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In 1969, Credence Clearwater Revival’s song, Bad Moon Rising, reached number two on Billboard’s top hits. Despite its title, people heard the line, “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” as “There’s a bathroom on the right.” The entire song is about bad events on the horizon. The title is Bad Moon Rising. In spite of the title and context of the song, people heard, “There’s a bathroom on the right.”

I’ve found that many Christians, including pastors and teachers, interpret Scripture in a similar way. A passage starts with a topic, ends with a topic, but in between, the nonsensical, out-of-context equivalent of “there’s a bathroom on the right” appears.

In this post, I’d like to deal with the misheard “lyrics” of the tenth chapter of Second Corinthians. Here are the first two verses of that chapter: “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:1-2). 1

It’s not clear immediately what Paul is addressing here. But it is clear that he didn’t want to have to “show boldness” against some people in Corinth who thought he was walking “according the flesh.” What, specifically, did these folks think Paul was doing? We’re not told. But it doesn’t seem at all like he is preparing to address what Christians consider “spiritual warfare.”

Then come verses three and four, which many of my brothers and sisters take out of context and preach that all Christians have “divine power” to “destroy strongholds: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4).

Please note as that the text does not say “spiritual strongholds.”

What “strongholds” is Paul claiming “we” have the power the destroy? What warfare is Paul addressing here? Is it the powers of Satan, the powers of darkness, the strongholds of our spiritual adversary?

Not so much, as it turns out.

A little background and context.

Paul had been having an ongoing issue with the church in Corinth. It’s everywhere in his first letter to the Corinthians. I could list all that he addressed, but one can easily discover them by reading the letter.

However, it’s also accurate to say that the Corinthians were having a problem with him, as well. This shows up most vividly in the next chapter, Chapter 11, where Paul presents his apostolic defense. Please read it, if you need further proof. It’s heroic. However, he introduces this issue in previous chapter, chapter ten, the very one we are dealing with in this post.

Now. Back to our passage and the two verses pastors and leaders do not read when they make their case for Christians warring, not according to the flesh, but with divine power. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:5–6).

Which “strongholds” are they that Paul proclaims he is destroying? Arguments. Lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God. He writes “we” are going to “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” and then, to put the coup de grace to any exegesis that claims this is about Christians “breaking spiritual strongholds” in their lives, he writes that he is ready to “punish every disobedience,” when their disobedience is complete. This passage is about Paul attacking the errant beliefs of the Corinthian believers and destroying them. How will he be destroying them? With truth. Divine truth.

This is the reason pastors and leaders quote omit verses 1-2 and 5-6. They just don’t fit the narrative. I do not claim such men and women are being purposefully deceptive or inflicting harm—although they do inflict harm by failing to teach their listeners how to deal truthfully and rightly with Scripture. In addition, I strongly maintain that they, like us, just simply swallow and adhere to out-of-context passages believed to be true which are not true at all. We are teaching the doctrines of God as the commandments of men.

 

1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

 

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