Right Weapons
Monday of Epiphany 5
6 February 2017
The ancient Romans were masterful military strategists. With much smaller armies than their foes, they patrolled and maintained a huge empire, stretching from Egypt to the border of Scotland. Their well-trained troops always built carefully designed and defended camps when their march halted. They did this even when there was no expectation of attack. The Romans were seldom surprised by a foe attacking under cover of darkness and when occasionally surprised they were able to mount a spirited and often successful defense behind stake-studded ramparts. As Caesar's account of his Gallic campaign demonstrates, good engineering and quality logistics foreshadow ultimate victory.
 
The church is also constantly at war to maintain the kingdom of Christ. Under the leadership of the Captain of God's armies, we demolish strongholds and every lofty opinion that arrays itself against the Christ and His kingdom, the church. Therefore, we should not flee the world's onslaught, but prepare ourselves, as befits the warriors of Christ, with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Scripture itself sets us upon the logistically complete preparation of understanding the enemy's tactics and then preparing the best responses to his flaming darts of death. He uses the vain philosophy of this age to overcome the simple Christianity of the faithful.
 
For example, people will call into question the eternality of the Son of God by pointing out that the Son is born or begotten of His Father. The argument goes this way: that which is born must have a beginning, or else there is no need for birth. If Christ is born, then the Son had a beginning and is not eternal God of eternal God. The church has answered from Scripture that his birth of the Father is an eternal generation. Yes, this does not square with bare knuckled human reason, but the church always confesses that the ways of God may well be beyond our human reason. Human reason and language while at the disposal of God never captures Him. God only captures human reason and uses the weapon of human language for His gracious purposes.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"Men who profess a devout knowledge of divine things, in matters where the truth preached by the Evangelists and Apostles showed the way, ought to have laid aside the intricate questions of a crafty philosophy, and rather to have followed the faith which rests in God. Because the sophistry of a cunning question easily disarms a weak understanding of the protection of its faith, since treacherous assertion lures in the guileless defender who tries to support his case by enquiry into facts, till at last it robs him, by means of his own enquiry, of his certainty; so that the answerer no longer retains in his consciousness a truth which by his admission he has surrendered.
 
"For what answer accommodates itself so well to the questioner's purpose, as the admission on our part, when we are asked, 'Does anything exist before it is born?' that that which is born, did not exist before? For it is contrary both to nature and to reason that a thing which already exists should be born. Since a thing must be born in order that it may come to be, and not because it already existed. But when we have made this concession, because it is rightly made, we lose the certainty of our faith, and being ensnared we fall in with their impious and unchristian designs.
 
"But the blessed Apostle Paul, taking precaution against this, as we have often shown, warned us to be on our guard, saying: 'See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily' (Col 2:8-9). Therefore, we must be on our guard against the philosophy and methods that rest upon traditions of men, which we must not so much avoid as refute.
 
"Any concession that we make must imply that we are not out-argued or that we are confused. For it is right that we, who declare that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, should not flee from the doctrines of men, but rather overthrow them. And we must restrain and instruct the simple-minded lest these false teachers spoil them. Since God can do all things, and in His wisdom can do all things wisely, for His purpose is not unarmed with power nor His power unguided by purpose, it is right that those who proclaim Christ to the world, face the irreverent and faulty doctrines of the world with the knowledge imparted by that wise omnipotence, according to the saying of the blessed Apostle, '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' (2Co 10:4-5).
 
"The Apostle did not leave us a faith that was bare and devoid of reason. For although a bare faith may be most mighty to salvation, nevertheless, unless it is trained by teaching, while it will have indeed a secure retreat to withdraw to in the midst of foes, it will yet be unable to maintain a safe and strong position for resistance. Its position will be like that which a camp affords to a weak force after a flight. It will not be like the undismayed courage of men who have a strong camp to hold. Therefore, we must beat down the insolent arguments that are raised against God, and destroy the fastnesses of fallacious reasoning, and crush cunning intellects which give themselves up to impiety. This we must do with weapons not carnal but spiritual, not with earthly learning, but with heavenly wisdom; so that in proportion as divine things differ from human, so may the philosophy of heaven surpass the rivalry of earth."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 12.19-20
2 Corinthians
10:1-8

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ- I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!- I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 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. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ's, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ's, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, give us the right weapons of Your Word, that we might fashion the arguments to extinguish the flaming darts of our enemy. Keep us from despair. Allow us to rescue the weak when they are frustrated by the seeming power of human cunning. Put down our enemy by the simplicity of Your Word. Amen.
 
For all those who are shut in, that they would be kept in the bosom of their Savior and Lord
 
For Archbishop Christian Ekong of Nigeria, that he might continue in faithful proclamation of the gospel of Christ
 
For the clergy of the LCMS, that they would be upheld in the truth of the Word of God and defend the church from the onslaughts of human wisdom
Art: MANETTI, Rutilio  Wedding Feast at Cana  (c. 1620)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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