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Bible verses about Military Metaphors
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 16:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Jesus said, "I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18), He was not describing a church in its normal English usage, as an organization with buildings, offices, services, and activities. He was implying a fellowship of believers. God's ekklesia is not a church in the denominational sense, but a fellowship of all believers in Jesus Christ, not identifying it with any particular group men might establish, but embracing all who fit the Bible's qualifications. So, when the biblical writers use ekklesia in a context involving God and His people, they are drawing attention to the transcendent purpose for which God calls them out.

In a majority of scriptures, the ekklesia is the whole of God's people, of which a congregation, a denomination, or a corporate entity form but a part. Remember the classical Greek usage: Ekklesia included all the citizens of Athens. An army parallel may help illustrate the point. A division is part of an army. The army has several divisions. So then a division is an element of a greater army, and the army in turn is part of something even greater, the nation. Ekklesia, in this analogy, is the nation. In the Bible it is most often used in this sense.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Luke 14:31-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The parable of a king going to war continues the theme of the previous parable: Both must count the cost. The king has to estimate men's lives, as well as money and equipment. He knows he must have resolve and fortitude to enter the battle. The king represents Jesus, who has already counted and paid the cost in His flesh, setting us an example. As King, Jesus must choose just the right people for the battle—those who will listen and obey with determination. He must test the quality of His potential soldiers to determine whether they can be used for such an important task.

The king also represents the saints battling against spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6:12). In preparation to be kings in the Kingdom, the saints must also count the cost of their lives. Solomon says, "By wise counsel wage war" (Proverbs 20:18), so with good advice we must enter upon religious dedication. We must be willing to be driven to triumph over Satan, the world, and our own human nature. Perseverance, endurance, willpower, and willingness to sacrifice are all traits of a king in time of crisis.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Counting the Cost


 

1 Corinthians 16:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul is giving us a command here, an imperative, but it actually goes further. In I Corinthians 16:13, there are four imperatives in this one verse, which is itself just six words in the original Greek: 1) watch, 2) stand fast in the faith, 3) be men (courageous), and 4) be strong.

The word watch means "to keep awake, be vigilant, be watchful." For us, that means keeping an eye on the world around us, and more importantly, paying attention to our spiritual condition. To stand fast in the faith means "to be stationary (anchored), to persevere, to be convicted of our beliefs." As we saw, to be men is "to be courageous," but not so much in a physical sense as in the convictions of our spiritual life. Finally, to be strong implies "to increase in vigor, to be strengthened, to increase in faith."

These four imperatives can be viewed in military terms, and Paul uses such terms quite often in his epistles. Living in the days of Roman rule, he commonly saw Roman legions in his travels. His audience, also living within the Empire, was quite familiar with soldiers and their duties.

We can imagine a sentry on guard duty, at attention, peering into the night, listening intently for any unusual noise. He has to fight off sleep lest the enemy sneak up on him and kill him, opening the camp to attack. We can realize how this applies to Christian life.

The other imperatives—standing fast in the faith, being strong, and living like men—are also better understood as military imagery. Many are familiar with the story of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, when Sparta's King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, along with 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, and perhaps a few hundred others, fought to the death against the million-man army of Persian Emperor Xerxes. King Leonidas and his men knew that they would die; they knew the odds were overwhelmingly against them. But they felt compelled to try to stop the enemy and save their country.

Certainly, this encapsulates these four imperatives!

As stunning as that example is, we should bring it down to a more personal level: to an army of one. Outnumbered as they were, the Spartans and their allies still had other warriors fighting with them on either side, at least until the very end. What if we were absolutely by ourselves?

Mike Ford
Courage and the Dog Soldier


 

1 Corinthians 16:13-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Are we not in a spiritual fight? Do we not face an adversary that wants to destroy us? Have we not committed ourselves to give our lives, if necessary? Matthew Poole, who published his commentary in 1685, makes a good point when speaking of "quit ye like men" ("be brave", NKJV):

. . . you are as soldiers fighting against the world, the flesh, and the devil; do not behave yourselves like children, whom the least opposition will terrify and throw down; but like men, with a spiritual courage and fortitude, becoming such who have so good a Captain, and so good a cause.

The "captain of their salvation" (Hebrews 2:10) is our commanding officer in battle. Our Captain has given us the equipment we need to carry out our duties: these four imperatives. All of them—watching, standing firm in the faith, acting like men, and being strong—can be considered as masculine traits due to the military analogies; but they are not limited to men, nor should they be.

Satan has perverted the minds of today's world to the point that these traits are regarded negatively. Feminists might concede that men are strong and courageous, in some cases, but foolishly so. We are told that women are loving and nurturing and these qualities are to be preferred. So much so that homosexuality is considered normal and a man that truly acts like a man is abnormal—a Neanderthal. It is a mixed-up world indeed.

However, these traits are not mutually exclusive! Notice what Paul says in verse 14: "Let all that you do be done with love." Verse 13 is not for lumberjacks, and verse 14, for women and sensitive, new-age males! Not at all. As Christians, we are to "be men" and do all with love. Is not love showing concern for others? In the Christian fight, are not watching, standing in the faith, exhibiting courage, and being strong—in order to protect their loved ones and their way of life—showing love? Certainly!

The entire book of I Corinthians is, as Henry Halley says, "Mainly about Certain Church Disorders." Brethren met in their homes and small halls in one of the largest, richest, and most important cities of the Roman Empire. The brethren there were faced with decadence, temptation, and vices of every sort. They experienced corruption on a grand scale. There were factions and competing groups. Sound familiar? Truly, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Our lives to this point have been difficult, and more tough times lie ahead. We know that God will provide. God is faithful (I Corinthians 1:9), and we do not need to worry about how He will do it. Instead, we need to take care of our end of the deal: to be ever-vigilant, standing firm in the faith, courageous and strong, doing everything in concern for others. All this is summed up by andrizomai: quit ye like men!

Mike Ford
Courage and the Dog Soldier


 

2 Corinthians 10:3-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The truth is that, although we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not human but powerful in God's warfare for the destruction of the enemy's strongholds. (Phillips)

John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier


 

2 Corinthians 10:5-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our battle is to bring down every deceptive argument and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ. Once we are sure of your obedience we are ready to punish every disobedience. (Phillips)

Paul makes it very clear that we are involved in a war! This does not mean that this warfare will always be going on at the same level of intensity. In warfare between nations and states, there are lulls in the battle as one side or the other prepares to make their next push. There are short periods during war in which a great number of people die or are injured, which are usually followed by longer periods when the two sides regather their strength, regroup, and get ready for the next attack.

It will be much the same way in the warfare we are involved in. I am here to tell you, please do not let down when it appears as if nothing is happening. Those very dangerous periods of time—the easy times, the good times, the affluent times.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier


 

Ephesians 6:10-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In conclusion, be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless strength. Put on God's complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil's craftiness. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. (Phillips)

It is clear that we are fighting a spiritual war against enemies who are far greater in numbers, intelligence, subtlety, and power than Israel had to wage war against in terms of the Amalekites, the Moabites, and so forth. In addition, our enemy is invisible.

Paul tells us to "stand," a military term for holding on to a position. In effect, before one can launch an attack, he must first hold the position he is in. In the Phillips translation, the word "against" is used four times, probably to stress the determined hostility that our enemy has. The Christian soldier is confronting something that, as a soldier, he could not overcome except that he himself also has invisible help to draw upon as a resource.

In military strategy, perhaps one of the most basic of all rules is never to underestimate the enemy. Our struggle is not merely against human foes, yet we find, in other places, that it is a war to the death. In fact, here in Ephesians 6, this idea is hidden in the Greek. It is a war to the death against supernatural forces. The word "powers" denotes those who aspire to world control, and ancient writers used the term to designate the savior gods of pagan religions. That is who we are fighting against—demons!

Our warfare, then, has all the trappings of a literal war, but it is something that we cannot see yet happening nonetheless. The qualities that we need to fight this war are not things we have inherently. We have to be given them by God. Our relationship with God is of supreme importance as to whether we are going to have the proper resources to fight this battle. We have to go to Him to get them, and we also need to be on good terms before He gives them to us.

One of the most valuable of all of these resources is the mindset that we are involved in a war. There are times when we, as a soldier, are going to face privation and hardship. There are going to be times of pain—both physical and mental. There are going to be times of sorrow that may lead us to depression or even bitterness. There will be occasions when we will be in fear and feel a great sense of insecurity. There are times we will win our battles, but other times we will lose and thus feel guilty and maybe depressed. There are going to be times of obedience that give a feeling of exhilaration and of being in control, as well as times of disobedience when just the opposite will be the effect.

There will also be times when we will be aware that God is disciplining us—sometimes in terms of punishment for sin and at other times in training to prepare us to master what we are doing. There will be times of sacrifice and even times of death. Nevertheless, all of these are part and parcel of a soldier's life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier


 

Ephesians 6:12-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Ephesians 6:12-17 makes especially clear that we are involved in a war, a spiritual war, and thus our weaponry must also be spiritual.

The Christian must tend to his weapons, as every soldier in warfare must, for not only is his life on the line but also the lives of his buddies, as he is their keeper too. Without serviceable weapons, the battle is often lost even before it begins. It is a terrifying thought to imagine oneself on a battlefield with nothing in hand to fight the enemy.

The Bible makes it clear that God has willed that this warfare is an absolute necessity for the development and preparation of His children to live in His Family Kingdom. It cannot be avoided; we cannot remain neutral. In one sense, we really have no choice. We must either fight or be lost.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

2 Timothy 2:1-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

So, my son, be strong in the grace that Christ Jesus gives. Everything that you have heard me teach in public you should in turn entrust to reliable men, who will be able to pass it on to others. Put up with your share of hardship as a loyal soldier in Christ's army. Remember: 1. That no soldier on active service gets himself entangled in business, or he will not please his commanding officer. (Phillips)

He shows us that a soldier's primary responsibility is to please the one who enlisted him in this service. He makes it clear that our primary responsibility, our loyalty, is to Jesus Christ—not a corporation, not even to an apostle of that corporation. Christ is the one who enlisted us. The man was merely used.

He goes on to say that a soldier must be single-minded. If he is not single-minded and gets himself involved in things other than carrying out the commands of his officer, then he will not be trustworthy. He will not be willing to endure hardship and put up with his share of suffering. He will not endure if he is deeply entangled in civilian pursuits or distracted by other concerns.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier


 

 




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