OceanSide church of Christ
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FIRST SKILL: MARCHING IN STEP
Victor M. Eskew
The first century church was born during the era of the Roman Empire. Rome was a powerful force. Her army was top-notch. Many of her male citizens served in her military. Most counted their time in service as an honor and a privilege.
Training for a position in the Roman armed forces was intense. This writer was recently looking up some information about the military training of that day. One website gave a brief, but informative, account of the training.
It was surprising that the first thing the Romans taught their soldiers was to march. The following is the website’s summary about this skill.
“The first thing the soldiers were taught to do, was to march. The historian Vegetius tells us that it was seen as of the great- est importance to the Roman army that its soldiers could march at speed. Any army would be split up by stragglers at the back trundling along at different speeds and would be vulnerable to
attack. Hence right from the beginning the Roman soldier was
trained to march in line and to keep the army a compact fight-
ing unit on the move. For this, we are told by Vegetius, during
the summer months the soldiers were to be marched twenty Ro-
man miles (18.4 miles/29.6 km), which had to be completed in five
There are several things that are of interest in the above paragraph. First, the army needed to stay a harmonious unit at all times. Second, the way the unit marched and the pace at which it marched was not determined by the individual soldiers. Third, a straggler presented a danger to both himself and the unit. Fourth, the army was always practicing its marching skills.
Does any of this information apply to the church? Certainly! Throughout the New Testament, the church is seen under the metaphor of an army. Each Christian is a soldier (II Tim. 2:3-4), who is fighting the good fight of faith (I Tim. 6:2). Just as soldiers need to be trained for battle, so also Christians need to be trained for spiritual warfare. One of the first skills that we need to learn is to how to march in step.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he noted that there were some in their number who were walking disorderly. “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies” (II Thess. 3:11). The words “walking disorderly” are of military origin. The words mean “to be out of step.” In essence, there were members of the Thessalonian church who were not walking as a harmonious part of the military unit there, that is, the local congregation. This was a serious charge. In fact, those who continued to be out of step were to be withdrawn from by other members of the church. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother what walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (II Thess. 3:6).
When we say that we must walk in step, we are referring to a spiritual march. We mean that we are to live a life that is in harmony with the gospel of Christ. “Only let you conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). If all the members follow the dictates of God’s Word, the entire church will be walking in harmony with one another. This is essential for a church’s success. It is also essential for the safety of all her members.
Marching in step is not an easy task for some within the church. They enjoy marching to the beat of their own drum. The moment someone holds them accountable they grow angry. Some go to another congregation where there is little oversight of the lives of the members by the leadership. Some go to a denominational church where there is little, or no, respect for the Word of God. Still others will just quit the church entirely. These individuals have not given serious heed to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who said: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).
There are many places wherein we find members of the church failing to march in step.
1. Attendance of the worship services (Heb. 10:25)
2. Participation in the works of the church (Tit. 2:14, 3:8, 14)
3. Living lives of holiness and purity (Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14)
4. Growing and maturing in the body of Christ (Heb. 5:12-14; II Pet. 3:18)
5. Spreading the gospel of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16)
6. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)
7. Refusing to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11)
These are just a few of the larger areas that can be mentioned. God looks at us as an individual marching with other soldiers. He sees everything that causes us to be “out of step” with the rest of the unit.
We want to encourage every member of the Lord’s army to practice marching in step. For some, only a few minor corrections need to be made. For others, there will have to be a total commitment to making some major improvements in their spiritual lives. For yet others, they will have to remove themselves from the forces of the enemy and come back to the Lord’s army.
Have you ever seen an army that marches in perfect step? It is an awesome sight. The unit is crisp. The unit moves as one. The unit is not hindered in its forward progress in any way. This is exactly how every local congregation should be. Every member should be walking in perfect unison. All should be pushing forward when they hear their Commander say: “Forward march!”