In the military, rank really counts.
A soldier, sailor, airman, or marine has to know where he or she stands in the chain of command. Over the years a cliché has been used to describe warriors of the lowest degree, “the rank and file.” In the modern versions of the military in the USA there is a clear difference between “enlisted personnel” and the officers’ corps.
Among each group there are progressive strata of authority available to the individual with each rank adding a stripe to the uniform and another level of responsibility to the duties of that individual. Likewise, the officers’ corps features a progression through ranks with appropriate insignia and increasing responsibilities.
How does this apply to spiritual combat in the Army of the Lord?
Of course rank is not as formalized in the church as in the military but it certainly is a reality. Each of us needs to understand where we function in the “chain of command,” from Jesus down to us, and on to those we lead. Ideally, leaders in the church rise to that position of responsibility because of the call of God on their lives. This ideal should be present at every level of leadership and follow-ship in the church—each one should be serving in the area of his/her calling.
This may be all too rare, but is the way that Jesus taught. He turned the seeking of rank on its head, proclaiming that leadership in the Kingdom of God was really servant hood. It is interesting to note that in their letters, the Apostles claimed to be servants not masters, private soldiers not generals.
Rank and Privilege
With the calling of God on each person as the central factor, the effects of rank in the Army of God are quite different from the effects of rank in the military organizations today. In the world, “rank has its privileges.” The general or the admiral is considered more important than the private soldier or able bodied seaman.
Not so in the Kingdom of God! Every warrior in the Army of the Lord is equal in importance, if not in rank! We do not have equal responsibility but we are of equal worth. This is a significant difference!
- Some of us have the responsibilities of officers, that is, we are leaders, planners, and evaluators.
- Others have the responsibility level of enlisted personnel, that is, we carry out the plans of the officers.
- Each of us, leader or follower, planner, or implementer, holds an equal place in the heart of our Commander, the Lord Jesus.
Paul used the soldier-commander model to encourage young Timothy to a life of faithful spiritual warfare, warning him not to become entangled with “civilian” activities that would take his mind and heart away from the war at hand. He gave Timothy a lofty but entirely manageable life’s goal: “to please your commanding officer.”
To do this, Timothy had to live a specific life:
- He had to live life “by the Book,” that means, according to the Word of God.
- He must seek to please the Lord and not men.
- He must wage warfare with spiritual weapons, not those of men.
Today for a warrior of any rank, this remains a good three-fold set of life principles:
- Live by the Book;
- Please the Lord; and
- Depend on the Holy Spirit.
In the Army of the Lord, this, not rank, is what really counts.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
2 Peter 1:1
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
… Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Jesus’ Teaching: Matt 9:38; 11:25; 12:8; 20:16; Luke 13:29-30
- Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
- Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth
- For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath
- So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.
Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
1 John 5:1-5
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
2 Timothy 2:3-5
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer.
Lord Jesus, You are my commanding officer. At the same time, You have given me responsibilities that put others under my leadership. I want to shoulder these responsibilities and succeed in every mission. Help me lead as Your words command, not in forced power but in shared responsibilities. Give me spiritual vision to see the field of battle. Give me strategic wisdom to know what should be done. Help me prepare the spiritual weapons in Your arsenal and use them well. You are Jehovah Nissi, the Lord Our Banner, Our Victory. I will raise Your name high for all my soldiers to see. In Your victory, Amen.
Onward, Christian Soldiers
Words: S. Baring-Gould; Music: Arthur Sullivan
1. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see his banner go!
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
2. At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise!
3. Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod;
We are not divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
4. Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and honor, unto Christ the King;
This thro’ countless ages men and angels sing.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved