"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (2 Corinthians 10:4).
What are "carnal weapons"? Is Paul thinking of swords and knives and other military weapons? Certainly he would include those things among the carnal weapons he rejects. But it's more than that. "Carnal weapons" would include carnal wisdom, human philosophy, worldly gimmickery, psychological manipulation, political clout, doctrinal compromise, and every other method or strategy adopted for sheerly pragmatic reasons.
Listen to Paul himself from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. . . . my speech and my preaching [were] not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
He's saying essentially the same thing here. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal"; that is, they are not of human origin at all. They are not manmade military machines; they are not ideas spawned in the minds of human philosophers; they are not clever programs invented by imaginative innovators; they are not the techniques of material success borrowed from secular business.
And (can I say this without stirring Jus Divinum from hibernation?) the weapons by which the truth of God will ultimately prevail in this battle are not tied to the political apparatus of American democracy. The future of the kingdom of God doesn't ultimately hinge on the outcome of the next election or judicial appointment.
What are the true weapons in the spiritual warfare? At least one well-known charismatic commentator suggests that Paul was speaking of the apostolic sign-giftsmiraculous gifts of healing, prophecies, and various signs and wonders.
But that seems quite out of context here. Paul was not going to battle false apostles by staging a contest to see who could do the best miracles; he was going to answer their false teaching with the truth.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think the weapons Paul has in mind here are the stuff of truth itselfthe very kind of weaponry he had already outlined in chapter 6, verses 6-7, where he says we wage this warfare "by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left."
I have no doubt that Paul is also thinking of the full panoply of Christian weaponry, just as he outlines it in Ephesians 6:13-18. That passage includes a complete array of defensive armor and one simple offensive weapon. All of them are inextricably linked to the concept of truth. Here is the whole armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, "and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Notice: there is nothing novel or innovative about those weapons. They are old weapons. If you're waging a military fight (a warfare against literal flesh and blood), it is important to have the most modern, up-to-date weapons. Technology and innovation have always been important in conventional warfare. You don't want to show up at a gunfight with a knife. You can't go up against a modern army with nothing but slings and arrows.
But things are different in the spiritual realm. Our weapons are not carnal. We don't have any earthly military firepower. It may even seem to the carnal eye as if we are unarmed. But, Paul says, our weapons are "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds."
These weapons are powerful because they are the instruments of God's power. They are "mighty through God." Their effectiveness does not ultimately depend on the skill of the swordsmen or the cleverness of our strategies. These weapons are always effectual because they unleash the power of God.
Don't distrust those weapons. They trump every kind of fleshly weapon for spiritual warfare.