Onward, Christian Soldiers

by: Bill Bratt

Email: info@icogsfg.org

One of our favorite hymns is: "Onward, Christian Soldiers". We all are familiar with singing the refrain:

"Onward, Christian Soldiers,

Marching as to war,

with the word of Jesus,

going on before".

Whether we realize it or not, we are Christian soldiers and we are at war. We are soldiers of Jesus Christ and we are fighting a spiritual war. Let's notice what the apostle Paul says in:

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

Let's notice a couple of examples of where Paul called certain saints, fellow soldiers: "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" (Phil 2:25).

"To the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house" (Philemon 1:2).

If these were fellow soldiers, then Paul was considering himself a soldier.

We were drafted by God the Father

People become involved in the military in one of two ways. They volunteer or they are drafted.

Let's notice that God drafts the Christian soldier. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44).

Jesus is the captain of our salvation

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. {10} For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. {11} For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, {12} saying: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You" (Heb 2:9-12) .

Jesus is our captain and He calls us His brethren.

Soldiers must have Faith!

When you are in the military you learn to trust and have faith in your fellow soldiers. You learn to depend upon each other and to be obedient to your commanding officers.


Let's notice how Jesus reacted to a soldier's faith. "Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, {6} saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented." {7} And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." {8} The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. {9} "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." {10} When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! {11} "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. {12} "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." {13} Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour" (Mat 8:5-13).

This passage reveals that Jesus marveled at this soldier's faith. Would Jesus marvel at your faith?

A Soldier knows that the Enemy will Broadcast Propaganda!

There is much propaganda in any war. In WWII Tokyo Rose broadcast Japanese propaganda to allied troops in the South Pacific.

Satan can broadcast his propaganda through ideas, thoughts and emotions. Let's notice a few examples. Jesus gave the parable of the Sower and the seed in Mark 4:1-9, then He explains the meaning in verses 13-20. Let's notice verse 15   "And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts."

This is a little frightening to realize that when someone hears the gospel of the kingdom preached to them that Satan can come to them and take away the word and continue to deceive them.

The following example is for a married couple. Notice the apostle Paul's admonition in: 1 Cor 7:5  "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Here is an example of a husband and a wife who are drawing closer to God in prayer and fasting and Satan attacks the intimacy between the husband and his wife.

In the following end time prophetic example, we see that there is coming a time of great deception. "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders" (2 Th 2:9).

This deceptive propaganda will be so strong that if possible even the elect, the Christian soldiers, would be deceived. "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Mark 13:22).

How do you combat propaganda? Study, pray and meditate on God's word. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8).

A Soldier must know his Enemy

"Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor 2:11).

"So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. {10} Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. {11} "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death" (Rev 12:9-11).

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8).

Satan is our adversary and like a lion, he is ready to devour us.

In the military if you fall asleep on your post, they have the right to execute you. If you fall asleep you could cause a whole platoon to be wiped out.

Christian soldiers can not afford to fall asleep. We must stay alert. In order to do this, we must use some of the tools in our arsenal. We must spend time in prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting. We must watch and pray. "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mat 26:41).

Soldiers must fight!

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim 6:12).

We must put forth the effort and fight to gain eternal life.

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force" (Mat 11:12). How would we take the kingdom of heaven by force? The answer is by overcoming!

The apostle Paul said: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:21) .

Let's notice what Jesus said to the seven churches

To the Church of Ephesus: (Rev 2:7) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." To the Church of Smyrna: (Rev 2:11) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."

To the Church of Pergamos: (Rev 2:17) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."

To the Church of Thyatira: (Rev 2:26-29) "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; {27} 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'; as I also have received from My Father; {28} "and I will give him the morning star. {29} "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

To the Church of Sardis: (Rev 3:5-6) "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. {6} "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

To the Church of Philadelphia: (Rev 3:12-13) "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. {13} "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

To the Church of Laodicea: (Rev 3:21-22) "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. {22} He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Webster's Dictionary defines the word "overcome" as: "To defeat in competition or conflict; conquer; prevail over; to overpower".

A soldier must train to be able to defeat, conquer and overcome his enemy. We Christian soldiers must defeat, conquer and overcome our enemies: Satan, sin and worldliness.

The Battles are Raging!

The Christian soldier has battles on three fronts that he must fight.

There is the battle of sin.

"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4 KJV).

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord "(Rom 6:23 KJV).

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23).

We must repent of sin. "Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

There is the battle with Satan the devil.

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. {12} 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" (Eph 6:11-12).

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. {4} For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, {5} casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:3-5).

We must resist the Devil and he will flee from us as James said: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

There is the battle of worldliness.

Another quotation from the parable of the Sower and the seed: "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Mat 13:22).

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

We must put God first. Don't let the cares of this world push God out of your life. Make time daily for prayer and Bible study.

Put on the Whole Armor of God!

A soldier's armor is very important!

"Now the king of Syria had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, saying, "Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel." {32} So it was, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, "Surely it is the king of Israel!" Therefore they turned aside to fight against him, and Jehoshaphat cried out. {33} And it happened, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him. {34} Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, "Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded" (1 Kings 22:31-34).

A soldier must take care of his armor.

The apostle Paul was under house arrest for two years. "But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case." {23} So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him" (Acts 24:22-23).

Paul suddenly sees a picture ready-made. All this time he was chained by the wrist to a Roman soldier. Night and day a soldier was there to ensure that he would not escape. Paul was literally an envoy in a chain. Now he was the kind of man who could get alongside anyone; and beyond doubt he had talked often to the soldiers who were compelled to be so near him. As he writes, the soldier's armor suggests a picture to him. The Christian too has his armor; and part by part Paul takes the armor of the Roman soldier and translates it into Christian terms. (1)

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. {11} Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. {12} 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. {13} 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. {14} Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, {15} and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; {16} above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. {17} And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; {18} praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" (Eph 6:10-18).

There is the belt of truth. It was the belt which girt in the soldier's tunic and from which his sword hung and which gave him freedom of movement. Others may guess and grope; the Christian moves freely and quickly because he knows the truth. (2)

There is the breastplate of righteousness. When a man is clothed in righteousness he is impregnable. Words are no defense against accusations but a good life is. The only way to meet the accusations against Christianity is to show how good a Christian can be. (3)

There are the sandals. Sandals were the sign of one equipped and ready to move. The sign of the Christian is that he is eager to be on the way to share the gospel with others who have not heard it. (4)

There is the shield. The word Paul uses is not that for the comparatively small round shield; it is that for the great oblong shield which the heavily armed warrior wore. One of the most dangerous weapons in ancient warfare was the fiery dart. It was a dart tipped with tow dipped in pitch. The pitch-soaked tow was set alight and the dart was thrown. The great oblong shield was made of two sections of wood, glued together. When the shield was presented to the dart, the dart sank into the wood and the flame was put out. Faith can deal with the darts of temptation. With Paul, faith is always complete trust in Christ. When we walk close with Christ, we are safe from temptation. (5)

There is salvation for a helmet. Salvation is not something which looks back only. The salvation which is in Christ gives us forgiveness for the sins of the past and strength to conquer sin in the days to come. (6)

There is the sword; and the sword is the word of God. The word of God is at once our weapon of defense against sin and our weapon of attack against the sins of the world. We can never win God's battles without God's book.(7)

Finally, Paul comes to the greatest weapon of all--and that is prayer. We note three things that he says about prayer. (a) It must be constant. Our tendency is so often to pray only in the great crises of life; but it is from daily prayer that the Christian will find daily strength. (b) It must be intense. Limp prayer never got a man anywhere. Prayer demands the concentration of every faculty upon God. (c) It must be unselfish. The Jews had a saying, "Let a man unite himself with the community in his prayers." I think that often our prayers are too much for ourselves and too little for others. We must learn to pray as much for others and with others as for ourselves. (8)

The Lord will Fight for You

In any battle there is always the unseen hand of God involved in the affairs of man determining the outcome of the battle.

We must fight the good fight and do our part first and then let God do the rest.

There are several verses that says: "The Lord will fight for you" (Deut 1:30, 3:22, 20:4). Let's look at Exodus 14:14 (NKJV): "The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." This verse will set the stage for the following beautiful passage where Moses glorifies God in this Song of Moses: "Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: "I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! {2} The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will exalt Him. {3} The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name. {4} Pharaoh's chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. {5} The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone. {6} "Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces. {7} And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; It consumed them like stubble. {8} And with the blast of Your nostrils The waters were gathered together; The floods stood upright like a heap; The depths congealed in the heart of the sea. {9} The enemy said, 'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.' {10} You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters. {11} "Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? {12} You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them. {13} You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation. {14} "The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. {15} Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. {16} Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O LORD, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased. {17} You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O LORD, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands have established. {18} "The LORD shall reign forever and ever." {19} For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea" (Exodus 15:1-19).

John the Baptist gives Soldiers Instructions!

John Preached to the People and among them were some soldiers.

"Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?" So he (John the Baptist) said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).

Israel at this time was under the influence and occupation of the Roman Empire. The soldiers were there to keep the peace. Notice that John did not condemn the Soldiers, but admonished them to be honest and respectful and to be content with their wages. We as Christian soldiers must also be honest and respectful and be content with our wages.

It takes a lot of money to live, to provide for food, shelter, clothes and transportation. But Jesus tells us to "Lay Up Treasures in Heaven. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; {20} but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mat 6:19-21).

The First Gentile Convert was a Soldier

It is interesting to note that the first gentile convert was a soldier. His name was Cornelius and his story is recorded in Acts 10:1-8, 24-48.

Cornelius sent men to Peter. Peter received a vision from God that he should go to the gentiles. Peter went with the men, met Cornelius and preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household and the holy spirit miraculously came upon them.

In Conclusion:

A soldier is a person who must fight the enemy if he is required to do so. We as Christian soldiers must fight and overcome Satan, sin and worldliness.

A soldier must maintain life, liberty and the values of his country. We as Christian soldiers must attain to eternal life, desire liberty in preaching the gospel and live the values required to enter the kingdom of God.

A soldier should consider it an honor to serve his country. A Christian soldier should consider it an honor to serve God, Jesus and his fellow man.

We are in a battle for spiritual survival. We must be brave just like our captain, Jesus was.

We must endure to the end to be saved. "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Mat 24:13).

We don't have to do it alone. God has given us His holy spirit and the power that goes with it. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7).

One thing we have to remember. God is on our side. God will fight our battles for us. The battle is God's. "And he said, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the LORD to you: 'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's" (2 Chr 20:15).

We can depend upon the words of Jesus being true and that our salvation is sure, because Jesus is the captain of our salvation.

Let's remember our battle cry:

"Onward, Christian Soldiers,

Marching as to war,

with the word of Jesus,

going on before".

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Footnote: (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8) William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Letters to Galatians and Ephesians, 1976, p. 183.