Question: "What does "pulling down strongholds" mean in 2 Corinthians 10:4?"
Answer: False teachers were wreaking havoc on the church Paul had founded in Corinth. These deceivers were stirring up division, causing many to resist Paul’s authority. In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul challenged these rebels, including the false teachers, and reinforced his apostolic ministry. As part of his defense, Paul stated, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NKJV). In this context, pulling down strongholds refers to demolishing walls of resistance in people’s minds, particularly how the rebellious Corinthians were thinking about Paul and the nature of his apostleship.
Paul realized that the battle he faced in Corinth was spiritual warfare. He had founded the church in “the humility and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1). He had not lorded it over the people, trying to impress them with an overpowering personality or oratorical flair. Instead, Paul had operated in Christlike meekness (Matthew 11:29). His power rested in the gospel that he preached (Romans 1:16), not in himself.
Paul depended on spiritual weapons of warfare that held God’s power to pull down strongholds. He did not rely on human strategy and wisdom, but on power supplied by the Lord. Paul knew his struggle was not against flesh and blood enemies but against “the powers of this dark world” and “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
Because of Paul’s humble attitude, the false teachers judged him by his external presence, finding him “timid” and “unimpressive” (2 Corinthians 10:1, 10). They completely missed the divine power that endowed his ministry. They evaluated Paul’s ministry “according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3) and not according to the Spirit of God.
Christians cannot fight spiritual battles with weapons of the flesh. The only way to successfully engage in spiritual warfare is to abandon carnal methods and worldly attitudes and follow the Lord’s command. An Old Testament illustration of “pulling down strongholds” is found in the battle of Jericho.
Jericho’s walls are like the walls of resistance in the minds of rebellious people, and they must be torn down. When God’s people in Joshua’s day, by faith, followed the Word of God and obeyed His commands, the walls of Jericho fell (Joshua 6:1–27). The battle was the Lord’s, fought His way, and according to His instructions. Humanly speaking, the whole episode seemed absurd, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27). The massive walls of Jericho collapsed in an instant by the mighty hand of God. In the same way, through faithful obedience to God’s commands, Christians pull down spiritual strongholds.
Thoughts contrary to the truth of God’s Word are like a mental wall of resistance—a stronghold. Paul faced this stronghold in the Corinthian church. Pride and intellectualism had exalted their thinking and blinded them to the truth. The “message of the cross” had become foolishness to these spiritual rebels, but Paul knew that it held the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The believer’s approach to pulling down strongholds is to present the truth of God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit reshape the other person’s thoughts, heart attitudes, and perceptions (Hebrews 4:12).
Paul’s gentle, humble attitude established a powerful spiritual weapon against the prideful stance of his opposition. Pride, Scripture reveals, is Satan’s predominant attitude and primary pitfall (Isaiah 14:13–14; Ezekiel 28:2, 17). God opposes the proud and favors the meek (James 4:6–7, 10; 1 Peter 5:5–6; Psalm 149:4; Proverbs 18:12). The Lord rescues the humble but brings down the haughty (2 Samuel 22:28).
The Bible names several weapons for pulling down strongholds and waging spiritual warfare. They include the Word of God, prayer, demonstrations of love and humility, the armor of God, and the power of God’s Spirit working in our lives. But the key, as Paul demonstrated to the Corinthians, is relying on God’s divine power and not our own.