The Good Soldier's Purpose
James Smith, 1864
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus!" 2 Timothy 2:3
"You have known my purpose." 2 Timothy 3:10
Saul of Tarsus was a rebel in arms against the King of kings. He hated his person, despised his government, and denied his claims. He mustered and headed a troop, with a determination if possible to dethrone him. He arrested, imprisoned, and obtained the death warrant of every faithful subject that came within his reach. He was exceedingly mad against all the adherents to the cause of the Prince of peace. He said, "I will not have him to reign over me!" Not only so — but he made up his mind that he should reign over no one else, if he could prevent it. He persecuted all his followers in Judea, and obtained a commission to carry the war against them into Damascus. He mustered his forces, headed his troop, and set out for Damascus, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against them. His purpose now was to slay utterly both old and young, and to blot out the name and cause of Jesus from under Heaven!
But as he was on his journey, just as he was drawing near to Damascus, a bright light from Heaven suddenly shone upon him, and the Lord Jesus appeared unto him. The manifestation of Christ instantly changed his mind and altered his purpose, and he at once enlisted in the army of Immanuel. He arose from the ground, to which he had fallen, went into Damascus, and was blind for three days. At the end of that time he was restored to sight, and immediately put on the regimentals of the once hated Nazarene.
He soon learned his exercise, and appeared very prominent in the ranks of God's elect. From the day he enlisted, his purpose was formed, through his whole life it was carried out; and therefore to every one who knew him intimately, he could say "You have fully known my purpose." The fixed, settled, solemn purpose of Paul, embraced four principal points:
First, to secure his own salvation. His heart was set upon this. He was determined to "win Christ." To make his "calling and election sure." He therefore gave himself to prayer. He lived by faith in the Son of God. He crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. He put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man. He labored that whether present in the body, or absent from it — he might be accepted of the Lord. He kept his body under control, and brought into subjection; lest after having preached to others, he himself should be castaway. He did not rest satisfied with a single evidence, or an uncertain hope — but he aimed at certainty and obtained it. Hear how confidently bespeaks, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20. Again, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21.
Every one of us also should make it our first, our grand object — to secure our own salvation. To obtain the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins. To have Christ formed in our hearts "the hope of glory." To know, "that we have passed from death unto life," by our sincere love to the brethren. To commit our souls to Jesus, to be washed in his blood, to be clothed in his righteousness, to be sanctified by his Spirit, and to be preserved by his providence and power — so that we may say with Paul, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." And thus live "in hope of eternal life, which God who cannot lie, promised before the world began."
Paul's purpose was, Secondly, To bring as many sinners to the Savior as he possibly could. No sooner was Paul enlisted and sworn in — than he became a recruiting sergeant. He endeavored to enlist every person that he could In order to this, he was constantly speaking of Jesus to all with whom he came in contact. In public he preached Jesus, and in private he talked of Jesus. He was always telling those about him, of the glories of his person, the nature of his sacrifice, the perfection of his work, the kindness of his heart, the happiness that was found in his service, the equity of the war which he had proclaimed, and the glorious crowns which he had promised.
He assured every rebel of pardon, the very moment he laid down his arms, and embraced the terms of reconciliation. He often appealed to: his own bad character and detestable conduct, the reception he met with, the pardon he received, and the honor that was conferred upon him — to prevent the vilest from doubting, and to encourage all that believe. He traveled thousands of miles, suffered the most agonizing pains, endured the greatest hardships, and accommodated himself to all classes of people, and to all possible circumstances, to enlist sinners into the army of the Savior. Hear his own words, "Though I am free from all men — yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to those who are without the law, as without law, .(being not without law to God — but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1 Corinthians 9:19-22.
Christian soldier, here is your example, You should try to bring all your comrades to Christ. Never yield to discouragement — but putting your trust in the Lord, praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to accompany your feeble efforts — try, try, try. God works by feeble means. He honors the well-meant endeavor. Speak of Jesus to all who will hear you — for you know not who God may dispose to listen to you, until you try. Speak to all of Christ, many people will listen to a soldier speaking of Jesus, who would not listen to a regular minister. Let Paul's purpose be yours, to enlist as many for Christ as you can. You may assure them of a welcome reception, large bounty, good pay, excellent quarters, kind officers, and high honors when the campaign is ended.
Paul's purpose was, Thirdly, To honor Christ as highly as possible. He never wearied of speaking of him. He never thought that he could speak too highly of Christ. Indeed he considered no subject worthy of a thought, in comparison with Christ. Christ was the center toward which he constantly tended, the circle within which he moved. He preferred the weakness of Christ, to the strength of men; the shame of Christ, to the honor of men; and even suffering for Christ, to living at ease with sinners. Christ was enthroned in Paul's affections, and he endeavored to obtain a throne for him in every human breast.
If he preached — he preached Christ.
If he wrote — he wrote of Christ.
If he gave an example for imitation — it was Christ.
If he furnished a powerful motive — it was fetched from Christ.
Christ was his Alpha and Omega, his first and last, his all in all.
He believed him to be God, and he taught others to believe it. He knew him to be the only Savior, and he preached him as such. He rejoiced in his humiliation, and he triumphed in his exaltation. The cross inspired him with hope — but to see his Savior on the throne, filled him with joy unspeakable and full of glory! He lost everything for Christ, and gloried in the fact that he had anything to lose tor him. Christ filled his thoughts, his ministry, and his anticipations. He looked back at what Jesus was originally, at what he became for us, and then at what he is now, and exclaimed, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!" Philippians 2:6-11.
Glorious Savior! Let us endeavor to imitate the good soldier Paul, and show forth the honors of his name, making his praise glorious. Let us exalt him as highly as we can, and endeavor to bring others to exalt him too. Let us labor in his cause, walk by his precepts, suffer for his name, and copy his bright, his blessed example — for he is worthy, for whom we shall do this.
Paul's purpose included, Fourthly, To glorify God both by doing and suffering. He looked upon himself as purchased property. As bought out of the most degrading and debasing slavery, on purpose that he might glorify God. And he looked upon all the soldiers of the cross in the same light, therefore writing to the regiment which was quartered at Corinth, he said, "You are not your own, for you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.
And lest they should not understand that he meant that this principle should be carried out in all the common, and everyday affairs of life, he says again in the same letter, "Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do — do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31.
And writing to the battalion which was quartered at Philippi, among whom some refractory spirits were found, and were trying to do mischief; and referring to his own practice and hope, he says, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed — but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death." Philippians 1:20.
Brother soldier, let this be our object too. In every plan we form, in every engagement we undertake, in everything we do — let us aim at the glory of our good and gracious God. Every morning let us ask, "How can I glorify my God today?" In every undertaking let us examine, how we may glorify God in fulfilling it. God is glorified by us, when we trust in his promises — when we walk by his precepts — when we worship at his throne — when we praise him for his mercies — when we spread his truth — when we assist his cause — when we try to benefit his people — when we enlist souls into his army, and when we put on the whole suit of armor he has provided; and with bold and courageous front, resist and repel his foes!
Let us then endeavor so to plan, to purpose, and to act, that every clear-sighted observer, may see inscribed on every plan, purpose, or performance of ours, "To the praise and glory of God." If we glorify God on earth — he will glorify us in Heaven. If we honor Christ where we now are — we shall walk with Christ in white robes where he is; and along with all that have gotten the victory over Satan, the world, the beast, and his image — we shall stand on the sea of glass, and sing "the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, siying, Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, O King of saints!" Rev. 15:2, 3.