Communism, Catholicism, liberalism, ritualism, legalism and intellectualism are at work, while the church is taking it easy.
God help us to realize we are in a warfare, in a battle.
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.”
That leads me to this second truth.
II. We Have the Weapons
The Lord didn’t leave us without something to fight with. He says a Christian can be dressed up in an armor. When I read about the seven great implements of that armor, I find only one place that we are undefended, and that is right in the small of our back. You don’t need anything there if you are facing in the right direction. If you are not running, you don’t need to worry about getting hit in that place.
Oh, with the weapons the Lord has given us, we have the weapons to win.
I am going to say something this morning that you won’t believe. This year, 1964, I have been a Christian nearly thirty-two years. I have just come to the conclusion that the weapons of our warfare are not physical. According to the Bible, some of the things Christians think are important in serving God don’t mean one thing.
For instance, I have heard some folks say, “Did you ever hear So-and-so preach? My, the personality! He had the people laughing all the time. Such wit!”
That hasn’t a thing in the world to do with it. Let me ask you something. What kind of personality do you think Martin Luther had? What kind of personality do you think the apostle Paul had? Why, most of his friends couldn’t stay around him too long. Oh, we think that personality has something to do with it.
Now watch this. I have heard folks say, “Oh, she is such a talented Christian!”
Talent hasn’t one thing to do with serving the Lord. It is not even mentioned in the Bible. Talent in the Bible means a piece of money. And talent, as we know it, is never referred to in the Word of God.
People say, “Oh, that Christian is such a capable Christian.”
That has nothing to do with it. I am amazed that some of the people in this church who do the most, do it with the least. Do you know why? The weapons of our warfare are not physical. They are mighty through God. Personality hasn’t one thing in this world to do with it. Good looks don’t have anything to do with it. The weapons of our warfare are not physical.
Let me give you a Bible illustration of it.
We read in chapter 17 of Exodus where the children of Israel were fighting against the Amalekites. They were the descendants of Amalek. It was an Amalekite who killed King Saul because he would not destroy the flesh. Amalekites in the Bible stand for the flesh and its power. The children of Israel, in chapter 17 of the Book of Exodus, are gathering against the Amalekites. Here is a great picture. Moses said to Joshua, the general of the army, “I want you to go down yonder in the valley and fight against those Amalekites. Slay them. God has said that the Amalekites must be destroyed—men, women and children. Destroy them from the face of the earth. They represent the flesh.”
Moses, yonder on the mountaintop, lifts his hands toward God. He has no sword. He does not touch an Amalekite. He is not actually engaged physically in the conflict. He reaches his hands toward God; and when he does, down yonder in the valley, Joshua and the children of Israel literally put to flight and slay the Amalekites.
When his hands grow tired, they fall down to his side. When they fall, the Amalekites begin to win. God says to Aaron on one side and Hur on the other, “Hold up the hands of Moses toward Heaven, because when his hands are lifted toward God, the children of Israel win; and when they are not lifted toward God, the children of Israel lose.”
The conflict was not being won by what went on in the valley but by what went on upon the mountaintop.
The weapons of our warfare are not physical but spiritual. Many a Christian is trying to fight a spiritual battle with carnal, fleshly, worldly weapons. You are not going to win that way.
When there is a conflict between two Christians, a lot of people set about to win it with physical weapons. It is not done that way. And the church, in its conflict against the forces of evil, is not going to win with physical weapons.
You know, you can have the finest buildings in the world, you can have the most beautiful church in the world, but that will not win the battle. It is a spiritual battle.
So, ‘the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but are mighty through God.’
What are they? The Lord has given us something to fight with. It is amazing, astounding, pathetic and pitiful how little the average Christian uses the weapons the Lord has given him to fight this warfare.
First of all, there is the Word of God. There is absolutely nothing in this world like it. Chapter 6 of Ephesians tells us that one of our weapons is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Can you imagine a fellow going off to fight and not having a sword? He is to have it in his heart, in his life and in his mind. But the average Christian does not use the weapon of the Word of God.
When the Devil came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, three times from one Old Testament book, Jesus said, “It is written.… It is written.…It is written.” And when Jesus met the Devil, He unsheathed His sword and fought the Devil with the Word of God.
There is no other way for the Christian to fight. That is why I have said all these years that a Christian who does not have the habit of daily reading the Word of God for his own benefit is not going to be a strong Christian
Years ago I learned what I believe to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, lessons I have ever learned. I was reading my Bible the first day of January many years ago in the old building that used to stand here. I was reading the First Psalm:
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.…”—Vss. 1–3.
Listen! A tree planted by a river is an evergreen. It reaches its roots down into the moist soil, draws food from that soil, and stands strong by the riverbank.
“…that bringeth forth his fruit in his season [he is a fruit-bearing Christian]; his leaf also shall not wither [He doesn’t turn one color one day and another color the next. Now listen to this]; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
I almost said to myself, Am I reading it right? God said, ‘The Christian who delights himself in this Book, whatsoever he doeth—whatsoever he doeth—shall prosper.’
If you will make this Bible the Book of your life, ‘whatsoever you do shall prosper.’
I made a covenant with God. In that crucial, glorious hour in my life, locked in that little room, I said, “O God, if You will help me, I will make the Bible the Book of my life. I will read it every day of my life until I hear from Heaven.” And by God’s grace and help, I have done it.
Listen! God has given you the weapon of His Word. Get out that old Bible, open it up every day, and read it for yourself. If you don’t do it, you are a soldier without a sword. ‘The weapons of our warfare are not physical, but are mighty through God.’
What else has He given us?
We have the Holy Spirit as a weapon in this spiritual warfare.
Think of the power of the Holy Spirit. And every Christian has the Holy Spirit. We are so scared that someone is going to think we are a little bit Pentecostal. I am scared to death that they are not going to think that we are! I don’t like to see anyone give vent to the flesh and act the fool, and I want it to be real. But, friend, if you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit of God in you. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, said:
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
“For ye are bought with a price.”—I Cor. 6:19,20.
You are the dwelling place of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God dwells not in temples made with hands. He dwells in saved people. And think how powerful He is!
I would like to read Acts 2:2: “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.”
You know, nothing in the world will destroy as much as a rushing wind. It will lick the face of the earth up. That is what we need in our church, the power of the Holy Ghost. That is what we need in our lives, the power of the Holy Ghost.
We have the weapons, and they are mighty.
III. These Weapons Are Mighty Through God
The Word of God says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Notice it is in “his might,” not our strength but His, thank God. Notice again, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
These are not ordinary days. Our enemy is not an ordinary foe. Just ordinary human weapons will never win the victory. We have the same powerful weapons and the same mighty God today that Moses had when he won the victory from the whole Egyptian nation. David slew Goliath with a slingshot and a smooth pebble from the brook, but God’s power was in it all. I had rather have a slingshot and God than the mighty sword of Goliath and have to depend on the power of the flesh.
God’s weapons in this warfare are sufficient for every test. The mighty power of God can melt the hardest hearts of men. His power can overcome the awful Goliath of liberalism abroad in the land today. We need not quake and fear in the presence of the enemy. God’s Word says, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
Dear friends, we are “more than conquerors.” No foe can stand against the church of Jesus Christ if the church is appareled in the armor of the Lord and fighting with His weapons.
IV. We Have Guaranteed Victory
This is what I really love about our text this morning. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.”
God is guaranteeing that if you use His weapons, you will win. They are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” Use them, and things will fall before you, is what He is saying. They are mighty through God. I am so glad that victory is guaranteed.
We read in Revelation 12:11, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” All through the Bible you see that guarantee. Before Jesus died, He said He would rise again. He guaranteed He would come forth in victory. God guarantees victory if you will use spiritual weapons.
I talked with a man yesterday who told me a tragic story of his life. He is separated from his family, and the story of his life has been one of drink and alcoholism. He looked at me and with trembling lips said, “I heard about your ministry, and I wanted to talk to you.” (He had called me, and I had gone to see him). Then he said to me, “Preacher, is there any way? Is there any hope? Is there any way out?”
I said, “Yes, thank God, I can tell you a way out. I can tell you of a hope that fits any human being in this world.”
We bowed our heads and went to God in prayer and talked about the Gospel and how to believe. That dear man said, “As best as I know how, I am going to turn my life over to God, trust Him and be saved.”
My friends, I don’t care what the circumstances are. You might have made an attempt at being a Christian before. You may be what we call a backslider. Or you might never have been saved. But I say to you, in Jesus Christ there is victory for you.
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.”—II Cor. 10:4.
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“I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years.” —Evangelist Billy Sunday