To Preach the Gospel is to Besiege

How shall the purpose of Christian preaching be understood? Some may contend that the purpose of preaching is simply to encourage hearers toward some course of action. Others might argue that the goal of preaching is to evoke possibilities for listeners’ lives. How do you understand the purpose of preaching?

Near the beginning of the tenth chapter of Second Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes some provocative remarks concerning the purpose of his preaching. Paul employs a variety of military terms and images as he outlines the nature and effect of his gospel proclamation:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor 10:4-5 ESV)

Weapons, warfare, power, destruction, strongholds, captivity: Each of these words is borrowed from the world of military conflict. Paul understood the preaching of the gospel as warfare, and the careful reader will notice the close connection he makes between ‘destroying strongholds’ and ‘destroying arguments and opinions that are raised against the knowledge of God.’ Spirit enabled gospel proclamation is destructive. It destroys what Dennis Johnson has described as “cleverly defended, deep-seated error that arrogantly opposes God’s truth in Christ.” [Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2007), 90].

Paul might have toned down his language. He might have chosen instead to say, “We question arguments and every lofty opinion,” or even, “We repudiate arguments and every lofty opinion.” But Paul’s language is a great deal stronger: “We destroy.” Arrogant human defenses against the gospel need to be destroyed and laid waste, according to Paul; the people holding them are too important not to have them destroyed. And after all, how can a person be taken captive to obey the true King unless you first destroy the stronghold that has served as his or her protection?

To preach the gospel is to besiege. To preach the gospel is to wield divine weaponry against Genesis 3 defenses. Are you a preacher of the Word?  Pray for a successful campaign this Sunday; pray down the armor of God and go forth in the power of the Spirit.  Heed the advice of Charles Wesley, written in his hymn, Soldiers of Christ, Arise:

Brandish in faith till then [i.e. until the Marriage Supper of the Lamb]
The Spirit’s two-edged sword,
Hew all the snares of fiends and men
In pieces with the Word;
’Tis written; This applied
Baffles their strength and art;
Spirit and soul with this divide,
And joints and marrow part.

Grace and Peace,



5 thoughts on “To Preach the Gospel is to Besiege

  1. Thanks for this Brent. My complacency at times appals me! The more I am reminded about what the gospel says the better the chance of me conforming to the beautiful will of our Lord. Lorie >

  2. I am not at all sure about this Brent. I have always understood Paul here to be addressing fellow Christians – specifically, those who have come out against his apostleship. Hence, he is not really talking about preaching the “gospel” per se, but about the arguments he will use against his opponents within the church in Corinth. I think even the immediate context makes this clear – though, of course, the larger context will do the same even better.
    Perhaps (just perhaps) what you have said will still apply to the preaching of the gospel – but for several reasons I have my doubts there.

    • Hi Jeff! First of all, thanks for reading! Thanks also for your comments, which have beckoned me to re-read my post and think through it again. I appreciate your concern for context, and perhaps in the post I could have included additional remarks related to context. However, I don’t think I’ve misrepresented the passage in the way you suggest. The post was written after interacting with the comments of two scholars in particular: (1) Murray Harris, and (2) Colin Kruse. In Harris’s commentary (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NIGTC, 678), he writes: “Although the ‘military campaign’ . . . in which Paul was engaged at present was against opposition in Corinth, it was merely part of his wider mission and ministry of discharging his commission to preach and defend the gospel, so that vv. 3-5 (but not v. 6) should not be interpreted narrowly as having relevance only to the Corinthian situation.” Further, Kruse (2 Corinthians, TNTC, rev. ed., 230), writes concerning verse 4: “In the next verse [v. 5] Paul speaks of destroying arguments which stand against the knowledge of God, suggesting that the strongholds he has in mind are the intellectual arguments of unbelievers that have to be demolished so that the truth of the gospel might gain entry.” Then concerning v. 5, Kruse writes, “Both the ‘strongholds’ of verse 4 and the ‘tower’ (pretension) of this verse stand for intellectual arguments employed by people in their rejection of the gospel. It is by the proclamation of the gospel that God releases his power by which these very arguments (cf. 1 Cor. 1:19: ‘the wisdom of the wise’) will be destroyed, and by which those who believe will be saved (cf. Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:17-25; 2:1-5; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2:13).” Thus in the end, both Harris and Kruse connect 2 Cor 10:4-5 with a concern broader than the Corinthian situation: the gospel and its declaration.

      • Ok, fair enough. Thanks for the clarification. It seems, then, that my argument is more with them than with you. At the least I would say that they (and especially Kruse, who – in what you have given here – does not seem to recognize that Paul is not here giving a description of his gospel presentation) are overstating the case.
        I would agree: presenting the gospel is an aspect of the kingdom of light confronting that of darkness, but still . . . I am not convinced that if Paul were to describe his gospel message and the proclamation of it that he would be comfortable simply transposing these terms in the way they are used here.
        To close, I am in sympathy with the general idea that there is a conflict going on with proclaiming the good news, but your (pl.) description of it seems too triumphalist to me. Thanks for the post and the challenge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s