The issue on war in our society today is sure to stir a hot debate. Much more among Christian circles. After 9/11 and the continuing war in Iraq, Americans and the world in general, had become divided along sharp lines. Most conservatives are more likely to support war while the liberals are more likely to oppose. It is quite interesting that wide support comes from the Evangelical Christians. A 2002 survey showed that Evangelicals were found to be the most supportive sector of the population who are in favor for the war in Iraq. Not a few were perplexed: isn’t this a contradiction to Biblical teachings?
Is it not, that Christians were taught by Jesus to be “peacemaker” (Matthew 5:9)? Isn’t the God that they worship described as the “Prince of Peace” in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah9:6)? Does the Church go for war, with the belief that through this means it will triumph in love? Aren’t they instead, taught to love in order to prevent war? In both sides of this issue, we will find men and women who are truly sincere and honest upon their convictions. In fact, Scriptural tests can be found to support both “pro-war” and “anti-war” positions. Inherent upon these questions are also directed on whether God is either for or against war.
The Old Testament is filled with battles and even indicates God directing or going out to battle with His people (as long as it is sanctioned by Him). On the other hand, the New Testament teachings seemed to contradict or oppose the ways written in the Old Testament. It is filled with teachings and different expressions of love — for God, towards one’s neighbors and even to the point of loving one’s enemies. Does God’s Word run contradictory by itself; does God contradict Himself? Consequently, do Christians, as followers of Christ, express love at all times and never resort to the use of sword?
Would this principle apply at all times, as exemplified by Jesus and the Christian martyrs who gave their lives to the point of death? Or should they follow Old Testament examples of going to war in order for peace and love to reign? This study attempts to answer how Christians can rejoice in serving a God of love, who is also a God of war. Also, this paper will try to demonstrate how the same power that lifted up and brought unspeakable joy to the saints of God, is the same power that worked through God’s mighty men, as they fought through battles and received victory, for as long as they lived in obedience to His instructions.
II. The Nature/ Character of God It is important, that before we attempt to answer the questions mentioned above, one must lay first the proper foundation from which we will build our understanding of this particular issue. Before attempting to answer what God is for, we will first attempt to know what he is like. For much of what he does or does not do stems from who He is, and His character. He will never do anything that is out of His nature and character. Theologians have tried to describe God in various, different ways. He is known as the all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful God.
He is the source of substance from which all human virtues flow. He is the God who is able to do anything and everything; the one who possess everything GOOD that we would like to be. He is the only one who is omnipotent (all-powerful); omniscient (all-knowing); or omnipresent (present everywhere). God is a Spirit, who is eternal and ever living; the one, who has no beginning or end. He is a Person, referring upon Himself as “I am”, or the “Great I am”. In His person is the essence of love — and He reveals Himself as a loving, merciful God. He is also holy — meaning high above or cut above, and part of His holiness is His being righteous.
No evil or wrong can be found in Him. Therefore, He alone is the righteous judge — totally fair and just. The God that we speak of is no other than the Creator God. His power is what sustains the universe, existing outside creation. He is also present in it, which theologians call ‘immanent’, in which He sits as ruler over-all. Though He exists in nature, He is not nature, nor is He bound by the laws of nature. The best description of God was given by God Himself, through the name which He revealed of Himself to the Israelites, the name Yahweh.
It is usually translated as “Jehovah” or “Lord”. The name is the hiphil tense of the Hebrew verb “to be”, which suggest to mean “He who causes (everything else) to be” (P. Robertson. Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions). To know the name of God is to know His character. The names of God, found in the Bible, are God’s way of revealing Himself — His nature and character. At the heart of everything that God is and does, lies in the essence of His very being — that He is love. Love defines His character, and the reason for all His actions: “…. God is love” (I John 4:8b).
God is eternally one, of a single mind and purpose, and unchanging. If God is love, he is love before the creation of the world until after the end of time. He was, is, and will always be. He never changes. His love is not dependent on our actions — God is not love if I obey Him; vengeful if I disobey. All of His actions and purposes are consistent with love. Although much of the Old Testament records a lot of battles and wars, either with God directing the Israelites to fight or, the battles are directed against them with God’s sanction, this does not go against His loving character.
Whichever, still God revealed Himself to Israel as one who loves and keeps His covenant of love-relationship with them (Deuteronomy 7:6-13a). III. The Kingdom of God Second foundation is, to acknowledge and to understand the existence of two spiritual kingdoms. A kingdom is a place where a king rules. For God’s kingdom, wherever God reigns, there His kingdom exists. The kingdom of God is not visible, nor determined by spatial boundaries. It is a spiritual kingdom, therefore not visible in the naked eye. Jesus Christ said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).
Jesus gave his followers a pattern of prayer, commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer and in it a petition to God which says: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus showed through this prayer, His priority of God’s kingdom. In the kingdom of God, everything is subject to God’s power, with no question. The kingdom of God is eternal. For now, it exists as an invisible kingdom here in our midst. Wherever there are those who honor Jesus Christ as the King and Lord over all, and wherever the Spirit of the King is, there is the kingdom of God.
However, in the visible world, there is resistance to God’s will. This resistance is influenced by another kingdom, ruled by Satan. This kingdom led by Satan and his cohorts, is warring against God, His holy angels and his followers. It is also invisible to the naked eye. These two invisible kingdoms influence the visible world. Though the war has been won by Jesus on the Cross and his ascension to the right hand of God, the battle is still raging for the souls of men. IV. The Impact of the fall of Man The battle for man’s soul began with the first man, Adam.
With Adam’s disobedience to the terms of his rule, man “falls” thereby experiencing the loss of his “dominion”. As man’s relationship with God is severed, who is the fountainhead of his power to rule, everything of his delegated realm (Earth) comes under a curse. Man loses the “life” power essential to ruling in God’s Kingdom. Moreover, through his disobedience to God and submission to the Serpent’s suggestions, man’s rule has been forfeited to the Serpent. In Revelations 12:9, it verifies that the spirit using the snake’s form was Satan himself.
The domain originally delegated to man now has fallen to Satan (the prince of this world), who becomes administrator of this cursed realm. The Serpent’s “seed” and “head” show a continual line of evil offspring who carry out Satan’s rule. However, amidst the tragedy and bleak picture, God offers a way out. God, in his great love for man (despite their rebellion against Him), has moved His plan of redemption, and a plan to restore man’s lost estate through Christ Jesus, His only begotten Son. Thus, the battle for the soul of man, and man battling within himself (against his sinful nature), is real.
V. Covenant Relationship A beautiful picture of God’s plan of redemption for all mankind is seen in His relationship with Israel. Salvation is for all, but God planted the ‘seed’ of salvation through the nation of Israel, choosing them as a holy people, separated for His plan and purpose. Through the Israelites, God battles to restore the mankind back to Himself, and save them from eternal punishment. VI. Conclusion A. The Victory of Christians As a conclusion, Every Christian should have spiritual victory.
Robert Laurin, in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, says: “Victory is above all a religiously conditioned concept in Scripture. This is rooted in the basic biblical principle that God is just, punishing sin and rewarding righteousness… Victory is for the vindication of God’s purposes, or because of righteous living on the part of God’s people… “In the OT victory is almost exclusively over external foes and issues in physical peace and security. But in the New Testament victory is expressed mainly in terms of spiritual forces and blessings.
It is not triumph over social or economic difficulties that are the concern of the NT; it is mastery over temptation and the powers of evil… “Thus victory is both present and eschatological. It is now that a Christian enters into the power and blessings of a triumph yet to find its complete realization in the future. ” (See “Victory”). For all believers in Christ, the unseen world is not a fictional cosmos but a reality that had, and still continuous to have implication for all. Satan’s kingdom has waged war against the Creator God and his people, since the time of Adam, and has sought to bring defeat and disgrace to both.
Martin Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, says: “With cruel and dreadful might, he arms himself to fight; on earth he has no equal”. References: Robertson, P. Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions. 1984 Johnson, IB. “God is Love”. 3rd chapter on Systematic Theology. “Truth”. http://www. inspiredbooks. com/Truth. htm “Victory”. Cited in Adult Teacher Supplement. 1969 Martin, M. “Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Armament for Victory”. http://www. answers. org/issues/spiritual_warfare. html Spirit Filled Life Bible. New King James Version. 1991