Puzzling Verse with Commentary!

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” 2 Cor 10:5,6 (NASB)

“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 Cor 10:5,6 (ESV)

“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; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” 2 Cor 10:5,6 (KJV)

Calvin’s commentary (From Christian Classics Ethereal Library) on the passage:

…by contrivances he means, whatever pertains to carnal wisdom.

The term high thing denotes any kind of glory and power in this world. There is no reason, therefore, why a servant of Christ should dread anything, however formidable, that may stand up in opposition to his doctrine. Let him, in spite of it, persevere, and he will scatter to the winds every machination of whatever sort. Nay more, the kingdom of Christ cannot be set up or established, otherwise than by throwing down everything in the world that is exalted. For nothing is more opposed to the spiritual wisdom of God than the wisdom of the flesh; nothing is more at variance with the grace of God than man’s natural ability, and so as to other things. Hence the only foundation of Christ’s kingdom is the abasement of men. And to this effect are those expressions in the Prophets:

The moon shall be ashamed, and the sun shall be confounded,
when the Lord shall begin to reign in that day; (Isaiah 24:23.)

Again,

The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the high looks of mortals shall be abased, and the Lord alone shall be
exalted in that day.(Isaiah 5:15, and Isaiah 2:17)

Because, in order that God alone may shine forth, it is necessary that the glory of the world should vanish away.

5. And bring into captivity I am of opinion, that, having previously spoken more particularly of the conflict of spiritual armor, along with the hinderances that rise up in opposition to the gospel of Christ, he now, on the other hand, speaks of the ordinary preparation, by which men must be brought into subjection to him. For so long as we rest in our own judgment, and are wise in our own estimation, we are far from having made any approach to the doctrine of Christ. Hence we must set out with this, that

he who is wise must become a fool, (1 Corinthians 3:18,)

that is, we must give up our own understanding, and renounce the wisdom of the flesh, and thus we must present our minds to Christ empty that he may fill them. Now the form of expression must be observed, when he says, that he brings every thought into captivity, for it is as though he had said, that the liberty of the human mind must be restrained and bridled, that it may not be wise, apart from the doctrine of Christ; and farther, that its audacity cannot be restrained by any other means, than by its being carried away, as it were, captive. Now it is by the guidance of the Spirit, that it is brought to allow itself to be placed under control, and remain in a voluntary captivity.

6. And are in readiness to avenge. This he adds, lest insolent men should presumptuously lift themselves up in opposition to his ministry, as if they could do so with impunity. Hence he says, that power had been given him — not merely for constraining voluntary disciples to subjection to Christ, but also for inflicting vengeance upon the rebellious, and that his threats were not empty bugbears, but had the execution quite in readiness — to use the customary expression. Now this vengeance is founded on Christ’s word —

whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven. (Matthew 18:18.)

For although God does not thunder forth immediately on the minister’s pronouncing the sentence, yet the decision is ratified, and will be accomplished in its own time. Let it, however, be always understood, that it is when the minister fights with spiritual armor. Some understand it as referring to bodily punishments, by means of which the Apostles inflicted vengeance upon contumacious and impious persons; as for example, Peter struck Ananias and Sapphira dead, and Paul struck Elymas the sorcerer blind. (Acts 5:1-10, and Acts 13:6-11.) But the other meaning suits better, for the Apostles did not make use of that power invariably or indiscriminately. Paul, however, speaks in general terms that he has vengeance ready at hand against all the disobedient.

When your obedience shall be fulfilled How prudently he guards against alienating any by excessive severity! For as he had threatened to inflict punishment upon the rebellious, that he may not seem to provoke them, he declares that another duty had been enjoined upon him with regard to them — simply that of making them obedient to Christ. And, unquestionably, this is the proper intention of the gospel, as he teaches both in the commencement and in the close of the Epistle to the Romans. (Romans 1:5, andRomans 16:26.) Hence all Christian teachers ought carefully to observe this order, that they should first endeavor with gentleness to bring their hearers to obedience, so as to invite them kindly before proceeding to inflict punishment upon rebellion. Hence, too, Christ has given the commandment as to loosing before that of binding.

I am not as puzzled by the fifth verse, as by the sixth, but I will just go with Calvin on the meaning until something more clear comes along. The translations significantly differ with one another, which is another puzzling point. I don’t get the King James rendition at all.

I came across this verse using ESV Greek tools looking for all occurrences of the greek word for “obedience”. It is always shocking that I come across verses I have read so many times (the beginning of the sentence is quite oft quoted!) yet have really no idea about the meaning of the end? We should all be careful to really read what we are reading.

If anyone can more clearly explain what the verse means, then please do so! Calvin’s explanation does not sit too well with me, though I think what he is saying is good and true, I am not sure that is what Paul is saying. But until I know (do not hesitate to comment here or at facebook!) I will just go with Calvin (a safe road, to be sure!).

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