The believers are also soldiers of Christ. Second Timothy 2:3 says, “Take your share in suffering evil as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” The apostles considered their ministry a warfare for Christ, just as the priestly service was considered a military service, a warfare, in Numbers 4:23, 30, 35 (lit.). Whenever we minister Christ to others, we find ourselves in a battle. Hence, we should be soldiers fighting for God’s interest.
In 2 Timothy 2:3 Paul speaks of suffering evil as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. The first aspect of being a good soldier of Christ is to share in suffering evil. To suffer evil means to suffer persecution. A minister of Christ is one who shares in the suffering of such evil.
In 2 Timothy 2:4 Paul goes on to say, “No one serving as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of life, that he may please the one who enlisted him.” The word for “life” here in Greek is bios, indicating the physical life in this age. To fight a good fight (4:7) for the Lord’s interest on this earth we must be cleared of any earthly entanglement. The matter of our material, physical life should not entangle us as we are endeavoring to minister Christ to others. This ministry is a fighting, and the fighting requires that we be free from entanglement. On the one hand, the priestly service is a ministry to God; on the other hand, it is a warfare against God’s enemies. As the priests were bearing the ark of testimony, they had to be prepared to fight against those who might attack this testimony.
The good soldiers of Christ should not carry on a war at their own expense. “Who at any time carries on a war at his own expense?” (1 Cor. 9:7a). This word was spoken as part of Paul’s vindication of his rights as an apostle. Paul’s reference to carrying on a war implies that formerly the believers at Corinth were captives and that Paul had fought for them so that they might be released from Satan and set at liberty. It should not have been necessary for him to carry on such a war at his own expense. It is not fair that a good soldier of Christ must do so.
Second Timothy 2:6 says, “The laboring husbandman must be the first to partake of the fruits.” Here Paul likens Timothy to a husbandman, a farmer. Just as a soldier must win the victory and an athlete must receive the crown, so a husbandman must partake of the fruits, the food.
The most significant thing related to being a laboring husbandman, a farmer, is labor. A farmer must labor day and night. But it is an encouragement to him, a comfort, that he is also the first to enjoy the fruits.
As laboring husbandmen, we should await the precious fruit through longsuffering (James 5:7; 1 Cor. 9:10b). Waiting for this precious fruit requires patience. As athletes we should be quick, but as farmers we need to be patient. If out of impatience a farmer would pluck up the tiny sprouts, his crop would be ruined. Likewise, if he drives his cattle too much, he may hurt them. With both crops and livestock, farmers must learn to have patience.
James 5:7 says, “Behold, the farmer awaits the precious fruit of the earth, being longsuffering over it until it receives the early and late rain.” The word “longsuffering” here expresses patience toward persons, as toward those who persecuted the prophets. In addition to being patient with persons, we also need to be patient with our circumstances. Through patience we shall receive the precious fruit.
In 1 Corinthians 9:10b Paul says, “The plower should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope of partaking.” Here Paul again likens the church to a farm. In 3:9 he had already told the believers at Corinth that they were God’s farm. As a laboring husbandman, Paul plowed the ground and threshed in hope of partaking. Like Paul and Timothy, all believers in Christ should be laboring husbandmen.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 099-113), Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)