Word Study Wednesday
God bless you in the name of Jesus Christ for whose sake we are to endure hardness as good soldiers (II Timothy 2:3).
God uses a military analogy to impress upon us the importance of using the mighty weapons of His arsenal.
II Corinthians 10:3:
For though we [Paul & Timothy] walk in the flesh, we [Paul & Timothy] do not war [strateuomai] after the flesh:
This refers specifically to the ministry of Paul and Timothy, but following their example we can do the same. Just like in Philippians 4:13 Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We can, following his example, say the same thing. Similarly, following their example we can say, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” Paul’s statement here implies that others may also do so.
The word “war” here is strateuomai. It means, according to Thayer, “to make a military expedition, to lead soldiers to war or to battle,” (spoken of a commander) “to do military duty, be on active service, be a soldier” or “to fight.” Bullinger says it means “to serve in war or wage war.” Strateuomai is a military term. We will look at each of its seven uses. The first occurrence of strateuomai is in Luke 3 which has its basic, initial or foundational meaning. Then, as we follow the word through, we will see how it is adapted to fit in different contexts.
And the soldiers [strateuomai; This is the participle form of the verb, functioning as a noun.] likewise demanded of him [John the Baptist], saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence [i.e. to terrify or to extort by intimidation] to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
Roman soldiers formed an important factor of life in New Testament Bible times. Their presence was seen and noted. Although they may have been viewed with contempt by the subjugated, Judean people, they had to be reckoned with. Soldiers operated with authority, and soldiering was generally regarded as a brave and disciplined profession. Believers who desired to render unconditional obedience to God, could observe and value the unconditional obedience a soldier rendered to his superior. (Remember the centurion in Matthew 8 who said, “Speak the word only and my servant will be healed.” and “Do this and he doeth it.”) Probably the most important emphasis in the soldier analogy is the authority under which he acted and the obedience with which he acted. A soldier submitted himself to the authority over him, and so must we.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
The Christian believer wanting to render his obedience to God, can learn much from the soldier analogy.
I Corinthians 9:7:
Who goeth a warfare [strateuomai] any time at his own charges? [Paul spoke this in light of people who examined him because he lived off the love offerings.] who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
Here Paul parallels his ministry to a soldier, a husbandman, and a shepherd. He uses three analogies to try to make his point. The soldier is first because it makes the point the clearest about the wages he earns. The husbandman and shepherd analogies also follow to emphasize the obvious reward for their labor. We go to war under the authority and direction of another. Next up our chain of command is God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
If that is true regarding physical warfare, how about the spiritual warfare Paul is talking about in II Corinthians10:3?
Paul had many dealings with Roman soldiers. In fact, they had saved his life on several occasions:
· Roman soldiers saved his life when the mob in Jerusalem wanted to kill him in the temple area. (Acts 21:17ff)
· Roman soldiers were able to deliver Paul out of Jerusalem from the hands of the religious leaders who wanted him dead, and they brought him safely to Caesarea. (Acts 22:21ff)
· It was Roman soldiers who escorted Paul on the trip from Caesarea to Rome, the voyage on which Paul suffered shipwreck. (Acts 27:1ff)
· Roman soldiers delivered Paul to the Roman garrison of the Praetorian Guard for his house imprisonment. (Acts 28:16).
At times when Paul was in dangerous situations God delivered him by sending Roman soldiers (See also Acts 23:10 and 24:23.). I bet they made an impression on his mind.
This strateuomai word family is not used anywhere else in the church epistles. (except Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25) and Archippus (Philemom 2) are called fellowsoldiers (sustratiōtēs).) However, it is used twice in Timothy.
I Timothy 1:18:
This charge I commit unto thee, son [teknon] Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war [strateuomai1] a good [kalos] warfare [strateia1, noun form, only other place this word is used is II Corinthians 10:4 which we will be getting to on another day.];
“The prophecies” were put for the public ordination, which was put for the ministries in which he functioned. This is the figure of speech metalepsis or double metonymy. It does not mean that he had to memorize the prophecies and use those words to go into battle. It means Timothy was equipped with charisma by which and from which he could attack or assault the enemy and war a good warfare.
II Timothy 2:3-4:
Thou therefore endure hardness [kakopatheō; to suffer (endure) evils; Friberg says it is an idiom meaning “meet hardships courageously.”], as a good soldier [stratiōtēs; occurs 26 times always translated soldier] of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth [strateuomai] entangleth himself with the affairs of this life [bios]; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier [stratologeō; only place; meaning, gather an army or enlist a soldier].
This is the second time Paul exhorts Timothy concerning his warfare. In waging his warfare Timothy is to be an example to those he oversees. Whereas the point in I Corinthians was the reward he was laying up, the comparison is made here for the purpose of communicating the focus or self-denying concentration required to war and to please Him who has chosen you to be a soldier. We also see here the subordination of the soldier’s will to Him that called him to be a soldier.
We cannot afford to be deserters. When has there been a more important time for us to fight for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the great mystery? I am so thankful to our heavenly Father for people like you, who are still willing to go to battle and fight for the mystery.
We are fellowheirs and of the same body. You are important. You are irreplaceable. You have a ministry to perform. Together we can make this Word of God live. I’ve seen too many people casualties on the battlefield. It’s like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. People all around going down, but we have to keep moving on. We cannot give up. Our mission is too important ― the stakes are too high.
The last two occurrences of strateuomai are in James 4:1 and I Peter 2:11, and they deal figuratively with lusts warring in our members.
From whence come wars [polemos] and fightings [marchē] among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war [strateuomai] in your members [melos, 34 times always member]?
I Peter 2:11:
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly [sarkikos] lusts, which war [strateuomai] against the soul; [The battlefield is in the mind which we will see later.]
We saw how the first use clearly defined a soldier waging war in a physical life and death sense. Subsequent contexts applied it to spiritual warfare for people’s minds and the conflict between the lusts of the flesh and our souls. Next Wednesday we will look at how it is used in spiritual warfare.
1. The use of strateuomai and strateia together is the figure of speech polyptoton and paronomasia. It purpose is to emphasize and call our attention to the warfare in which we must engage.