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  • Leah Knowling

The Soldier of Christ

By Tim Knowling

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

2 Timothy 2:3&4

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He would often say when teaching about God’s Kingdom, that “The Kingdom of God is like...” and then go on by using parables, that is using things that people could easily relate to and understand, to convey what He was saying.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul used the example of that of an athlete, to exhort the believers, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”

In our main passage of scripture, the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy again follows a similar pattern when describing what it means to be a follower of Christ, this time using the example of a Soldier. The image of a soldier would have been an enduring image for those that Paul wrote to in his letters, as they lived during an era when the Roman Empire included the Mediterranean, most of Western Europe and extended into North Africa and Asia.

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

Paul starts by declaring that for all who will follow after Christ that they must endure hardships.

If Paul had been given the task of recruiting new soldiers for an army it would appear that he was taking the wrong approach. Most recruitment posters and the like appeal to the adventure and more attractive aspects associated with soldiering. However Paul’s declaration was not misguided and in fact echoed the call of Christ Himself.

In Luke 14:25-27, we read that Jesus had many followers to whom He made the following appeal. “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, if any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Everywhere He went and spoke, Jesus always made it clear to His hearers that there was a cost in discipleship. Just as Jesus had a cross to bear, so will all who serve Him as a soldier in His mighty army.

Charles H. Spurgeon made the following comments in regard to this very subject. He said “If thou desirest delicacy, join not the army. A soldier’s calling is not to be linked with softnesses, and if thou desirest ease and comfort, join not the army of Christ, for a Christian’s profession and these go not together.”

The cross that a Soldier of Christ may have to bear could come in many forms. Take the Roman soldiers that Paul was in all probability alluding to as an example for us to look at. They were taken from their homes and families, exposed to the elements of the weather, often hungry and still expected to fulfil their duties. They would have probably been made to force march to get to where they were going, and then at the end of the march even be prepared to face their enemies in battle.

For the Roman soldier he would do all of this out of his duty to Rome. How much the more should we be willing to undergo similar privations for the Lord’s sake?

The Apostle Paul’s charge to Timothy to endure hardness (hardships) was not some whimsical advice, but had been something that he had experienced and lived out personally many times over, since Christ had appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul described some of the personal hardships that he bore as a ‘Soldier of Christ’: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2

Corinthians 11:24-27)

If we were to read the testimonies of the many saints who have over the centuries taken up the banner of Christ and served Him wholeheartedly, I am sure many would read like the Apostle Paul’s. One only has to read ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs’ to see how some paid the ultimate price in their service to God. Others such as the Rev. David Brainerd experienced many trials during his short life of 29 years, all for the sake of reaching the Native American Indians with the Word of God.

And whilst some of us may never have to experience the trials that come with the mission field, there are the other trials that all believers are subject to, such as the rejection and ridicule and other persecutions that come to those who have sided with Christ.

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.”

Here the Apostle Paul stresses the point to Timothy that the soldier of Christ is committed wholeheartedly to that which he has been called to. And just as with a soldier in the natural realm, the soldier of Christ is to put a guard on his life, that he doesn’t become ensnared and encumbered with the things of this world to the point that he becomes ineffective in that to which he has been called.

For the soldier who is called up for full time service to his country, it is the normal scheme of things that he gives up his previous means of employment so that he may be fully devoted in the service of his country. And so it is, as we see in the scriptures, that when the Lord calls men to serve Him, that they must also be prepared to forsake all to be devoted to service in the army of the King of Kings.

In 1 Kings 19 we read of the account where God told Elijah to appoint Elisha as his successor: “So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?  And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” (vv. 19-21)

From that time on Elisha became fully committed in his new calling as a disciple to Elijah, and then later, as Elijah’s successor, he continued in service to God as His prophet. Such was the conviction of the call of God upon Elisha that he destroyed the thing that he had hence previously been occupied with (“...and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen...”) as a sign that he had put his hand to another plow. (Luke 9:62)

In the Gospel of Matthew we also read of Jesus and the calling of His disciples: “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22)

These men, who were chosen by God to carry the mantle of the Gospel, no longer went back to their nets as a full time occupation. Like the Apostle Paul, who was also skilled in tent making (Acts 18:3), and who it seems from time to time continued to use his skills in this area, these things were by no means a distraction to that to which Christ had now called them.

Paul’s warning to all believers however to not be entangled “with the affairs of this life” must most importantly been seen in the light of how it effects the spiritual life of the believer. We are all surrounded by things that can consume our time as well as our thoughts, sometimes to the detriment of our spiritual life. It has been wisely said that, “whatever consumes our thoughts, or our time the most is our god.” All these things must be made subservient to Christ if we are to be truly effective for Him.

“...that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

As we have already seen, a soldier who is employed in the service of his country is to be singular in mind in regard to his calling. For the soldier of Christ the same is just as true, however he does so out of a greater conviction. Many soldiers in the service of their country do their job out of duty, whereas Christ’s soldiers are to serve him willingly with the desire to please Him.

Every soldier is expected to follow the orders/commands of his superior officer, so it is for Christ’s soldiers who are in the service of the “Captain of their salvation” (Hebrews 2:10). In John 14:15, Jesus said to His disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments (or precepts).”

Love is to be the driving force behind our service to Christ. We love Him and desire to serve and please Him because of the scripture that has become a personal revelation to us, “... know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

For the soldier of Christ whose desire is to please his commander he also serves so that glory may be afforded to Him whom it is rightly due.

Coming back to where we started in this brief study, Paul used the analogy of a soldier because it was an image very real to his readers. They lived during a time when Rome had conquered much of the world, and they were in the era of the ‘Pax Romana’ (Roman Peace). Rome’s armies defeated all before them and their soldiers did so for the glory of Rome and the Emperor.

For the soldier of Christ whose desire is to please his commander he also serves so that glory may be afforded to Him whom it is rightly due.

2 Thessalonians 1:12 says, “That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Rome’s soldiers served to protect as well as extend an earthly kingdom. Jesus, however, made it known to all that, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)

The soldier of Christ does not serve for the purpose of conquering lands and its inhabitants with swords made from tempered steel. He serves to extend God’s Kingdom and see men come into submission to it. Christ’s soldiers carry a sword (“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12) that is unique like no other, for it not only has the power to slay men in regard to the putting to death of our old sinful nature, but it also has the power to raise us up into a new life, seating us in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).

As soldiers of Christ we have been given ‘standing orders’ (a general order always in force) and it has remained unchanged since it was given some two thousand years ago.

Hear the words of our commanding officer. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Taken from The Evangelists Magazine Issue 16

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