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Espirit De Corps

fellowship warren mainard

“Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”  Philippians 4:21-22

“Something special is happening and we are right in the middle of it. There is a movement taking place and the momentum is palpable.”  Paul sensed it… and even a Roman prison could not slow him down. Remember the sense of joyful magnitude with which this pioneer of the faith spoke at the beginning of his letter to the church in the Roman colony of Philippi?

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14

It doesn’t take a code-breaker to see what is happening here… the Gospel was spreading in Rome and it had made its way throughout the whole Imperial Guard and now into the household of Caesar, the center-point of Emperor Nero, the most powerful man in the known world! Paul’s imprisonment had not stifled the spread of the Gospel, it had super-charged it!

While most scholars consider it unlikely that the most elite class members of the “domus Caesaris” (Caesar’s household) had received the saving message of the Gospel, “Paul’s words prove that his preaching had penetrated into that abyss of all infamy, the palace of Nero.” (J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians) Lightfoot continues his in depth commentary on the “domus Caesaris” by introducing a unique expression which demands further reflection.

“Various as no doubt were their occupations, and their native lands, the members of the Household of Caesar as such must have had an esprit de corps, and, for their rank in society, a prestige, which made it humanly speaking likely that a powerful influence, like that of the Gospel, if felt among them at all, would be felt widely, and that they would be in the way to make a distinctive expression of their faith and love, when occasion offered.” 

J.B. Lightfoot (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians)

Esprit De Corps is a French expression which literally means “the spirit of the body,” with body in this case meaning “group.” Originally, Esprit De Corps was used to describe the morale of military troops. Espirit De Corps captures the feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of a particular group. 

If you lived in Seattle during their run of success from 2013-2016, you experienced Espirit De Corps on a regional level as the spirit of “the 12’s” or “12th man” overtook the city with frenzied enthusiasm. Something special was happening and it was bigger than “Beastmode,” “the Legion of Boom,” or anything happening on the field, it was a movement that swept up the whole city.

This same “spirit of the body” was surging throughout Rome as emboldened and fearless believers took the Gospel into every arena of society, including Caesar’s household. Paul intuitively understood the truth of the now age-old Latin saying, “Omnes Viae Romam Ducunt” (All roads lead to Rome). This is why Paul longed to be in Rome, which he expressed in his Epistle to the Romans years earlier…

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the Gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.” Romans 1:8-15

Paul made it to Rome, but certainly not in the manner that he had hoped or expected. Instead of preaching freely in the synagogues and the lecture halls, he was trapped in a Roman prison. However, as Paul reminded his young protégé Timothy, “I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained.” 1 Timothy 2:9. The Gospel was off the chain and it was saturating the city of Rome “with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) 

Espirit De Corps, “the spirit of the body,” seems to be missing from many in the Church today. A Holy Spirit-driven Esprit De Corps is the sense of vigor and momentum of the Church to maintain faith and muster fervor in the face of opposition or hardship. It is the “spirit” of enthusiasm and mutual devotion that the body of Christ has for one another; expressing itself in an earnest desire to magnify Christ and multiply His Kingdom. Espirit De Corps is the joy-driven selflessness described in Acts 2 and the sense of victorious anticipation expressed by the loveable character Beaver when he announced to the Pevensie children, “Aslan is on the move!” (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis). Lewis beautifully captures some of the varied expressions of Espirit De Corps in the responses of each of the Pevensie children when they first heard the name of their soon to be friend and Savior - 

“At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

C.S. Lewis (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

In a time such as ours, which has flipped our notions of individualism into isolation and our desires for personal gratification into empty depression, Espirit De Corps is a rarity and a treasure. While admirable wherever it may be found (such as in the case of the 12’s in Seattle), Espirit De Corps is most cherished and most needed within the body of Christ. 

We must once again recapture our Espirit De Corps if we are to be lifted from the collective doldrums of a depressed, divided, disillusioned and deconstructed Church. We must spark anew the flame of generous warmth which burns within the hearts of those who have rekindled their first love and reignited their sole passion for Christ. If we are to bring this light of the Gospel into the darkened hallways of the most wicked “households” of our society, we must lift our drooping hands, strengthen our weakened knees and run together the race that is set before us with our eyes focused squarely on Christ (see Hebrews 12). While we may have been shaken by the circumstances of the past few years, take confidence, for “we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, (therefore), let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.” Hebrews 12:28 (parentheses added for clarity). Let’s get our “spirit of the body” back, let’s get our Espirit De Corps!



Warren Mainard author photo
Warren Mainard
Executive Director | IMPACT Players
[email protected]
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