every thought

So I preached today at my church.  Actually, I do it quite a bit with the students, but I speak in “big” church maybe ten times a year.  I really do love teaching from the Scriptures.  I consider it a great privilege to take Truth and make it understandable for a group of people.  The study, preparation, delivery are all things I enjoy giving my best efforts to.

However, I think I’m discovering that I prefer the written word to the  spoken word.  Certainly, each has its place, but writing offers a certain amount of precision that isn’t always possible in speaking.  I think that clarity is possible with both, but frequently one can’t say all that can/should/needs to be said.

An example from today would have been my treatment of a much beloved verse from 2 Corinthians 10.

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. 2 Corinthians 10:5

I spent exactly zero seconds talking about the second half of this verse, and next to no time talking about the first half.

I’ve had this verse explained a at least two different ways.  Most frequently, the second half of the verse is used to encourage holiness in one’s thought life.  So for example, if I were to have a lustful thought (it seems most commonly applied to lustful thoughts), the idea is that when I am having that vile thought, I take it captive.  And in taking it captive, I make it obedient to Christ (i.e. change what I think about to something that honors him and the former thought is something of a POW).  Of course, it doesn’t just have to apply to lustful thoughts.  Angry thoughts.  Jealous thoughts.  Greedy thoughts.  Any of them will presumably qualify for being taken captive.  I hope that is true and think it would be a good thing.

Problem with that line of thinking is that it doesn’t do justice to the first half of the verse.  So another explanation is that it might apply to personal holiness, but really the application is more about apologetics and combating spurious philosophical arguments.  When someone is trying to speak against the existence of God or cleverly argue against the Christian faith, this verse gets paraded out for biblical support to the idea that true Christian reasoning can take down the best of any other religious or philosophical alternative.  I hope that is also true and also think that would be a good thing.

However, the problem with both is that neither really seems to fit in the verses around it.  I’m of the opinion that Paul isn’t doing some general theologizing here, but is instead addressing a specific situation that he’s facing in Corinth.  His opposition is trying to discredit him and he’s trying to determine how best to respond.  It seems to make a ton more sense to say that the overall flow of this passage is Paul’s attempts to wrestle with how to respond to this attack.  And he’s already said that he won’t “wage war with the weapons of this world.”  He most certainly isn’t talking about literal WMD, but is saying that he isn’t going to respond in a worldly manner to his opponents.

So when he says, his mode of response has “divine power” and can “demolish arguments and pretense,” he is almost certainly talking about a sort of response that is captive or honors God.  It is the sort of response that destroys all other criticism and argumentation.

I made a pretty strong case (at least in my opinion) that his response was one of being a person of integrity.  It seems to do the most justice to the overall flow of the passage.  Needless to say, this wasn’t a text that made its clear meaning readily accessible.  But that’s more or less how I got to where I got.  I’m pretty sure the parishioners weren’t interested in me taking another ten minutes to take them down that theological side road.  Like I said, you can’t share every thought you have.

6 Replies to “every thought”

  1. Wow! First I just want to say again that I received so much out of your teachings today. And then to read this. It is so refreshing when a scripture that I so ignorantly thought was boring becomes so amazing and powerful. Thank you for sharing. I have never been much of a fan of Paul. I always have felt he had a way of keeping women down, but there is so much more to his teaching and I am truly enjoying learning from 2 Corinthians.
    Blessings <


  2. Written vs. spoken: this is very interesting. I wonder if your sermon would have taken a slightly different turn if you had blogged BEFORE Sunday morning instead of after. Maybe/maybe not. Either way, I like being able to hear AND read. Brings better understanding and a nice ‘catch all’ in case something slipped the mind in the first rendition.
    p.s. you mention ‘specific problem in Corinth.’ I believe this to be true…I think all of Paul’s letters have a lot of specificity in them for each set of recipients….otherwise, why not just run down to the local Kinkos and mass distribute the same letter to all regions of the holy land? Probably would have saved a little time that way.

  3. Gwyn and Gerald,
    Thanks for weighing in. I appreciate seeing how you guys are processing it all. It got started with me talking about communication in general, and it is a good reminder that what I think I’m saying and what the person is hearing are often different things. Lots and lots could be (and has been) said about all that.

  4. I always enjoyed hearing you speak, Taido. I think in one of your memorable messages where you spoke about the beauty of God and the voices of angels, you had Auntie Dora sing an aria after you had spoke… very creative. I’m sure the kids and congregation enjoy hearing God speak through you!

  5. i have to say that God works powerfully through your teaching- because while i’ve often ‘skimmed’ over some of 2C10, its always so refreshing when you come in big church and unpack it your way. i almost feel like i studied too…and i think that He likes that!

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