Good soldier of Christ based on 2 Tim. 2:3 which thus reads, “Take your part in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus.” (Today’s English Version).
The historical background of this text which prompted Apostle Paul to instruct Timothy is thus.
Apostle Paul wrote this epistle from prison in Rome in AD 65 or 66 i.e. before his martyrdom (capital punishment) by emperor Nero in AD 66 or 67.
The second epistle to Timothy is of a different character compared to the epistle to the first epistle which deals with practical instructions to him on how to order and rule the churches committed to them. The main purpose of 2nd Timothy is to encourage him, under the new danger which had come upon the Church through the Neronian persecutions, and the apostle’s imprisonment under a capital charge. By his own noble example of faith and constancy, and by the strongest Christian motives, Apostle Paul strives to comfort and sustain Timothy under the trying and perilous circumstances in which he was placed, and adds some prophetic warnings concerning heresies, and directions as to how Timothy is to meet them.
Apostle Paul considers a Christian minister under the notion of a soldier, not so much for his continual conflicts with the world, the Devil, and the flesh – for these are in a certain sense common to all Christians – but for the hardships and difficulties to which he must be exposed who faithfully preaches the Gospel of Christ.
To be a good soldier, one must possess certain qualities, a few of which are:
1. Constructive decision to be a good soldier under a Captain.
All Christians, especially ministers, are soldiers of Jesus Christ; they fight under His banner, in his cause, and against his enemies, for he is the Captain of our salvation. The minister is a soldier of Christ, who has voluntarily submitted himself to abide by the rules of the Captain. A soldier, when he has enlisted, leaves his calling, and all the business of it, that he may attend his captain’s orders. The soldier shall be trained, armed and supported by the Captain to be very effective in his duty. The Christian ministry is a battlefield, involving not only the good fight of faith but an increasing struggle against false doctrines. The soldiers of Jesus Christ must approve themselves good soldiers, faithful to their captain, resolute in his cause, and must not give over fighting till they are made more than conquerors, through him that loved them. Rom 8:37.
2. A good soldier must be brave.
It is very important for a soldier to be brave because he has many enemies to meet. His enemies are the enemies of Christ and he must continually contend if he wants to conquer at last. The enemies are temptations around, that would lead the soldier away, or drive him back from his Savior. Evil propensities and habits of thought within, that would entangle and harass him, evil men who surround me and oppress him with their hostility to his Lord. The more faithful he is, the more his enemies will multiply, and the more earnestly they will oppose. If he is indolent and careless in his life, they will not trouble him. If they can make him a traitor, or induce him to desert his Master’s cause, they will have accomplished their end. But if he strives to do his Master’s will, and to follow Him truly and fully, then his enemies seem more hostile, and more bitter, and more multiplied. When he would do good, evil is present with him. But then what? He ought to be bolder and the more decided as a soldier. He must fight on. There is no other path. He should see his great Leader before him, and must follow after Him. Soon the contest will be over, and then the victory will be his. He is resolved rather to displease and to forsake all others, than to forsake or deny his glorious Lord.
3. A soldier must be loyal to the banner under which he serves
One must always have the noble feeling that he is a soldier of Christ, and his life is dedicated to be sacrificed in the service of his Master, and with courage, endurance, and hope, he will press forward. “Perhaps his life in the battlefield may not last long, but until the last drop of his blood, he will fight hard for victory and to establish the banner of his country in the territories of the enemies. Loyalty to his Captain coupled with his hope of triumph will strengthen the soldier to fight his fight faithfully.
4. A good soldier’s sole motive is to please his Master
Sacrificing one’s self and dedicating himself to please another man in words and deeds is the finest virtue of all. This virtue is the mother of all virtues. Such a person does not wish to please himself, or to please men for his own benefit, or social position.
5. Dedicated to suffer hardships in line of duty.
The apostle supposes that a minister of the gospel might be called to endure hardships, and that it is reasonable that he should be as ready to do it as a soldier is. On the hardships which HE endured himself, the Apostle speaks of them in 2 Cor 11:23-29. Unlike the soldiers of the present time, Paul is speaking to Timothy taking into account the hardships of the soldiers under emperor Nero when they very often endured great poverty in terms of food and money. Taken from their homes and friends; exposed to cold, or heat, or storms, or fatiguing marches; sustained on coarse grains, or almost destitute of food, they are often compelled to endure as much as the human frame can bear, and often indeed, sink under their burdens, and die. If, for reward or their country’s sake, they are willing to do this, the soldier of the cross should be willing to do it for his Saviour’s sake, and for the good of the human race.
What Paul wants to emphasize is: “let no man desire to be a minister, hoping to enjoy an easy life. It is a warning for everyone that no one enter ministry who is not prepared to lead a soldier’s life and to welcome hardship and trial as his portion. Anyone who would not expect hardships and trails of all sorts at every step would make a bad soldier.
Continual endurance of evil, whether directed specially against the minister, or generally thwarting the cause which he has most at heart, is the ordinary lot of the minister of Jesus Christ exercising his ministry in an evil world. And in order to be ready to encounter this evil, actively or passively, — as the case may require – a complete concentration of purpose on the fulfillment of his ministry is absolutely required. If the heart is divided between the ministry of God’s Word and the enjoyment of an easy life, there will be a constant temptation to avoid those various forms of “hardship” which properly belong to the campaign of the soldiers of Christ. Troubles will be shirked rather than endured and ministerial duties will be made to stand on one side when they interfere with the inclinations of the moment. Labour will be evaded when the soul calls for ease. The determined struggle, and the sturdy stand against evil, whether in one’s own heart or in the world around, will be postponed to a more convenient season, while weak compromises and sinful compliances take their place in the immediate present. At the same time, contradiction and opposition, untoward events, troubles, disappointments, and difficulties of all sorts, will be met not in the spirit of Christian fortitude (bravery), not in the spirit of Christian meekness and patience, but with annoying complaints, or with roughness and ill temper favouring the current of the love of ease in the soul. It is, therefore, mandatory for the servant of God to be wholly given up to the ministry which he has received. He must resolutely shake off the entanglements of the affairs of this life, that he may please him who called him to be a soldier. He must feel, “My work in life, my mission, the dispensation committed to me, is to advance the kingdom of Christ in the world. I am set by my Lord and Master for the defense of the gospel – to preach it, to vindicate it, to uphold it against all gainsayers, to adorn it with my own life, to use my utmost endeavour for its maintenance, its propagation, and its triumphs. I must not shrink from labour, from suffering, from troubles, or, if need be, from bonds and death, in the fulfillment of this work and ministry.” For his encouragement in carrying out this resolve, he has the example of his Lord who suffered unto death and was raised again from the dead. He has the example of the apostles who endured troubles and bonds and imprisonment, and yet saw the gospel which they preached triumphing over all oppositions. He has the promises of God assuring life, and a kingdom, to those who suffer and die with Christ. And so, accepting endurance as the portion of Christ’s servants, he pursues his ministry diligently, joyfully, and steadfastly, throws his whole strength into it, and looks forward with an unwavering hope to obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Verses for reference: 1 Cor.13:7; 2 Cor.1:6; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 2 Tim.1:8; 2:10; 3:11; 4:5;
Heb. 6:15; 10:32; Heb. 11:27; 12:2-3; James 1:12; Eph.6:11-18;
IPC Gautam Nagar,New Delhi,India