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The Unentangled Soldier

“No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life”

I. Defining the words: The words used help us make the proper application.

A. “Engaged in warfare” – This certainly identifies the spiritual soldier. The same word is used metaphorically by Paul elsewhere to refer to the spiritual struggle of the Christian against evil (personal & conceptual) in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. It is also used to refer to the soldier himself, as the one who goes to war. In the physical, soldiers are a select group, as not everyone goes to war, others are not involved. But is the spiritual, every Christian is a soldier who “engages in warfare”.

B. “Entangles himself” – The Greek word is empleko – which means to connect, tie, to braid in, or interweave.  The thought is one who becomes tied up (involved) in something, and thus ensnared. The further implication is that the person does this to himself. Passively allows himself to become entangled.

C. “Affairs of this life” – The word translated “affairs” literally means occupation or business; a transaction. The word for “life” here is biou in the Greek. It relates not to the physical element of life, but to the experience of living, Robertson says it is the course of life.  The word is used in Mark 12:44 where Jesus said the poor widow cast in all her   The phrase then points to all the various transactions of living on this earth – the typical human experience, or lifestyle.

II. The Single Focus of a Soldier’s Life: Being a soldier is not just a job. It is a life. The nature of the commitment and the task demand this. The Roman soldier was enlisted to serve the Emperor for 20 years. It was not just something to do until a better job came along; it was not just a way to pay for college. This severe commitment is the force of Paul’s words here. He presents the unentangled life of the soldier as an accepted fact – No soldier allows this – every soldier is committed.

A. The words of Jesus Himself leave no doubt about the level of commitment that He demands.

1. Luke 9:23-2423 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

2. Later in the same chapter: As He and His disciples were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

3. Luke 14:26-27 – 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. There is a cost involved. Even the closest human relationships are to become subservient to our commitment to Christ.   After illustrating the foolishness of not counting the cost of an endeavor beforehand, Jesus concludes by saying….Vs. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

III.  The call for detachment:  The soldier is not required to detach himself from all outside contact or refuse to participate in life. But he cannot become caught up and enmeshed in those things that characterize “civilian” life.  These things are irrelevant to being a soldier, and they are always subject to being relinquished. How can we apply this?

A. The affairs of this life of which Paul speaks are not necessarily wrong in themselves. But they are distinct from the essential things of the soldier’s life, and if they are allowed, they can interfere with the fulfillment of his duty. The incongruity of civilian life with military life is what makes detachment absolutely necessary.

1. A soldier cannot live in both worlds. So too, the Christian is not simply called to a profession of beliefs, but to a whole new life, with an opposing set of values and actions. He is a new creation. Col 3:1-3 –  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

B. This call to be “other-worldly” involves both thought and activity. Just as a soldier must learn to think and act like a soldier, so we too must learn to focus on our spiritual concerns above the concerns of this world. The grace of God, as expressed in the words of the gospel teach us this lesson.  Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world;  (ASV)

1. “Deny” (arneomai, to repudiate, renounce) carries the idea of a defiant attitude. Conversion to Christ is not merely separation from ungodliness with a shrug; rather, it must be an emphatic, “No!” This points to the importance of moral discipline. When do you say NO to the world?

IV. The Nature of the Detachment: In defining this discipline we have often used the term “worldliness”. It often denotes the specific behavior of the irreligious unbeliever (smoking, drinking, dancing & cussing). But the Biblical concept of the world that opposes God is much deeper and far-reaching. Worldliness may be analyzed from several vantage points.

A. Flesh over Spirit – Worldliness elevates the urgings of the flesh over the teaching of the Spirit. The Greek term for “flesh” is sarx (147 times in the New Testament). It has several meanings from the physical body to the illicit sensual side of life.

1. Paul speaks of those Greeks who were “wise after the flesh” (1 Corinthians 1:26 ASV); the ESV translates it, “wise according to worldly standards.”

2. Jude wrote of those who are “sensual” (v. 19 ASV), while the ESV depicts them as “worldly people.”

a. Worldliness in this sense includes

materialism—the ambition of laying up treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19ff),

the passionate desire for wealth (1 Timothy 6:9-10),

or subscribing to the ideology of “eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). These are those who live without a reference to eternity or moral accountability to God.

B. Time over Eternity – The worldly person is fixated upon now. He does not act in reference to later.

1. He does not “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16), or make the most of time and opportunities.

2. Like the reckless prodigal he lives for the pleasure of the moment and often finds himself empty and regretful. 2 Cor 4:18while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

C. Outward over Inward – Earlier in that same passage, Paul declares that the “outward man” is decaying, but, for the Christian, the “inward man” is being renewed every day (2 Corinthians 4:16). The worldly person is consumed with the body and its physical health.

1. Americans spend some $22 billion on cosmetics each year, but most invest precious little in ways to advance the welfare of their everlasting souls. Exercise machines and gym fees far outweigh what many spend on spiritual pursuits. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 – 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

D. Self above God and Others – The affairs of this world are focused on self. The training of the soldier attacks the natural tendency toward selfishness, as it teaches one to obey every order, and give one’s life to save the life of his comrades. So too, living as a Christian constantly confronts are selfishness.

1. Romans 12:9-10Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. NIV

2. In his letter to the church in Philippi, declared that the Christian’s citizenship was in heaven (as opposed to this world) (3:20) and as such we should act and think differently.

3. Read carefully Philippians 2:3-8 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.   The benevolence of Christ struggles for mastery against the blood and guts of Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.”

V. The Demise of the Entangled Soldier: As we have mentioned Paul wrote his words in 2 Timothy from the confines of a Roman prison. His life as near an end, and he displays the confident assurance that God will reward him. 2 Tim. 4:7“I have fought the good fight; there is laid for me a crown…” Paul had lived the life of a true soldier, not becoming entangled in the affairs of this life, but remaining singly focused on the spiritual task God has placed before him. His hope was not a pipedream. It was based on this disciplined life of service. He had kept the faith (trust) that God had given him.

A. Demas: But not all of Paul companions were like Paul.  One such person mentioned in the New Testament was Demas. This brother is three times mentioned in the letters of Paul.

1. First, he was with the apostle at some point during Paul’s initial Roman imprisonment. He is complimented as Paul’s “fellow-worker” (Philemon 24).

2. Later, when Paul wrote to the Colossians, he states: “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas salute you” (Colossians 4:14). Luke is “the beloved”; But Demas, is just plain Demas. Noted scholar J.B. Lightfoot remarked that the language here is possibly a “foreshadowing” of things to come in connection with Demas. He comments that in this context Demas “is dismissed with a bare mention and without any epithet of commendation” (1892, 240).

3. Finally, in this last epistle of 2 Timothy Paul urged Timothy to  give diligence to come shortly to me. “For Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:9-10).

a. Paul’s word for “loved” is the Greek, agape. It is a word that denotes “to choose its object deliberately . . . a calculated disposition” (Turner 1981, 263). Thus Demas’ final end was his own choice. He allowed himself to become entangled. He chose the

• Flesh over the spirit, being mastered by his physical senses rather than the words of God

• Time over eternity – failing to recognize the price he would pay later on

• Outward over the inward– possibly giving into the physical persecution that Paul was so patiently enduring. (Was he ashamed of Paul’s chains?)

• Self over God and other – There was no doubt that he had abandoned Paul, but the essence of his choice as self over God. He was unwilling to deny himself, and so could not follow Jesus; He set his hand on the plow, but looked back. He was not worthy to be Jesus’ disciple. He was AWOL and had joined the army of the enemy.

• Subtle Demise: How long did it take for Demas to make that choice?  Entanglement is often subtle. Our enemy can kill us with one blow or through 1000 wounds.

“It is neither a dream nor a myth. Many of us die a death of a thousand cuts, each one bleeding a bit more of our life from us, until we finally collapse without ever really even knowing we have been wounded. We lie defeated by an enemy we never recognized inflicting wounds we were not prepared to see. This enemy directed our eyes to the pleasures and concerns of the world and was able to inflict cut upon cut while our minds were anesthetized with worldly things.”– Jimmy Griffith

Conclusion:  The story is told of a soldier during the Civil War who decided to escape the dangers of the battle. He took two uniforms, one a federal uniform and one a rebel, and carefully sewed them together down the middle seam. He thought he could walk through the firing line with each side thinking he was their ally. The only problem was that he walked the wrong way and was shot by both sides.

How distinctly do you wear the uniform of the One you claim to serve?  What is the call of the Christian soldier?  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust thereof: but he who keeps the will of God abides for ever (1 John 2:15-17).

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