Now an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is [nonsense]. The [people] who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post . . . know [nothing] . . . about real battle! —General George S. Patton, Jr., 3rd Army Speech, 5/31/44
Well…that’s not what Patton said verbatim! I took out some harsh terms—but his point was well made. Patton knew that a battle zone was no place for prima donnas—individuals who are not “team-players.”
As good a player, and 3-point shooter, as Michael Jordan is, he can’t win a game by himself. A team would run him ragged, blocking his every shot while effortlessly completing their own. Having no effective strategy or replacements, he’d eventually collapse from exhaustion.
And so would we, if we faced our enemy alone. The enemy is too powerful.
And he’s organized. In Job, death is personified with the titles “firstborn” and “king” (Job 18:13, 14)—which are ranks. Three weeks after Daniel prays, an angel tells him that’s how long it took to get through because he was resisted by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” until a higher-ranking “chief of princes” named “Michael” (the arch-angel, Jude 1:9) helped him out (Daniel 10:13). Later, the same angel tells Daniel he has to head out to fight a “prince of Greece” who’s coming (v. 20).
The New Testament pictures Satan with seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 12:3). There’s a “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and a “king” who leads 200,000,000 demons (Revelation 9:16) out of the abyss during the tribulation (9:11).
Satan’s army is organized for battle. As Paul says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We can’t go it alone in this war!
That’s why Jesus structured His body. The true Church is not a set of loose cannons. It’s a team of soldiers, each one equipped with unique, God-given talents and skills, “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).
These are complementary, not competitive, skills—many yet one, for and in battle! This truth was important enough for Jesus to highlight at the beginning and end of his ministry.
At the beginning, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said this: “You [together: a Greek plural pronoun] are the light [not lights] of the world. A city [not cities] set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp [not lamps] and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand [not lampstands], and it [one thing] gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14).
Toward the close of His ministry and life, Jesus prayed that His followers “may all be one . . . so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21) . . . that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (v. 23).
Think about it, “one” so that the world may believe, “perfected in unity” so that the world might know.” The world’s peoples come to belief when the Lord’s Church is one; they come to the certainty of knowledge (mature faith) when the Church is perfectly one.
Paul constantly exhorted believers to strive together for this partnership that saves people (Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 1:27; 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8).
Victory in Spite of Disunity
Disunity happens. The Church is an army, but it can look rather ragtag. It is . . . on the surface. But God commanded the Church to make allowances for disunity: “Allow both [tares and wheat] to grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:30; italics ours).
The Roman Catholic Church didn’t settle for this. For hundreds of years, they thought they had purged out tares so that only wheat lived under their roof. Protestant reformers recognized that tares growing alongside the wheat until the end of the age meant there would always be “false teachers among [within]” (2 Peter 2:1; italics ours). That’s the way it is . . . on the surface!
Below this, the Reformers added, lies an advancing, unconquerable army of wheat the gates of hell can’t prevail against (Matthew 16:18). Underneath is a glorious invisible Church of true believers that partner to evangelize—to get the Gospel into the whole world so that the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
God has a purpose for superficial divisions: “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19; italics ours).
This “coming out” of the true people of God is an evidence that attracts people to Christ. Conflict reveals patience and grace to a world of impatience and self-righteousness.
God gets glory when He rescues overpowered believers like you and me. He loves to save a one-minded people with minimal resources.
Moses and Aaron were overwhelmed by Pharaoh’s army. Slaves were of no military consequence, but they were one mind in their desire for freedom. What they lacked in military strength God more than made up! The Lord plagued Pharaoh and his people until they finally let His people go!
Similarly, Jehoshaphat and his people were backed up against the Mediterranean Sea with three foreign armies converging to “push them in.” He decided to “go out” worshipping, so he sent a choir out to praise God ahead of his army (2 Chronicles 20:21). He no doubt thought—if God wants to wipe us out, so be it. But I really doubt that He’s going to allow unbelieving armies to kill a choir praising His holy name advancing “before [His] army.”
He was right. God honored this step of bold faith that actually believed He could win against big odds—with or without an army! As it was, the three foreign armies attacked each other—a massive self-defeat!
Saul’s equally bold son Jonathan knew that no number of enemies could ultimately match the power of His God: “Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6; italics ours)
We’re small, but we’re going to win because the Lord with “no restraint[s]” is on our side—the side of truth and grace! The gates of hell won’t prevail (Matthew 16:18); the leaven of the kingdom will leaven the whole lump (Matthew 13:33)
We’re going to win because the sovereign God who delights to save “by few” has joined us on the playing field—in the war zone.
He’s not sidelined as a coach who advises but doesn’t play, a referee who cares less who wins, or a cheerleader who encourages but is not part of the team effort. “The LORD is a man of war” (KJV: Exodus 15:3, literal Hebrew).
We’re going to win because we’ve teamed up with each other—“one mind, striving for the faith of the Gospel.”
We’re going to win together, Beloved—joined by the Lord on the battlefield and partnering with each other.
If you are going to stand strong during these perilous days, you must know God and His Word. Have you desired to study the Bible but not sure how? Find a Training Workshop in your area.
Host, Precepts for Life
Precept Ministries International