TODAY’S READING: 2 Corinthians 10–13
Remembering that 2 Corinthians is a missionary letter, written by a missionary to an ornery church he planted among an unreached people, there are some definite missionary lessons to be drawn from this passage.
Spiritual warfare is primarily about fighting for unreached peoples to be saved. The individualized West excels at personalizing Scripture, even when authorial intent was collective. Dealing with rascally Corinthians, Paul referred to pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments, and bringing every thought into captivity as what was needed to be done to confront the wrong thinking of a whole demographic in Gentile society. We have turned those verses into support for our personal holiness; Paul used them in terms of the gospel fight to ransom and correct a whole sector of the Gentile population. We reach the Akdam of Yemen by pulling down the stronghold of Islam, by casting down the arguments of works-oriented salvation, and by bringing every thought about Jesus not being divine into captivity under His Lordship. Absolutely apply these verses to keeping your thoughts pure, but do so while you fight to ransom the unreached from demonic ideologies.
Spiritual authority is for edification, not for leadership, strategy, or decision making. We absolutely need leadership, strategy, and accountability, but biblically this is not the main purpose of being trusted with authority (2 Cor. 12:19). Humans love to make authority about positional leadership; the Bible centers authority on edification. The real leaders in a missionary society are those that most broadly edify. Missionary statesmanship is not to hold positional power over local brothers and sisters; it is for broad edification.
The missionary spirit ever has its eyes on the regions beyond. Paul told the Corinthians he was eager to preach in the regions beyond them, not because he was frustrated with them (though he certainly was) but because this is the impulse of our missionary God. Who has not heard? Where is Jesus not glorified? These questions burn in the heart of missionaries and in any missions organization that has any biblical fidelity and Spirit obedience. This burning ambition must be fulfilled collectively. Stewardship (language learning, relational equity, the discipleship process) does not lend itself in our day to missionary tourism, but as a group we collectively are ever relentless for the peoples that have never heard.
Church-based support is still the norm. Paul is our example both for tent making and for support taking from sending churches. We laud him for being bi-vocational, but that was his infrequent practice. As long as there are churches, there should be missionaries sent and funded by them.
A little bit of weakness is what makes us strong. Grace sufficient and strength made perfect in weakness are missionary promises to those who determine to take the gospel where it has not been preached and as a consequence are buffeted by Satan. Paul just finished listing all his missionary qualifications and balanced them with the crown jewel of weakness. Sufficient grace and perfected strength are thus best evidenced when we are sent as missionaries helpless in our natural strength to live among the millions of an unreached people. It is there, surrounded by the lost, reproached, sick, underfunded, persecuted, distressed, for Christ’s sake, that we will be strong.