The Bible and Voting – Part 15Proverbs 14:34 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 16, 2016 • The Bible and Voting 2016
SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH
October 16, 2016 The Bible and Voting, Part 15
Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of Revelation, chapter 19 and verse 11, coming towards the end of our study on The Bible and Voting. It seems to be a subject on everybody’s mind; three weeks to go, we have all the October surprises coming out and I call it the silly season, lots of polls, pundits, speeches, debates, and I’m always frustrated when we hit this time, every four years, every two years really, and the reason I’m frustrated is there’s so much talk in the culture about this and that. People are pontificating about all kinds of issues and they’re acting as if God has never spoken or revealed Himself.
And one of the things that we are very convinced of here is that the Bible, which is inspired by God, is not just a book about how to get to heaven (as important as that subject is), it’s really a book, if you let it speak it speaks to every area of life. And that’s why I wanted to do this series, The Bible and Voting, talking about things that the Bible reveals concerning current issues of the day that are very hot and debated within the culture. So this is not a series really designed to ramrod people into one political party or the other; I don’t know if the IRS would appreciate that if I did that anyway, and even if I could do it I wouldn’t want to do it. It’s more talking about things where God has revealed Himself and how you vote is really between you and the Lord.
It’s a lot like a typical sermon where you’re given truth and it really is not the pastor’s job to make the application; he can show you the application but whether you make the application on Monday morning is really up to you. And that’s the spirit in which these remarks are offered; I’m trying to get us back to the Scripture and to get us to think about the political world the way God thinks about it. And so consequently we have gone through a series of economic issues where God has spoken, and from there we moved into a series of social issues where God, once again, has spoken. And we’re sort of at the tail end of the series dealing with the subject of foreign affairs where once again God has spoken. A lot of people would want us to have a one-world government. I think God has spoken on that, Genesis 11. A lot of people act as if the enforcement of borders is some kind of uncompassionate thing to do. I think God has spoken on that, as we have studied. A lot of people are very ambivalent and really could care less about the United States and its historic relation to the nation of Israel. I, once again, think that God has spoken on that subject.
And then we come to this final subject that we’ve been interacting with, the whole subject of national defense, peace through strength as we talked about it last week. This gets into the subject of terrorism. Terrorism, of course, is something on all of our minds as almost now a normal part of the culture is seeing yet another terrorist attack on American soil, whether it be 9-11, Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon bomber, Orlando, Chelsea New York, San Bernardino. And once again this is a subject that people examine without the light of Scripture. We are not doing that in this series because this is yet another area where God has spoken. God has spoken or revealed Himself on the issue of terrorism.
We’ve been following this outline, it’s got about six parts, the first four we’ve already gone through. We’ve looked at terrorism’s false causes; people will blame terrorism on everything other than its actual cause. You noticed that? Poverty, lack of education, there’s always the blame America first crowd, anything that’s wrong in the world it must be America’s fault. I’ve gone through those meticulously and showed you that those are not the biblical explanations for terrorism. From there we transitioned into terrorism’s actual causes and the Bible reveals two things: number 1, the depravity of man, we’ve spent quite a bit of time in Mark 7:20-23 where Jesus indicates that murder (you could substitute the word terrorism for murder) emanates from the heart. It’s not what goes into a man, Jesus says to the Pharisees, that makes him unclean; it’s what naturally springs out of him in his fallen state and He mentions many, many sins, including the sin of murder. The fact of the matter is we’re all terrorists; all of us have the potential for terrorist activity but you see, that terrorist heart, which we all have, comes into contact with something that I call a radical ideology, whether it be Marxism or Islam or any number of ideologies we could talk about. A radical ideology is an ideology that people buy into that gives their sin nature permission to vent itself.
Christianity, of course, runs counter to the sin nature, it’s always telling us to stay away from things that I already want to do. Not so with a radical ideology, and typically when you find people involved in terrorism you’ll find lurking in the background some sort of radical non-biblical ideology which gives people the permission to target innocent civilians in the aim of accomplishing some kind of higher good. We’ve talked in depth about that. And if we understand the root of terrorism we come up with a proper solution as to how to deter it because God has given us, I believe, the solution to terrorism. But if your diagnosis of the problem is incorrect then you can’t come up with a right solution, so today we’re inundated with all sorts of false solutions to terrorism—we need military reduction, appeasement, dialogue, more treaties, more subsidies, apology tours, and the like.
And if we would only return to the Word of God… the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 8 and verse 11 says this: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.” God has ordained an institution, this takes us to Roman numeral IV, of the proper solution to terrorist activity. I’m very fond of this quote by Robert Charles Winthrop, who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1847-1849, speaking to the Massachusetts Bible Society. He makes a tremendous statement: “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.” [Robert Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1852), 172. Speech to the Massachusetts Bible Society (1849-05-28).]
The greatest deterrent to terrorist activity and violence in general is the Scripture. Once the Scripture enters the heart of a person through their growth in Christ, because they’ve been born spiritually and they have the new nature, and they begin to grow in that faith, that event, as miraculous as it is, spiritually in and of itself does more to help society than any other single event because the Bible has within it a built-in system that tells people perpetually to grow in Christ I have to live counter to my natural instincts.
This is why our Founding Fathers, as we have said many, many times, were so big on the promotion of the Bible. In fact, it’s very interesting that Winthrop, the Speaker of the House, made this statement before a Bible society. When was the last time you found a politician of that caliber (A) not only speaking for a Bible society or before a Bible society but saying to this Bible society that you guys are actually doing the work of freedom because you’re allowing us to keep government limited (which is what America is all about), and if we’re going to have limited government people have to learn how to control themselves. The best solution to people controlling themselves, according to our Founding Fathers, was the Ten Commandments of God. That’s why all this talk about we need to take the Ten Commandments down from the public school walls; from city halls. It’s such silly talk; it’s thoroughly antithetical to the way America’s founders thought; they wanted Christianity promoted even promoted in public life, because that’s the greatest bulwark or deterrent against violent activity.
But God has another solution to terrorism; if the first doesn’t work He has ordained an institution. Notice what Winthrop says here: “Men will be controlled, either by the Bible, or the bayonet, either by the Word of God or the strong arm of government.” If I don’t have an internal value system to keep me under control in my moments of rage then there has to be another check and balance at work which acts as a deterrent; it puts fear into my heart acting as a deterrent to keep me away from the violence that my heart naturally wants to commit. That is called the institution of human government; to understand the origin of human government you have to understand what the world was like just prior to the flood.
Genesis 6:11 says this of that antediluvian pre-flood world: “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with” what? “violence.” The pre-flood world was characterized by unrestrained violence; there was virtually nothing as a check and balance against the depraved nature of man. And following the flood, as God begins to repopulate the earth through Noah’s three sons the sin nature in people never changed. In fact, there’s a reference to the ongoing sin nature in that post-flood world in the book of Genesis, chapter 8 and verse 21 where it talks about how the intent of man’s thoughts and heart is continually wicked from his youth. [Genesis 8:21, “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.’”]
Given that truth of the depraved nature of man, which has not changed, pre-flood, post-flood, God’s solution to it is the institution of human government, where God, in what’s called His covenant with Noah, called the human government into existence and He vested in human government the power of the sword, which as we have said in prior sermons is the basis for capital punishment. God says this in the post-flood world. “Whoever sheds man’s blood,” notice this, “by man,” not by God, “by man shall his blood be shed.” That is the origin of a human institution that God gave as a gift to the human race to put a check or a state of fear in the heart of sinful man which holds him back from natural bloodshed. If they won’t be constrained by the Bible and God’s truth then the only thing left to keep them under control is the threat of force. And that’s the logic of human government. Human government, of course, is not part of God’s covenants with Israel. It’s a covenant that God made with Noah which benefits all of humanity, which precedes (by a long period of time) the calling of Abraham. It is a preservative human government that God built into the human race to allow it to perpetuate, to prevent it from regressing to what it was like prior to the flood.
And Paul, of course, picks up on the institution of human government, not in the Old Testament but where? In the New Testament. Paul, in Romans 13 is just reiterating the Noahic Covenant when Paul says in Romans 13, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.” If you “want to have no fear of authority, do what is good and you will have praise from the same.  for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practice evil.” Paul is simply repeating; he is recycling what the original design for God was doing back to the Noahic Covenant.
Peter talks about the same thing in 1 Peter 2:13-14 where he says, “governors” that’s the institution of human government, “are sent by Him for the punishment of evil doers.” [1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,  or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”]
And you see, the Bible teaches, and sociologists debate this, political scientists debate it. I don’t debate it because the Bible teaches it; it teaches the reality of deterrents; deterrents is the idea that I’m so afraid of doing the time that I’ll hopefully stay away from the what? The crime. That’s the logic of human government. That’s what holds people back, many times, from doing atrocities. You see this in God’s working with the nation of Israel. Now I acknowledge that we’re not under the Law of Moses today but the principle of deterrents is there in the Mosaic Law about stoning people to death who commit certain sins. And then verse 11 of Deuteronomy 13 says, “Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you.”
Why don’t I drive home today and walk into a liquor store or convenience store and just take what I want; I mean, that’s what my heart already wants to do, why don’t I just do it? Well, I see what happens to people that do that; they get caught, they get punished. And so I stay away from certain things, not because of the goodness of my own heart many times, but because of fear of punishment. And what would this world be like if you took away the fear of punishment? It would be just like it was prior to the flood.
And consequently people have a very distorted view of what government is supposed to do, arguing many times from the position of pacifism, and we’ve gone through those arguments last week, the pacifist’s position where it’s this idea that the government should not punish, the government should never go to war, is an exercise in distorting one Bible verse after another. We’ve walked through several of them, turn the other cheek, the commonly misquoted command, “thou shalt not kill;” it doesn’t say “thou shalt not kill,” it says “thou shalt not” what? “murder,” and we’ve talked about the difference between killing and murder. But what you hear many times is distortions of the Bible out of harmony with what God established human government to do.
And now we move into Roman numeral V and many people have asked me about this, so now we’re talking about it. Of course, the way this usually works is I say wait a minute, we’re getting to that and then the people that had the question don’t show up that Sunday, but fortunately for technology we have it archived for you, but many people have asked me, I get this whole idea of the government and its responsibility to restrain evil in a lawless world but is it possible for the government to go too far? Is it possible, as you walk about wars and the need to go to war in certain circumstances, is it not possible that the government can step out of line and go to war when really it’s not supposed to go to war? And we are not the first generation that’s ever wrestled with this. In fact, when you get into this subject you’ll find that theologians have been arguing about this and talking about this for centuries. This is called the principles of just war. There’s at least eight of them. Do you mind if I give these to you?
Where do I get these from? I get these from the ESV Study Bible, page 255, it talks about the subject of war and in a very nice, neat, concise way it lays out the criteria for a just war. It talks about the subject of war and in a very nice, neat, concise way it lays out the criteria for a just war. Yes, government has a God ordained function but it is possible for government to step outside of its God ordained authority and begin to do things that God never called it to do, hence the theologians who have wrestled with this say, “There must be principles of just war in place before a government goes to war.” We, as you know, in this country, invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, to root out terrorism and terrorist that committed such an atrocity against our citizens on 9-11. There are many Christian voices that will tell you that what our government did was non-Christian, what our government did was wrong. And I will let you be the judge of that and any other war simply by asking ourselves are the principles of just war being dutifully followed. There are eight principles so here we go:
Number 1, the war must be for a just cause. Now is it possible that war, as terrible as it is, can be for the right cause. Apparently so because Jesus Himself is going to declare war. Did you know that? Did you know that when Jesus comes back to this earth He is not coming back as a meek and mild lamb; He’s coming back as a lion to declare war, and in the process of describing this war Revelation 19:11 says this: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True,” watch this, “and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” So apparently Jesus is coming back to declare war, Revelation 14 tell us that this war that Jesus declares on the unsaved world will be so severe that the blood will flow as high as the horse’s bridles for two hundred miles. [Revelation 14:20, “And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.”] That’s quite a blood bath, isn’t it? And yet it’s Jesus Christ Himself who is declaring this war. And notice Revelation 19 calls it a righteous war. [Revelation 19:11, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”] Aha, “righteous war.” There must be wars that are righteous.
Now for God to declare war He’s always righteous, but if we as mere human beings fulfill our God-ordained function in human government and declare war how are we to know if the war we declare is righteous or unrighteous? We’re just fallen human beings. Hence the principles of just war. The first principle is this: You do not go to war unless the cause is just or unless the cause is righteous. In the ESV Study Bible it defines righteousness or a just cause as follows: “Is the reason for going to war a moral right or a moral cause such as” what? “such as defense of the nation.” That’s the first thing you ask; is the war for petty reasons? Is the war for simply revenge? Or is there an actual righteous cause in it?
This takes us to principle number 2; number 2, was the war declared by a competent legal authority? The ESV Study Bible puts it this way. “Competent authority, has the war been actually declared, not simply by a renegade band within a nation but by a recognized competent authority within that nation.” So a bunch of malcontents get power and they bring a nation to war, that second principle, under those circumstances, would not be satisfied. You see, under the United States government there’s a way to go to war and there’s a way not to go to war. Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution is very clear, it says: “Congress shall have the power to” do what? “Article 1, section 8, “to declare war.” Article 1 of the Constitution governs the Congress; Article II of the Constitution governs the Presidency, and Article 2, section 8, says this: “The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”
Notice the logic here: Congress declares the war, the President of the United States as the sole organ of foreign affairs, as he has been called by our Supreme Court, prosecutes the war, conducts the war. Now that’s an interesting formula given here by our Founding Fathers. What you’ll start to discover is a lot of the wars we’ve gotten ourselves into haven’t gone through that constitutional formula. That’s why sometimes they change the definition…oh, this is not really a war, this is just a police action. But the second question in just war, when you’re deciding is a war right or is a war not right, is you try to figure out has that war, which hopefully for a good cause, a righteous cause, has it actually been declared by a competent legal authority.
The third principle is this, the principle of comparative justice. What does comparative justice mean? It should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong and the motives and the actions of one’s own nation in going to war in comparison are morally right. When you look at the subject of morality, like, for example, our decision to intervene in World War II to stop Adolf Hitler, is comparative justice acknowledge? Is the decision to go to war, which is always a horrific thing, it always brings atrocity, are our motives in going to war correct and accurate in comparison to what would happen if we didn’t go to war…comparative justice.
This, or course, is the natural function of government. Romans 13:3-5 says, “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” [Romans13:3-5, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;  for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.  Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”]
Notice in that statement itself that governments have the ability to discern good from evil. Well, if they’re not saved where do they get this idea from? They get it from something called conscience. What is conscience? You’ll find a description of conscience in Romans 2:14-15. [Romans 2:2-14-15, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,  in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”] It’s this idea that God has put His laws into the hearts of all people, whether they are saved or unsaved. Everybody functions according to conscience.
Now of course your conscience can become deadened through constant rebellion but conscience is there. You say prove it. Here’s how you can prove it, you’ve got two kids at home; you tell kid A if you go and mow the lawn I’ll take you to the baseball game tonight. You tell kid B if you go and mow the lawn I’ll take you to Disney World. What’s the first kid going to day? That’s not what? Fair. Isn’t it interesting how little kids always say “that’s not fair.” They have an instinctive ability to understand unfairness and inequity. Now you might want to go to the baseball game instead of Disney World but most kids I think would rather go to Disney World than the baseball game so just bear with me in my analogy. But the concept of fairness is in little children; it’s in all of us from our earliest memories. How did we ever get this idea that things are supposed to be fair and supposed to be equitable. The answer to that is conscience.
And so when a government is seeking to ascertain whether a war is just or unjust Paul says that governments exist to punish those who do wrong, commend those who do right. How do they know what’s right from wrong? They instinctively know it and can know it and should know it based on something Paul talked about earlier in the book of Romans called conscience. You know a lot of the war crimes that the Nazi’s were put on trial for, a lot of the Nazi’s used the excuse well, we were just following orders, we killed all these Jews, we shot all these people, we abused all these people because we were just following orders. And you’ll notice that in the international prosecution of those Nazis that excuse did not wash. Why did it not wash? They should have known what they were doing was wrong. They should have known what they were doing was evil because of the reality of conscience and the fact that conscience is in all human beings. Governments have this ability to understand right from wrong when it comes to this very important subject of just war.
The fourth principle is this: is there a right intention. In other words, is there a right motivation? The ESV Study Bible puts it this way: “Right intention is the purpose of going to war to project justice and righteousness rather than merely seeking to rob and pillage and destroy another nation.” There are all kinds of wars that take place in our world. In fact, if I understand the words of Christ correctly, wars and rumors of wars are supposed to increase and escalate as we get closer to the end of the age. I see that in Matthew 24:7 and following. [Matthew 24, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.  But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”]
So we have to ask ourselves when we see wars happening, was the motive actually for a right intention? Was it there kind of like cancer where you go into your body and you declare war on that part of your body to do what? Simply to prevent it from spreading, so the war that you’ve declared on that cancer through surgery or medical treatment is painful but it’s designed to accomplish a greater good. Was the war declared for a right reason, a right intention? Or is it simply to get rich, to increase one’s boundaries and borders at the expense of someone else because they were weaker than you? Is the war there simply for revenge because of some past wrong committed against a nation? There are all kinds of reasons wars occur; the issue with just was is is the intention correct?
The book of Proverbs, chapter 21 and verse 2 puts it this way: “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.” What a horrific decision to send American troops into Harm’s way, to send any nation’s troops into Harm’s way. The theologians have said it must be for a right intention.
And there’s a fifth principle of just war, it’s the principle of last resort. Last resort, the ESV Study Bible puts it this way: “Last resort: have all the other reasonable means of resolving the conflict been exhausted?” The book of Romans, chapter 12, verse 18, puts it this way: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Isn’t it interesting that we as Christians are supposed to be peace lovers. We are to, even in our personal relationships, pursue peace, pursue harmony as long as that opportunity is available. But Paul is very clear, as long as “it depends upon you.” There may be times when peace is no longer an option in our personal relationships with each other and with other people. Perhaps someone’s conduct in a personal relationship is so egregious and it’s so reprehensible that the only thing you’re left with is the reality of conflict.
That’s how it works in this doctrine of the nations that we’ve been exploring. You don’t pursue a trigger happy mindset where war is your first option; war is your last option. And anybody that’s fought in a conflict, I fortunately never have but there are men and women in this room, I can think of several men who have been involved in actual conflict; they will affirm the statement that war is hell; it is a hellish event. And because of the hellish nature of war, war has to be thought of as a last possibility than the first possibility. Has that principle of last resort, has that been honored?
This takes us to yet another principle, this takes to number six, what is the probability of success? The probability of success…is there a reasonable expectation that the war can be won? It’s interesting to me that Hitler, in his insanity towards the end, just prior to his suicide, was going to war against nations and his advisors were telling him you can’t do this, there’s no way we can win. And yet in his diabolical insanity he wasn’t even thinking in a rational way. And there are many wars that take place where there is absolutely no chance to win because the person declaring war is not functioning according to just war principles.
It’s interesting that Jesus, in the book of Luke, chapter 14 and verse 31, talked about this very thing. Now in context he was talking about the cost of being a disciple but as he was dealing with the cost of being a disciple he makes a comment about war and the probability of success. Jesus says this: “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” You figure out, are you going to win this or are you not going to win this before you get into the horror of a conflict? What is the probability, all things being equal, of success?
And this takes us to a seventh principle, the proportionality of projected results; will the good results that come from the victory in a way be significantly greater than the harm and loss that will inevitably come with pursuing a war. War is hell, just like declaring war on someone’s cancer in their body is hellish. But is the penetration of the body worth the end result which is the containment of cancer? Is the war itself worth the greater good of containing evil? Is America’s intervention, World War 2, to stop the Nazi’s worth the necessary bloodshed that we must go through to contain that terrible movement. This is a basic principle of just war. Paul, in Romans 12:24 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
And finally, the last principle of just war is the principle of the right spirit. The principle of the right spirit says this: Is the war undertaken with great reluctance and sorrow at the harm that will come rather than simply with a delight in war. There are many, many people that I agree with politically but it just seems like there’s an extra spring in their step, there’s an extra glee that comes over them when they talk about the reality of war. That’s not the biblical frame of mind. It’s something that’s to be undertaken with great sorrow, great contrition, wishing, hoping, praying that there is another route.
And if people love war the Bible is against that belief. Psalm 68:30 says this of God: “He has scattered the peoples who delight in war.” War is an unfortunate and sad reality in our fallen world but those that delight in it, gleeful in it, trigger happy, God Himself scatters such people. Is the war itself conducted with the right spirit.
So you’ll notice that we are not the first generation that’s ever had to think about this; these principles of just war are ancient. The principle of just cause, the principle of competent authority, the principle of comparative justice, right intention, last resort, probability of success, proportionality of projected results or predicted results and a right spirit.
Isn’t it interesting how the Bible itself has so much to say and shed light on the prospect of war? The Bible is acknowledging government has a function, government has a role, government restrains evil in a fallen world, but it also gives balance by giving us these eight principles of just war. Do you think about these when you vote for people? Do you think about the person that is going to make the decision to send out troops into Harm’s way, to send our God forbid daughters, sons, into Harm’s way? Do you think about whether they understand the principles of just war? Do they ever articulate the principles of just war?
Why doesn’t someone stand up in one of these town hall meetings and ask a Presidential candidate what is your belief on the principles of just war? First of all do you know what the principles are? Can you rattle them through for me and give me your personal point of view on it? And we are not holding our elected officials accountable to the standards of the Bible many times. We just assume that they must know what they’re doing because after all, they went to an Ivy League School and I didn’t go to an Ivy League School. That is not why America’s Founding Fathers established this republic and vested power in “We the people.” And so few pulpits are even talking about issues like this and the poor flock is so confused and beleaguered by relentless propaganda from one commercial after another they wouldn’t understand how to take the Bible and apply it to social and civic life even if they wanted to.
Ultimately it’s a crisis in the pulpit; it’s a failure amongst pastors to teach principles like these so that we can be better citizens and better stewards of this great republic that we have been given as a gift from God Himself. How many people in the history of mankind have had the opportunity to influence their own government through voting? How many people around the world laboring in an under oppressive and totalitarian regimes would love the opportunity that we have? And yet today, as I have mentioned, half of the body of Christ is even registered to vote; half of that number even shows up to vote and even a smaller percentage of that is thinking about principles like this when they do vote. May God help us to understand that we are stewards and there is so much complaint about Washington D.C. this and Washington D.C. that and this candidate this and this candidate that. You know what God is saying? He’s saying look in the mirror. This republic is deteriorating because it was designed to be in the hands of the people and the people have, by and large, acquiesced their responsibility and the very people that should be leading in this area, the Christian church, have acquiesced. And yet the principles for all of these subjects are there in the Scripture if we would just let it speak. So these eight principles are principles that must be considered when making a decision to go to war, principles of just war.
All right, how about the prosecuting of a war? How do you do that? As I mentioned before the Congress declares war according to our Constitution; the President prosecutes the war, we have looked at the principles that our Congress is to think about when considering a war. But what about the President’s responsibility. How does he prosecute a war? There are, again the ESV Study Bible is helping me, four principles on how to fight a war. Notice, if you could the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 20, beginning in verse 10, four principles. Here we go.
Number 1, the principle of proportionality. Proportionality means what? Proportionality in the use of force, no greater destruction should be caused than is needed to win the war. This is a lesson we learned as kids in athletics. I remember my first basketball coach said look, you’ve got the lead, don’t humiliate the other side, don’t run up the score so high that the other side will never see the light of day again and will be discouraged, that’s not good sportsmanship. And that’s why when a team is way up the coach will take the five starters, sit them on the bench and let the second string play. The same principle exists in this concept of war; you don’t go to war to destroy or humiliate or to do things beyond what is necessary to win the war.
You say well, that’s an interesting concept you have there, where do you find that in the Bible. Deuteronomy 20, thank you very much, verse 10. Notice what Deuteronomy 20 and verse 10 says, “When” God now through Moses is giving instructions about war, “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.  If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.” In other words, if the city wants peace you don’t go in there and annihilate the city; you spare lives. Verse 12, “However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.” What is that? That is a legal principle that far outdates its time; it’s way ahead of its time, the principle of proportionality, something that God Himself ordained. It’s something that God Himself established.
Do you know that in the Law of Moses there are legal and political principles that exceed the day by centuries and millennia? Did you know that in order to execute somebody under the Mosaic Law you had to watch that person commit the crime with two to three witnesses? And the person that was the witness is the first one to throw the rock. You compare that to the Code of Hammurabi which is a contemporary legal code, it actually predates the Mosaic Law by about four centuries, do you know how the Code of Hammurabi says you determine whether someone is guilty or innocent; there’s no talk about two to three witnesses, you just take people and you throw them in a lake or a river, the ones that don’t drown are innocent, the ones that drown were obviously guilty. That’s how the ancient world functioned. And yet God, through Moses, comes along and gives an advanced legal concept of no execution unless you have two to three witnesses.
And in fact, under the Law of Moses there were six cities, three in the land of Israel west of the Jordan, three in what we call the Transjordan, east of the Jordan. These were cities of refuge. What were they there for? They were there if a homicide occurred there’s a vigilante mentality that takes root in people, they want to punish the wrongdoer, and sometimes they rush to judgment and punish the wrong person, punish an innocent person. So to prevent that from happening you flee to these six cities, three east of the Jordan, three west of the Jordan, cities of refuge, so everybody could calm down, everybody can cool down and you can actually independent of emotion look at the facts. What is that? That’s innocent until proven guilty, isn’t it? A pillar in American jurisprudence; you’ll find Moses talking about that elevated principle all the way back in the time of Moses 1,500 years before the time of Christ.
Second principle is discrimination, this is big because this distinguishes just war versus terrorism. Discrimination between combatants and non-combatants, what does that mean? You don’t target innocent people. Sometimes innocent people die in a war because of collateral damage, which is always unfortunate, but you never target the innocent. Where do you find that? Notice Deuteronomy 20:13-14, it says, “When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals” now who are the “women, children and the animals”? these are noncombatants, non-soldiers, non-fighters, “Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.” There it is, an ancient principle. You do not target non-combatants.
This is what makes the act of terrorism so horrific and egregious because they are targeting non-combatants. The reason they are targeting non-combatants is they are seeking what is called a soft target. What is a soft target? It is a group of people in a mall, in a stadium, that can’t fight back. Terrorism itself is completely outside of the principles of just war and outside the principles of how to actually prosecute a just war.
We have a third principle at work here, the avoidance of evil means. Avoidance of evil means—will the captured or defeated enemies be treated with justice and compassion or are the captured tortured, humiliated? Are we treating those captured the way they would want us to treat our solders that are captured?
And then finally, the last principle is the principle of good faith. The principle of good faith says this: is there a genuine desire for restoration of peace and eventually living in harmony with the attacking nation? Yes, we may be at war with you today but is it in our heart of hearts to believe that this won’t be the case? Do we envision a day will come where the two nations that are at conflict will actually live in harmony with one another? Psalm 34:14 puts it this way: “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”
Terrorism is a horrific thing; that’s why it’s called terrorism. God has an answer to terrorism—the institution of human government that puts fear into the hearts of people that won’t be solidified or stabilized by the Bible; it is completely possible in a sinful world that a government can spiral out of control and go outside the boundary marks that God has given it and get involved in conflicts that God never authorized. May we be people of balance as we look together at a very difficult subject.
And then finally, and next week we will get to this, and I really believe next week the series will end, I can’t promise that though, legitimate methods in deterring terrorism. What about enhanced interrogation? What about waterboarding? What about spying? Are these things that God Himself would authorize and give permission for? You’ll have to come back next week and find out about that as we allow the light of the Scripture to inform how we think on issues of today.
Of course, the greatest war that is happening today is not the war between nations; it’s the war between God and the human race. Did you know that the book of Romans, chapter 5 and verse 10 tells us very clearly that we, outside of Christ, are God’s enemies. [Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”] And therefore when Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom upon the earth He is coming back to declare just war against His enemies. We are on a collision course as fallen members in Adam’s line with the God of the universe. That is our predicament as fallen human beings, and yet Jesus Christ provides a way of peace. Isn’t it interesting that so much of the Scripture uses war terminology to describe our condition without Christ and peace terminology to describe our condition in Christ.
How do you enter into peace with God? You enter into peace with God first of all by acknowledging and understanding that God the Father already poured out His wrath on an innocent substitute, or scapegoat, His own Son, when that wrath belongs on my shoulders and it belongs on your shoulders. The wrath has already been poured out and consequently by accepting or believing or trusting what Jesus has done in my place I am exempted from and spared from the wrath of God. There is now reconciliation where formerly there was warfare. And as a child of God I no longer have to fear the coming wrath of God because the wrath of God the Father has been satisfied or satiated in the person of Jesus Christ and I have received what He has done by way of faith. Peace comes!
But what about the person who never has received that pardon? Then the same state of enmity, the same state of conflict, the same state of war, the same state of hostility, which has always existed between God and the human race, remains unresolved and therefore a person in that condition has nothing to look forward to other than the fiery indignation of a Holy God. I realize there are gentler and kinder and nicer ways to present the gospel but this is all biblical, what I’m saying. What a tragedy it would be for people to listen to a sermon on terrorism and warfare and leave this place unresolved in the war that they’re already in with God. God has a solution to terrorism. God has a solution to the warfare that we are in with Him, and that’s Jesus and what He’s done, and we’ve received it by way of faith.
Our exhortation here at Sugar Land Bible Church is to trust in that provision. It’s something you can do in the quietness of your own heart, in the privacy of your own mind as I am speaking. It’s not something you have to join a church to do, walk an aisle to do, give money to do; it’s a private transaction between you and the Lord where the Spirit convicts you of your need to trust in His provision and you respond through human will, human freedom, human volition. God is not going to do it for you, He can convict you of it but He won’t do it for you; you respond to human freedom to what He has done and receive it as a free gift. Have you done that?
Is this a message if you’ve done it that you’re taking to other people? It’s one thing to enjoy this ourselves; it’s a totally different matter to export this to other people. That’s why we had the missions moment that we had earlier; we want to export this good news to others. Receive this gift and commit yourself this week that as the Spirit of God provides opportunities you won’t be bashful, you won’t shrink back, but you will aggressively and boldly share the gospel with those who don’t have any peace with God and are still in a state of war with God. If the gospel is something you need more teaching on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for the principles of just war; we’re more grateful, Lord, for the truths that you have called between us and You through what Jesus has done. Help us to be receivers of this and share this good news with others. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. And God’s people said….