Just War vs. Holy War

I. Introduction and review.

II. War is a terrible evil.

A. Why is there war? Js. 4:1-2
Autonomous man will not be able to end war. Mark 24:6-7 Ecc. 3:1,8

B. War displeases God.

1. War violently destroys human life, which is in God’s image. Gen. 9:6 6:11

2. Warfare destroys property and damages the environment. Dt. 20:19-20 Ex. 20:15

3. Even in a just war, the shedding of blood grieves God. I Chron. 28:3

4. Human capacity to violently wage war continues to increase.

C. Our sovereign God uses human warfare for His good purposes. Ro. 8:28 Amos 3:6

1. God uses war to punish the wicked. Lev. 26:23-26,33 Isa. 1:19-20 10:5 Jer. 5:14f

2. All war is a foretaste of divine judgment. Rom. 1:18

3. War can have some good results.

D. We should not glory in war. Peace, not war, is glorified in Scripture as the consummation of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. Ps. 46:9 Isa. 2:4 9:6f 11:6-16

III. Is pacifism biblical?

A. Why would someone be a pacifist?

1. Some religious leaders are against war under any and all circumstances.

2. Pacifists apply principles of non-retaliation, which are directed to individuals, to nations. Ro. 12:17-21 (but see 13:4) Mt. 5:38ff Pr. 24:29 I Pe. 2:21 Isa. 53:7

3. Most pacifists have an unbiblically optimistic view of humanity. Ro. 3:10f 12:18

4. Pacifists claim that Jesus has implemented a higher standard of conduct.

5. Pacifists express some valid concerns. Rom. 12:18

6. It is possible for one to be against a particular war without being a pacifist.

B. The Bible does not teach pacifism.

1. Jesus, John the Baptist, and Peter recognized the legitimacy of soldiering as an occupation. Luke 3:14 7:9 Acts 10:2,22

2. Scripture recognizes that warfare will be ongoing. Mt. 24:6 22:7 Lu. 14:31

3. Old Testament warriors are honored as heroes of the faith. Heb. 11:32-34

4. The New Testament is full of soldiering metaphors. If warfare were inherently wrong, these would not be used. Ro. 8:37 I Co. 9:7 II Ti. 2:3 Eph. 6:14-17

5. Civil government has been authorized to use the sword of justice, not only to punish evildoers, but also to protect its citizens from external threats. Rom. 13:4

6. God uses warfare to accomplish His purposes. Ex. 15:3-4

IV. Holy War!

A. Under the Old Covenant, God waged holy war through Israel. Ex. 17:8-16 15:3-4 23 Dt. 7:16 20:5-18 24:5 Num. 31:1-54 II Sam. 5:19-20 Ps. 68:1-2,12,17 144:1

1. Israel was a theocracy. God was their King, Who led them into battle. Deut. 33:5

2. Israel’s warfare in the holy land prefigures the final judgment. Ge. 15:16 Le. 20:23 Ps. 18:9-15 104:1-4 98:1f Isa. 19:1 Deut. 20

3. God sent enemy nations to conquer unfaithful Israel. Dt. 28:49f Lev. 26:23-26,33

B. Christ is our Holy Warrior.

1. Old Covenant warfare prefigured the ultimate victory of Christ.

2. He has conquered Satan, sin and death. Co 2:13f Ro. 16:20 Jo. 12:31 Eph 1:19 4:7

I Co. 15:54-57 He. 2:8 I Jo. 3:8 Lu. 11:20-22 Phil. 2:9-11

3. Christ will return as a Holy Warrior bringing judgment. Re. 19:11f Da. 7:13 2:44

C. There is no holy nation, holy land, or holy war under the New Covenant. I Pe. 2:9f

1. King Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, not as a military leader, but as a spiritual conqueror. Mark 11 John 18:36 Mt. 26:52

2. The kingdom of God is spiritual under the New Covenant.

3. Many nations have falsely claimed or assumed theocratic status. Christendom

D. We are engaged in a holy spiritual war. Eph. 6:11f II Ti. 2:3-4 II Co. 10:3-5. Our commission is not to slay, but to convert the nations. Mt. 18:16f

V. Just war.

A. While there is no longer holy war, there may be just war in which civil government uses the sword of justice to protect people from theft, slavery, oppression and death.

B. Criteria for just war (Augustine: 400 AD with later refinements). Ecc. 3:1,8

1. War must be fought for a just cause. Rom. 13:3-4 Pr. 31:8-9

2. War must be fought under the direction of a legitimate authority. Romans 13:1-2

3. War must be fought with rightful intentions: to avoid evil or achieve good.

4. War must be fought for well-defined objectives.

5. War must be fought only as a last resort. Rom. 12:18 Mt. 5:9 Deut. 20:10

6. War must be conducted in an honorable manner. Mt. 7:12 Ex. 20:16 Ps. 15:4

7. War must be fought in a way, which protects non-combatants. Ex. 20:15,13 Pr.6:17

8. War must be fought with proportionate means to achieve the objectives. Dt. 20:19f

9. War must be fought only if there is a reasonable hope of success. Lu. 14:31-32 Pr. 20:18 24:6

C. Individuals also have an obligation to wage war in a just manner. Acts 5:29

1. It is not wrong to serve as a soldier and to fight in a just war.

2. If you are convinced a war is unjust, you must be a conscientious objector.

3. If you are told to conduct warfare in an unjust way, you should refuse orders.

D. Questions.

1. Is it ever permissible for citizens to overthrow their own government?

2. Is it right to fight another nation which is cruelly oppressing its people? Pr. 31:8-9

3. Are weapons of mass destruction immoral because they kill non-combatants?

4. Is pre-emptive warfare an option? Anticipatory self-defense. Esther 9

5. What is the best way to avoid war?

VI. Concluding applications: What should Christians do in times of war? Be good citizens.

A. Think biblically and critically.

1. Don’t confuse the kingdom of God with either pacifism or patriotism.

2. Beware of those who speculate about current events and biblical prophecy.

B. Pray for our rulers, our soldiers, and our enemies. I Tim. 2:1-4 Rom. 13:14 Mt. 5:44

C. Thank God for the religious and political freedom we enjoy.

D. Be engaged in spiritual warfare. Eph. 6:12 II Co. 10:3-5 II Ti. 2:3-4

E. Eagerly await the triumphant return of King Jesus. Rev. 11:15 19:11f 15:4 20:11f

Discussion Questions:

1. Why does God hate war?
2. How does God use war for good?
3. Why is pacifism unbiblical?
4. How was Holy War conducted under the Old Covenant?
5. How is Holy War conducted under the New Covenant?
6. In what sense is Christ a Holy Warrior?
7. What is the difference between a just war and a holy war?
8. What are the characteristics of a just war?
9. Under what circumstances should a Christian refuse to fight in a war?
10. What are the duties of a Christian citizen in times of war?