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Background: II Corinthians 10:1-5

We demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. II Corinthians 10:5

Building on what we considered about truth in the previous devotional, let us now consider capturing thoughts as we consider some of the implications of Paul’s instruction here in II Corinthians.

In this letter (what we call II Corinthians) Paul is writing to a church that he knows and apparently writing to them for a third time (II Corinthians 2:3).  This time he is disciplining them, at least, describing what should be done in their midst.  In addition, Paul is defending his ministry, his apostleship, against charge that he is not really an apostle of the first order.  He is forced to answer why he does not match up with the ideal apostle, that is, the prevailing understanding of an apostle.  He answers those questions in a number of different ways.  One way he addresses that charge is in this text, in which he places the matter in the larger context of how one should think these things.  In essence he says, “One of the problems you have in recognizing my apostleship is that you are not thinking as you ought.  Let me tell you how you should think.”  They like Paul, should “demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

This instruction of taking thoughts captive has been interpreted in number of different ways.  Some have seen it in very pietistic terms.  Sometimes my mind thinks bad things: lustful thoughts; greedy thoughts; angry thoughts; vengeful thoughts.  I need to stop my mind from thinking those things.  When I do that, I take my thoughts captive to Christ.  While all of that is true, it’s not what this passage means. This passage is much broader and more fundamental than that.  It doesn’t have in view only the narrowly ethical thoughts, but all thoughts, whatever they may be, are to be brought subject to the rule and reign of Christ.

Conversely, some have suggested that the taking thoughts captive requires the believer to reject the negativism of his thoughts and to take his thoughts captive by saying to everything that he can do all things through Christ, allowing negative thoughts is the sin, thinking positive thoughts is what it means to take thoughts captive to Christ.  While approaching life positively has great advantages over approaching it negatively, it is simply heresy to define the Christian faith as simply believing and thinking positively without further comment on the substance of that faith and the reason for one’s assurance.

A third approach is the one I suggest is the most appropriate interpretation of the passage: The theme of this passage is the Sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ over all things – even the world of ideas.  The Christian is instructed to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Do you catch the metaphor?  Paul is saying that the Lord reigns, that he enlists His people as a sovereign to wage war and to take captives, and those captives, upon proper training and instruction, are thereafter enlisted in His service, that is, in obedience to Him.  The metaphor is that thoughts should be treated the same way.  They too can be rebellious, in fact often-times are; the Christian is to conquer his or her thoughts, to demand that they, all of them, obey his or her sovereign Lord, that they conform to the standards that the Lord of heaven and earth has set.  Do we treat our thoughts that way?  Do we treat all of our thoughts that way?  Are we willing to take them all captive and make them servants of Christ?  May God grant us grace to think obediently.  O that God might be please to form within us individually and collectively a Christian mind.

Richard Bowser


– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”

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