Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GENTLE WARRIOR”

Second Corinthians 10.1-2 

There is no questioning that the Bible teaches that the human race has been embroiled in a spiritual war since the Garden of Eden. Though the vast majority of the unsaved people of this world deny that there is a spiritual war or choose to ignore that there is a spiritual war, they are as caught up in the spiritual warfare as those of us who are soldiers of the cross.

This message from God’s Word will be an effort to clarify your thinking and offset a tendency to think of unsaved people by describing what a soldier of the cross is really like. What are the characteristics of a warrior who is a Christian in spiritual warfare? I seek to do this because of the tendency of unsaved people to engage in something psychiatrists referred to as projection.

Projection may be defined as the unconscious act or process of ascribing to others one’s own ideas or impulses, especially when such ideas or impulses are considered undesirable.[1] While I am not a subscriber to the pseudo-science that purports to undergird Freudian psychiatry, I find that this definition of projection is useful in describing so much of what we see on the political scene these days, as well as the characteristic reactions of unsaved people toward believers in Jesus Christ.

I am reminded of the individual who attended our Church every Sunday morning for two years and told me, “Your people scare me,” because we have several individuals in our Church, I included, who possess firearms. Yet this same individual has a lifelong pattern of violence toward women, violence toward his employees, and violence in social settings. He was very keen to project onto us his fears of what he imagined we might do, although none of us has ever been arrested for a crime or committed an act of violence toward anyone. On the contrary, we were profoundly friendly and kind toward him until he decided we were no longer of any use to him—a clear case of projection.

However, they are not only non-Christians who have fears about the conduct of committed Christians. I have also observed the expressed fears of uninvolved and misinformed Christians who are fearful about committed Christians’ conduct. I sometimes wonder if they convince themselves that committed Christians are weird, or bizarre, or extreme, or dangerous, as a way of convincing themselves that they are justified in their refusal to live a committed Christian life.

This brings to mind a discussion I had during my satellite design days as an engineer working for Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo, California. Though most of my career was focused on the design and development of an intelligence-gathering satellite, from time to time, I interacted with engineers working on civilian projects. This brings to mind the conversation I had with a British engineer who worked for the Canadian government to design the actuating arm in the cargo bay of the space shuttle.

One day, not long after I had trusted Christ as my Savior, the British engineer lashed out at me in an engineering lab with about 30 other engineers present. Being a good British Labour Party socialist, he was, of course, an atheist. He vented at me for being a Christian because, after all, most wars are started for religious reasons. That was his claim. He chose to ignore, and I was not yet inexperienced enough a Christian to assert, that 100 million people died during the 20th century, not because of wars started by religious groups, but as the direct result of atheist regimes waging war against their own people. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Castro, Hugo Chavez, Mengistu in Ethiopia, and the Kim dictators of North Korea. Instead of recognizing the actions of despotic atheist regimes, he projected his fears onto Christians like me.

The fact that unsaved people project onto Christians their own worst fears, and frequently their own worst character traits, is quite understandable. It has always been a strategy in war to denigrate and dehumanize your enemy as a way of overcoming the natural human inhibition against destroying your opponent. Throughout history, warriors have sought to denigrate and dehumanize those they were fighting against. That unsafe people denigrate Christians and dehumanize us is proof that we are immersed in spiritual warfare.

Let me be quick to caution that, although our spiritual adversaries do such things to us, we do not do such things to them. This is because, while recognizing that unsaved people may be our spiritual adversaries, they are not the enemy. We have an enemy. Our enemy is the world, the flesh, and the devil. That said, we do not treat individual unsaved people as enemies. They are rightly seen to be the objects of our love, concern, prayers, and efforts to reach for Christ. They need us to like them, love them, and spend time with them appropriately representing the Savior.

These thoughts expressed, we now consider Second Corinthians 10.1-6, where we find indisputable evidence that we are not only in a spiritual war, but that we find in that passage, especially verses 1 and 2, a pattern for the kind of warrior spiritual Christians are supposed to emulate: 

1  Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

2  But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

3  For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

4  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

6  And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. 

What have you imagined in your mind about a soldier of the cross? What pictures have you drawn about Christians’ appropriate conduct as they serve God by ministering to the saved and reaching out to the lost around them? Some people seem to imagine a frightening ferocity. Others seem to portray an attitude of hostility. But what do we see when we look upon the Christ of the Gospels? And if you set aside the risen Savior as an unattainable goal, what do we find in the approach shown by the most successful Christian warrior in history, the Apostle Paul?

Do you want to discover what a soldier of the cross is like? Would you see a battle-tested and successful Christian warrior? Then look no further than the Apostle Paul, in particular, Second Corinthians 10.1-2: 

1  Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

2  But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 

Three aspects of Paul’s personality and posture are written down by inspiration, perhaps for us to emulate and incorporate into our own lives: 

First, NOTICE PAUL’S CONDUCT 

Verse 1:

“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” 

There are some interesting things to learn about Paul from Paul from this verse:

First, we see the assertions of Paul about Paul. 

What do we find the Apostle Paul not doing here that may surprise a great many people? We find the apostle not barking orders at people. Granted, we find him giving apostolic directives from time to time, but that is done as the Lord Jesus Christ’s personal envoy who was delivering communiqués from the King. Here, and in a surprising number of other passages, he does not order people around, but beseeches, urges, pleas, and requests of his readers. 

Lest there be any doubt about Paul’s personality and confrontational forcefulness when dealing with people, he is inspired to describe his approach as “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” This might remind you, as it reminds me, of the Apostle Matthew’s description of the Savior’s dealings with people, in Matthew 12.17-21, in fulfillment of a prediction made by the prophet Isaiah: 

17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.

19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust. 

On several occasions, we know the Savior erupted to multitudes, such as when He cleansed the Temple on two occasions. And Paul asked the Corinthians if they wanted him to deal with them rather harshly. In First Corinthians 4.21, he asked the congregation, 

“What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” 

But both the Savior and the Apostle Paul were most tender and gentle in their dealings with individuals.

Then, we surmise the accusations of Paul’s enemies. Take note of the last portion of verse 1, where Paul writes, 

“who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” 

Let me suggest that what Paul writes here reflects what his spiritual adversaries claimed about him behind his back. The first part, “who in presence am base among you,” is an attack against Paul based upon his appearance. He is granting that he wasn’t much to look at. He was a small guy with bad eyes and probably a stooped posture from the many beating he endured. Okay, so what? The second part, “but being absent am bold toward you,” is a slap at him for being a coward in person but being bold in his letters. However, this is all a caricature of a spiritual man who wasn’t very big, who had suffered a great deal for Christ, and whose personality reflected the meekness and gentleness of Christ.

What we learn from verse 1 is that Paul was a Christian warrior who did not present himself as a fearsome and formidable man who inspired fear and dread. No one who knew him was afraid he would get mad and yell at them, or that he would castigate them in public. In short, people’s fears of what they imagine a Christian warrior to actually be like were unfounded. 

Next, NOTICE PAUL’S CONCERN 

Verse 2:

“But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.” 

Here we have the essence of Paul’s request to the Corinthians. And notice, when he writes “But I beseech you,” he is requesting and not ordering, directing, or commanding anyone.

Two observations about Paul’s concern:

First, the desire of Paul: 

“that I may not be bold when I am present” 

Some who claim to be spiritual leaders and who present themselves as spiritual leaders scare people. They frighten them, intimidate them, and exhibit anger and rage when someone displeases them. Did the Savior do that? Think for a moment. Had the Savior been that way, would the children have wanted to be around Him? Would the vulnerable women have wanted to be around Him? Paul was much the same. Paul was no bully. Paul was no tyrant. Understand, he was no pushover, and when he found himself facing a bully, he knew how to push back. Like the Savior, when he dealt with the meek he was meek, and when he dealt with the humble he was humble. Sadly, such is not the case with so many so-called spiritual leaders of our day.

Then, the determination of Paul to do his duty: 

“when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.” 

Here Paul confirms that he had to deal with people who were not spiritual and assumed that Paul’s ministry was as fleshly and carnal as theirs. He acknowledged that there were times when he had “to be bold against some” because he had no choice. This does not mean he was brutal. Neither does this imply he was mean or unspiritual. It means that he was a mature and sophisticated communicator, and his experience had taught him that some people had to be dealt with more directly than others, more firmly than others. Did the Lord Jesus Christ interact with Pontius Pilate the same way He did the woman at the well? No. Did He deal with Caiaphas the same way He dealt with the man born blind? No. Neither did Paul deal with everyone in precisely the same fashion. I am quite sure Paul was far more accommodating with Lydia in the city of Philippi than he was when he asserted his Roman citizenship rights the day after he was beaten and imprisoned.[2]

As soldiers of the cross, you and I ought to emulate the Apostle Paul. We should always desire to be gentle, with the meekness of Christ. However, we should also exercise wisdom in the determination to do our duty, as the Apostle Paul showed his determination. 

NOTICE, FINALLY, PAUL’S CONFIDENCE 

Verse 2:

“But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.” 

Paul’s confidence is not only stated but also indicated by the fact that,

First, he used the word “bold.” Is it not interesting that Paul was bold enough not to be bold all the time? Are you as convinced as I am that the confident person is confident enough to be vulnerable, confident enough to be gentle, confident enough to be meek, and confident enough not always to be bold?

Next, he indicates he is confident. Much of what passes for confidence with someone people is false bravado. It is pretense. How do we know that is not the case with Paul? His comment is inspired by the Spirit of God. Thus, his confidence is genuine, is confidence given to him by God’s grace, and is reflected by his humility. People who are not humble are not confident.

Third, he is concerned about bystanders: 

“But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.” 

He writes about being bold again some. But the implication is that he does not want to be bold against some because of unnamed and unreferred to others. It takes a confident person to be concerned about bystanders, not to want collateral damage from spiritual conflict. That shows genuine spiritual leadership by Paul.

Finally, though we have already taken note of this, Paul states the opinions of those who oppose him. This is significant. This shows a lack of fear on Paul’s part. This is no surprise since this is the guy who wrote First Corinthians chapter 13, the love chapter. Perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment, First John 4.18. 

We are involved in spiritual warfare. We have been called upon by the God of our calling to be soldiers of the cross, to endure hardness as good soldiers, and to take the fight to the enemy. But many Christians draw back from engaging in spiritual warfare because they ignorantly, naïvely, imagine that they will have to be harsh and cold and cruel and mean-spirited to be effective Christian warriors. Nothing could be further from the truth.

During this message, I read to you the passage from Isaiah that the Apostle Matthew used to describe the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, in Second Corinthians 10.1–2, the Apostle Paul’s inspired self-description of a Christian warrior.

How would you describe the apostle Paul as a Christian warrior engaged in spiritual conflict? I would describe him as a gentle warrior. We see from his conduct, his confidence, and his concern that his approach to engaging in spiritual warfare that was pleasing to Christ, glorifying to God, and beneficial to both saints and sinners around him is within the reach of every believer in Jesus Christ. Let us throw off these unfounded fears that one must be terrible and temperamental to be spiritual. Let us embrace the gentleness and tenderness of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord.

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[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1439.

[2] Acts 16.14, 35-40

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