A few months ago, I posted an article about John the Baptizer having evangelized soldiers (see Mentoring soldiers for Jesus). Since then, I’ve added more to this study and changed the title to The Gospel, soldiers, and to the end of the earth. Here is the most current publication (that means there might be more coming down the road!):
John the Baptizer never left an evangelistic stone unturned. In addition to speaking to the common people and their hypocritical, spiritual leaders, John also preached to and evangelized soldiers. In Luke 3:14-16, 18 we read:
Likewise, the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages. Now as all the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire… And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.
We might ask, “Why were the soldiers there in the first place?” Perhaps they were there to keep order or to see what was drawing a crowd to the river. They were very likely just doing their jobs as soldiers. And as part of the crowd, they heard John preach about the Christ, subsequently asking, “What shall we do?” John the Baptizer told them to do three things. In addition to sharing the Gospel, these are actions that we can model and encourage as we, too, reach out to soldiers in the name of Jesus:
– Do not intimidate anyone.
– Do not accuse falsely.
– Be content with your wages.
The Bible also gives us details about how some soldiers were impacted by the Gospel. There’s the centurion who Jesus said had great faith (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10). And there are the soldiers who confessed, “Jesus is the Son of God… a righteous Man,” (by the centurion and others in Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47).
But there’s one soldier in particular that catches my attention: Cornelius, the centurion. In Acts 10:2, Cornelius is described as a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. As far as we know, he was a man of faith who did not intimidate people, who could dispense true justice, and who was content with his wages.
He was also a Gentile. Up until this part of the Bible story, the Holy Spirit had been working through Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, heading to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8) to bring salvation, that is, repentance to life, to everyone who believed, including the Gentiles (Acts 11:18).
God certainly could have used any other man or method to bring His salvation to those waiting at the end of the earth. But here’s Cornelius, a Gentile soldier, just trying to make the best of how he knows God. In fact, how DID he know about having a relationship with God? Could it be that he was influenced by the preaching of John the Baptizer?
The apostle Peter answered that for us when he preached the Gospel to Cornelius and his relatives and close friends. Speaking to Cornelius, Peter said, “The word that God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all – that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached” (Acts 10:36-37).
It’s speculative, of course, but I see the Gospel tracking from the Jordan River to the heart of a solider to the house of Cornelius and ultimately to the Gentiles, that is, to the end of the earth. Maybe, just maybe, Cornelius was there on a day John preached. Or perhaps a devout soldier, one who responded to the wilderness preacher’s message, gave his commander the word. At any rate, we Gentiles got the Good News, too, all because of a soldier practicing his faith!
On behalf of our soldiers, may God find us faithfully telling our military men and women – and their families – about Jesus and His love, forgiveness, and saving power. As they serve all over the world, you never know where the rest of that story might wind up.