The manifestation of man’s rebellion (2)
Scripture Reading: 2 Cor. 10:4-6
The relationship between reasons and thoughts
Not only is man’s rebellion manifested in his words and reasons; it is manifested in his thoughts as well. Man speaks rebellious words because he has rebellious reasons. But reasons are manifested in one’s thoughts. Therefore, thought is the center of man’s rebellion.
Second Corinthians 10:4-6 is one of the most important passages in the Bible, because it especially points out which part of a man should submit to Christ. Verse 5 speaks of taking “captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ.” Man’s rebellion is a rebellion of thought. Paul said that we have to overthrow the strongholds, the reasonings, and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God. Man uses reasonings to build a fortress around his thoughts. This reasoning must be overthrown, and the thoughts must be taken captive. Discard the reasons, but take back the thoughts. Today reason is man’s fortress, and thoughts are imprisoned in it. Spiritual warfare involves storming this fortress and recapturing the thoughts. It is impossible for man’s thoughts to submit to God without overthrowing reasons. All reasonings frustrate man from knowing God. The “high things” are like tall buildings. In God’s eyes man’s reasons are a tall building, a big obstruction along the way of knowing God. Once a man reasons, his thoughts are surrounded; they can no longer submit to God. Submission is a matter of the thoughts. If reasons are manifested, they become words. If reasons are hidden, they encircle the thoughts, and submission becomes impossible. Paul was not dealing with reasonings by reasoning. Man’s reasonings are so serious that they cannot be dealt with except by battle. The mind with its reasonings can only be dealt with by spiritual armor, by God’s power. This is a battle between God and us. We have become God’s opponent. Man’s reasoning mind is inherited from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is hard to imagine how much trouble this mind gives to God. Satan binds us through different kinds of reasons so that we become the prisoner to reasons, unable to be gained by God, and so we also become God’s enemy.
Genesis 3 is a picture of 2 Corinthians 10. Satan reasoned with Eve. When Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, she also reasoned. She disobeyed God for a reason. Once reason comes, man’s thoughts are stuck in it. Reasons and thoughts go together. Reason preys on thoughts. Once the thoughts are captured, man will no longer be able to submit to Christ. If we want to submit to God, we must touch God’s authority and break through all the strongholds of reasons.
Taking the thoughts captive
In the Greek New Testament, the word for thought is noema. This Greek word is used six times in the New Testament, in Philippians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 3:14; 4:4; 10:5; and 11:3. The word is rightly translated as “thought,” which means propositions of the heart. The heart is the organ, and the propositions are its activities. They are the product of man’s mind. Man asserts himself through the liberty of opinions and propositions. In order to protect his liberty, all of his propositions must be justified as being good and correct. They must not be contended with. Therefore, he has to surround them with many reasons. A man refuses to believe in the Lord usually because of one or two reasons with which he surrounds himself as strongholds. For example, some say that they will believe when they get old, that they do not see good examples in Christians who have believed, or that they will have to wait until their parents die before they can believe. There are also many reasons for Christians not to love the Lord. Students say that they are too busy with their schoolwork. Businessmen say that they are too occupied with their businesses or that they do not feel well physically. If God does not break through these strongholds, man will never be liberated. Satan uses reasons as strongholds to keep man in. Man is outwardly surrounded by these fortresses of reasons. By himself man cannot break through to freedom. Submission to Christ is possible only through the authority of God that captures the thoughts and makes them God’s slaves.
For man to know authority, he must first break down reasons. When man sees God as He is presented in Romans 9, all reasons are shattered. When Satan’s stronghold is torn down, there is no more reason, and the thoughts are taken captive unto the obedience of Christ. It is not enough for man to meet authority in his speaking. It is not enough to remove all reasons. His thoughts must be captured unto the obedience of Christ. Only when his thoughts are captured can man truly submit to Christ.
To discern whether or not a man has met authority, we need to see if such a one has been dealt with in speaking, in reasons, and in opinions. Once a man has confronted authority, his tongue will not be that careless, his reasonings will not be that bold, and deeper still, his opinions will not be exercised. An ordinary man has many opinions, and he uses many outward reasons to fortify his opinions. A day must come when God’s authority comes in to remove the strongholds that Satan has set up through reasons and to capture the thoughts of man, making him a willing slave of God who subjects himself to Christ without any opinion. Only then will there be a thorough salvation.
A person who has never met authority always wants to be God’s counselor. His thoughts are not captured by God. When he goes to a place, the first thought that occurs to him is to “improve.” When thoughts are not disciplined, there are many reasons and no brokenness is seen. Therefore, our thoughts have to be cut so deeply that they are captured back to God. Only then can we see the authority of God. Only then will we not dare to hide under our reasons and express our opinions carelessly.
There often seem to be two persons in the whole world who know everything — one is God and the other is myself. I am the counselor. I know everything. When this is the case, it clearly shows that the thoughts are not captured and that there is no knowledge of authority. A person whose stronghold of reasons has been broken by God’s authority will have his thoughts captured by God; he can submit to Christ and be free from expressing opinions. In fact, he will not be interested in expressing his opinions. His thoughts will become the slaves of God, and he will no longer be a free man. The natural freedom is a prey for Satan. Such freedom has to be given up. We would only be obedient ones. There are only two ways in which man’s thoughts can be used. One is being under the control of reasons, and the other is being under the control of Christ’s authority. Actually, there is no such thing as freedom of choice in the whole world. We are captured either by reasons or by the Lord. We are either Satan’s slaves or God’s slaves.
To discern whether or not a brother has met authority, we first need to find out whether he has rebellious words; second, we need to find out whether or not he reasons before God; and third, whether or not he expresses opinions. Before the Lord we must take care of the shattering of our reasons, but this is only the negative aspect. The reasons have to be shattered in order that the thoughts may be taken captive unto the obedience of Christ and no longer dare express their own opinions. Formerly, I gave many reasons based on my own opinions. Today all my reasons are gone. I owe submission to whoever has captured me. A captive has no freedom. Even if he expresses an opinion, it is useless. A captive cannot present his own opinions. He can only receive opinions. It is the same way when we are taken captive by the Lord. We no longer express opinions or suggestions. Instead, we only take God’s opinion.
A warning to the opinionated ones
Paul was an intelligent, able, wise, and sensible person. He was capable and confident in his work, and served God with his own zeal. When he was on his way to Damascus with a company of men to lay hold of Christians, he suddenly met a great light, which struck him to the ground. In that moment all of his opinions and methods were gone. All his capabilities were shattered. He did not go back to Tarsus, nor did he go back to Jerusalem. Not only was his trip to Damascus thrown away; all of his reasons were thrown away as well. When many encounter difficulties, they turn another direction. If one way is blocked, they try another way. All the while they still journey according to their own methods and opinions. Many are so foolish that they do not fall even when they are struck by God. They are only struck by God in the event. They are not struck by God in their reason; their thoughts are still present. Many have been cut off from their way to Damascus, but they still find a way to Tarsus or to Jerusalem. But once Paul was struck, everything was over. Nothing more needed to be said. Nothing more needed to be considered. He did not know anything anymore. He asked the Lord, “What shall I do, Lord?” Here was a man who was submissive from the heart. His thoughts were captured by the Lord. Saul had been an outstanding and distinguished person everywhere he went, but when he met the authority of God, all of his opinions were gone. The biggest mark of a person who has met God is the absence of prejudice and cleverness. We have to ask for God’s mercy that we would be simple in the light. He who meets God’s authority will fall before God’s face and spontaneously have no more opinions. Paul said that he had been captured by God to be His prisoner. Now is not the time for us to express opinions. Our place is just to listen and submit.
Saul was rejected by God, not for theft but for offering a sacrifice to God of sheep and oxen that he assumed were the best. This was his opinion. He was trying to please God by his own thoughts. His thoughts were not captured, and he was thus rejected by God. One cannot say that Saul was not zealous in his service to God. He did not lie. They were the best of the sheep and the oxen. The problem, however, was that he made a decision based on his own opinion (1 Sam. 15). A servant of God cannot express his own opinion; he can only carry out God’s will. We should have only one desire: “What shall I do, Lord?” If this is not our attitude, we are completely wrong. To obey is better than sacrifice. There is no place for man to express his opinion before God. When King Saul saw so many fat sheep and oxen, he wanted to keep some for offerings. His heart was for God, but his obedience was short. Having a heart for God cannot replace the words, “I dare not say anything.” And the offerings of the fat cannot replace an attitude of “having no voice” before the Lord. God commanded that all the Amalekites with their sheep and oxen be completely destroyed, but Saul was unwilling to do it. Later, the Amalekites killed him, and his reign was stopped. Whoever comes up with a proposal to save the Amalekites will be killed by the Amalekites in the end.
Nadab and Abihu
Nadab and Abihu were also rebellious in the matter of sacrifice. They did not submit to the authority of their father, but instead made a proposal out of their own initiative. They committed the sin of offending God. It was a sin of offering strange fire, a matter of overstepping God’s minister. Although they did not say anything or murmur any reasonings, they burned incense by their own will and according to their own feeling. They thought that this kind of service was a good thing. If they were wrong, they thought that it was but a mistake in service. To them it was not a great sin. But it turned out that they were immediately rejected by God and immediately died.
The testimony of the kingdom made possible only through submission
God does not check on our zeal for the gospel or our willingness to suffer; He checks to see whether or not we are obedient. Refraining from opinion, stopping all reasonings, ceasing all evil speaking, and submitting to God completely are the beginning of the kingdom. This will be a day of glory, the day that God has been waiting for since the foundation of the earth. God has a Firstborn who has already submitted, who is the firstfruit. Yet God is waiting for all the sons to be conformed identically to the Son. If there is a church on earth that truly submits to God’s authority, there will be the testimony of the kingdom, and Satan will be defeated. Satan is not afraid of our work. As long as we stand on the principle of rebellion and act independently by our own will, Satan will laugh in secret.
According to the law of Moses, the ark should have been borne by the Levites. But when the Philistines sent the ark back to the Israelites, they did so with an oxcart. When David desired to receive the ark into the city of David, he did not seek the will of God. Rather, he made his own proposal and pulled the ark by the oxen. When the oxen stumbled, the ark fell, and Uzzah stretched forth his hand to uphold it. Immediately, he was smitten by God and died. Even if the ark did not fall, it was at most on an oxcart; it was not on the shoulders of the Levites. When the Levites lifted the ark across the Jordan, the waves were high. Yet the ark was in peace. This tells us one thing: God does not like man’s proposals. Man must forever be submissive to God. Only when God empties us completely can His will be done unhindered. If we come with our human opinions, service to God will never have a way. Everything is done through God’s ruling, not man’s scheming. Man’s opinion must be thoroughly dismantled. His thoughts must be shut up; they must be forbidden from making suggestions. In the past there was freedom in living by the self. But when the thoughts are captured, there is no more freedom. As a result we can be obedient to Christ and have the true freedom, a freedom that is in the Lord.
Second Corinthians 10:6 says, “We are ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” Only when the thoughts are captured can obedience be fulfilled. Everyone who can still maneuver and express opinions before God does not have his obedience fulfilled. The Lord is ready. When our obedience is fulfilled, He will rise up to avenge the disobedient ones. If we would thoroughly turn around and be fearful of our own opinions and proposals, our obedience will be fulfilled, and God will manifest His authority on earth today. If the church cannot be submissive, much less can the world be submissive. If the church is not submissive, it is vain to hope for others to submit to the gospel. Only with a submissive church can there be a submissive response to the gospel. All of us have to learn to be restricted. Our mouths have to be disciplined to stop speaking. Our minds have to be disciplined to stop reasoning. Our hearts have to be disciplined to stop proposing. If we do this, a way of glory will be before us, and God will manifest His authority on earth.