Perhaps one of the greatest tensions in the Christian life is that a we are at peace but also at war. We are at peace with God through the reconciliation made at the cross, and yet are called to war against indwelling sin. There is not only an individual part to this warfare, but there is a corporate aspect to it as well. The church is called to war against sin and Satan as long as history continues. The church at war is called the church militant.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3–4, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” What are her weapons? There are four primary weapons that we are called to use in our warfare: preaching, the sacraments, fellowship and unity, and evangelism and missions.
When the Word is preached, the sword of the Spirit is used to repel the attacks of Satan against the church. Preaching is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 10:14–17). Every time Christ is lifted up in the preach- ing and every time the cross is preached, a blow is struck by the militant church against the kingdom of darkness. Every time a sinner is saved through the means of preaching and added to the church, Satan’s ranks are depleted and the armies of Christ are increased.
2. The Sacraments
The sacraments are also used in the church’s warfare and witness. They strengthen faith and strengthen the members of the church against the onslaughts of Satan. Satan loves weak and vulnerable Christians, but the sacraments serve to remind God’s people of victory in Jesus.
3. Fellowship & Unity
Another visible witness to a hostile world is the fellowship and unity of the church. The church is not based on individuals alone; it is to be a close-knit family. Does your church reflect that? Does the worldwide church reflect that? The church is not about individuals only, or local churches only, or denominations only; it is about all those who have been called from every tribe, tongue, and nation to serve Christ. Jesus in John 17 says that the unity of the church is a witness to the world, not just of the fellowship and communion among themselves, but of the communion and unity that exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The pioneers often circled their wagons against attacks of the marauding enemies; that is how the church is able to repel the attacks of Satan—when we stand shoulder to shoulder.
4. Evangelism & Missions
The final weapon in the militant church’s arsenal is evangelism or missions. Do you engage in personal evangelism? You can do this in a variety of ways. You can witness to your friends or neighbors. You can witness by living a holy life and making Christianity attractive and contagious to others around you. You can go from door to door, witness at school, at the bus stop, on the train, to your family members. Not everyone is called to be a missionary, but the militant church is engaged in spreading the gospel to all the corners of the world. This may mean volunteering some of your time, or it may mean devoting some of your other resources to further the kingdom of God.
At times, the church seems to be fighting a losing battle, but Christ said in Matthew 18 that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. She will not be defeated because Christ has won the victory on the cross. The militant church also keeps in view that there is an end to this fight, when the militant church will become the church triumphant. If you are on the Lord’s side, you will be welcomed into the presence of the Lamb. The focus will not be on your exploits and your courage and what you have done, but the focus will be on the triumphant Lamb, and our victory song will be, “Hallelujah to the triumphant Lamb!”
The question is, what side are you on? What is your prospect at the end of the battle? Are you Christ’s or Satan’s? Do you face final and utter defeat or final and complete victory?
This article was originally printed in the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, January 2012, under the title, “The Reformed Faith (21): The Church in the World.” Authors: Rev. Maarten Kuivenhoven and Rev. Mark Kelderman