Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3 KJV
The Christian life is often compared in Scripture to a warfare-the struggle of sin against righteousness and of the flesh versus the spirit. Each follower of Christ is called to be a "good" soldier. This involves motivation, training, discipline, good equipment, and endurance.
This hymn text reminds us that the church universal, the "called out" body of believers from every age, race, and culture, is to be an aggressive, unified body. It must always be moving forward in its mission. We cannot allow ourselves to become stagnant and contented with the status quo.
The author of this text, Sabine Baring-Gould, a Church of England minister, has left this account regarding the writing of this hymn:
It was written in a very simple fashion, without thought of publication. Whitmonday is a great day for school festivals in Yorkshire, and one Whitmonday it was arranged that our school should join forces with that of a neighboring village. I wanted the children to sing marching from one village to the the other, but couldn't think of anything quite suitable, so I sat up at night resolved to write something myself. "Onward Christian Soldiers" was the result. It was written in great haste, likely in less than 15 minutes.
Yet these words that were written hurriedly for marching children became the text for a hymn that God ordained to inspire lives around the world, challenging Christians with their responsibility to be aggressive in advancing His cause both individually and with other members of the "Church of God."
Onward, Christian soldiers marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see His banner go!
Like a mighty army moves the Church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we-One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng; blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King-This thru countless ages men and angels sing.
Refrain: Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before!