Second in our series on first commencement addresses —
“Soldiers and Servants of Christ”
Delivered by the Rev. James R. Graham, at the First Commencement of Faith Theological Seminary, in Wilmington, DE.
[The Christian Beacon 3.24 (21 July 1938): 3-4.]
2 Tim. 2: 3.—”Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
In the second chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy we have the seven characterizations of the Christian believer. In the first verse we find the initial relationship of sonship. In the third verse we find the soldier, and in the fifth the athlete. In the sixth we have the farmer, and in the fifteenth the skilled workman. In the twentieth verse we have the vessel, and in the twenty-fourth the servant.
It should be the purpose of the well-rounded believer to stand before his Saviour with a combination of the distinctive features found in these seven characterizations. None save Jesus of Nazareth, the only-begotten Son with the full-orbed perfections of His moral glory, ever attained fully to such a combination of virtues. It is a goal to be striven for, however — the intimate fellowship of sonship, the courageous devotion of the soldier, the strict training and rule-observance of the athlete, the unapplauded labor of the farmer, the dexterous use of our implement (the Word of God) as a skilled workman, the golden receptacle of divine truth unaffected by the acid canker of time, and finally the unobtrusive patience of the servant.
We are particularly concerned in this study with the second character, the soldier, in comparison and contrast with the seventh, the servant.
There, are clear distinctions between these two characters as regards their place of service, qualifications, responsibility, duration, and time.
It is necessary, first of all, for us to be born into the family of God by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit before we can possibly fulfill any character of service, but it is significant that the first character enjoined after the prerequisite initial step is that of the soldier and the last is that of the servant.
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The clear understanding with which any man enlists in an army is that he must be prepared to encounter any degree of danger, even to the extent of giving up his life for the glory of his master and captain, and for “the successful prosecution of the war.” It is inherent in the character of the soldier that he be an offensive as well as a defensive agent. Since it is his business to fight he can expect nothing more on occasion than to be attacked by the opponents of the cause with which he has allied himself. He serves in a place of perpetual danger. He is not only exposed to physical danger but must gladly share the criticism and opprobrium heaped upon his captain by the adversaries; and must endure the murmurings and defections of weak and fearful allies.
The servant on the other hand, serves in a sphere of sheltered security. He never contracts in the first place to be more than a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, and if asked to risk his life or even to expose himself to danger may reply that there was no understanding that such requirements would be made of him when he entered into the relationship of servant. His obligation is to be faithful in carrying out the duties assigned, and in caring for the household effects of his master. He does not concern himself in the least with the outside dealings, relationships, or reputation of his master.
Those who have lived for years in the Orient have had many and varied experiences with servants. I have never ceased to be thankful for one servant, whom the Lord gave me, who combined the qualities of a soldier with those of a servant. In fact this man had served as a soldier for quite a few years. He was gloriously saved while in my home, and really brought forth the fruits of repentance. His personal love and loyalty to me was very marked, and he gradually became the major-domo of our home. We shall call him A.
There was another man on the place who fulfilled the traditions of the servant, reasonably faithful, intelligent, and honest. We shall call him B.
One day as I was sitting in my study I heard a loud altercation in the back yard and went out to see what was the occasion of it all. I found the good servant A scolding a yard full of men. The men were coolies from a coal company who were delivering coal to replenish my coal cellar. The servant B had been assigned to weigh the hampers of coal to check against shortage. During the weighing process A had come out to see that all was going well. He took a good look at the coal that was being thrown into the bin and found that it was largely mixed with blackened shale and rock which had been covered over in the hampers by good coal. His wrath first flamed forth against the carriers, who were of course parties to the cheat. Then having given them a piece of his mind he turned on the servant B and gave him even a more furious tongue lashing. The soldier-servant A knew perfectly well that B was not originally any party to the conspiracy to sell me rocks for coal, but he was sure that B knew of the rascality, and he was berating him for offering no protest. The servant B in his heart did not approve of my being thus cheated, but he saw no reason for exposing himself to some retaliation from his unscrupulous fellow-countrymen for the sake of his master, who after all was a foreigner and ought to be out there looking after his own interests!
I quieted the soldier-servant A because I felt that he was making a little more noise than should properly proceed from a Christian home, but I was nevertheless highly pleased with his loyalty, even if he had been a little too vociferous about it. The servant B was shortly dropped from my employ, but one of the first fellows I shall seek out on ray return to China will be the soldier-servant A.
The above illustration shows the difference between the attitude and performance of the mere servant and that of the soldier-servant. The mere servant is motivated by his conception of his own duty, the limits, of which he feels free to define, while the soldier-servant is motivated by a passionate love and, loyalty to his master and devotion to his interests with complete indifference to the consequences of this devotion to himself.
Then there is the contrast between the duration of service of the soldier and the servant. The enlistment of the soldier is for “duration of the war,” and there is no way by which he can honorably terminate his enlistment before hostilities are concluded.
The servant on the other hand simply serves until it suits his convenience to cease serving, or until he is discharged by his master for unfaithfulness or other reasons.
There is no discharge in the warfare for the Lord Jesus Christ. No soldier of his can possibly cease from warfare until Christ becomes King of kings and Lord of lords, or until peace is declared and established by the Prince of Peace.
In Genesis 3: 15, Jehovah declared a warfare between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Said he, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” Not just, “There will be enmity between thy seed and those of the seed of the woman who feel inclined to take up the warfare.” No, indeed, God declared the warfare, and those of “the seed of the woman” (regenerate children of God) who refuse to fight are deserters from God’s army!
Again there is a difference between the soldier and the servant in the hours of service. The servant works during working hours, from morning till evening, and then repairs to his own home and is not subject to call until he comes to work on the following day.
The soldier on the other hand is constantly subject to call. It is one of his regular duties that in his turn he must go on guard.
The servant is never a sentinel, but the soldier must be.
Twice is it recorded of the soldier-prophet Ezekiel that he was appointed “a watchman unto the house of Israel” to warn of approaching danger. Habakkuk casts himself in the same role when he says, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me.”
If the leaders of Christ’s flock are derelict in their duty as soldier-sentinels, and fail to warn the sheep of Christ of the wolves in sheep’s clothing who menace them, verily He will require their blood at the hands of those who fail to do their duty as His watchmen.
Among the servants of our God and of His Christ these two types have persisted through the ages. We find them set forth in the two sons of Levi, Aaron and Moses.
There came an awful apostasy among the Chosen People as set forth in the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Exodus. “Up,” said they to Aaron, “make us gods, which shall go before us.” We have no idea that in his heart of hearts the man who had been selected of God to be high priest over His people was really in sympathy with the proposition made by them, but being in charge of the people in the absence of his brother, he turned over in his mind what would be the course of the highest expediency. True, it was his duty to maintain the purity of the worship of Jehovah, but was it not also his duty to maintain peace in the camp? Would it not be better for him to humor the people in this matter than to throw the whole camp into an uproar and possibly open rebellion and even a stampede back to Egypt? And then God’s whole plan and purpose in bringing them out would be defeated! Beside this Aaron must consider the very hostile reaction toward himself that might spoil his whole future influence. So all things taken into consideration it were better for Jehovah Himself if he would humor them on this small point! So he aided and-abetted them in their wicked idolatry and made for them the golden calf.
But when the soldier-servant of Jehovah came down from the mount with the two tables of the testimony in his hand and found out, what was afoot, he blazed forth in righteous anger at this insult to the glory and pre-eminence of the God who had brought them up out of Egypt. He smashed the tables of stone in his wrath, he ground the golden calf to powder and sprinkled it upon the water and compelled the people to drink of it, he censured his brother Aaron and blamed him as the one who had “brought so great a sin upon them.” And Aaron whimpers, “Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief”; but Moses paid him no heed, but demanded a showdown of those who were on the Lord’s side, and ordered them to go through the ranks and kill every man his brother, his neighbor and his companion! Truly He came not to bring peace but a sword! “And there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.” But the Lord God commended him and promised, “Mine Angel shall go before thee”! Such is the reckless, yes, ruthless zeal of the real soldier-servant of the Most High God, and yet there come no words of blame, only words of praise from Jehovah.
Aaron had a grandson, who was fashioned from better materials than he himself. We have reference to Phinehas the son of Eleazar. You will recall the abominations that resulted from the doctrines of Balaam, the defilement of the pilgrim separation of Israel by their promiscuous intermarriages with the women of Moab, followed by their apostasy from the worship of Jehovah, to the worship of the gods of the Moabites.
Phinehas the young priest, inflamed with holy anger at the sin and adultery of the people, took a spear and committed a double murder on a man of Israel and a woman of Moab in an adulterous act. He was gloriously indifferent to the consequences with respect to himself, being consumed with zeal for the glory of Israel’s God. Do we find Jehovah rebuking him for his “un-Christlike” impetuosity in being guilty of a deed of “cruelty”? On the contrary we find that “The Lord spake unto Moses saying Phinehas . . . hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them. . . Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace; and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his god, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.” It is clear that Jehovah God approved of this soldier-servant, entirely, while there were plenty of mere servants around, stating that they of course agreed with Phinehas’ doctrine, but they simply could not follow him in his “methods.”
The son of Jesse, the man after God’s own heart, had scant tolerance toward the blasphemers and, defiers of the God of Israel. While the servant-hearted armies of Israel stood by in abject silence and craven cowardice in the presence of the vauntings of Goliath of Gath, the shepherd lad of Bethlehem with the heart of a real soldier demanded, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” He did not stop with talking, but went forth with utter abandon and complete disregard of what might happen to, him, to do battle for the honor of the God of Israel., The story of how the Lord gave him a wonderful victory is familiar to all, and this was the man whom the Lord had anointed to be king over all Israel. It was this same sweet singer who interspersed among his songs of praise for the mercy and loving-kindness of Jehovah, imprecations upon His enemies: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
The contrast between the heart of the soldier and that of the mere servant is clearly demonstrated in the person and career of the great prophet Elijah and of Obadiah, the governor of the house of Ahab. Of the latter it is recorded that he “feared the Lord greatly” and that he saved the lives of one hundred of the prophets of the Lord by hiding them in a cave and feeding them.
All the time, however, his service was for the house of Ahab and Jezebel, the enemies of the Lord. He was fearful and afraid. When he met Elijah in the way and Elijah commanded him to go and call Ahab and tell him “Behold, Elijah is here,” poor Obadiah was consumed with fear for his own life. It was the life of Elijah that Ahab and Jezebel sought, not the life of Obadiah, and yet Elijah, the mighty man of faith who stood before the Lord, feared not to meet him. The key to the very life and witness of Elijah, is found in his statement: “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” Though he deemed himself the only one left, yet would he not halt in his testimony to the living and true God.
After Jehovah had mightily vindicated Himself through His prophet on Mount Carmel, Elijah ordered the complete destruction of all of the priests of Baal. It is significant that though Elijah certainly knew of Obadiah, the governor of Ahab’s house, and that he was a godly man, he did not reckon him at all in the testimony of Jehovah, but said, “I only, am left.” Of the other seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal, none had opposed the apostasy of Ahab and Jezebel with sufficient vigor to be known to Elijah, or to incur the wrath of the wicked king and queen.
Asa was one of the godly kings of Judah, but he turned for help to the king of Syria, when he was attacked by the king of Israel. For this wrong alliance he was rebuked by the soldier-prophet Hanani, who spoke those wonderful words of the protective power of God, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chron. 16: 9).
But Asa the servant-king liked not the insinuation that his heart was not perfect toward God, nor did he relish the rebuke from the noble toward those who claimed to be His Father’s representatives and were not.
The Modernists try to cast the Bible-believers in the role of being Pharisees, averring that Christ denounced the Pharisees for their attachment to the written oracles. Indeed he excoriated them for their attachment to external traditions that were never given by Moses, and denounced the wicked practices of their lives, but he never denounced, their doctrine insofar as it conformed to the teachings of Moses, but rather commended it (Matt. 23:3).
It is to be deplored that this flabby and spineless perversion of our Lord’s character, which came originally from the “Father of lies,” has not been without its effect upon the real believers and servants of Christ who urge the gentler aspects of His character as an excuse for not being soldiers. The warning is not amiss, at this point, to those hardier souls who are willing to be Christ’s soldiers as well as His servants, that while remembering the ruggedness that He manifested on occasion, His sweetness and love shall not be forgotten!
The apostle Paul was the greatest soldier of Christ that ever lived. He was a stickler for correctness in both life and doctrine for all those who named the name of Christ. There is hardly one of his epistles in which the polemical element does not occupy a prominent part. In the epistle to the Romans he was assailing those who would turn the grace of God into lasciviousness and “sin that grace might abound” to refute the idea that had gained currency, among the Gentiles that God had cast off His people. His great argumentations on justification by faith in Romans, on the resurrection in Corinthians, on the events connected with the Lord’s Coming in the two Thessalonian epistles were all written to correct misapprehension or to refute heresies. The Galatian epistle was an attack on the Judaizers, and it is in the first chapter of this epistle that we find twice reiterated in two consecutive verses a curse upon the perverters of the Gospel.
We frequently hear it urged in our day that no one should expose an error into which some spiritual leader has fallen “because he has been and is being used of God, and it will bring reproach upon the work of Christ for Christians to be ‘bickering’ with one another.” Let us note what the great apostle Paul did in such a connection. In a letter to the Galatian church he openly advertises the fact that he had “withstood Peter to the face” in a matter that involved both doctrine and practice. He pointed out that though” Peter had previously eaten with the Gentiles he ceased to do so when certain men came down to Antioch from Jerusalem, and that Peter was guilty of an act of cowardice and hypocrisy, and that he was the cause of carrying away other Jews, and even Barnabas, in his “dissimulation” or hypocrisy! (Gal. 2: 11-13.) Did Paul argue that because Peter was the leading apostle and had been mightily used of God at Pentecost and afterwards, he must not say anything about his serious mistake lest he prejudice the “cause of Christ”? Of course he did not. As a faithful undershepherd of Christ he was out to expose error wherever or in whomsoever he found it. If Paul were living today the weak-kneed mere servants would accuse him of being the biggest mud slinger that ever lived.
They even quote Spurgeon that the Gospel does not need to be “defended,” it merely needs to be let loose like a lion. In this connection we beg to prefer the apostle Paul to the great Spurgeon. In ten verses Paul speaks of his activity in “defence of the Gospel” twice (Phil. 1:7, 17). Jude commanded all those who were “sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” to contend “earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
We heartily agree that a positive message is necessary, but we submit that the messages and epistles of the apostle Paul all stand to prove that the apologetic or polemic approach has its place.
Again they say it is all right to expose error and wrong doctrine in the abstract but we should never call names. Again we cite the great apostle in his letter to Timothy in which he not only speaks of the error of two men in denying the future resurrection but calls their names, Hymeneus and Philetus. Peter warns against the infiltration of false prophets as does Jude, and both give their marks. The gentle John takes up a large part of his first epistle telling us how to determine who are false prophets, and in his second letter tells us not to receive any who bring not the true message of the Father and the Son into our homes or bid them Godspeed.
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”! Hardness will certainly be involved in being a “good soldier.” Human expediency will always argue that it is unnecessary, and “hurts the cause of Christ.” Nehemiah was not only up against the Sanballats and Tobiahs in his attempt to restore the wall of partition between God’s people within and the world without, but he was up against the weak-kneed sons of Judah who said, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.” (There is plenty of “rubbish” now as well as then!)
“I am sick of all this controversy,” some say to me, and I reply, “Then you are sick of the full service of the Lord.” The Lord has never had any way of preserving His truth except through controversy. The history of the Church has been the history of controversy against innumerable Satanic errors that have been insinuated into the body of Christ. How much more then does our blessed Lord need soldiers in this dreadful day of the final apostasy, who are aflame with love for Him and jealous for the purity of His testimony and unflinchingly committed to its preservation, with magnificent disregard of the consequences to themselves.
In being soldiers for Christ let us be very sure that we are soldiers for Him and not merely for some group or cause with which we have associated ourselves. Let it be our aim to adorn the Gospel, which we are commanded to defend.
I praise God for the young men of Faith Seminary and for this splendid group that are now going out into the active service of the Lord.
You have elected to go outside the camp unto Him, bearing His reproach. You were urged by many not to associate yourself with a group “who are always fighting,” and the apostles of expedients as apposed to obedience have assured you that “you will never get a decent church.” (Certain it is that you will not go out to serve great congregations who will provide large salaries — naked in spite of all their external grandeur, poverty-stricken in spite of all their riches — but to poor little struggling groups of believers, who under your guidance will preserve the testimony to the crucified and coming Christ, without the suggestion of compromise with His enemies.)
They have impugned your intelligence when they thought you had to be told all this. You knew it all the time, and be it said to your honor and to the glory of our blessed Saviour, you CHOSE THAT WAY.
You knew perfectly well what was the line of least resistance. You
could have bowed your knee to the Baal of Nicolaitan denominationalism. You could have been contemptible little yes-men who would agree to support all their iniquitous boards, agencies, and programs. You could have partaken of the dainties handed down from the chefs of an ecclesiastical Babylon. But like a group of worthy young men of old you purposed in your heart not to defile yourselves, and elected to endure the frowns and thunderings of the Nebuchadnezzars, that you might have the personal presence and abiding favor of the Son of God.
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
Lo, He is with thee to the end of the age!
THOU THEREFORE ENDURE HARDNESS, AS A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST.
THE FIRST ANNUAL COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES
FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Friday Evening, May 13, 1938, at Eight O’clock
FIRST INDEPENDENT CHURCH
PROCESSIONAL HYMN No. 291—”How Firm A Foundation”
INVOCATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Rev. Carl McIntire, President of Board of Directors
SELECTION “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” (Aberystwyth) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Parry
The Seminary Chorus
SCRIPTURE LESSON . . . . . .The Rev. Merril T. MacPherson, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PRAYER . . . . . . . . . . . .The Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths, D.D., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ADDRESS—”Soldiers of Christ” . . . . .The Rev. James R. Graham, Jr., Missionary to China
SELECTION—”A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Luther
The Seminary Chorus
CONFERRING OF DEGREES
ADDRESS TO THE GRADUATING CLASS
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Rev. Allan A. MacRae, Ph. D., Chairman of the Faculty
HYMN No. 21—”Take My Life, And Let It Be”
BENEDICTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The Rev. Harold S. Laird, Secretary of Board of Directors
THE DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF DIVINITY
Delbert P. Jorgensen Almond, Wisconsin
B.S., Wheaton College, 1934
H. Blair McIntire Durant, Oklahoma
A.B., Park College. 1929
B.S., University of Illinois, 1931
A.M., Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, 1932
Francis A. Schaeffer Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A.B., Hampden-Sydney College, 1935
G. Douglas Young Wolfville, Nova Scotia
B.Sc, Acadia University. 1932
John M. L. Young Wolfville, Nova Scotia
A.B., Acadia University, 1934
M.A., Acadia University, 1935
THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF SACRED THEOLOGY
Desmond Jones Collingswood, New Jersey
A.B., Temple University. 1936
Certificate of Graduation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1937
G. Douglas Young Wolfville, Nova Scotia
B.Sc, Acadia University, 1932
Faith Theological Seminary was founded in the summer of 1937 to give a thorough training to young men who are preparing themselves under God to minister to the Bible-believing Christians of today. Faith Seminary has determined to keep its standards of scholarship high, thus giving its graduates that solid preparation which is the sine qua non of leadership. Every effort is made to develop the devotional life of the students and to lead them into a closer dependence upon God in prayer.
A zeal for the souls of men is encouraged without which a minister cannot have the full blessing of the Holy Spirit. To this end practical work is given. Basic to both of these ideals Faith Theological Seminary holds firmly to the facts and doctrines of the Word of God. In these days of widespread denial of the Book, it is a privilege to raise a witness to the infallible Bible, the truly miraculous events therein recorded, the salvation of sinners through the blood of Jesus Christ, and His premillennial coming again.