“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6
[Love] “Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-7
“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…” Ephesians 6:14a (NKJV)
The Roman soldier girded his waist with what is called in Latin a balteus. This piece of equipment served three vital functions— practical, identifying, and ornamental. It was practical because when worn over a chain mail or solid breastplate, it helped relieve the heavy weight of the armor on the soldier’s shoulders. Rings on the belt kept the soldier’s dagger (pugio) within easy reach. Second, Roman law said that only soldiers could wear a balteus. It immediately identified them as soldiers because they were required to wear it at all times, even when not in uniform. Finally, the belt and the straps hanging in front displayed the metallic emblems, badges, seals, and tokens from the soldier’s various assignments, service accomplishments, and battle campaigns.
The Holy Spirit is the inward mark of the believer–He is bound to the Christian with a permanent seal that cannot be broken or removed. (II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) The indwelling Holy Spirit is the source of all outward spiritual evidence (fruit).
Truth is one outward mark of the Christian—it is a daily emblem or badge to the world that we belong to Christ because the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) is in us. In the book of Ephesians, where the Apostle Paul speaks about the belt of truth, he also mentions how we are to walk like the new men that we are because we are saved. “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up [mature] in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (4:15) “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’” (4:25) Like the balteus belts worn by Roman soldiers that identified them as military men, truth should be our characteristic mark wherever we go and whatever we do.
The Apostle John began his third epistle with an observation that nothing made him happier than knowing that his readers had God’s truth inside them (they were saved and the Holy Spirit of truth was in them) and that they were walking (living) in that truth. “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in [the] truth.” (III John 3-4)
As we put on our daily armor in preparation for battle, let’s purpose in our minds to make truth our outward identification and badge! “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” (I Peter 1:13a) Especially in a day when truth is mocked and under attack, some might notice that our lives are identified by truth and ask us why that is. (I Peter 3:15)
Stay alert! Grab your weapons! March on! SPEAK THE TRUTH!
“Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 32:17-19
Sometimes we like to think that we are strong soldiers and trust in our armor to protect us, we look to our Might Lord to give us what we need for the battle. The inner strength to win the day is found only in God.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
“The LORD God is my strength…” Habakkuk 3:19a
Arm These Thy Soldiers, Mighty Lord
By Christopher Wordsworth *
Arm these Thy soldiers, mighty Lord,
With shield of faith and Spirit’s sword.
Forth to the battle may they go
And boldly fight against the foe.
With banner of the cross unfurled,
They overcome the evil world
And so at last receive from Thee
The palm and crown of victory.
Come, ever blessed Spirit, come
And make Thy servants’ heart Thy home.
May each a living temple be
Hallowed forever, Lord, to Thee.
Enrich that temple’s holy shrine
With sevenfold gifts of grace divine;
With wisdom, light, and knowledge bless,
With counsel, strength, and godliness.
O Trinity in Unity,
One only God in Persons Three,
In whom, through whom, by whom, we live,
To Thee we praise and glory give.
Oh, grant us so to use Thy grace
That we may see Thy glorious face
And ever with the heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!
* Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) – Wordsworth was vicar at Stanford-in-the-Vale, Berkshire, archdeacon of Westminster, and bishop of Lincoln, England. A recognized Greek scholar, he wrote theological and other works. Of his hymns, he said, “It is the first duty of a hymn to teach sound doctrine and thence to save souls.”
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:11-13 (NKJV)
Soldiers, this lesson is essential for our basic training in the use of our spiritual weapons—we must use the whole armor of God in our warfare!
This series will look at the spiritual weapons available to us to fight against our adversary: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8)
The term used by modern armies is “full-spectrum warfare” because it seeks to wisely draw from the full range of weapons available for a specific attack by the enemy. Our enemy is a wily, scheming, deceitful foe. We must make full use of the defensive and offensive arsenal which the Holy Spirit has already given us. It is He who will show us when and how to use those weapons.
Be alert! Grab your weapons! March on!
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,” 1 Timothy 1:18
“No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:4
Soldiers, this battle hymn begins a new series on military metaphores in the New Testament. Our Christian life is portrayed by writers in the Bible as serious warfare for which we need to be prepared to fight at a moment’s notice. The soldiers in the picture above look tough and battle-ready, You and I should be spirituall tough too and ready to enter the fray!
I trust the exhortations in the next several weeks will encourage you.
The Christian Warrior, See Him Stand!
by James Montgomery *
Behold! the Christian warrior stand
In all the armor of his God;
The Spirit’s sword is in his hand;
His feet are with the Gospel shod;
In panoply of truth complete,
Salvation’s helmet on his head;
With righteousness a breastplate meet,
And faith’s broad shield before him spread.
He wrestles not with flesh and blood,
But principalities and powers,
Rulers of darkness, like a flood,
Nigh, and assailing at all hours.
Nor Satan’s fiery darts alone,
Quenched on his shield, at him are hurled;
The traitor in his heart is known,
And the dire friendship of this world.
Undaunted to the field he goes;
Yet vain were skill and valor there,
Unless, to foil his legion foes,
He takes the trustiest weapon: prayer.
With this omnipotence he moves,
From this the alien armies flee,
Till more than conqueror he proves,
Through Christ, who gives him victory.
Thus, strong in his Redeemer’s strength,
Sin, death, and hell he tramples down;
Fights the good fight, and wins at length,
Through mercy, an immortal crown.
* James Montgomery (1771–1854) – When Montgomery was five years old, his family moved to the Moravian settlement at Gracehill, near Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland. A trip to London years later, hoping to find a publisher for his youthful poems, ended in failure. In 1792, he became an assistant to a Mr. Gales, auctioneer, bookseller, and printer of the Sheffield Register. After buying the paper, Montgomery edited it for 32 years. During the following two years he was imprisoned twice, first for reprinting a song in commemoration of the fall of the Bastille, then for giving an account of a riot in Sheffield. The editing of his paper, the composition and publication of his poems and hymns, the delivery of lectures on poetry in Sheffield and at the Royal Institution, London, and the advocacy of foreign missions and the Bible Society, gave him great variety of material from which to write more than 400 hymns. In 1833, Montgomery received a royal pension of £200 per year.
“…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:18-20
As we have seen in our study of Roman centurions, the New Testament mentions five centurions and points out the good qualities of four of them. Thus it would be wrong to say that all Roman soldiers were violent, cruel, crude, or without compassion. When it comes to Praetorian Guard soldiers, we need to separate their general historical reputation for ruthless brutality from individual soldiers we read about in the New Testament.
We know about the Pretorian Guard from secular Roman writings. They were an elite unit of several thousand soldiers headquartered in a castra or fortress in the middle of Rome. They were not “ordinary” Roman soldiers. They were like today’s SEAL/Delta Force chosen from among the bravest and most skilled warriors in the legions. Praetorians had a reputation in historical writings for being violent, corrupt, greedy, and immoral. They were also the Emperor’s closest bodyguards whom he used to enforce his decrees in Rome and surrounding areas. Their political power often exceeded that of the Emperor and not a few of Rome’s rulers were assassinated by their own bodyguards and replaced by men of the Praetorians’ choosing.
Accounts of Praetorians in the Book of Acts and the Epistles surprise us when they demonstrate the power of God at work in the hard hearts of Rome’s toughest soldiers. Centurion Julius, who escorted the Apostle Paul and other prisoners by ship to Rome, delivered Paul to the commander of the Praetorian cohort who assumed custody for the prisoners. Whether Julius recommended it or because Governor Felix commanded it, (Acts 27:43a; 24:23) Paul received favorable treatment from Praetorian soldiers during his two years of imprisonment. Paul had continuous contact with soldiers during those two years. He had his own living quarters and was allowed visitors. (28:16, 30) Secular historians (Tacitus, Seneca) describe how non-violent prisoners, in loose confinement and allowed to move around and have visitors, were chained to soldiers who took shifts so they knew the prisoner’s whereabouts at all times. Paul’s two years chained to guards under “house arrest” were very productive for the Gospel!
The Apostle Paul wrote four prison epistles while chained to a guard. Imagine being a tough soldier “forced” to listen to Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon as Paul wrote the inspired texts and possibly discussed them with his many visitors before sending copies to the recipients! Paul, God’s evangelist to the Gentiles, would have spoken freely and openly of the grace of God with any soldier so close to him. We know from two verses in Philippians that Paul’s time in prison was fruitful. People in unlikely places came to know Jesus as their Savior:
“All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 1:13)
“So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;” (4:22)
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
My fellow soldiers, there is a rumor being passed around by some of our troops that a soldier is the captain of his own soul.This is a lie! Each soldier must answer this question for himself: Who is in charge of my soul? His answer will take him in two possible directions, each of which will determine where he spends eternity after he dies. How will you answer this question?
– Refuse to believe in Jesus Christ in this life and believe the lie that you are the captain of your own destiny. Do this and you will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire where you will confess forever with your lips that God is right—Jesus Christ is Lord.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul
– Believe while you still have breath that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is Lord and that He died for your sins and arose from the dead, and God will give you eternal life. You will spend eternity joyfully praising Jesus Christ with your lips and thanking Him as the Captain of your soul.
I thank the God I know to be,
For Christ – the Conqueror of my soul.
Christ is the Master of my fate,
Christ is the Captain of my soul.
by Dorothea Day *
Out of the night that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be
For Christ the conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance
My head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears
That life with Him! And His the aid,
Despite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.
I have no fear, though strait the gate,
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate,
Christ is the Captain of my soul.
* Dorthea Day wrote this poem originally titled “Conquered” as a line-for-line response to a poem by the humanist William Ernest Henley titled “Invictus,” meaning “Unconquered” or “Unconquerable.”
The beginning and ending lines of each poem, quoted above, could not be more different:
Arrogant, self-reliant, angry, bitter—unyielding and defiant against God.
Humble, contrite, joyous, hopeful—submissive to Jesus Christ as Captain.
“And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. But the centurion, [Julius] wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.” (Acts 27:43-44)
The fifth and last centurion mentioned in the New Testament is Julius with the Augustan Regiment or Cohort. (Acts 27:1) The apostle Paul and some number of other prisoners (including apparently Luke the physician, from the “we” in his narrative) were put in the custody of Centurion Julius to be taken by sea to Rome for trial. We get a sense of this officer’s good character when the boat stopped briefly in Sidon, “…Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care.” (27:3) This is an unusually generous move by Julius. It’s possible that the centurion went easy on Paul because the apostle was not a violent offender and/or he knew the doubtful circumstances of his arrest. Two governors couldn’t figure out what crime Paul had committed, but they were obligated to send him to Rome when he appealed to Caesar.
The soldiers and their prisoners changed ships in Myra and the centurion hired an Alexandrian ship to take them to Rome. (27:6) It should be no surprise that when they ran into bad weather Centurion Julius deferred to the helmsman and owner of the ship rather than listen to Paul’s prediction of calamity. The consensus of the mariners was to continue on rather than anchor where there was little shelter. (27:10-12) Paul then predicted that if they stayed in the ship they would survive the storm. This proved true when some tried to leave the ship and perished. (27:30-32)
The shipwreck on Malta is filled with drama. Paul predicted that, “…not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” (27:34) By now the soldiers and the crew listened to Paul even though he was not a sailor. The ship ran aground and the waves broke the ship apart. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners and save themselves, but Centurion Julius, much to his credit, put a stop to that. (27:43-44) Why did the soldiers want to kill the prisoners? If they let them go, they might overpower the soldiers and escape. The soldiers would be executed for not doing their job. What was the centurion’s motive for ordering the prisoners’ released? Besides a sense of responsibility and justice, it appears that Julius did this for Paul’s sake! (27:43a)
The soldiers and their prisoners survived on Malta and after three months arrived in Rome. “Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.” (28:16) Centurion Julius completed his mission in Rome. It could have been Centurion Julius’ report about Paul’s conduct on the voyage that influenced his relatively mild treatment when the Roman Praetorian Guard became responsible for him. (Philippians 1:13) [More on the Praetorians in a future dispatch of the Centurion Chronicles.]
Julius was Paul’s custodian on his long voyage and one has to believe that the apostle share the gospel with him during that time. The centurion saved Paul from death at the hands of the soldiers in the hour of threatened shipwreck. Did he do this out of professional duty or did he have some special interest or regard for the most unusual prisoner he’d ever met. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, depicts Centurion Julius as a man of honor, decision, and compassion. He is shown to be a capable and professional Roman officer.
Thus says the LORD:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD,
exercising lovingkindness, judgment,
and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the LORD.
My fellow soldiers, our strength as Christians is not in our weapons or our horses or our own abilities, but in the Lord. Too often, we waste time glorying in physical resources and riches and health. We forget that our true strength is in Jesus Christ and His ability to work in us to win the spiritual battles of life. Today will be another clash in a long string of daily battles against our foe. Don’t fall for the enemy’s trick and believe that your battle armor is what will save you from the fiery darts aimed your way. Please God by trusting in His lovingkindness, judgment, mercy, and righteousness and He will win the day!
Be Strong in the Lord
by W.W. Clark
Be strong in the Lord,
Tho’ surrounded by foes;
Be true to your king,
Tho’ all hell shall oppose;
He’ll conquer their legions,
He’ll vanquish their throng;
The Lord is our captain,
He leads us along.
Then awake! then awake!
Now arise! now arise!
Put on the whole armor,
Be strong in the Lord,
We fight not with flesh,
But with powers unseen;
We wrestle ’gainst darkness,
Without and within;
The conflict is raging,
Be valiant and strong,
For God is our tower,
Our shield, and our song.
With loins girt with truth,
We will march to the fight,
And righteousness wear
As a breastplate of light;
Salvation our helmet,
Bestowed by our Lord,
The sword of the Spirit,
His conquering Word.
Our leader has promised
A bright starry crown,
And beckons us onward
To fields of renown;
We hasten to follow
His banner unfurled,
And trusting in Jesus,
We’ll conquer the world.
Centurions are prominent in the Book of Acts in the apostle Paul’s arrest (Acts 21:32), attempted whipping (22:24-29), custody (23:16-24), and transfer to the governor of Judea. (23:23-24)
Paul was seized and beaten by a crowd who had mistaken him for a another man (so they claimed). Tribune Claudius Lysias, the cohort commander, arrived with centurions and their troops and whisked Paul away by force, but not before he allowed Paul to speak final words to the angry mob. When Paul gave his testimony and concluded with his charge by God to go to the Gentiles, the crowd spun out of control. (21:31-22:23)
Back in the soldiers’ barracks, Lysias ordered Paul tortured to determine the circumstances of the riot which the soldiers believed to be Paul’s fault. A curious thing happened just as Paul was about to be scourged: “And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?’” Paul addressed the centurion in charge of the whipping in what almost seems from the text like a casual comment. Why did Paul wait until the last second to raise the subject of his Roman citizenship? He could have said something as soon as the tribune arrested him. After a brief discussion about the source of their respective Roman citizenships, the information is taken to Lysias who was afraid that his men had almost violated the cardinal right of a Roman citizen to a trial. (22:24-29) [A future episode of The Centurion Chronicles will explain Roman citizenship and how it played an important part in the Apostle Paul’s ministry.]
While Paul was in the soldier’s barracks for protective custody he learned from his nephew of a secret plot on his life by Jewish zealots. Another interaction with a centurion (possibly the same officer who halted his whipping a few days earlier) seems unusual. “Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him.’” (23:17) Here is the Apostle Paul ordering a centurion to do his bidding! He orders this high-ranking officer as if he is a common soldier, and the centurion dutifully does what “Paul the prisoner…” told him to do! (23:18)
Tribune Lysias was now responsible for protecting the citizen Paul from harm. He ordered two centurions and their troop to take Paul to the governor who would decide how to handle what could be an explosive political situation. The two centuries of soldiers deliver Paul to the fortress of Antipatris built by Herod the Great where Governor Felix will decide what to do with him. (24:23-24, 31-35)