In 2 Tim 2:1-4, Paul encouraged Timothy to be a good soldier. I am reminded, every time I read this passage, that we are supposed to be soldiers of the cross. We are to preach the cross despite opposition. The council tried to stop Peter and the apostles from preaching in Acts 3, 4, and 5, until Gamaliel wisely said, in Acts 5:39, “if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God.”
This is God’s battle, just like the Spirit of the Lord told Jehoshaphat in 2 Chr 20:15. God is still looking for soldiers who will fight the good fight of faith. If you are interested, here are some things you must know about what it takes to be a soldier of the cross. A soldier of the cross must be a:
Trusted soldier – 2 Tim 2:2, “the same commit thou.” Paul told Timothy to commit the things he had heard Paul preach among many witnesses to faithful men. To commit is to entrust, (as in 1 Thes 2:4; 1 Tim 1:11). In Matt 8:9, the centurion said, “I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.”
He took orders, and he had men under him who would follow orders. If you are going to fight in the Lord’s army, you must be able to take commands and follow commands. You must follow the Lord, your commander, and those he puts in authority over you. If you can’t, you will never make a good soldier of the cross. The Lord’s not going to commit these things to men he can’t trust.
Faithful soldier – 2 Tim 2:2, “to faithful men.” In Acts 10:7, Cornelius called “a devout soldier” to travel to Joppa to get Peter. A devout soldier is faithful, loyal, dutiful, and dependable. The motto of the USMC is Semper Fidelis, or simply, Semper Fi, which means always faithful or always loyal. I used to think you could commit these things that Paul wrote to men who had potential, and they would become faithful once they were given responsibility.
But not anymore. You must find men who are faithful before you commit to them these things Paul wrote and the responsibility that goes with them. Are you faithful to church, to Bible reading and prayer, to the commands the Lord gives to all Christians? If not, you will never make a soldier of the cross.
Fellow soldier – 2 Tim 2:2, “men who shall be able to teach others also.” In Phil 2:25 Epaphroditus was a fellow soldier. In Philippians 2, Archippus was a fellow soldier. In the Lord’s work, we work together as a unit. In 1 Cor 3, Paul addressed the divisions, envy, and strife in the Corinthian church. He said of himself, Peter, and Apollos that they “are one… and laborers together with God,” 1 Cor 3:8-9.
In the Lord’s army, lone rangers don’t do well. They do their own thing. When they teach others, they develop their own following, rather than soldiers of the cross and of the Lord. When I was in Bible College, we had hyper-dispensationalists who were trying to pick off students to get the students to follow them. When they were successful, they ruined potential soldiers of the cross. In some respects, they were worse than the enemy.
A good soldier– 2 Tim 2:3 “a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” A good soldier endures hardness. There are so many things that can knock a man out of the fight. He may have to endure family troubles, financial troubles, personal troubles, troubles from the brethren, troubles from the flock, troubles with his health, and troubles from the enemy, to name a few. He has to be able to take it. If he can’t, he’ll quit. So, if you desire to be a soldier of the cross, just remember that there are many hardships and you must endure them all. The Lord and the people for whom you are fighting are counting on you.
Chosen soldier– 2 Tim 2:4, “that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” When you volunteer for duty, the Lord tries you, then he chooses you for a job he has. At this point, you don’t want to be entangled with the affairs of this life. There are so many ways to become distracted in the fight. You must discern which of these really need your attention and which are simply “affairs of this life.”
In order to please your commander, you must serve him “in singleness of your heart,” Eph 6:5. He has chosen you like Paul was chosen (Acts 9:15), and he expects you to fight until you have accomplished that for which you were chosen (Acts 20:24). Paul had to work in many places where he preached to feed himself. But he never let his work interfere with his calling. He used it rather for his testimony to further the gospel.
Paul fought his good fight and finished his course, 2 Tim 4:7. Will you? Will you endure the hardness and keep yourself from being entangled with the affairs of this life? Now is not the time to quit just because things have gotten harder and the distractions have increased.
If you aren’t yet a soldier of the cross are you willing to join the cause for Christ? Can you be entrusted with the gospel? Are you faithful? Can you work as a fellow soldier with other men whom God has chosen to fight? These are questions you must ask yourself and answer in the affirmative if you are going to be a soldier of the cross.