The New Testament is rife with references and parallels to the Lord’s church and a military organization. Without a doubt there are many similarities that can be shown in this area, the same as there are similarities to families, businesses, and many other areas of parallel.
There are many different ways by which we today reference the Lord’s church in comparison to the military. Whether it is the lesson of the Christian armor in Ephesians 6, or the children’s song: “I’m in the Lord’s Army,” the recognition that we are in a spiritual fight for survival is realized.
However, allow me to interject a question for a moment that I believe has some validity. Within this parallel of the church and a military organization needs to be the recognition that there are many different kinds of military groups. In consideration of that fact, is the Lord’s church intended to be an army, or a militia?
You see, there is a very distinct difference between the two types. I speak of a militia in the traditional sense, which is that of “citizen soldiers.” These people are ones who go about their everyday lives until a danger or threat comes; then taking up their arms, they fight the threat. Once the threat has ceased, they return home until the next threat is posed. Historically, this is the way the army of Israel fought, it’s principles are also found rooted in American history with such groups as the Minutemen during the revolutionary war.
On the other hand you have a standing army. Whereas militias only come together when there is a threat, the army is a continuous fighting force. They train, prepare, and drill without ceasing because it is never known when the fight will arise or from what direction it may come. An army is never off-duty, but with each passing day it works with vigilance to defeat the enemy and defend its territory.
So, which is the church intended to be? There are some who seem to believe that God intended the church to be a militia. They are more than willing to rise up against the “great threats” that attack. They will defend with conviction against social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and the like; they will be ready at a moment’s notice to fight instrumental music and the woman’s leadership role in the church. However, when the “big battles” are done they sink back in their holes and wait for the next one to arrive.
The problem is militias are notoriously ill-trained. They know how to fight (or believe they do) a few distinctive enemies with a few specific tactics, but facing a better trained force, or a change in tactics, they melt away because of their lack of preparation and experience. When the fight is not engaged, they are not concerned with the details, they want to simply continue with their lives as though nothing has happened. This is not the desired role of the Lord’s church.
The Lord’s church is to be diligent, vigilant, always alert and aware, always training and preparing, continuously engaged in the fight with evil. We are to be diligent in our approach and utilization of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15); we are to be watchful at all times for the lures of Satan (1 Pet. 5:8); and we are to recognize that the fight in which we are engaged is not a series of minor skirmishes, but a continuing battle for the souls of men. Therefore, the calls are uttered to: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). There are no reserves in the Lord’s Army, there are no baggage carriers, all are needed on the front lines; trained and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).
Friends, the Lord’s church is an army, not a militia. If we are treating it as a part-time group molded for defense and protection from the greatest enemies, we need to stop. Understanding our role as such will doom us to failure and will cause the church to eventually be overrun by its enemies. Instead, we must be those who are constantly training, through study and practice, to wield the tools of Scripture, faith, and obedience with equal measures of love and vigilance. Only in doing so can we be the people the Father seeks (John 4:23-24); the people Christ leads (Eph. 1:22-23; 6:10-18); and the people our brethren need (Phi. 1:27-28).