Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a-tumbling down! I remember singing this song in our Bible class when I was a kid. It was always fun to sing about how the Israelites walked around a city, blew trumpets, yelled, and then the great walls fell down. Now, years later, the historical account found in Joshua 6 has taken on more meaning as I have counseled those struggling with life’s most difficult problems. There was something incredible and supernatural at work in that story and it gives insight into the ministry and spiritual warfare that Paul writes about in his letter to the Corinthians.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 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, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Paul is defending and defining his ministry to the Corinthians in this passage. In his definition, he explains three things about his ministry that is true of all ministry:
First, we are at war. As believers in this world, we live as “actors in the theatre of war.”1 David Powlison, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 20. Living in a fallen world, we have dangers from sin in ourselves, in others, and in the world systems. There is the constant prowl of the devil over the earth looking for whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul uses military imagery frequently in his letters to emphasize the intensity of the Christian life (Philippians 2:25, Ephesians 6:10-20, 2 Timothy 2:3-4). Clearly, the Christian walk is one fraught with the struggles of war.
Second, we must use the right weapons. Our weapons need to be sufficient for the battle at hand. Paul, here, explains that fleshly weapons will not work. The weapons we need must have divine power in order to be effective. So, what are these divinely empowered weapons? They are the true words of God, the Scriptures, the one offensive weapon in the full armor of God provided for his soldiers (Ephesians 6:13-20). Life giving words. True words (John 17:17). Discerning words (Hebrews 4:12). God’s words (2 Timothy 3:16). Make no mistake, these weapons have divine power “designed by God,” and they are meant to be wielded by God’s people.2 Jay E. Adams, 1 & 2 Corinthians. The Christian Counselor’s Commentary. (Hackettstown, NJ: Timeless Texts, 1994), 160. Jericho’s walls would not have fallen if God’s people did not obey His command. And no amount of shouting and trumpet blasts would have made the walls crumble if it were not commanded by God.
Third, the weapons are meant to accomplish a specific task; to destroy strongholds. In war, battles are won when strongholds are conquered. But what are these strongholds? Paul says they are “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:4) Owen Strachan used the term “Intellectual Castles” to illustrate the meaning of this term.3 Owen Strachan, Destroying Arguments, Residency Lecture at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on January 23, 2019. They are fortresses of human wisdom, including any knowledge that tries to usurp the place of God’s Word. Ultimately, they are false teachings, lies, and counterfeit truths. Like Jericho, these walls are high and formidable, and those who look at them stand in awe. Yet, these walls of worldly wisdom cannot stand before the Almighty God. The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 3:19). These strongholds can be public worldviews and teachings, but they can also be personal. Public strongholds are erected by the world. Personal strongholds are those we erect in our own sinfulness. We can build strongholds in our lives from things that we elevate above Christ and they will demand our allegiance. These sinful habits which started out small now make slaves of God’s people (Romans 6:16). Like the pagan idols raised up in the place of God (2 Kings 21) we construct these strongholds and give them the praise, adoration, and worship that belong to God alone. God’s divine Word, His weapon given to us, is meant to be used to tear down these walls and destroy the idols, never again to be rebuilt.
What Does All This Mean for Biblical Counseling?
In a recent sermon, pastor Timothy Juhnke made this statement: “You cannot accomplish God’s work with man’s means.”4 Timothy Juhnke, Sermon at Faith Community Church, Kansas City, MO on August 25, 2019. In biblical counseling, we are committed to accomplishing God’s work using God’s means. We counsel in the power of the Holy Spirit with the Holy Scriptures.
Ministry is war. Counseling is a battle. Not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Counselees’ lives have been taken captive to lies from within and without, therefore biblical counselors have a responsibility to take up arms and help destroy strongholds.
We have the greatest weapon. Scripture wielded in the hands of a believer who is empowered by the Holy Spirit has divine power to destroy strongholds. John MacArthur says “that spiritual warfare is fought with spiritual weapons … not fleshly techniques, theories, and therapies.”5 John MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub, 1991), 111. No other weapon is needed. No outside sources are necessary to help in the battle. Worldly wisdom need not interfere. God’s Word alone can accomplish God’s will in God’s way for God’s glory.
Walls will fall. When a biblical counselor presents the Scriptures in counseling, walls of doubt, temptation and sin can fall, strongholds of worldly ideologies, lies and life dominating problems can be taken, and lives of men and women can be transformed.
God has provided us with His “precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:4) to use to tear down strongholds. Though the enemy is strong and the walls are high, we have a God who is stronger and higher. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “keep firmly to this: ‘God said it, God promised it; God cannot lie, whose very word of grace is strong as that which built the skies.’”6 C. H. Spurgeon, Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life. (Lynnwood, WA: Emerald Books, 1993), 81. Let us continue to fight the battle, trusting in God and His Word.