Take Every Thought Captive to Christ
February 21st 2017
What does it mean when Scripture encourages the Christian to “take every thought captive to Christ” in 2 Corinthians 10? Is this just a catchy Christian slogan, a command from the Apostle Paul to use a “Christ filter” applied against every thought we have, or is there something much more profound, yet neglected by the Church in the 21st century, that is found within the context?
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
We hear an awful lot about “spiritual warfare” within our day and age. Realize, however, that true “spiritual warfare” is not about chasing demons or attempting to bind Satan. Spiritual warfare is actually about living your life for the glory of God in the midst of a world that hates and rejects the Lord Jesus Christ. True spiritual warfare does not find the Christian seeking ways to “bind Satan” and/or his demonic minions, it is doing what God wants you to do, as found within His Word.
The primary point within this section of 2 Corinthians is that we do indeed find ourselves within a spiritual war that has been waging since long before we were born. What leads up to the Apostle Paul’s statement that we are to “take every thought captive” is quite important. In verse 3 Paul states that though we walk in the flesh we do not war after the flesh. That is, we do not rely on human ingenuity or manmade plans to bring the victory. The flesh is powerless against the wiles of the devil.
To successfully fight the spiritual war requires weapons from the heavenly arsenal. Only those divinely powerful weapons are suited for the destruction of the enemies’ fortresses. The term “fortresses” would convey to the New Testament reader the thought of a formidable stronghold. Corinth, like most major cities in Greece, had an acropolis. Located on a mountain near the city, the acropolis was a fortified place into which the inhabitants could retreat if attacked. A fortress (Gr: ochyrōma) was also used in extra-biblical Greek to refer to a prison. People under siege, while defending a fortress, were imprisoned within that fortress by the attacking forces. The word was also used to refer to a tomb.
Fleshly weapons cannot successfully assault the formidable strongholds in which sinners have entrenched themselves. Such impotent weapons cannot bring about the destruction of those fortresses, which Paul defined specifically as speculations (Gr: logismos), a general word referring to any and all human or demonic thoughts, opinions, reasoning, philosophies, theories, psychologies, perspectives, viewpoints, and religions. The fortresses in view here are not demons, but ideologies. The notion that spiritual warfare involves direct confrontation with demons is foreign to Scripture. Christians who verbally confront demons waste energy and demonstrate ignorance of the real war. Christians are not called to convert demons, but sinners. The battle is rather with the false ideologies that men and demons propagate so that the world will believe them. Doomed souls are inside their fortresses of ideas, which become their prisons and eventually become their tombs – that is unless they are delivered from the strongholds by belief in the truth.
Paul further defined sinners’ strongholds of ideas as every lofty thing - that is, any unbiblical system of thought exalted as truth - that is raised up against the knowledge of God. There’s the key. Spiritual warfare is not a battle with demons. It is a battle for the minds of people who are captive to lies that are exalted in opposition to Scripture.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” 1 Corinthians 3:19-20
In 1 Corinthians 3:20, the Apostle Paul called the wisdom of this world the useless reasonings of the worldly wise - all the anti-biblical ideologies, false religions, and pseudo gospels spawned by Satan. Paul knew those fortresses well, having lived his entire life before his conversion in one of them. He was a zealous follower of the Judaism of his day, which had turned from its Old Testament roots and become a ritualistic system of works-righteousness.
Like Paul, before salvation, all unbelievers have a fortress in which they attempt to hide from the true knowledge of God. Those fortresses take endless forms in philosophy, psychology, world religions, cults, apostate forms of Christianity, or evolutionary naturalism - a predominant fortress in Western societies today. How many people are held captive by the idea that they are the product of random chance in a godless universe? How many spiritual prisoners labor under the requirements of Allah, Joseph Smith, or Catholic teachings and await true freedom in Christ?
False religion and secular philosophy have created thinking that has imprisoned the minds of millions. It is a true spiritual battle: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). Any idea, opinion, or worldview that asserts that Christ is not “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6) is representative of a fortress that Satan has built with the intention of captivity for unbelievers. Such thoughts must be taken captive and made obedient to Christ.
The objective of our warfare is to change how people think - taking every thought they have and making it no longer captive to a damning ideology, but captive to the obedience of Christ. To do so, the proper weapon is necessary. To assault and throw down the fortresses of false religions, opinions, beliefs, and philosophies, only one weapon will suffice: the truth. That conclusion is so obvious that Paul does not mention it within this passage. Only one thing exposes and corrects lies - the truth. Thus, the only offensive weapon in the Christian soldier’s armor is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17).
Spiritual warfare is an ideological conflict, fought in the mind by assaulting the proud fortresses of ideas that sinners erect against the truth. Using God’s truth, believers smash enemy fortresses to the ground, they march the prisoners out, and they bring them into subjection (obedience – 2 Cor 10:5 , Rom 16:20, 1 Pet 1:22) to the Lord Jesus Christ. They rescue sinners from the domain of darkness, “snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23). After being taken prisoner by Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, Paul immediately asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). The rebellion of his sinful, proud heart was ended; the walls of his fortress crashed down in ruin, and the Lord Jesus Christ conquered his heart. Such is the experience of all the redeemed; the term “the obedience of Christ” is therefore a synonym for salvation (Acts 6:7; Rom 1:5; 15:18; 16:26; Heb 5:9).
Our weapons in this spiritual battle are not carnal but mighty through God. As we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2), we engage the battle against pretense and arrogant philosophies within this world. Trusting Christ and rightly dividing the Word of God (2 Tim 2:15), we take every thought captive, we pull down the strongholds, we contend for the faith (Jude 3) and, by the grace of God, we set the captives free.
What does it mean when Scripture encourages the Christian to “take every thought captive to Christ”? Well, once one understands the context and the stakes that are involved, it sure makes that catchy little phrase much more than just what one would print on a T-shirt...