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The Church - an army

by André Schwartz last modified Jul 23, 2014 03:50 PM
Back to Biblical Basics

We have looked at the Church as a community and as a body. The Bible often also uses the metaphor of an army for the church. You see, the Church does not just exist to make itself function like a body, only supporting one another. Neither is the Church just a different community that is trying to infiltrate the world. It must actively defend the faith and attack any wrong teaching and doctrine.

The Church is here for a reason—to fight a war. It's a war that only the church can fight. Charities and corporations and governments can't do it because only we as the Church under the headship of Christ have the spiritual weaponry that's needed.Roman Soldier

In a previous delivery it was pointed out that the Old Testament term used for ekklesia is qahal (assembly, gathering). It is informative that the first time qahal is encountered in the Bible it describes the assembly gathered to plan or execute war (Genesis 49:6). Another example is when the whole qahal of Israel asked for tax relief and when their request was refused, they rejected their military obligations to King Rehoboam. (1 Kings 12:3)

In the New Testament where Jesus is responding to Peter’s acknowledgement of Him as the Messiah we read:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church (ekklesian), and the gates of Hades shall not prevail (lit. have the victory) against it. (Matthew 16:17–18)

We are here to fight a spiritual war and if properly based on the right concept of our Lord’s true identity the ecclesiastical army is invincible! Christ said that the forces of Hades itself would be completely useless against her.

Although we are walking in the flesh, we do not wage war in a fleshly way, since the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3–5).

Paul called Epaphroditus, Apphia and Archippus, “fellow soldiers” (Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2) and urged Timothy to, “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3) It is important to notice that Paul fleshed out that metaphor by immediately digging into submission to proper authority and following the rules (2 Timothy 2:4‑5) —two things that those who don’t feel they need to attend the gathering (ekklesia) consistently struggle with.

800px Flickr   The U.S. Army   Loading upAs a conscripted soldier to the South African Army, I understand the power that a few well-trained, coordinated and committed people have. Jesus understood that as well, focusing his attention on twelve good men (the size of half a platoon), but really working on Peter, James and John (the size of a scout team). However, he never intended them to stay that small, commanding his “force amps”:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19–20)

And since the Church-army has the best “general” we cannot fail:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18)

In order to ensure the faithful continuance of His teachings, He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to the church (Ephesians 4:11–14). Until some appropriately gifted and called leaders are appointed a gathering of people is not a real church. (Titus 1:5)

Are a handful of soldiers an army? They can do a lot of damage—but are they an army? Neither is a handful of Christians meeting in someone’s kitchen a church. Until they are properly organised and authorised they are nothing more than insurgents.

Those who fail to bring their para-church activities under the authority of their local ekklesia can create a lot of damage. Unfortunately, it’s usually to the cause of Christ.