In November of this year there will be a conference hosted at our church titled, “The Church At War Conference.” From what we have seen and heard so far, it sounds like there is widespread interest in this conference, for which we are thankful. However, I have seen at least one comment opposing the title of the conference, stating that it’s a “catastrophically tone-deaf tagline” for a conference. The hang up appears to be with the word “war”. So this begs the question: is the church really at war?
That this is even a discussion is quite revealing. The Bible, and the New Testament in particular, is ripe with militaristic language. Frankly, if a Christian is opposed to the phrase “the church at war”, then they either don’t know their New Testament very well or, worse, they’re apologetic to the world for God-inspired language.
Yes, the church is at war. It’s at war against sin. It’s at war against evil. It’s at war against the flesh. It’s at war against antichrist. It’s at war against Satan and all his demons. It’s at war against every spiritual force for evil in the heavenly places.
Make no mistake: the church is at war.
To be clear…and c’mon, this should go without saying…this is a SPIRITUAL war, not a physical one (watch out for disingenuous red-herrings about this point). Ephesians 6 commands Christians to fight evil with the sword of the Spirit, not the sword of iron. That passage speaks of Christians as soldiers that ought to gear up for battle in this war, even describing each piece of armour and weaponry we ought to fight with. Similarly, 2 Corinthians 10 uses phrases like “waging war” and “weapons of our warfare” when referring to how we have divine power to destroy ungodly strongholds and arguments. Christians ought to live as soldiers that wage war with the armour of God.
To what end do we fight? Well, we certainly don’t fight for the sake of fighting itself. Rather, we fight to win souls with the power of the gospel. We fight to make disciples of all nations. We fight to overcome evil with good. We fight to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. We fight to see righteousness abound in our hearts, in our churches, and across our land. We fight so that we can see our fellow neighbours flourish. Ultimately, we fight for the glory of God.
How can we fight for such things in our day? You’ll have to come to the conference to find out!
All that to say, if you have a problem with a phrase like “the church at war,” then your problem is with God’s Word. Please read and sincerely consider the New Testament passages below. And if the problem still remains, then I humbly encourage you to take it up with their Author.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” – Ephesians 6:10-20
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” – 2 Timothy 2:3-4
“Fight the good fight of the faith.” – 1 Timothy 6:12
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” – Jude 3
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – Romans 8:35-37
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (lots of military terms/imagery in this text speaking of a large-scale celebration after a great military triumph)
“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” – 1 Timothy 1:18-20