Soldiers Of Christ Arise!
by Ian Coker
When is one ever qualified to speak? Who can presume to think that he has
somewhat to say to Godís people? The fact is that men do, and God can make us
able ministers of sacred truths. Many men are putting up their hand to have
something to say, and I hear some strange sounds in Zion. Let me put up my
hand to say a few words too.
The reign of Solomon was characterised by peace and prosperity. After the
trials of Saulís reign, and the bloodshed and warfare of Davidís reign,
Solomonís reign, including the building of the temple, must have been a breath
of fresh air.
And so it was, but it was also one of the most decisive periods of Israelís
history. They had won the wars under David, but could they win the peace under
Solomon? I donít think they did. Solomon himself failed, the days of wine and
roses and women leading him off into the condoning of idolatry, and with his
passing the kingdom divided.
The question I am raising is whether the church of Christ is weathering the
storm of peace, affluence and worldliness. Is the tranquillity and prosperity
of our present age doing what persecution, depression and war wasnít able to
do? Have we been lulled to sleep thinking that Christian warfare was for a
previous time and the modern Christian has no need of sword and shield and
helmet and breastplate, and sandal? Have we been conned into thinking that
Satan has ceased his attacks on the church and just rouses himself
occasionally to tempt us individually in some personal matter of lust or
pride? Some are oblivious to the wiles of the Devil. Neville Chamberlain
returned from Nazi Germany waving a piece of paper and declaring ďthere will
be peace in our timeĒ - in a matter of weeks Great Britain was at war with
Germany! Peace was an illusion! Some in the church see no threat to the
strength and security of the Lordís Church. Its one thing to be an optimist,
and another to be a pessimist, but some are just blind to reality.
I donít want to overestimate Satan and create the impression that he is
invincible and greater in power than Christ our Leader. We have the victory
over him by the power of Christ if we remain in Him. I love the picture in
Rev. 19:11-21 - You see Christ and His armies arrayed against the beast and
his armies. This righteous army is the same one that is pictured as choosing
to follow a Lamb in Chapter 14 when all the world followed and worshipped the
beast. But thereís more to Christ than a sacrificial Lamb. The One who stepped
down to die on a cross is also King of kings and Lord of lords! And so in the
battle the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire
and brimstone and their armies are destroyed by the sword proceeding from His
mouth. The victory is seen to be accomplished by Christ alone - His armies are
seen simply to follow Him and rejoice in His victories. It is their victory by
way of their allegiance, not because of their strength. We have the victory,
But I donít want to underestimate the power of the Devil either. I see him
in Rev. 12 standing before the woman travailing in birth to deliver Christ. By
the power of God such an unseeming victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat
and Christ is enthroned at the right hand of the Father, victorious over sin
and death. But I also see in vs. 13-17 a sequel to that - an angry Satan going
to make war with the followers of Jesus Christ. If he cannot touch Christ, he
will do all in his power to hurt those who are the apple of Christís eye -
those that are His body in the earth and carry out His work in this domain
here below. Whilst I believe Christ has already vouchsafed to us that the
church will win the war, I also believe congregations of the Lordís people
have and will lose some battles.
It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The
battles fought in previous generations will have to be fought again. The
positions secured by previous generations can fall again to the Devil and his
armies. There is really only one option for the soldier of Christ - to stand,
and having done all, to stand. There are other options such as compromise or
surrender, but they are not worthy of the Christian soldier.
Sadly, some are advocating surrender - we have been out on a limb too long
and we have alienated ourselves from our denominational Ďbrethrení. We need to
desist from the Church of Christ Messianic Complex of thinking that we are
right, and be absorbed into the denominational morass. Their thinking is, in
part, that we will do better in our fight against the world if all good
religious people learn to get along, overlook differences, and pull together.
Some brethren donít seem to understand that denominationalism is of the Devil!
Some of you might remember that Thomas Warren debated a Brother Fuqua many
years ago on the amenability of the world to the New Testament. When pressed
on the issue that the denominational world wasnít ignorant of the Scriptures,
Fuqua invented a third division for denominational people, separate from the
world. The Bible knows no such thing. We are either in the church of the Lord
Jesus Christ or we are in the world. There are no other possibilities for
every responsible adult in the world.
Jesus promised to build one church (Matt. 16:18), and He adds the saved to
that church (Acts 2:47). Itís that simple; itís that clear-cut. Iím not trying
to insult your intelligence and knowledge of things divine in telling you
these things but there are an increasing number in the brotherhood who are
pretending they are ignorant of such concepts. I find it amazing that some who
fought the good fight to come out of the confusion and unscriptural teachings
and practices of denominationalism are now advocating we need to go back
there. Why? Is it because they love the praise of men more than the praise of
God? Is it that they crave the approval that comes from men and not that which
comes from God only? (Jn. 12:4-44; 5:44). Or is it that they have grown tired
of the fighting of the good fight? Alexander Campbell said that Jesus drew His
sword on the banks of the Jordan and threw away the scabbard! He knew it would
be a fight to the death. And so it is with us brethren (Rev. 2:10).
When the Jews came out of Egypt they were given strict instructions to
purge Canaan of her inhabitants. God said if they failed to do so they would
become as thorns in their sides and pricks in their eyes, and so influence
them to the point that God would eventually do to Israel what he had asked
them to do to the Canaanites (Num. 33:51-56). You know the story - they got
tired of the war and the fighting - it was easier to co-exist! And so they did
and so God eventually did!
It is said that at various times in World War II, Britain was fighting on
nineteen different fronts at the same time. Thatís taxing and tiring. In the
same way, we are involved in the good fight on many fronts. Thatís taxing and
tiring. Itís appealing to sue for peaceful coexistence with error and
worldliness, but we cannot do that and be true soldiers of the King. Every
soldier of Christ is a volunteer - there is not a conscript amongst us. We all
chose to serve the King of Kings, wear His colours and bear His standard. We
have no choice but to stand in the truth and fight for the truth.
When David Roper was doing his research on the church in Australia he noted
that the Baptist church had not been beset by splits. He spoke to a Baptist
lecturer to determine why this had been so. He answered, ďbecause of their
smallnessĒ. They had been a considerable force in Britain, but found
themselves a small minority. Another Baptist had this to say; ďThe
preservation of outward unity thus becoming the paramount consideration, it
followed that whatever error a majority in the church might come to hold, the
minority must accept it, rather than be guilty of the deadly sin of schismĒ.
There is no doubt in my mind that similar feelings exist in the church of
our Lord in Australia at this time. Iím not denying the need to strive for
unity, but our approach must be to forge a unity on the truth not at the
expense of truth. A feeling is that if we insist on believing and obeying the
truth in all things we will expose the gaps and cracks in our ramparts, and
the fellowship will be weakened. So we had better base the fellowship on the
lowest common denominator. So we hear talk of Ďlittle fí fellowship as opposed
to Ďcapital Fí fellowship, agreeing to disagree on matters of doctrine, and
refusing to insist on the preaching and teaching of the whole counsel of God.
After all, we are but a minnow in a religious world filled with whales and
sharks. I donít get that when I read such passages as 2 John 1-4 - our love is
in the truth, our knowledge is of the truth, our commitment is to the truth,
our walk is in the truth, and the favours of God are bestowed upon us in the
truth. Jesus testified before Pilate that He came to bear witness to the
truth, and that, my brethren, is the nature of our conflict.
When John wrote the introductory section to the Revelation, he had an
admonishing word for every member of every congregation - ďhe that overcomesĒ.
That has been the message from the beginning! God reasoned with Cain when he
came to the crossroads of his life that he was in a battle, sin was like a
stalking lion waiting to pounce and devour him, but he must overcome! The same
Devil still walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We are
in a fight brethren, and we must overcome!
We must fight against worldliness. The way some people talk about it you
would think that the world isnít as worldly as it used to be. Iíve got news
for you and itís all bad - the world is still as worldly as its ever been!
There was a time when if you mentioned you were a Christian people wouldnít
offer you a stubbie of beer because they knew that Christians didnít drink the
stuff. They donít know that anymore, simply because members of the church feel
like that in our sophisticated age Christians have a licence to indulge. The
scriptural reasons for abstaining are just as valid as they were yesteryear.
The same can be said for all the social sins. We will never bear witness to
the truth by becoming like the world. All we will do is lose our salt, our
leavening influence, our distinctiveness and our souls.
We must fight against denominationalism. Denominationalism is still as
contradictory, confusing, truth-betraying and God-dishonouring as it ever has
been! No matter how it is dressed up with its errors all papered over, it is
still the same old Babel it ever was. It doesnít matter how much back-slapping
goes on, or how much praise for anotherís sincerity goes on, it is still the
same old hodge-podge of human philosophy. Truth is not determined by how nice
people are - or how sincere (cf. Rom. 10:1 ff, Acts 26:9). Know ye not that
the Devilís ministers are made to appear as ministers of righteousness? Some
are advancing a definition that says that false teachers were those who taught
immoral doctrines. Sure some did, but that is not all that qualifies one as a
false teacher (cf. 2 Tim. 2:17,18).
ďBut people in denominations love Jesus - theyíre just a bit misguided on
some technical mattersĒ. Thatís easy fixed; show them the truth in Godís word
and their response will tell you how much they love Jesus (Matt. 7:21, John
14:15) Besides, arenít denominational preachers under the obligation as we are
to ďtake heed to their teachingĒ, and arenít all the members under obligation
as we to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so?
And we must fight the good fight within the church. What a thing to say!
But Paul spoke of perils among false brethren, of enemies of the cross within
the ranks of gospel preachers, of wolves among the flock, of those who would
pervert the gospel of Christ, of elders speaking perverse things, of preachers
whose word was like a cancer, those who would teach fables and not truth,
profane and vain babblings, ever learning and never able to come to a
knowledge of the truth, commandments of men that turn from the truth,
understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm, speaking lies in
hypocrisy and doctrines of demons, proud, knowing nothing and doting about
questions and strifeís of words, oppositions of science (falsely so called),
out of contention, to feed their bellies and so on ad infinitum. Suppose ye
that all false teachers are found in the denominational world? Only a fool or
a man who would bury his head in the sand, and he would be a fool for so
doing, would think so.
Brethren, we are in a fight - it is the fight of our lives and the great
fight of history and eternity. We must put on the whole armour of God and quit
ourselves as good faithful soldiers of the cross. The destiny of our
congregations is up for grabs and we must hold the line.