When my dear brother Gert-Jan wrote, “And Keith is right, civil government is ordained to use vengeance on evil-doers,” in effect he conceded the debate. It is illogical and unscriptural to indict a Christian with murder and to absolve an alien sinner of all guilt for precisely the same act. All sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). In this age, all mankind, both saints and sinners, are subject to the law of Christ (Isaiah 2:1-4; Luke 24:44-49; Matthew 28:18; Mark 16:15; Ephesians 1:15-23). God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25). All in the present age will be judged impartially by the same Judge administering the same law from the same Lawgiver (1 Peter 1:17; John 5:22; Romans 2:16; John 12:48). What God permits alien sinners to do, He also permits Christians to do. If an alien sinner has the right to be a soldier, a Christian does as well.
Gert-Jan is not sure whether there is a separate law for alien sinners. The Jewish leaders couldn’t tell the source of John’s baptism, because they were unwilling to accept the consequences (Matthew 21:23-27). Dear brother, is this your problem? Gert-Jan made no reply to my argument that there is only one divine law in force in this age and thus conceded it.
We agree that civil authorities do not bear the sword in vain and that they are held accountable for their actions. “The meaning of the apostle is, that he does not wear this badge of authority as an unmeaningful show, but that it will be used to execute the laws” (Barnes). They must use lethal force lawfully and justly (Romans 13:3-4). Logically, this answer concedes the debate.
A whiskey distillery depends on the sale of whiskey to stay in business. Anyone who works in any capacity for the company shares in the sin (Ephesians 5:11). All civil rulers depend on those who use lethal force to enforce civil laws (Romans 13:4). If Christians may serve in any capacity in civil government, they may serve as police officers and military personnel.
If Christians may help select civil rulers, thus participating in civil government, they may serve as the law enforcement and military personnel who defend and uphold the government (Ephesians 5:11).
I used the Old Testament as the author of Hebrews did in chapter eleven. The specific divine requirements have changed to meet man’s changing conditions (Matthew 19:3-9), but the principles of divine rule remain the same, because God is unchanging and unchangeable (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). The definition of the act of murder is no different in the New Testament than in the Old (Matthew 5:21-22). What was righteous taking of human life then is now.
If it is right for God to punish evil doers (Genesis 9:6), it is right for Christians to be his instruments in so doing. He is our standard of morality (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 1:2-4).
Gert-Jan inquires, “Where in the new covenant do we find the command of God that Christians can fight in war?” Romans 13:4.
Gert-Jan just assumes without proof that the just, legal taking of human life in warfare is murder. Jesus did not change the Old Testament definition of murder (Matthew 5:21-22); He prohibited the anger and angry words that lead to the act (Ibid). Of course murder, the shedding of innocent blood (Deuteronomy 19:11-13), is wrong and always has been (Genesis 4:3-12).
If all killing is murder, then Romans 13 necessarily implies that God approves, even appoints, civil officers to commit murder (Romans 13:1, 4) and calls all such murders “the ordinance of God” (verse 2), the work of “God’s minister” (verse 4), and “good” (verse 4). Has God authorized civil government to do evil or good? “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil...” (Isaiah 5:20).
Brother van Zanten and I agree that Jesus brought in new teaching. But he did not change the definition of murder (Matthew 5:21-22).
Where does the text specify that personal vengeance is the forbidden vengeance? Brother van Zanten underlined the words himself, “Avenge NOT yourselves” (Romans 12:19). Is “yourselves” personal? We’re to leave vengeance to God (Ibid), and civil officers are His ministers to do the good work of dispensing divine vengeance (Romans 13:4).
Civil government does not exist apart from the individuals who comprise it. Anyone, saint or sinner, can be “God’s minister ... for good” (Romans 13:4).
The fact Christians may seek protection from civil government (Acts 23:12-32) necessarily implies Christians may provide that protection. If it’s sinful to provide armed protection, it’s sinful to seek or to accept it (Ephesians 5:11).
To be “God’s minister ... for good” is not worldly. To be “God’s minister ... for good” is obedience to God.
If a Christian can be an Erastus, he can be a Cornelius.
Gert-Jan concedes that without civil government the world would revert to the violent conditions that prevailed before the Flood. His position makes Christians parasites on society, benefitting from the good work of police officers and military personnel but withdrawing fellowship from Christians who help provide it.
I’m not defending a Christian being a Nimrod. I’m defending his right to protect innocent citizens from the Nimrods (Hitlers, Husseins) of the world.
I’ve given Gert-Jan abundant scriptural proof by generic authority and necessary implication, but he demands specific authority, thus making the same mistake “No Bible Class” brethren make.
A Christian does indeed have the right to be “God’s minister ... for good.” We should pray for government leaders, police officers, and military personnel, not slander them as murderers, that through their efforts we will have the order and peace in our world that will make it possible to take the gospel to the whole world in our time (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The Scriptures authorize Christians to use lawful and just lethal force in military service.
Barnes, Albert, Notes on the New Testament. e-Sword.