There is a holy war afoot and we are soldiers in it. By God’s grace, in this article I will seek to demonstrate this reality. May the Holy One bless the labor of His servant. This will be the first of several articles addressing the topic of Holy War, beginning with a biblical analysis of what it means to be a soldier in the Lord’s Army.
Let us begin by searching the scriptures to see if these things are so in accordance with Acts 17:11.
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Timothy 2:3 (KJV)
Note the use of the verb ‘endure’, which is ‘synkakopathēson‘ in the Greek. It has two occurrences in the New Testament, including the verse above, with the other occurrence being in the previous chapter as shown here. It is a word that literally means ‘suffering’, but is sometimes translated as ‘evil’ or ‘affliction’. This verb, in addition to the noun ‘stratiōtēs‘, evokes military imagery. The root of ‘stratiōtēs‘ occurs 26 times in the New Testament is always translated as ‘soldiers’ without exception as evidenced here. It is the same word used to describe the Roman soldiers who mocked, scorned and ridiculed our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The origin of this word comes from ‘stratia’, a word used to describe an army – to include a host of angels and even the host of Heaven, as shown here. A cognate for this word, ‘strateúomai’ refers to fighting as a soldier.
This is military language, friends.
What can we infer from this verse? Endurance suggests that affliction, evil or suffering will be prolonged or sustained throughout our service as soldiers in the LORD’s army. Endurance is not required for a brief conflict or exchange in a battle. You will note that the word ‘battle’ in all its forms occurs almost exclusively in the New Testament in the Book of Revelation with only one exception in 1 Corinthians 14:8. Compare this with the frequency of the word ‘war’ in the New Testament and its distinction becomes more apparent. A battle is a comparatively small thing in its duration, and the Day of the LORD will be brief in comparison to the current holy war being waged today in our midst. Surely the LORD will not struggle or labor long in His sovereign pursuit of victory on that day. In fact, in many respects victory has already been achieved.
Let us look at some of the other verses related to this one, beginning with cross references for this notion of ‘enduring hardness’ (‘synkakopathēson‘).
“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5 (KJV)
How shall this war be waged as good soldiers of Jesus Christ? This verse provides several clues. We are to ‘make full proof of thy ministry’. How may we make full proof of our ministry as good soldiers of Jesus Christ? We are to ‘watch thou in all things’ and to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ as we ‘endure afflictions’.
This war is not a physical war, but a spiritual war, and a good soldier of Jesus Christ will be observant. But what shall we observe? Well, what any good soldier observes: opportunities to advance, areas to take shelter, and so on. Where are the front lines? How many of us are there, and how many are the enemy? If we shall treat every situation as though it were the same, we may not only miss a great deal, but we may incur loss, or even suffer casualties. For these reasons and untold others we must remain vigilant.
We must also remain active. A good soldier is not a passive soldier. In all areas of our spiritual life in Christ Jesus we must always seek to be busy – not merely for the sake of being busy, but being busy with a goal in mind (1 Corinthians 9:24): being fruitful (John 15:8) or profitable (1 Timothy 4:8, Titus 3:8), doing that which is not merely lawful but expedient (1 Corinthians 6:12), and seeking to please our Master. Shall we then watch and do nothing but sit idly by, assured by God of our victory in Christ Jesus? May it never be. We are to do the work of an evangelist – that is largely how this spiritual war may be waged by good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;” – 2 Timothy 1:8 (KJV)
What joins these three verses we have looked at thus far? The call to ‘endure hardness’, ‘endure afflictions’, and to ‘be thou partaker of the afflictions’. Of what afflictions? ‘Of the gospel according to the power of God’. This verse reinforces the thrust of 2 Timothy 4:5 regarding how this spiritual war is to be waged by good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We must do the work of an evangelist. Shall we only do the work when it is day, or to lift the load when it is light? No, we are to do the work in spite of the setbacks we endure. We are not only to do the hard work when it is easy, but to do the hard work when it is hard. This is the meaning of what it is to preach the word both in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).
When I wrote earlier about what we can infer by comparing a battle to a war, we see further evidence of this ongoing conflict as a holy war and not merely a battle earlier in the first letter to Timothy.
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;” – 1 Timothy 1:18 (KJV)
What may we hope to war in our endurance and activity as good soldiers of Jesus Christ? The verse reads ‘mightest war a good warfare’. We may use the word ‘might’ in our reading in place of ‘mightest’, as these words are clearly the same. What does the word ‘might’ imply? Well, it implies uncertainty. If we might make war well, we might also make war poorly. Likewise, if we be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, might there also be bad soldiers of Jesus Christ? This ought to exhort us to not merely do, but to do well. As it is written ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23). It is not sufficient to merely set out to do, but to do something well as unto the LORD. We know, of course, our works will not save us, so I will not labor this point with a lengthy disclaimer. That is not what is in view here.
To bring us back to the verse we began with, there are further clues in this second letter to Timothy, not only what we are to do as good soldiers in and of Jesus Christ, but also what we are to not do.
“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 2:4 (KJV)
As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we ought not entangle ourselves with the affair of this life. Why not? Why, it will hinder our service. It will stifle our efficacy. It will prevent us from seizing greater opportunities for instrumentality. It will distract us from the high calling we are called to. Does a good soldier not seek to please ‘Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier’? By God’s grace this will be our chief aim.
If you have not committed yourself wholly to your Lord and Saviour as your Commander in this Holy War, I exhort you to wait not a moment longer. Enlist!