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Onward Christian Soldiers

Philemon 2

In 1871 Arthur Sullivan quickly composed the music and Sabine Baring-Gould jotted down the lyric. Sullivan called the melody “ST. Gertrude” after the wife of a friend, and children sang Sabine’s catchy tune as they marched from Horbury Bridge to St. Peter’s Church in Yorkshire, England.

When the Booths got their Salvation Army bands playing it on the street corners, the original children’s marching song became a hit. So when President George H.W. Bush started planning out his Memorial Service at his home church, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, the congregation enthusiastically sang out Hymn 562 , “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Now as we sing out about all this soldiering and warfare, we need to get a clear view of who the enemy is in this hymn. It’s not the Japanese that George Bush fought against as the youngest pilot in the Navy in World War II or Saddam Hussein that he drove out of Kuwait in 1990 as the 41st President. The hymn’s second verse clearly identifies the enemy that Jesus’ soldiers need to fight.  “At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee…Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise.” As Paul writes in Ephesians 6 our enemy is not flesh and blood but the Evil One and the cosmic spiritual forces of evil.

When Paul identifies Archipus as a fellow soldier as he begins his letter to Philemon, he’s not inviting him to a holy war that seeks to destroy human beings who disagree with him, but to a liberation movement that can set all free from the deadly destructive power of Satan’s Kingdom.

“And Archippus our fellow soldier…”

The last verse of Onward Christian Soldiers gets it right. “Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng; blend with us your voices in the triumph song, glory, laud, and honor, unto Christ the King.”

LORD, use me this year by the happiness and joy in my life and the praise on my lips for Christ to attract those in bondage to Satan’s deception so that they will come to depend upon the Savior who came to save, not to condemn.

For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!