The Church's Warfare
The church on earth is sometimes referred to as the ‘church militant’, as opposed to the ‘church triumphant’, which is the church in heaven. The term is used in recognition of the fact that for the Lord’s people the scene here is one of spiritual conflict. In the Bible the church is pictured as “an army with banners” (Song of Sol.6:10), and Christians are called to “fight the good fight of faith” (1Tim.6:12). What are the threats facing the church today and against which believers must battle?
One threat to the church is from the state. God ordained the civil power to preserve peace and order in society, so that godliness may flourish. It exists “for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1Pet.2:14). In our day however this is being turned upside down. Immoral conduct of various kinds is permitted, and even applauded, while those who oppose abortion, homosexuality and same-sex ‘marriage’ are regarded as ‘extremists’ and may find themselves penalised by the courts.
To call something ‘extreme’ only makes sense if there is a fixed standard against which it can be measured. Our governments have forgotten that it is the law of God, not the law of man, which determines what is morally ‘right’ and morally ‘wrong’. God’s law has always been and always will be the true measure for human behaviour. Nations which reject this standard bring reproach upon themselves and incur divine anger. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa.5:20). We must urge our rulers to humble themselves and to bow before the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the “King of kings” (Rev.17:14).
Another threat is from false religion. The “pure religion and undefiled” (Jam.1:27) which God has revealed is a blessed thing, but any other religion is the devil’s deception and a curse. It is a wrong idea of tolerance when a Christian country permits the followers of Islam to settle within its borders and practise and propagate their faith, especially when laws are changed in their favour. While we must bring the gospel to Muslims in our midst we must remind our nation of its covenant obligations to God.
A further threat is from the false church. The great “falling away” predicted by Paul (2Thess.2:3) led ultimately to the Roman Catholic Church, which is now wooing and beguiling the main Protestant denominations. But, as Paul also wrote, “what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” (2Cor.6:16). When the gospel is compromised we must speak up and be prepared to stand apart. The glory of God is at stake, and the salvation of men’s souls. Nothing is more important than that!
The final threat is different from the others we have mentioned, for it comes from within. The church’s greatest enemy is to be found in our own hearts, in the form of sin and unbelief. Like Israel in the wilderness we doubt God and His promises. “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psa.78:41). Our faith needs to be stirred up constantly, through hearing the Word of God and in prayer.
At a critical time in Israel’s history Moses challenged God’s people: “Who is on the Lord’s side?” (Exod.32:26). That question needs to be asked of the church today. May we be found faithful to Jesus Christ, our worthy Saviour, whatever the cost may be. The reward is great indeed!