A sermon on 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
June 20, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

By purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power
of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left. 2 Corinthians 6:6-7

The title of today’s sermon is borrowed from a book by Elton Trueblood. Dr. Trueblood was a
20th Century Quaker educator who was well-known as an author, teacher, philosopher, theologian and
religious observer. He is one of my favorite authors on spirituality. (You may remember that we sang his
hymn “Baptism by Fire” during our Pentecost service a few Sunday’s ago…) A summary of the main idea
of his book The Company of the Committed can be discerned in following passage. It is a little bit longer
than most of the quotes that you are used to hearing from this pulpit. But I think that these words are a
good starting point for today’s sermon. Concerning the state of the church, Dr. Trueblood wrote,
One of the most surprising facts about the early Church was its fundamental similarity to a
military band. This is hard for us to recognize today because the ordinary [modern] church… is about as
different from an army as anything we can imagine. Instead of being under anything resembling military
discipline, we pride ourselves on our “freedom.” We go and come as we like, as no soldier can do; we
give or withhold giving as we like; we serve when we get around to it. Obedience is considered an
irrelevant notion, and the theme of “Onward Christian Soldiers” is so alien to our experience that some
churches avoid the hymn entirely…The military metaphor seems strained when it is applied to smartly
dressed men and women riding in air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned churches.
Far from thinking of the Church in military terms, we think of it as a civil society which people
join freely and leave freely, though they often seem, oddly enough, to be born into it. It is a society that
makes mild claims, even in regard to attendance at its meetings…In this regard, it is in sharp contrast to
[service organizations] , partly because they have attendance requirements. Clubs normally demand that
failure to attend be made up by attendance at other units, but churches are more tolerant at this point.
While soldiers are specifically under authority and may, consequently, be sent anywhere without the
right of refusal, most people would smile at the idea of the Church sending them on tasks which they
could not refuse…This reaction tells us something significant about the [modern day] Church; it tells us
how far we have drifted!1
It is worth noting that those words were published 60 years ago in 1961. But I would submit to
you that they are just as true today as when Dr. Trueblood first wrote them…

Elton Trueblood, The Company of the Committed (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), 30-31.P a g e | 2
The military metaphor for the life of the Spirit can also be found in today’s passage. Did you
notice it when we read it together a few moments ago? It is right there at the end of verse seven. There
the Apostle Paul writes about “weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.”…Now that’s
a striking phrase, isn’t it? “Weapons of righteousness…”
A few minutes ago, I read the scripture text from the New Revised Standard Version. If you were
following along in the King James Version, or any one of a number of other English translations, you
might have noticed that the reading was a little bit different. In the King James Version, the end of verse
seven reads, “By the armour of righteousness of the right and on the left.”…That phrase immediately
brings to mind Ephesians 6:11. You know, that is the one where Paul encourages the believers to “Put
on the whole armor of God.” But it is not the same word in both instances…
The word in today’s text is the Greek word hop’-lon. It appears five times in the New Testament
and is variously translated as “instrument,” “armor, and “weapon.” It is a word that is used in the sense
of “tool”…or “utensil”…or “implement.” In the Ephesians “full armor of God” passage, a different word is
used for the word “armor.” The word used in Ephesians 6 is the word is pan-op-pli’-a. That word refers
more properly to a soldier’s complete set of armor—helmet, shield, shoes, breastplate, and the like. The
significance lies in the idea of today’s passage where the emphasis is—if you will—on “the tools of the
trade.” With the mention of the soldier’s “left and right hands,” it seems to me that the point of the
passage is squarely placed on the soldier’s weapons—and not on the soldier’s defensive gear…
Although weapons can be used defensively, weapons by their very nature tend to be offensive.
They are designed to be used against an adversary to cripple and defeat them. Regardless of the
situation—regardless of the kinds of weapons used—that is the function of a weapon. Its function is to
stop one’s adversary…to disable an opponent…To render an aggressor unable to respond and to force
one’s opponent to yield…
So Paul uses the phrase “weapons of righteousness” to describe this aspect of discipleship.
These are things that the followers of Jesus are to use in order to prevail over the sin that wars against
the soul. That includes both the sins of an inward personal nature that we all struggle with…and the sins
we commit that are more public—sinful actions that are obvious to others…
And what are those “weapons of righteousness” that Paul is talking about? Paul names them in
the preceding section—verses six and seven. He lists eight different characteristics of righteousness
available for the Christian to use to advance the kingdom. Those characteristics are purity, knowledge,
patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God. Those are the
weapons of righteousness in the hands of the Christian soldier…
Purity…knowledge…patience…kindness…holiness of spirit…genuine love…truthful speech…the
power of God. Those are qualities of life that all of us here would desire to characterize our lives, aren’t
they? In fact, I think that most people would probably want to live the kind of life that those things P a g e | 3
represent. And yet, it seems to me that too often we regard these qualities of the Christian life as less
than vibrant. We do not see these things as spiritual weapons—weapons of righteousness in the life of
the Spirit. And therein lays the paradox. Paul says that they ARE weapons in the struggle against evil.
The problem may be due in part to how we think about the life of the Spirit. Consider this: One
of the hymns that we sing is “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing…” It is a fine hymn by
the great German reformer Martin Luther. Based on Psalm 46, it has a five hundred year old message
that has stood the test of time. And yet, a fortress is a defensive position. It is purely a place of
protection—a place of refuge. It is not a place from which an army takes the fight to the enemy. It is not
a situation in which one takes the fight to the enemy…
Or how about this hymn from gospel song writer Henry Gilmour? Remember singing this one?
“I’ve anchored my soul in the haven of rest, /I’ll sail the wide seas no more; / The tempest may sweep
o’er the stormy deep, / In Jesus I’m safe evermore.”2
Yes—I know that Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon
you… and you will find rest for your souls.”3
That is a great and wonderful promise, to be sure. God’s
love reaches out and enfolds us to comfort and reassure us even in our darkest times…
But while the harbor is a place of safety for ships, the truth of the matter is that ships are not
built to simply remain in port. They are not made to always be floating at their anchorages in order to
avoid storms. Ships are not built to stay in the safety of the harbor. They are designed and built to
venture out into the sea. They are made to weather whatever storms that they might encounter while
sailing to far-off lands. And warships? Warships are not designed to remain safely floating at their docks
either. NO—they are built to do battle with other ships. That is their purpose. That is their mission. They
are designed to meet the enemy on the high seas and to use the weapons with which they have been
armed in order to bring victory…
The point is that these weapons of righteousness that Paul names in this passage are not to
remain in their scabbard. They are not to remain in the holster. The safeties are not to be engaged. The
weapons of righteousness are to be used—used in the struggle against the powers of darkness without
and our own evil desires that plague us from within.
A few chapters later in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, the Apostle Paul tells us more about the war of the
spirit. He warns us that the battles we face are not to be fought with the weapons of the world. Those
are weapons designed to hurt and maim others. Instead he writes, “For though we live in the world, we
do not wage war as the world does. The weapons that we fight with”—it’s the same word hop’-lon as in
today’s text—“the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they
have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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

“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther and “My Soul in Sad Exile” by Henry L. Gilmour.
3 Matthew 11:29.P a g e | 4
Purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the
power of God. These are weapons that are positive and serve helpful purposes—not weapons that hurt
others and damage the soul. And our Lord Jesus said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his
followers. That puts sin on the defensive. Using these spiritual weapons that Paul lists, evil is served
notice…and the followers of Jesus go on the offensive in the fight for righteousness and the coming
kingdom of God…And with Jesus as our leader, the end is never really in doubt…even when it does not
always seem that way…
It is time for the followers of Jesus to take the offensive. Using the weapons of righteousness—
and only the weapons of righteousness and not the weapons of the world—it is time for all of us to
wage war against the sin that so easily besets us. It is time to vanquish the sin seeks to control us to be
more of the people that Christ has called us to be.
There are a lot of hymns that we could have closed today’s service with. Lots of hymns that
contain the military imagery similar to what the Apostle Paul uses: You know many of these songs: “Lead
On, O King Eternal,” “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” “Soldiers of Christ,
Arise,” “The Son of God Goes Forth to War,” “Soldiers of Christ, in Truth Arrayed,” and no doubt others.
But we are going to conclude our service with the hymn that Dr. Trueblood mentioned in the opening
passage in today’s sermon—“Onward Christian Soldiers.” Open your hymn books to #479 and let’s take
a look at the hymn together…
“Onward Christian Soldiers” is a hymn that has sparked a lot of controversy over the last couple
of decades. It has been deleted from the last three Presbyterian hymn books. It barely survived being
purged from the last United Methodist hymn book and has been retired or altered in a lot of other
recent hymn books of mainstream denominations. Tom Long, professor of preaching at the Candler
School of Theology, is certainly not a fan of the hymn. Concerning this hymn, he has written, “In a world
grown weary of religious strife, a world where the word ‘crusade’ arouses more anger and
embarrassment than resolve, few are nostalgic for a hymn that celebrates Christian soldiers marching to
I understand what he is saying. And I would agree that we are all tired of the unceasing wars,
terrorism and the suffering that accompanies war in the world. Whose heart doesn’t break when we
witness the latest body count from the latest terrorist attack—especially when such an attack is done in
the name of religion? Or who does not grow sad and wince at the news of the latest mass shooting
reported in the media? And how does a line like “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war” square
with the teachings of the One we call “The Prince of Peace”—the One who told his followers, “Blessed
are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God?”

4 (Accessed June 16, 2021)P a g e | 5
With all due respect to Dr. Long, and to others who are of like mind concerning this hymn, I
would like to disagree. As you have all heard me say on a number of occasions, one of the most
important qualities that a hymn should possess is fidelity to Biblical imagery. If a hymn is not Biblically
sound, then it occurs to me that it should not be used. And though some might find those images
distasteful, many of them used in “Onward Christian Soldiers” are thoroughly Biblical. In fact, the hymn
echoes some of the scriptures that were included in today’s sermon—from the foundations of Hell
quivering in the second stanza to the truth of Christ being our king and leader.
Yes, the hymn uses military imagery, but so does the Bible. It is important to recognize that the
hymn does not preach violence against people. There is no encouragement to attack anyone of different
religious traditions or theological perspectives. The struggle that it references is only against Satan and
his minions. And as with most everything else, context is critical in approaching this hymn.
And the truth of the matter is that the third stanza that really seals the deal:
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers (and sisters!) we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we—
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Would that those words about unity in the church working together to enlarge God’s kingdom
were true today…
So we sing today, steeling ourselves for the fights that we all face. Not as militants out to
destroy those who disagree with us, but as followers of Jesus using the weapons of righteousness—
purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of
God—to work toward and bring about God’s kingdom on earth even as it is in heaven. Let us stand and
sing #479 “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
And to God alone be the glory! Amen