Fellow Soldiers

…my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier

“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;”  Philippians 2:25 (NKJV)

“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:”  Philemon 1:1-2

 

Roman military soldiers, especially front-line infantry, closely identified with their units; many were “branded” with their legion number or name. Veterans could immediately identify another veteran after they left service by the legion number or name branded on their arm. The historian Stephen Ambrose coined a term for soldiers—“band of brothers.” Today’s military describes unit cohesion as “…the bonding together of soldiers in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, the unit, and mission accomplishment, despite combat or mission stress.”

As Christian soldiers we are spiritually united to other believers through an unbreakable bond—we are all one in Christ! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Members of a local assembly call one another “brethren” because of our unbreakable bond – not just as family, but as an indivisible, organic unit who work together as a spiritual body. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

This was the bond that the Apostle Paul had forged with many men and women who helped him in his ministry. He named many of them in his epistles as an indication that the bond between them mirrored that of soldiers who fight side-by-side, share a foxhole, march in the rain, and sleep in dark forests. People like Epaphroditus and Archippus were called fellow soldiers; Titus, Timothy, Clement, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Lucas were fellow workers; Epaphras and Tychicus were fellow servants; Aristarcus a fellow prisoner. The Apostle Paul was close to these believers with whom he shared special bonds of friendship and suffering.

Today, the bond among believers is stronger and deeper than those formed by soldiers or people who work together. Our bond is secured by the Holy Spirit and cannot be broken. (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; II Corinthians 1:22) Our common, binding tie with other believers is the fellowship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. “…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3)

Stay alert! Stay together! March on!

 

 

The Military Trumpet

Sound the trumpet – prepare for battle!

 

“But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”

I Corinthians 14:6-9 (NKJV)

 

Both the Old and New Testaments contain a total of sixty references to a “trumpet.” In the Hebrew Bible the context makes it clear that the trumpet is either a ram’s horn (shofar) blown for holy days and feast days; a coronet for special events like royal coronations; or a musical instrument to accompany a choir in Solomon’s Temple. The fall of Jericho recorded in the Book of Joshua mentions the ram’s horn trumpet being blown as the ark and the army circled the city before the walls fell. (Joshua 6:3ff)

A trumpet in the New Testament has a mostly prophetic significance as either a ram’s horn or some other type of loud instrument. It is used to announce key future events such as the Rapture of believers (I Thessalonians 4:16); the gathering of the elect at Jesus’ Second Coming (Matthew 24:31); the last trumpet at the resurrection of the saints (I Corinthians 15:52); revelations in Heaven to the Apostle John (Revelation 1:10; 4:1); announcement of the last three trumpet judgments (8:13) and specifically the sixth trumpet judgment. (9:14)

All of this is by way of prologue to say that in I Corinthians 14:8 the distinct sound of a “trumpet” (or “bugle” in some translations) is not like the blast of a ram’s horn that marks the beginning of an important event like a festival, feast, coronation, or judgment. The trumpet here is a military signaling device [see illustration at top] that a field commander would use to send instructions to his distant troops during a battle. It was loud and the dozen or so different sounds were distinct enough to be understood amid the chaos and tumult of the fighting.

Two bugle signals that many of us might recognize are “Reveille” and “Taps.” Reveille is a loud, energetic tune sounded in quick time to wake sleeping soldiers. The sound says, “Wake up! Get moving!” Taps is a slow, melancholy tune to honor the death of a soldier and ends in a sorrowful note of tears for the fallen soldier. Each trumpet sound marks a completely different mood or tone that is easily identifiable.

The metaphor of a Roman military trumpet makes the Apostle Paul’s point in I Corinthians 14:8 that speaking in tongues is not some gibberish or monotonous sound that conveys no real information. Biblical “tongues” to which Paul refers here and Luke mentions in the Book of Acts, were distinct languages that people understood clearly.

“And when this sound [speaking in tongues] occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’” Acts 2:6-12 (NKJV)

Any so-called “tongues” which impart no information or which nobody can understand are not Biblical and not to be allowed. Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) used a military trumpet to illustrate something about Biblical tongues that can be understood and applied today.

Sound the trumpet! Grab your weapons! March on!

 

A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ

Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ

 

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” II Timothy 2:3-4 (NKJV)

As the United States honors its military veterans on November 11th, two words stand out as characteristic of all soldiers: service and sacrifice. We salute these men and women for their service to our country and for their sacrifice. We enjoy freedom in the United States because of them. May God bless our troops!

The Greek word for “soldier” (strateuomai) used metaphorically in II Timothy 2:3 is mentioned in a literal sense twenty-five times in the Gospels and the Book of Acts where it refers to a Roman infantry-soldier. Since the exact word is only used once here in a figurative sense, we must grasp its meaning from the context.

Paul’s second epistle to Timothy exhorts him to hold fast to what he has been taught, to teach others, to be strong in the faith and in God’s grace, and to endure hardship because he will face difficulties and trials as a pastor. Paul’s military metaphor in vv. 2-3, likens Timothy’s pastoral service to that of a soldier in the army of Jesus Christ.

The first similarity to a literal soldier is enduring hardship. Paul mentions his own hardships in 2:9-10 as a prisoner chained in jail for the cause of Christ. Like a soldier marching in the cold rain or a warrior struggling for hours against an enemy in the heat of a battle, Timothy may have to endure physical deprivation and spiritual heartache in service to his Lord.

The second similarity is the personal sacrifice a soldier must make by setting aside a home, a family, leisure time, and normal day-to-day pursuits. A soldier turns away from things we take for granted as part of an ordinary life and commits himself to focusing on one mission: carrying out the instructions of his commander. Timothy “enlisted” in the Lord’s army when he was born again. At that moment, he became a soldier of the Lord whose only goal was to please his “Commander.” Paul’s desire was for his spiritual son to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Every believer is a soldier in God’s Army. Let’s purpose in our hearts to be good soldiers who serve and sacrifice for Him!

Stay alert!  Grab your weapon! March on!

 

Submission to Rank

“Submitting to one another in the fear of God” Ephesians 5:19-21

“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (I Peter 2:13-15)

Strong’s Concordance says that the Greek word for submission is hupotasso. It is a military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions or ranks] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” In non-military use, it was, “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” A commentator said that the word hupotasso translated submission: “… is actually a military term, and in the military there is a strong sense of submitting to someone of higher rank. A soldier must arrange himself in order under his sergeant…Everything is ‘arranged in order under.’”

When I was a new lieutenant in the military, I had a commander who made some poor decisions and I was critical of him for doing so. A master sergeant old enough to be my father gave me two pieces of advice that have stuck with me through the years. “Don’t forget that he puts his pants on in the morning just like you do.” Our commander was human, just like me, and could make mistakes, just like me. His other observation was, “We salute the uniform (position), not the man.” Those who wear the uniform (or work in a shop, drive a bus, teach children, or wash dishes) have to follow some orderly structure or rank. We salute (submit) to authority even if the person is not of sterling character or ability. No matter who we are, we’re all human beings who have to rank ourselves under and/or over someone else. Nobody in that line of order is any “better” or “worse” than the other—we each have different ranks and with that rank (position) comes certain obligations and duties.

Sometimes it’s difficult to perceive the difference between submission and obedience. There is a difference, and it lies in subtleties that are apparent to the one who is either obeying or submitting.

  • To obey simply means “to follow a command”; “to conform”; or “to comply with an order.”

  • To submit, though, means “to yield, or defer out of respect, superior authority, affection, persuasion, or even compulsion.”

God has a plan for order in the world today:

Submission to God

There can be no question about God’s “rank” over all of His creation. God is Supreme, King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and Omega. We submit to God because He is God! “Therefore submit to God.” (James 4:7-10, NKJV) The best example of submission to God was when Jesus cried these words before He went to the cross, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39b)

Submission to God’s Word

Submission to God and to His Word are indistinguishable. If we submit to Him then we submit to what He says. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Knowing God’s Word and submitting to it will put our lives in the order He intends, “…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him…” (II Peter 1:3)

Submission to Authorities

Jesus submitted to His earthly mother and father when He was young. “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them…” (Luke 2:51) Romans 13:1-7 is a call for us to submit to human government:” “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (v.1) The passage tells us why God calls for submission and not mere obedience—God’s authority (see above) is behind governmental authority. Resisting authorities means resisting God! (v.2) In addition to civil government, God’s order extends to church leadership: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” (Hebrews 13:17a)

Submission of Wives to Husbands

God’s plan for order in the home is a clear line of authority from Jesus Christ “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” (Ephesians 5:22-23) This is not popular today, but a Biblical order of submission in the home is the key to spiritual growth for the whole family. This is God’s plan for a husband and wife in the home. Note: It is NOT Biblical to say that women must submit to (or obey) men in everything. We are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:38)

Submission to One Another

Submission in the local church extends to each member of the body. As explained in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, each member of the Body of Christ needs the others and has a role in God’s program for the church. Ephesians 5:19-21 is a beautiful picture of harmony in the church when everyone submits to one another: “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

The difference between submission and obedience is is a matter of our will. We submit to government, to one another, and wives submit to their husbands because that is God’s plan for orderly living which we choose to follow. The military term for submission to rank can teach us a lot about how we interact with God and with one another. God’s divine order for family, church, and community is not difficult to understand when we know what submission means.

Stay Alert! Fall into your ranks! March on!

 

 

 

 

 

The Whole Armor of God and Prayer

Pray without ceasing

“…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,

being watchful to this end with all perseverance

and supplication for all the saints…”

Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV)

Prayer is part of our study of military metaphors because it is mentioned in the context of standing with the whole armor of God and it tells how that armor is to be used. Meyer’s New Testament Commentary says, “After Paul has [in Ephesians 6:14-17] placed before his readers in what armor they are to stand forth [v.13], he shows yet further how this standing ready for the combat must be combined with prayer.”  The Expositor’s Greek Testament Commentary explains the phrase in v.18, ‘praying always with all prayer and supplication’: “This clause is a further explanation of the manner in which the injunction ‘stand therefore’ [v.14a] is to be carried. This great requirement of standing ready for the combat can be made good only when prayer, constant, earnest, spiritual prayer, is added to the careful equipment with all the parts of the panoply.” Like the physical armor that all soldiers need for combat with the enemy, the equipment alone will not protect us against injury or death. Armor has limited value unless it is put on and used. Ephesians 6:18 explains how that equipment must be used.

The modern military has a saying, “Train the way you fight – fight the way you train.” Constant training hones the skills needed for victory over an enemy whose attacks can be relentless. When it’s time to fight the good fight of faith, we must employ the tactics we learned in our spiritual training.

“…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” This verse is the soldier’s instruction manual for how to use the range of spiritual weapons God has given us. Prayer (in a general sense) and supplication (specifically seeking, petitioning, asking, requesting) is to take place in the realm (or will) of the Holy Spirit. As we pray, we watch with expectancy for God to answer. We cannot stop praying, petitioning, or watching. This is what it means to, “pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) Don’t forget to include our fellow soldiers in these prayers. The enemy’s tactics are aimed at all fellow-soldiers. One moment we may be under specific attack and a moment later a brother or sister can be the target of our spiritual enemy’s weapon. Pray for one another! (Colossians 1:9; James 5:16)

Prayer is the training ground that teaches us how to use our weapons and to trust in Almighty God for the outcome of our spiritual warfare. If we learn to resist the day-to-day temptations of life through regular prayer with our Heavenly Commander (our spiritual training camp), we will be fully equipped for the large ambushes and attacks when they strike. Outfitted with the best armor and continuing in prayer, we can safely trust the Lord for victory in the coming battles. 

“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.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NKJV)

Be alert! Pray without ceasing! March on!

 

 

 

 

 

The Sword of the Spirit

“And take…the sword of the Spirit,

which is the word of God;” Ephesians 6:17b

Fellow soldiers, we have come to a military metaphor in the New Testament which is not difficult to interpret because we are told exactly what the sword of the Spirit is—it is the Word of God! The pieces of equipment in the complete armor of God spoken about up to now in Ephesians chapter 6 have been defensive. They protect or support the warfighter. The sword here is the Roman gladius issued to every soldier. It is an offensive weapon that, unlike a javelin, dart, or arrow which are used at a distance, is used when the soldier comes close to the enemy.

The Word of God is an offensive weapon against temptation

The sword of the Spirit is a spiritual offensive weapon given to every believer by the Holy Spirit of God to be used when (among other times) engaged in spiritual warfare with our adversary, Satan. The Scripture is our primary weapon when confronting temptation to sin.  Jesus used the Word of God when He was tempted in the desert. (Matthew 4:4,7,10) May God’s Word reside in our hearts so firmly that we can pull it out at a moment’s notice and fight off any spiritual attack. (Deuteronomy 30:14; Psalm 119:11)

The Word of God convicts of sin

God’s Word is invaluable when the enemy gets past our defenses. Overt temptations are sometimes the easiest to repel by recalling a timely verse from the Bible. More difficult to fight off are the subtle, inner temptations that we don’t see or might not even be aware of. In this case, God’s Word serves as a finely honed blade to expose our sin and bring us to repentance. The power and precision of the Sword of the Spirit protects us within, but only if we use it!

“For the word of God is living and powerful,

and sharper than any two-edged sword,

piercing even to the division of soul and spirit,

and of joints and marrow,

and is a discerner of the thoughts

and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

The Word of God is an instrument of judgment

A spiritual sword wielded in judgment by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a terrifying image that is expressed five times in the book of Revelation. Each time, the glorified Christ is pictured with a two-edged sword in His mouth to emphasize that the Incarnate Word (John 1:1,4; I John 1:1) is coming to judge the world with the words of His mouth. (John 5:22; 9:39; 12:47-48)

“He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” 1:16

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword…’” 2:12

“Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” 2:16

“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” 19:15

“And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse…” 19:21

God will accomplish His purpose

Like a soldier’s sword that is solid metal and will never fail him, the Word of God is reliable and guaranteed to always accomplish the purpose that God intends, whether to combat temptation, reveal the innermost thoughts of the heart, or to judge all mankind in the final judgment.

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;

It shall not return to Me void,

But it shall accomplish what I please,

And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11

Be alert! Grab your sword! March on!

The Helmet of Salvation

The helmet of salvation

“And take the helmet of salvation…” Ephesians 6:16a

Fellow soldiers, the helmet of salvation mentioned by the Apostle Paul last in his list of defensive armor is a metaphor filled with significance. The helmet is the most important piece of your equipment for personal defense and the breastplate protecting your heart is a close second. As you were taught in basic training, the purpose of the helmet is to protect you against direct strikes to the head and the cheek pieces protect your eyes from sideways blows while giving room for vision straight ahead. Spiritually speaking, the helmet of salvation protects your mind and vision against things in the world that can disorient or destroy you, such as discouragement, distraction, or deceit. Ultimately, it is the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation that will give you hope when the battle seems all but lost.

The helmet of salvation protects our minds

Salvation—the regeneration of the Holy Spirit that produces new life in the believer—produces a new mind in the new man. This new mind with the capacity to know God in a personal way, must be nourished, built up, encouraged day by day. “…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

Part of the renewing process of the mind that preserves and develops a soldier’s thinking is only possible after the new birth that is salvation. “If [since] then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

The helmet of salvation protects our vision

Spiritual vision allows the Christian to fix his or her eyes on the goal without distraction or detours. The Apostle Paul set an example of pressing forward with his eyes on the goal at all times, and he urged the brethren of the church at Philippi to do the same:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

The soldier of Christ will keep his eyes on his Commander-in-Chief for instructions in combat and for encouragement to press on with the fight of faith:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The helmet of salvation gives us hope

“But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” (I Thessalonians 5:8-10)

With that helmet firmly seated on our heads, we can focus on living the life God called us to live—fighting the good fight of faith. When the apostle Paul wrote of the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, he could have been echoing a passage in Isaiah where God, the Redeemer of Zion, puts on these same pieces of armor:

 

“For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,

And a helmet of salvation on His head;

He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,

And was clad with zeal as a cloak.” (Isaiah 59:17)

Be alert! Take your helmet! March on!

 

The Shield of Faith

 

“…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Ephesians 6:16 (NKJV)

Among the different types of shields used by Roman soldiers, the one mentioned in Ephesians 6:16 is likely the large, rectangular or oval, scutum shield used to protect front line soldiers and those behind them from the hail of arrows that rained down from a distance before the legion engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. The smaller parma shield was round and held in the left hand while fighting with a sword in the right. Shields came in many sizes depending on the function of the soldier and contrary to some stories or movies, Roman military shields were made of leather and wood and not metal.

The literal purpose of the soldier’s scutum shield was for defense from potentially fatal projectiles like arrows, javelins, or flaming darts fired by crossbows. The Apostle Paul uses the shield as a metaphor to describe faith which will protect us from the evil one—Satan. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8)

Brother soldiers, faith is your constant defense against an adversary who will fire his arrows at you when you least expect. You must believe and trust God’s Word, or Satan’s spiritual arrows will wound you when you need your strength the most. Without faith, you could be struck seemingly out of nowhere and not know what to do. You’ll be terrified when the arrows rain down on you. Don’t be a casualty! Faith in the Lord Himself and His Word must be your constant shield at every moment so that you’re ready when a trial, temptation, or calamity comes at you from “out of the blue.”

“The LORD is my strength and my shield;

My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;

Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,

And with my song I will praise Him.”Psalm 28:7

Be alert! Grab your shield! March on!

The Shoes of Peace

Wear shoes of peace on your march for spiritual endurance

…and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;” Ephesians 6:15 (NKJV)

An old military saying is that, “a soldier is only as good as his shoes.” Those of us who have served in the military know the pain and suffering that can result from a pair of shoes that do not fit well, are poorly made, or have worn out. Before we look at the spiritual significance of “shoes of peace,” we  see two reasons why a Roman soldier’s shoes were so critical in warfare even though we don’t usually considered them offensive or defensive weapons in a suit of armor. They are mentioned in this Bible passage as an essential part of the soldier’s overall complement of armor.

Soldiers need good shoes for long marches. One of the hallmarks of a Roman legion was its ability to move quickly as a fighting unit over vast distances and immediately jump into battle. Historians note that 4,000-5,000 Roman infantry could march 18-20 miles each day for several days in a row with full armor, weapons, and packs. When pressed for speed, they could cover 30 miles in one day. Solid, comfortable shoes were necessary to move quickly and endure a long march before engaging an enemy in battle.

A soldier also needs good shoes during the heat of a battle. The illustration above shows the metal spikes or hobnails embedded in the soles of sandals worn by Roman soldiers that gave them firm footing during a fight on uneven ground or when the battlefield became slippery. When fighting an hours-long battle, constantly engaged in a life-or-death struggle, the Roman soldier had to stay upright, stand with feet firmly planted, and not fall down. If he slipped or stumbled, he could become a casualty of war.

The second half of Ephesians 6:15 likens the soldier’s shoes to the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” The application of the good news that is peace can be readily seen in the metaphor of the soldier’s shoes for endurance and steadfastness. This good news of peace could be the gospel message of salvation, but I believe it is speaking here of that calm, inner peace that brings long-term endurance in life. This inner peace with God that comes from assurance of eternal salvation is what will keep us in our long march of life. The word “preparation” is an indication that the gospel of peace is actively and eagerly put on with a readiness of mind. Before the march and before the battle, a prepared soldier will lace his shoes of peace with anticipation, knowing that they will secure him in whatever comes his way.

Paul exhorted Timothy to endure suffering and affliction like a good soldier in his lifetime of pastoral ministry: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (II Timothy 2:3) The Christian life is no picnic under a shade tree or a stroll through flowery meadows. We need endurance “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (II Timothy 4:5)

The apostle also urges us to stand on solid footing that comes from two things:

First and foremost, our valuable equipment for battle comes from God Himself and the peace from Him that will keep us standing upright: “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 3:8) Second, the apostle urges us to count on the faith, that body of doctrine grounded in the New Testament apostles and prophets, that will help us stand in times of frantic spiritual battles. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” (I Corinthians 16:13)

Stay Alert!

Put on your armor!

March on!

The Breastplate of Righteousness

“…the breastplate of righteousness.”

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Ephesians 6:14

“…by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” II Corinthians 6:7

Understanding figurative references in the Bible requires a bit of study. In the case of Ephesians 6:14 and II Corinthians 6:7 it is easy to see that the Apostle Paul used a military metaphor comparing a believer’s “righteousness” to a soldier’s armored “breastplate.” In these two verses the Greek term thorax is the word for “breast” and the translators rightly concluded from the context of the whole armor of God that Paul referred to the metal armor that covered a soldier’s torso. Whatever the design, whether mesh, small “scales,” plates, or a solid “heroic curiass,” the metal breastplate protected the fighter’s vital organs from arrows, spears, and swords.

How is righteousness like a soldier’s breastplate? Recall that Ephesians 6 began by telling us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. So how does righteousness protect the believer like spiritual armor? Moreover, what does the Scripture consider our vital spiritual organ(s)?

Ancient peoples had a primitive understanding of the general placement and importance in the body of physical, anatomical organs. They knew that organs in the core of the body had to be protected at all costs to preserve life. They didn’t understand exactly how they functioned or how they depended on other organs. So, to explain the vitality of physical life, they thought of the heart and what they called the bowels (KJV) as the organs that made physical life possible.

According to Strong’s Concordance, the heart was the center of all physical and spiritual life; it was the home of the soul or mind, the fountain and seat of the thoughts, desires, affections, purposes, and the seat of intelligence, will and character.

Strong’s also points out that bowels were regarded by the Greeks as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews, as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion.

The heart is the most vital “spiritual organ” in the believer’s life: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

The apostle’s metaphor brings us to two important conclusions:

First, that our most vital spiritual organ must be protected at all cost. “Keep [guard] your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Second, righteousness is our spiritual body armor. Only God’s righteousness that comes by faith can protect us from spiritual attacks. The arrows, spears, and swords of the enemy cannot harm us when God’s righteousness guards our heart. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the 

righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;” Romans 3:21-22

Stay alert! Put on your armor! March on!