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The Church and Its Orthodoxy (Conformity) Toward War: Part 5


As we have seen in the last article, the Book of Hebrews starts out with a definitive statement of the relationship and authority of Jesus regarding everything that was written, or said, before His arrival. But, the words from the author of Hebrews are only an intensification of the words spoken by Jesus Himself in Matthews 5. Here Jesus takes a decisive stance with His proclamation of, “You have heard it said . . . But I say . . . .” In other words Jesus is saying that, what you have read in the Old Testament from Moses and the Prophets, was the Father’s words to you for that time, but here is how you are to understand these words from now on. Jesus, with one authoritative announcement to the multitudes, overrides that whole state of affairs. Wow! Can He do that? Yes! Jesus was the Son sent by the Father to deliver the final word, of which the Father says, “. . . Listen to Him.”

The plain and simple teaching of Jesus is the foundation for the other more difficult sayings. Just as we interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament, we should also interpret Jesus’ more difficult sayings by His plain and simple sayings. So, what are some of these foundational sayings of Jesus regarding war and violence?

Before Jesus ever said a word, His Father had already spoken about the vindication of wrong doing.

It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” Deuteronomy 32:35

What Jesus says about vindicating evil, whether it is personal vindication, or vindication in concert with government, is only a reinforcement of His Father’s wishes. It is my position that when the interpretation of the Old and New Testament are understood correctly that there will be no conflict at all between them. Jesus never gave a new meaning to the Old Testament, nor did He cancel out the Old Testament, but rather He fulfilled all its requirements, and elucidated and expanded it. As laws are prone to do, men found loopholes through verbal gymnastics, but with the illumination and disambiguation of the simple and plain words of Jesus, men found themselves captured and condemned by the guilt of a corrupted heart and conscience, John 3:19-21. The “Law,” now exposed to the hearts of men, in all its Old testament ordinances and New Testament illumination, registers perfectly upon the hearts of both the Father and the Son; there is no conflict or disagreement; neither is there a difference in attitude toward war and bloodshed, and neither war or bloodshed was ever to have a place in the affairs of men. The Old Testament was to establish a precedent from which the Gospel would emerge.

Christ’s mission to man was to correct this problem of evil and blindness, by atoning for their sin and offering up, on the cross, the blood of a single perfect sacrifice, Himself, and to initiate those who choose to believe, into His kingdom of Light, which was, and is, a present reality with a whole new allegiance, system of administration, and way of seeing.

When Jesus was asked the way into this kingdom of eternal life He immediately referred them to the moral code of the Old Testament, i.e. the Ten Commandments, Matthew 19:16-19. When more information was demanded He clarified the code by revealing that there were essentially only two parts, Matthew 22:37, 39-40.

1. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” and

2. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self.”

And, when yet further inquiry was made He made it perfectly clear that this “love” could only be obtained through the exclusive work and power of God, by way of regeneration, i.e. rebirth, John 3:3; and the Bible says, if we love God and our fellowman, it is only because Jesus first loved us, 1John 4:7-10.

The New Testament is the inspired story of His example and the effects it had on the lives of men, hardened by life in a world ruled by evil, held hostage by a foreign foe, confronted by the revealed essence of the moral code, cut to the heart by its condemning force, and made whole again by fixing their heart and mind on the One suspended between Heaven and earth, Numbers 21:6-9; John 3:14-15.

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man . . . .” Romans 8:3

Now Christ is our King, and the invitation is spread abroad that men everywhere should submit to His rule and follow Him. He is our perfect example of perfect love. He walked in the Spirit always, and not the flesh. The moral code was fulfilled in His every word and deed. Jesus is the Good Shepard who lays down His life for the sheep; and He leaves the ninety nine safe to go look for the lost one, Luke 15:3-7; John 10:11. His selfless manner resonated perfectly with His sacrifice on the cross, Isaiah 53:7; and it is that life that resonates through His body of followers, the Ecclesia–the Church.

Jesus, in Mathew 5, kicks the moral code of Moses up to a whole new level. Why was this necessary? The Law of Moses just wasn’t good enough (Hebrews 8:6-7) to meet the stringent standards required for the kingdom Jesus came to introduce. An example of what I mean is this; murder and adultery were a violation of the Law of Moses, and the Israelites considered the law to be kept if they could restrain themselves from the outward expression of these things. But, this is not good enough for kingdom life; the Lord is Lord of even our thoughts and intentions, Hebrews 4:12. Hatred and lust are just as much a violation of the law as the overt act itself. Even civil legal authorities recognize that violence and lust are most often played out in the mind of the criminal many times before it breaks forth into an outward act. In the new kingdom men must be freed from even the thoughts of violence, Matthew 5:21-22.

Under the Old Covenant divorce and oaths had been given concessions due to the hardness of men’s hearts; but the permissions did not negate the law or the penalty, so Jesus removed the concessions. Now, divorce and oaths have been disallowed under the New Covenant, Matthew 5:31-37.

In Matthew 5:38-44 Jesus puts the emphasis on love and forgiveness.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . . .”

Jesus reiterates His teaching on forgiveness by answering the question on how many times a person must be forgiven, when stating, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” When Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, declared that we should not resist an evil person, the door was closed on the idea that this level of forgiveness should be reserved for only “brothers and sisters” of the faith. Jesus goes on to say that;

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

I could go on with more proofs of the plain and simple teachings of Jesus on the subject of war and violence; but so we don’t lose focus that this is a refutation of Mr. Moyer’s argument for Christian war and violence, I am going quickly to point #3, that Jesus and the Apostles also taught nonresistance by their lives, and conclude this point with a single paragraph.

What was the example lived out by Jesus and the Apostles? It is one thing to preach a good sermon, but, as they say, words are cheap. I don’t think anyone would make the argument that Christ did not live out to the–nth degree–His entire teaching, and concluded His life in a display of absolute obedience to that teaching of nonresistance, and to the will of His Father. Likewise, every Apostle, except John, sealed their testimony by following Jesus in the strict obedience of a sacrificed life of nonresistance to evil. This is their testimony and example of spiritual warfare, using the weapons of love and a selfless life, and how men were captured and set free, and Satan defeated.

Now that we have touched on the plain and simple teachings of Jesus and laid a firm foundation from the heart and life of Jesus, and His Apostles, it is time to deal with Mr. Moyer’s own question of;

“Did Jesus Teach Anything About War?”

Mr. Moyer starts off answering his question with probably the most misunderstood statement of Jesus on this issue. He says, “In Luke 22:36 Jesus says, ‘He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.’” Mr. Moyer is correct, it does say that, and he is also correct in his opinion that we should not spiritualize the “sword” to make it agree with the non-conformist or pacifist view. Mr. Moyer continues by saying, “. . . to say that the Lord referred to the two swords when He said, ‘. . . It is enough’ (Luke 22:38) is poor understanding.” Mr. Moyer rather likes to pretend that the Lord was making an, “abrupt dismissal;” as if Jesus was treating His disciples like children and telling them to hush; “that is enough” from you boys; and that saying, “it is enough” does not mean that that number of swords were sufficient or “enough.” Then he proceeds to agree that some people “insist that what our Lord meant was that the sword was to be used merely for self-defense.” Mr. Moyer then also agrees that “it does mean that, and that is sufficient to overthrow any theory of non-resistance held by pacifist, conscientious objectors, Quakers, or any other sect.” Then he concludes that these words are decisive.

Mr. Moyer makes two grave mistakes here. First, he totally ignores the very plain and simple teaching of Jesus, for a more obscure passage and draws unwarranted conclusions based on a faulty analysis of the text and subject; by doing this be leads his readers into darkness instead of light. The many plain and simple teaching of Jesus are replaced by one obscure passage; and a whole new doctrine is created from pure artifice and illusion.

The second error he makes is one that a freshman student can easily avoid. Dr. Moyer completely disregards the context of what is being said and chooses rather to use a little sophistry and dishonesty to promote a mere opinion. Let’s look at the complete passage, and related passages, and see if any kind of truth emerges. Luke 22:36-38, 49-51; Matthew 26:50-54; Isaiah 53: 12,

“He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.’ The disciples said, ‘See, Lord, here are two swords.’ ‘That’s enough!’ he replied.”

“When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.”

“Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’”

“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

The context and the related passages give a complete picture and remove the obscurity; there is no need to use conjecture or opinion when all is spelled out for us through prophecy and the very words of Jesus. Why did Jesus ask for swords? To fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy! When they said they had two swords, Jesus wasn’t telling them to–shut-up!–when He said, “That is enough,” He simply said that two swords were enough to fulfill the prophecy and to be numbered with “transgressors;” and Peter’s use of the sword against the High Priest’s servant certainly made them transgressors. Then Jesus, who Mr. Moyer says approved the use of the sword for self-defense, tells Peter to put the sword away, and heals the servant. By simply reading the passages all the mystery vanishes, and leaves in its wake the truth that men’s hearts love darkness more than light, and violence more than peace.

When Mr. Moyer claims that the swords were for self-defense we have to consider the whole picture of Jesus’ life, and the lives of the Apostles. Jesus plainly teaches and reveals His heart on the subject, so we must not throw all the plain and simple teachings away when we go in search for the answer to the self-defense question. We must refuse to force words in to the mouth of the Lord and make Him double-minded, or imagine that in the body of Christ lurks a heart not yet perfectly in-tune with His own teachings or the principles of God’s Kingdom come to earth. After the incident in the garden we never again hear of a sword in the possession of Peter or any of the others.

Mr. Moyer continues to persist in his opinion that Jesus taught in favor of war and violence. We will pick up with his defense of war in the next article.

Series Navigation<< The Church and Its Orthodoxy (Conformity) Toward War: Part 4The Church and Its Orthodoxy (Conformity) Toward War: Part 6 >>

2 replies on “The Church and Its Orthodoxy (Conformity) Toward War: Part 5”

It's curious that a minister of the gospel would conclude what he did about the words of Jesus in Luke 22.  Once again we are confronted with the impotence of human reasoning when it comes to the things of God.  It reminds me of the commonly held truism that Jesus spoke in parables to make Himself better understood (or because people like stories) when Jesus tells us exactly why He did this in Matthew 13:13-15!  Again – to fulfill prophecy.  Blessed are the eyes that see and the ears that hear…   

Hello David,

It is curious indeed; not only a minister but a doctor of theology. It is the common view of Americans who are being spoon fed the corruption that has come down to us from Calvin and the like. As Matthew 13:13-15, that you mention, says, they do not want to know the truth because it would demand that they “believe.” Some are beginning to believe, but we need more voices.

Thanks and have a great year in the Lord,

Steve Blackwell

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