“Take strength from the grace of God which is ours in Christ Jesus.… A soldier on active service will not let himself be involved in civilian affairs; he must be wholly at his commanding officer’s disposal.… Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead …” (the Apostle Paul to Timothy, 2 Tim. 2:1 ff., NEB).

Here and there in the New Testament gospels and epistles soldiers and their commanding officers touch the life of Christ and now and again enter into the new life of the Gospel. It was soldiers who placed the crown of thorns upon his brow (John 19:2); soldiers who mocked him on the cross (Luke 23:36); soldiers who crucified Jesus, then divided his garments and tossed lots for his tunic (John 19:23). A soldier speared Jesus’ side with a lance (John 19:34); soldiers accepted the chief priests’ bribe to obscure the true facts about the empty tomb (Matt. 28:12 ff.). In the first days of the apostolic age it was sixteen soldiers who kept constant watch on the imprisoned Peter. Apprehended by King Herod (outspoken foe of the Christian movement), Peter was not only held fast by two chains, but even while he slept was secured against escape by a soldier on each side. Beyond his cell, sentries guarded the prison door and the iron gate. Peter’s angelic deliverance therefore not only was astonishing, but also excluded any fabrication that disciples had absconded with his body. The “consternation” that followed “among the soldiers” was abruptly cut off only by the embittered Herod’s execution of the military guard (Acts 12:18 f.).

On another occasion fanatical Judaists sought to take the Apostle Paul’s life just outside the temple. Together with a considerable number of troops the Roman commandant stopped the mob violence, put Paul under ...

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