Enlisting Under Christ’s Banner

The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God This is not a phrase that many modern Christian authors use: “Enlisting under Christ’s banner.”  However, Christian authors and theologians in the past have used this theme quite a bit.  It is a biblical theme.  Christians are called “soldiers of Christ” who have been “enlisted” to serve in his army (2 Tim. 2:3-4).  Paul sometimes called his helpers “fellow soldiers” (Phil. 2:25; Philemon 2).  Following Jesus is a “good fight of faith” in which we need the “whole armor of God” so that we can fight spiritual battles and be “more than conquerors” through Christ our Captain (1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:11ff, Rom. 8:37).  This is why Reformed theology calls Christ’s church on earth the “church militant.”  This theme also shows up in some hymns; I like “Soldiers of Christ Arise.”

While studying this theme, I found some very helpful quotes from those who have enlisted under Christ’s banner before us.  (I apologize for not listing all the complete sources; I simply forgot to write down each one when I was studying.  If someone really wants one, let me know; I’ll dig it up.)

“Jesus was nailed to a tree for our sakes, so that he might set up a banner for all ages through his resurrection” (Ignatius).

Before Augustine was converted, he said that he “refused to fight under the Lord’s banner.”

“When you have Satan to combat, and you fight under Christ’s banner, He who girds on your armor and has drawn you into the battle, will give you the victory.” (Letters of John Calvin, p. 285.)

“I am the Lord’s, I am not at my own disposal; whatever others may do, I cannot comply, for I have given myself away to the Lord, to fight under his banner, against the devil, the world, and the flesh” (Thomas Boston, Works, vol. 9, p.457).

“Persons belonging to an army do encamp under their banner in security. So did the children of Israel in the wilderness; every tribe kept their camps under their own standard. It is also a token of success and victory (Ps. 20:5). Christ hath a banner for his saints; and that is love. All their protection is from his love; and they shall have all the protection his love can give them. This safeguards them from hell, death—all their enemies. Whatever presses on them, it must pass through the banner of the love of the Lord Jesus. They have, then, great spiritual safety; which is another ornament or excellency of their communion with him” (John Owen, Works, vol. 2, p. 45).

When Charles Hodge made profession of faith, one older man in the church told another man that Hodge had “enlisted.”  The man thought he meant Hodge had enlisted in the U.S. military.  The man clarified his words: “He has enlisted under the banner of King Jesus.”

“And what is the characteristic of the Christian man but just this: that he has found his Captain and receives his orders from Him? “What shall I do, Lord?”—that is the note of his life. And is it not clear that it is the source of an added dignity and worth to his life? Just as the soldier is nothing but the hoodlum licked into shape by coming under orders—under the establishing and forming influence of legitimate and wise authority—so the Christian is nothing but the sinner, come under the formative influence of the Captain of us all.” (B. B. Warfield, Surrender and Consecration).

Let us keep on fighting the good fight of faith and follow Jesus. With Christ as our Captain and Leader, we follow not with fears!  Lead on O King eternal!

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

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2 comments on “Enlisting Under Christ’s Banner

  1. blund says:

    Love this! Thanks for the resources.

    Curious: Does the “banner” terminology ever mix the martial imagery with the marital of Song of Songs 2:4?

    • Sorry, Brian, not quite sure what you mean. There are at least 2 words in the OT (Hebrew) for banner, the one in Song of Songs is not the same word as the Exodus text, Yahweh Nissi (The Lord is my Banner). But I’d say they are closely related.

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