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What's Wrong with War?

Jun 03, 2009

It may be that I have given the impression that I am a classic pacifist, one who believes that war is always wrong. Certainly, I am more of a pacifist than I used to be when I was younger. But, in fact, my belief is that war is simply not the first option, and if we must resort to war, it is probably a form of divine judgment upon us, and only secondarily a judgment upon "the enemy."

When we look at the biblical example of Israel, we see that God offered them the Sword of the Spirit at Mount Sinai, when He gave them His Word in the form of the Ten Commandments. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). When Israel ran from the mount, instead of drawing near in Ex. 20:18-21, they were refusing that spiritual Sword. Ten times Israel refused to hear the voice of God (Num. 14:22) just in the first 18 months. For this reason, David wrote in Ps. 95:7, 8, "Today if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. . ."

When a nation refuses the Sword of the Spirit, they receive the physical sword by default. At that point, their battles are fought by conventional warfare, instead of the preferred manner. Even so, conventional warfare, though far more bloody, will certainly be effective up to a point. The problem is that victory comes only with great expense on both sides, which could have been avoided.

If Israel had accepted the Sword of the Spirit, they would have received the weapon which the disciples in the upper room received on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. God offered those disciples the same weapon that He had offered to the Israelites on the original day of Pentecost at Mount Sinai. (Pentecost, or the feast of weeks, was a celebration of the giving of the law in Exodus 20.)

Whereas Israel refused this spiritual Sword, the disciples in the upper room accepted it, and so fulfilled the feast of Pentecost. The Spirit was given to them, and it was seen as "tongues of fire" on their heads (Acts 2:3). Israel had the potential of receiving this Sword, by which they might have conquered the Canaanites in the same manner as the disciples conquered men in their day. But because they were left with the default sword, their conquest involved great bloodshed.

In no way should Israel's warfare with Canaan be seen as the will of God to be emulated today. It was a secondary option then, and it is still so today. The main difference is that today we have far less excuse to use the physical sword, because the Church was given the Sword of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Church lost it somewhere along the way, whereas Israel never accepted it in the first place.

The early Christians used their Sword very effectively during the first century. They killed no one, not even the so-called "enemies of God." Instead, they used their Sword to turn those enemies into friends. It was done "not by power, not by might, but by My Spirit" (Zech. 4:6). They demonstrated the gifts of the Spirit and backed them up with the fruit of the Spirit in their personal lives. Their testimony and the way they lived was enough to instill the desire in others to know God as they did.

They did not need to force anyone to accept Jesus Christ as their savior. It was only many years later that the Church leaders began to use the power of the physical sword to force men to become church members. When they did this, they proved that men would not normally accept Christ and would only do so if forced and coerced by fear.

Such coercion is only needed when men do not find a religion to be attractive enough to convert willingly and joyfully. Those who feel that coercion is needed do not have a proper understanding of God and His character. They think of Him as stern, while they claim that He is gentle. They think of Him as harsh, while they claim that He is loving. They think of Him as loving bloodshed, while they claim that He is merciful. They give lip service to God, but their hearts are far from Him.

Many today assume that Joshua's conquest of Canaan is a valid tactic under the New Covenant. This was how the Church justified its violent methods throughout history, and this is also how Zionists today justify their harsh treatment of the Palestinians. This is even how the Christian Zionists justify their support for the most radical of Jewish Zionists. They assume that it is the will of God that all Palestinians leave their homeland or face extinction.

The Jewish point of view is an understandable extension of Old Covenant methods, enforced by the traditions of men. As such, it is understandable, though I strongly disagree with it. But Christians have little excuse for supporting them, since they should know better. It is only because the Church has had such a long history of Old Covenant methods, from the Medieval Crusades to the present Jewish conquest of Palestine, that Christians have been conditioned into giving up the New Covenant in favor of the Old.

Out of this has come the strange idea that the New Testament book of Hebrews got it all wrong. Hebrews 8 says that the Old Covenant was broken and is now "obsolete" (8:13 NASB). Modern Christian Zionism says that the New Covenant is now obsolete, and the Old Covenant is returning for the next thousand years. Dispensationalism has taught that we have been living in the age of Grace, but that this will soon end and be replaced by the age of Law.

By this they mean that the Church Age is ending and the Jewish Age is beginning. The sacrifice of Christ is ending, and animal sacrifices are soon to resume. The New Temple (our bodies) used to be the residence of Christ, but now He will come to dwell in a physical temple in Jerusalem as the more permanent structure. The Melchizedek priesthood will end with a resumption of Levitical priests.

Such theology makes the New Covenant into a temporary convenience that lasts only until the Jews become Christians, and then it will be replaced by the Old Covenant. Such theology destroys the entire book of Hebrews, but it is gaining more followers by the day. Why? Because the Church had already refused the New Covenant in practice by resorting to conversion by violence. While they gave lip service to the New Covenant, they practiced the Old Covenant and modeled their priesthood after Levi, rather than after Melchizedek.

This is the great apostasy at the end of the age, which the apostle Paul foresaw. It has happened, but many Christians did not see it because they thought the apostasy had to do with supporting abortions or gay marriage or some other social issue. It is most ironic that an abortionist doctor in Kansas would be murdered by a Christian opposing abortion. Was the murderer operating under the Old Covenant or the New? Obviously, he was trained in an Old Covenant Church that had traded its spiritual Sword for a physical sword.

I will not say that war is never an option. We must simply see that war is an Old Covenant option and perhaps the only option we may have in a nation that has lost the Sword of the Spirit. But if that option must be taken, war must be conducted according to the law in Deut. 20. If we continue to violate that law, we will continue to find ourselves under divine judgment, not only for losing the Sword of the Spirit, but also for violating the laws of physical warfare.

If we were really righteous in time of war, we would have no casualties. Jericho was conquered without a single Israelite casualty. But because Achan sinned, the next battle saw 36 Israelite casualties (Joshua 7:5). Get the picture? Just take a look at our casualty lists for each war we have fought. Is there something wrong with this picture?

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Category: Commentary
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones