The Apostle Paul often used illustrations drawn from the world around him to explain Biblical truth and apply it to the Christian life. This is particularly true when he writes about the church. Rather then a systematic and detailed Ecclesiology, the reader is treated to vivid word pictures and metaphors. The church is a human body (1 Cor 12), a carefully constructed building (1 Cor 3), and a pillar (1 Tim 3:15). Often these illustrations are military in nature- church members are soldiers and the church is an army, fighting under the banner of Christ and seeking to advance the cause of the Gospel throughout the world. These references are frequent in Paul’s writings, but are probably most explicit in Ephesians 6:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil 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 firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
With this illustration as the backdrop, let’s consider two ways to be an army. First, there are the NAVY SEALS. The SEALS are devoted to mastering techniques and methodologies which will equip them to be the most effective fighting force they can be. They are warriors on par with the best that any civilization have put forward. They train diligently and are faithful to carry out the directives of their commander. Although the essential core of their skill-set is universal and timeless, they are also students of each particular theater of engagement. A late night mission in the deserts of the Middle East is going to be executed quite differently than a covert operation in the jungles of Latin America. They are dedicated to applying their training to each and every situation they are called into, are faithful to their orders, and are legendary for their honor, loyalty, and courage. The NAVY SEALS are a model of diligent and intelligent modern warfare.
Second, we can consider Civil War Reenactors. Their mission is not to be modern or relevant. That’s not the point, and they feel that to allow in the trappings of today would be to betray the very point of their existence. Rather, they are concerned with remembering yesterday’s exploits and with the celebration of a by-gone era. They eschew modernity in favor of the clothing, language, mannerisms and equipment of a pined for yet distant memory. Although they live their daily lives with all the trappings of the 21st century, to join them when they gather for their corporate activities is to step back in time well over a hundred years, a reality which can be curious to observing eyes. They have guns, but they never really shoot them. It may look like war, but there is no real danger. No new ground ever really gets taken, because everyone is really just going through the motions of battles which have been settled long ago. It may be a fine hobby, but as far as real warfare goes, they’re not fooling anyone.
The church is called to be the Army of the Lord. Christians are called to be soldiers under the banner of Christ. The question is this: are we more like NAVY SEALS or Civil War Reenactors?
(by: Nicolas Alford)