“The church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. Yet nevertheless, the church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the church militant, the church armed, the church warring, the church conquering. And how is this? It is in the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be the truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.”
And those who bear its burden must always be warring against those who oppose it. For God’s glory and for the redemption of the nations.
This is a radical statement. Particularly when read in this culture. To view truth this way is to see it as the absolute, exclusive, unalterable thing that the Bible presents it as. But for most in this culture, this simply will not do. Truth is fluid, dynamic, and ever-changing. It is moldable, pliable, and flexible. It can conform to ideologies and preferences. It can be reshaped by the community to fit the context. And when truth is seen in this light, there is nothing left to defend, stand up for, or protect. There is nothing left to fight for. Because there isn’t just one way.
This has rendered the truth largely dulled and its believers largely indifferent and lazy here in the church in America. Our voice is one simply among many. And whatever resonance it might have is drowned out by the plethora of other voices that surround it.
Brothers and sisters, THIS simply will not do. The New Testament presents a church unlike much of what marks us here in America today. It presents a church that has gone to war. A church that recognizes and embraces opposition. And a church that knows its weapon is superior to every other the world might ever manufacture: the gospel.
Let me make an important point before I continue, however. With the rise of militant factions of Islam (though all of Islam is essentially a militant religion, despite the fact that political correctness and liberal civil activist organizations yell and scream when this is publicly acknowledged), war language has become associated with terrorism and the like. This however, is not the picture the New Testament presents either. First, this war is a war for the truth, for ideas, first and foremost, not a war against people (though we must, by default, stand against those in one sense, who stand against us in the fight for the truth). Second, Christians are called not to kill for the truth, but, when necessary, to die. The call to Christian warfare is not a call to blow people up and take over the government.
What must we do to be good soldiers? True warriors?
We must be willing to sacrifice. Every time a soldier steps into harms way for the nation he has taken an oath to defend, he does so aware of the sacrifice that may be required of him. To be a soldier means living with this possibility each day. So it is with Christians. We simply will not serve as good soldiers/warriors unless we are willing to pay a price. We must come to grips with this reality. We have enjoyed the comfort and ease of our church culture for too long. Warriors have to be willing to pay a price.
We must be prepared. Warriors are trained and groomed for the day they will step into battle. Intense and challenging preparation is necessary because of what’s at stake. Many of us forget what is at stake in the war for the truth. Eternity hangs in the balance in this war. This is not simply a fight for ideas, but for the eternal destination of human souls. Ours and theirs. Much is at stake. We goof around in the church watching television and indulging in worldly pleasures because we have lost sight of what is at stake. When we realize what is at stake, we will find ourselves committed to proper preparation for the battle that rages around us. Whether they like it or not, the follower of Jesus does not live on a playground. He lives on a battlefield. Prepare accordingly.
We must learn to follow orders. Enough of the milktoast, Jesus is my buddy theology preached in most churches today. He is our Lord, our Master, our King, and our commander in chief. He gives orders, not suggestions. It is His right to command. It is our responsibility to obey.
J. P. Moreland presents an appropriate picture of what this kind of Christian should look like: “In my view, we evangelicals are simply not producing intelligent, articulate, winsome leaders who have the spiritual power and intellectual training to outlive and outthink those outside the church.”
Let us find no pleasure in petty civilian life and worldly indulgences (2 Timothy 2:4). Let us look for no shortcuts or find no value in comfort and ease (2 Timothy 2:5). And let us labor tirelessly to that end (2 Timothy 2:6). These are the marks of a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3).
Spurgeon understood all of this. His writings display this clearly. I end with one final quote from the great preacher: “God chooses not milksops destitute of backbone, to wear His glory upon their faces. We have plenty of men made of sugar nowadays, that melt into the stream of popular opinion; but these shall never ascend the hill of the Lord, nor stand in His holy place, nor wear the tokens of glory.”
This is a call for warriors.