By Mike Willis
When Paul referred to Epaphroditus and Archippus as his “fellow-soldiers” (Phil. 2:25; Phile. 2), he introduced another descriptive term which in some way reveals what a Christian is. Thus, in our study of the descriptive terms of Christians, we must include the word “soldier.” ‘The first idea which comes to one’s mind when he reads the word “soldier” is the idea of war. The primary idea denoted by the comparison of a Christian to a soldier is the idea of war.
The Enemy: Satan
The arch-enemy of Christ and Christianity is Satan. Our warfare is against him and his host. Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete” (2 Cor. 10:3-6). Thus, our warfare is not a carnal warfare; we are not asking men to clean their guns, load them, and shoot every wicked person. The Crusaders completely misunderstood the nature of our warfare.
Though the warfare is spiritual, the enemy is nonetheless real. Satan is not the figment of one’s imagination; he is not a mythological creature, He is actually going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devout. (1 Pet. 4:8). He is trying to “sift you like wheat,” even as he did Peter (Lk. 22:31). The book of Job reveals to us somewhat of the activity of our enemy Satan. Thus, the enemy is real; his wickedness far exceeds that of Communism, Nazism, etc. His strategies in the warfare are unscrupulous. He is perfectly willing to mix truth and error (Gen. 3:4-5,22), to misquote Scripture (Mt. 4:6), to masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), to promise that good may come through the practice of evil (Lk. 4:6-7), or to attack us through our natural desires (Jas. 4:1; 1 Pet. 2:11). He is not an honorable enemy. There is a war in progress; Christ has called us to be one of His soldiers in extinguishing the enemy.
Armor of the Christian
Just as the Roman legionaire wore protective garments to ward off the attacks of the enemy, so also the Christian soldier wears his protective armor. Paul said, “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:14-17). God has provided ample armor to counteract the onslaughts of Satan. Let us be careful not to forget the purpose of the armor–to assist the soldier in battle, No soldier wears this kind of clothing (breastplates, helmets, shields, etc.) unless he is engaged in a war. The Christian must not forget that the reason fie wears this clothing is because he, too, is engaged in war.
The admonition of Paul is particularly applicable to our times. He said, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of daily life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). Far too many Twentieth Century Christians have forgotten that a war is in progress. They are like the watchmaker who enlisted in the army and began to repair watches on the side. As more and more people became aware that he could repair watches, his business continued to expand. One day the commander called the army for battle. When the watchmaker did not answer the roll call, the commander came looking for him and found him in his tent repairing watches, When the commander said, “Come on, we’re ready for battle, the watchmaker replied, “I can’t go right now; I have to finish fixing this watch.” The watchmaker had forgotten why he had enlisted in the army. Similarly, too many Christians have forgotten why they enlisted as soldiers in the army of Christ. They have become so involved in bowling, lakeside cottages, television, baseball, etc. that they have absolutely no time to fight against Satan. (Actually, Satan has already taken them prisoners!) A good soldier will not form alliances which hamper his fighting ability. Any alliance which hampers us in the fight, whether the thing under consideration be sin in itself or not, must be broken.
Too, a good soldier expects to suffer hardship. Paul commanded, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Cluist Jesus” (2 Tim.2:3), Soldiers know that they sometimes have to endure hardships. They are able to get by on rations, to go without a mattress and box springs, to forego television, to know that they are being shot at, etc. They know that service in the army might bring bodily injury or even death. Nevertheless, they are willing to suffer hardship as soldiers. Similarly, some Christians have been called upon to suffer death as a soldier in the ariny of Christ. Part of being a soldier is the knowledge that hardships of war might come to us.
But, most of all, the soldier is a fighter. He fights the enemy, hoping, to destloy him. How might we engage in battle against Satan? We can fight social evil by writing our congressmen about important legislation, writing the TV media about bad programming, complaining to merchants about pornography, and boycotting filthy movies and television programs (and by praising the good ones). We can win territory for Christ by evangelizing our relatives and friends or by restoring our fallen brethren. We could perhaps add other ways to engage in battle against the enemy (e.g. stopping the mouths of false teachers), but these are sufficient to let us know that we must take up our weapon, the sword of the Spirit, and use it against the enemy. Letting it rust in the scabbard will not stop the advance of Satan.
The Assurance of Victory
Unlike other wars, the outcome of this one was settled long before it ever began. Jesus Christ will conquer: we do not have to worry about what will happen to us should Satan win the war. John saw the victory as he wrote, “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God; in order that you may eat the flesh of Kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free and slaves, and small and great.’ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Rev. 19:17-20). The final outcome of this spiritual conflict has been forever settled, We who fight for Jesus will be the victors. We shall overcome; victory is assured!
When Paul’s death was visibly imminent, he wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of cighteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Can you say as Paul said, “I have fought the good fight”? Or, have you become so involved in the entangling affairs of this life that you have forgotten the battle? Are you watching while others do the fighting, suffer the injuries, and even die for Christ? Are you a spiritual pacifist? Christ has enrolled you in His army, The battle is in full array. Take up your armor and proceed to the fray.
Truth Magazine XX: 43, pp. 679-680
October 28, 1976