Text: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6; Ephesians 6:10-20

Even though we live on this earth in a physical body, the battle we wage as Christians is not physical but spiritual in nature. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wicked-ness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) The weapons we use are not carnal by spiritual. Read Ephesians 6:10-20.

Alas, the rebellious faction maliciously slanders Paul of walking in the flesh (i.e. adopting carnal methods) when ministering among the Corinthians. By doing so, they are saying that Paul’s ministry was not done in the power of the Holy Spirit, but was conducted based on his own desires, thoughts and designs. They were accusing Paul of “assuming unwarranted authority, dictatorial methods, and perhaps inconsistency and pride.” (Kent)

It is therefore unsurprising to see similar accusations levelled in many a faithful man in ministry. When these leaders attempt to defend the truth, and steer the church away from sin and compromise, they get falsely labelled as “heretics” and “dictators”, even though they may have conducted themselves in all meekness and gentleness (see verse 1). What say we then to such slanders? “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” (2 Cor. 13:8)

In his defence, Paul insists that the weapons he used were never carnal but spiritual. It is only God who can convert sinners. It is only God who can build His church. We must always bear this in mind when we serve the Lord. A prideful dependence upon the arm of the flesh will never lead to success.

Ironically, it was the accusers of Paul who were guilty of using carnal weapons in their malicious attacks of Paul. Paul was patient with them, praying that they would come to obedience when confronted with the truth. Nevertheless, the recalcitrant will be dealt with firmly.

THOUGHT: We can learn patience in ministry from the Apostle Paul.
PRAYER: Lord, help me put on the whole armour of God with prayer.

Text: 2 Corinthians 10:7-11; John 7:24

One of the accusations levelled against Paul by his opposers was that of a weak appearance. While they admitted that Paul’s letters demonstrate literary quality and boldness, they claim that Paul was not physically imposing and strong, neither was his speech comparable to the oratory greats of the age (v.10).

Were the accusations true? While tradition seems to paint Paul as a short man with average features, we do know that he was physically able and vibrant by the grace of God to endure many arduous trips during his missionary journeys. With regards to speech, we have Acts 14:12 which records the people of Lystra likening Paul to Mercurius (or Hermes), the Grecian messenger of the “gods”, because he was the chief speaker. Thus, Paul had at least some level of oratorical ability.

The derogatory and inflammatory remarks by Paul’s accusers were made with an agenda in mind – they were designed to undermine the Apostolic authority of Paul and detract the Corinthians from his letters and messages. By doing so, they were in effect pulling the Corinthians away from Christ and His Word.

The Apostle Paul thus asked a cutting question, “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” Some of the opponents claimed they were from a Christ party (c.f. 1 Cor. 1:12), lauding themselves as being superior over others in the congregation. Paul’s reply was, if such regarded themselves to be of Christ, is he therefore not of Christ? And if Paul was of Christ, surely he ought to be received.

The attack suffered by Paul was no different from that which was suffered by Christ in His earthly ministries. Many regarded him as no more than a carpenter’s son. Others even accused him of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebub. Christ’s reply? “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) Judge by spiritual criteria, and not that of the world.

THOUGHT: Leaders should be appointed by spiritual criteria.
PRAYER: Teach me to judge all things from a spiritual perspective.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew

(Pastor’s Abridgement of Timothy Tow’s Book
Prophets of Fire and Water, pp. 93-97)

After the earth-shaking contest on Mount Carmel with the four hundred and fifty Baal prophets, Elijah retreated to the seclusion of the Sinai desert. There he received a new mandate from the Lord to ordain Elisha as his successor (1 Ki. 19:16). As Moses has groomed Joshua according to God’s commandment (Num. 27:15-23), so it is for Elijah to train Elisha, that there may be continuation of the prophetic line. Failure to make preparation for the next generation of church leadership is to commit ecclesiastical suicide. As Elijah has Elisha, so Paul has Timothy. Hence, the FEBC! “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2)

Now, the years of Elisha’s discipleship are shrouded in silence. From his call in 1 Kings 19:19 -21 where we see him forsake his farm and oxen and bid farewell to his parents, to his reappearance in 2 Kings 2 following hard after Elijah, according to Scofield, a decade had slipped into oblivion. So it is in the will of God that a disciple must abide in his role of a disciple, to bury himself in lowly application, like an instrument going through the process of manufacture in a factory. Thus, the training period of our Lord was hidden in nonentity, from his keeping the Passover at the age of twelve to the beginning of His public ministry at Cana at the age of thirty. As the Chinese saying goes, “lt takes long years to make a great vessel.” And another, “lt takes a decade to plant a tree, yea, even a century to nurture a man.” (十年树木,百年树人)

No man can be a successful leader without first becoming a loyal disciple. Elisha’s following hard on the heels of Elijah, from Gilgal to Bethel, from Bethel to Jericho, from Jericho across Jordan, finds a promise of reward from the master at their parting. When asked what he would, Elisha wished for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Ki. 2:9). Though this is “a hard thing” to ask, according to his master, it nevertheless shows Elisha’s inexorable faith, which is well-pleasing to God. “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Lk. 11:9-10)

When suddenly there appeared “a chariot of fire and horses of fire” and swept Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Ki. 2:11), the mantle of Elijah was seen to fall on Elisha. Did the Spirit of Elijah came doubly on Elisha as he wished? According to Scofield’s listing, insofar as the number of miracles are concerned, Elisha seems to double the number of miracles performed by Elijah. As to length of service, Elijah flourished in the reigns of two kings – Ahab and Ahaziah. On the other hand, Elisha served through the reigns of four kings – Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jehoash, a period of about 60 years.

According to Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, faith is a “43-facet diamond.” If we have Elisha’s faith, though we may not work out the same visible signs today, yet we are no less effectual in dimensions not visible to the human eye. We can do what Elisha did! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Let us therefore take courage in the service of the Lord. “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do . . .” (Jn 14:12). In the words of William Carey, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things from God.” This is a day when we need to relive the time of the Prophets of Fire and Water.

When the “sons of prophets” saw Elisha cross Jordan in the spirit of Elijah, they bowed themselves to the ground before him. Elisha’s authority over his younger colleagues is established. If we have spiritual power and draw men to God and not to ourselves, then God will honour our ministry. And by corollary, moral power is more important than money power.