Satan’s Schemes

In previous blogs we explored how mental strongholds/flesh patterns/defense mechanisms are developed in our minds before we come to Christ. Now let’s consider the second half of 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We take captive every thought [noema] to make it obedient to Christ.” The verb is present tense. In one sense it doesn’t make any difference whether the thoughts are coming from our old nature, from the world, or from the father of lies. We examine every thought, and if it is not true, we don’t think it – and we certainly don’t believe it.

The word noema only occurs about six times in Scripture, of which five are in this epistle. It has been translated as “thought,” “mind” and “schemes.” The way in which the word is used is revealing and helps clarify what it means. Paul wrote concerning the need to forgive, “I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes [noema]” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). We will not be able to set captives free or heal the wounded without helping them forgive others as Christ has forgiven them. Satan will take advantage of our bitterness. We are cautioned not to let a root of bitterness spring up causing trouble and defiling many (see Hebrews 12:15). Wounds that are not healed are transferred.

Concerning salvation, Paul wrote, “[Satan] has blinded the minds [noema] of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4; see also 3:14, in which “minds” is also noema). Those who live under the law and cannot see their need for Christ have had their minds blinded by Satan. We would understand the need for prayer and pray differently if we understood how Satan blinds the minds or thoughts of unbelievers. Evangelism was more effective in the Early Church when they understood how to free people from demonic influences. Being able to do so became a test of righteousness and orthodoxy.

For the fifth usage of noema in this epistle, Paul wrote, “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds [noema] may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (11:3). Satan deceived Eve, and she believed his lies. The temptation is to believe that if we are nice people, such deception can’t happen to us, but Eve was sinless at the time she was deceived. Good people can be deceived. Notice the spiritual context every time Paul uses the word noema in 2 Corinthians.

The final use of the word noema is found in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything [i.e., don’t be double-minded], but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds [noema] in Christ Jesus.” In order to stand against Satan’s mental assaults, we must choose to think on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (verse 8). Then we must put our righteous thoughts into practice, “and the God of peace will be with [us]” (verse 9).

Dr. Neil

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