As I was beginning a study of the New Testament Book of Philemon, perhaps better called The Epistle (letter) of Paul the Apostle to Philemon, the words of Philemon 1:2 jumped out at me “… and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house” (emphasis added).
Interestingly, I found this word “fellowsoldier” or “soldier” (depending on the translation) is the Greek word συστρατιώτης or “sustratiōtēs” and this word is only used twice in the whole Bible; in Philemon 1:2 and Philippians 2:25, which says “Yet I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger and he who ministered to my wants.”
A similar word for “soldier,” that of στρατολογέω or ” stratologeō” is only used once in the Bible, in Second Timothy 2:4 and in a compound form, meaning; to gather (or select) as a warrior, that is, enlist in the army: – choose to be a soldier. “No one who wars tangles with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who chose him to be a soldier.” By comparison, in Second Timothy 2:3 we find the generic word soldier ” στρατιώτης” ” stratiōtēs” whic h is used 26 times in the New Testament and means a camperout, that is, a (common) warrior (literally or figuratively): – soldier.
The Apostle Paul we know of from reputation and for writing so much of the New Testament, but what of Epaphroditus, Paul’s brother in Christ and fellow soldier at arms? In the Adam Clarke Commentary on the Bible we find him described as follows:
“Epaphroditus, my brother, etc – Here is a very high character of this minister of Christ; he was,
1. A brother – one of the Christian family; a thorough convert to God, without which he could not have been a preacher of the Gospel.
2. He was a companion in labour; he laboured, and laboured in union with the apostle in this great work.
3. He was a fellow soldier; the work was a work of difficulty and danger, they were obliged to maintain a continual warfare, fighting against the world, the devil, and the flesh.
4. He was their apostle – a man whom God had honoured with apostolical gifts, apostolical graces, and apostolical fruits; and,
5. He was an affectionate friend to the apostle; knew his soul in adversity, acknowledged him in prison, and contributed to his comfort and support.”
Coming from the Apostle Paul, these are indeed high credentials for a fellow worker in Christ.
As to why Paul used the word “fellow-soldier” in both his Epistles to describe his co-workers, we can perhaps begin to get some understanding of how he saw the practicalities of his life and mission. Albert Barnes makes this conclusion:
Second Timothy 2:3-4, because of the nature of the service in which they are engaged. The Christian life is a warfare; there are many foes to be overcome; the period which they are to serve is fixed by the Great Captain of salvation, and they will soon be permitted to enjoy the triumphs of victory. Paul regarded himself as enlisted to make war on all the spiritual enemies of the Redeemer, and he esteemed Epaphroditus as one who had shown that he was worthy to be engaged in so good a cause.”
John Gill says of Christian fellow-soldiers:
“The life of every believer is a warfare; he is always engaged in a war with sin, and Satan, and the world; and is often called to fight the fight of faith, to contend earnestly against false teachers for the faith once delivered to the saints, to stand up for it, and fast in it; and is provided for with the whole armour of God, with weapons of warfare, which are not carnal, but spiritual and mighty, being enlisted as a volunteer under the great Captain of his salvation, Jesus Christ, under whose banner he fights, and is more than a conqueror through him: but though this is the common case and character of all the saints, it more especially belongs to ministers of the Gospel; who are set for the defence of it, and at the front of the battle, and are called to meet the enemy at the gate, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; and such an one was the apostle; and he had other fellow soldiers, and this person among the rest, who were engaged in the same common cause with the same enemies, under the same Captain, and would enjoy the same crown.”
Without a doubt, the Apostle Paul was a Soldier for the Army of Jesus Christ. Without doubt, Epaphroditus, his brother was a fellow soldier in Christ’s Army and “engaged in a war with sin, and Satan, and the world; and is often called to fight the fight of faith.”
Without doubt, the situation has not changed for Christians since the Apostle Paul wrote his job description as a Soldier for the Army of Jesus Christ. Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes and John Gill, all great Christian Theologians and men of words, all came to the same conclusion; supporting that which the apostle Paul wrote as a fact of Christian life.
The question is, where do we stand? Or perhaps more correctly put, where do YOU stand? Are you a Fellow Soldier of Jesus Christ?
Do you make a difference in this world for the Lord Jesus Christ?
Do you make a difference in this world for the Kingdom of God?