The Most Embarrassing Family Story

If you’re looking for a strong internal proof that the book of Genesis is historically reliable, read Genesis 30:1-24. This passage records for us the origin of the twelve tribes of Israel (except for Benjamin, although his future birth is alluded to in 30:24). It would be difficult to imagine a more embarrassing family story. You would never make up a story like this to describe the origins of your great nation.

If you wanted to craft an impressive origin story for your nation, you would come up with something along the lines of Romulus and Remus, or some other exalted tale. But you would never write a story about how your nation was formed by two sisters who became so envious of one another that they got into baby wars with their concubines while the founding father of your nation was helplessly passed back and forth between these feuding women.

But the story is written in a way that, while surely causing shame and embarrassment for the tribes of Israel, ultimately gives glory to God, who’s greatness is highlighted with every birth.

Jacob’s Helplessness

The background of the story can be found in Genesis 29, where Jacob falls in love with Rachel. He works seven years to marry Rachel, but when the time comes, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Rachell’s less attractive sister, Leah. Jacob then works another seven years for Rachel.

Chapter 29 ends by focusing on Jacob’s unloved wife, Leah. “When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb” (29:31). God blessed Leah with four sons:

  • Ruben (meaning “See, a son”, because the God saw Leah’s affliction)
  • Simeon (meaning “heard” because God heard she was hated)
  • Levi (meaning “attached”, because she hoped that Jacob would now become attached to her)
  • Judah (meaning “praise”, because she praised the LORD for her sons).

But, as the text notes, “Rachel was barren” (29:31). Chapter 30 begins with Rachel confronting Jacob about her childlessness. “Give me children, or I shall die!” (v. 1). In response, Jacob is forced to admit something that he has never admitted to himself before, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (v. 2).

This is the same Jacob who manipulated Esau out of his birthright and who schemed Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing. Now, for the first time in his life, Jacob is powerless to change his circumstances. He was having sons left and right, but he couldn’t change the fact that Rachel was barren. He loved Rachel. He would have loved for her to have children, but Jacob was not God. With language echoing the Garden of Eden, Jacob recognized that God had “withheld… the fruit”.

Rachel’s Schemes

But forbidden fruit didn’t stop Rachel from thinking herself to be wise. Like Eve giving Adam the forbidden fruit, Rachel “gave him” her servant Bilhah to bear fruit in her place. Rachel’s servant then bore Jacob two sons:

  • Dan (meaning “vindicated”, because Rachel felt that God had finally vindicated her)
  • Naphtaili (meaning “God-wrestles”, because Rachel was “wrestling” against her sister, and God allowed her to prevail)

But Rachel’s plan was stalemated when Leah countered by giving Jacob her servant girl, Zilpah, by which Jacob had two more sons.

  • Gad (meaning “good fortune”)
  • Asher (meaning “happy”)

This leads to Rachel’s second plot. Rachel approached Leah, and decided to purchase some of her mandrakes (a fruit believed to increase fertility) in exchange for giving Leah a night with Jacob. But the plan backfires. The mandrakes don’t help Rachel, but the night with Jacob does help Leah. Leah has two more sons:

  • Issachar (meaning “wages”, because God had given Leah her “wages”)
  • Zebulun (meaning “honor”, because Rachel now believed that Jacob would finally honor her)

God’s Gift

These embarrassing baby wars set the stage for verses 22-24:

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” And she called his name Joseph (meaning “may he add”), saying “May the LORD add to me another son!

Genesis 30:22-24

Rachel was finally given a son, Joseph. Considering the larger context of Genesis, we know why this birth was so significant. This is Joseph, the brother who would save his family from starvation during the famine.

After the powerlessness of Jacob, and after all the failed schemes of Rachel, the LORD finally makes His move. The LORD simply opened Rachel’s womb, and she conceived. That simple. Suddenly, for the first time in the story, Rachel utters the words “The LORD.” Despite all the scheming, and all the embarrassment, ultimately it is God who gives what is needed.

The Gospel According to Genesis

What are we to make of this strange and embarrassing origin story? Why is it important to realize that the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel came about through such a pitifully dysfunctional family?

On one hand, it would be easy to draw a few moralistic lessons from such a story. Polygamy is bad. Don’t be jealous of someone else who has more kids than you. Don’t blame your spouse for something that is outside of their control. These are all good lessons that could obviously be drawn from the text. But the significance of this story is not just to offer good advice on how to avoid getting into a messy situation, but to remind us that even in the worst situations, God never stops working to fulfill his purposes.

God always keeps his promises. It is incredibly important that we remember this. It’s easy to see how messed up the world is these days. And unfortunately, in many cases, the church it seems like the church is just as messed up. Yes, it’s easy to grow discouraged, but the danger of forgetting God’s faithfulness is far greater than simple discouragement.

When the thought of God’s faithfulness fades into the background, and we grow frustrated like Rachel, we may find ourselves, like Rachel, looking to our own schemes to fix our situation, rather than simply being faithful to God. If we’re not careful, frustration can cause us to lose focus on the big picture.

What Genesis 30 shows us about God’s character is seen even more fully in the cross of Jesus. Israel’s embarrassing origin story has nothing on the embarrassment of the Christian origin story. There has never been a more poignant example of human failure than what is seen in the false accusation, corrupt judgment, and gruesome murder of the innocent Jesus. The cross shows us that no matter how wicked or dark things may get, God can bring about his good intentions. If God can bring about the world’s greatest good out of the murder of his innocent Son, he can bring about good from pandemics, social panics, apathetic churches, and corrupt political schemes (cf. Rom. 8:28).

Think about the significance of the names of Jacob’s sons. When we find ourselves lonely or rejected like Leah, we need to remember that we serve a God who “sees”, a God who “hears”, a God who provides “attachment”, a God who deserves our “praise”. When we feel powerless to fix a bad situation like Jacob, we need to remember that we serve a God who “vindicates”, who “wrestles” on our behalf. When we are tempted to come up with our own schemes like Rachel, we need to remember that “good fortune”, “happiness”, “wages”, and “honor” come from God. In the end, God remember Rachel’s sorrow, and he “added” to her a son, a savior.

The gospel is the most embarrassing family origin story of all time, and yet it is the greatest reversal of evil this world has ever seen. God will remember his people and his purposes.

The Bible and the Ethics of Taxation

Nothing in the Bible indicates that taxation is anything other than legalized theft. Meriam-Webster defines the word “theft” as “(a) the act of stealing; the felonious taking and removing of personal property with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it,” and “(b) an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property.” Simply put, theft is taking someone else’s money or property by coercion.

Practically every Christian knows that scripture teaches that theft is wrong. Theft is a direct violation of one of the ten commandments (Ex. 20:15; Deut. 5:19; Lev. 19:11). To steal is to profane the name of God (Prov. 30:9), and is listed as one of the injustices that led to the destruction of the temple (Jer. 7:9). Stealing isn’t something that can be justified, even when it is done to satisfy basic needs such as poverty or hunger; nor does it become justified when the people excuse the thief (Prov. 6:30-31).

The same moral condemnation of theft appears in the New Testament. Theft is listed as a sin that can exclude people from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10). It is something for which a Christian should never be guilty (1 Pet. 4:15). It is an action that grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:28-30).

Yet it is generally accepted that governments have the right to levy taxes on their citizens. After all, when Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” he responded, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Lk. 20:22-25). And when Paul addressed the Christian’s relationship to government in Romans 13, he wrote:

You also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Romans 13:6-7

Why is this? If it is wrong to take another person’s property by force, why doesn’t scripture simply say “taxation is theft” and clearly condemn it as wrong? Why are Christians commanded to pay their taxes? And if there is a difference between taxation and theft, what is it?

Meriam-Webster defines the word “tax” as “A charge of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.” Yes, taxation and theft both describe the taking and removing of personal property by force. But there is one key difference in the way we use the two words. Taxation refers to the legal confiscation of property which is imposed by an authority, while theft refers to the unlawful confiscation of property.

If there is a difference between taxation and theft, this is it. It’s not simply that taxes become right because they are used to satisfy particular needs, for the Bible is clear that theft is wrong regardless of the needs the stolen goods are used to satisfy (Prov. 6:30-31; 30:9). It’s not simply that taxes cease to be theft because of the democratic approval of the people excuse them (Prov. 6:30-31). If there is a distinction between taxation and theft, the distinction is that of authority.

Therefore, if taxation is justifiable in a way that theft is not, we must be able to answer the following question in the affirmative: Does the Bible describe governments as having a special place of authority that gives them a claim over the property of their citizens?0

Taxation in the Old Testament

In 1 Samuel 8, Israel demanded a king, Samuel warned them that a king would:

Take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.

1 Samuel 8:14-17

Observe that even though the king held legal authority, his confiscation of the goods of his citizens is still described with the word “take.” He was “taking” something that didn’t belong to him. If the king has a special place of authority that allows him a legal claim over the goods of his citizens, why would Saul describe this as “taking?”

When Solomon collected taxes from his citizens, this was described as a “heavy yoke” (1 Kings 12:4), a yoke which was increased by his son Rehaboam (1 Kings 12:14). This isn’t exactly a glowing review of the idea of taxation is it?

The story of King Ahab and Naaboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21) only makes sense if we recognize that King Ahab did not have a rightful claim to Naaboth’s vineyard simply on the basis of his legal authority as a king. The only way Ahab was able to take possession of Naaboth’s vineyard was to kill Naaboth and to take it for himself (21:13-16). As a consequence of taking possession of something that was not his, the LORD condemned him to die (21:17-19).

While it is often recognized that the prophets warned against oppression and robbery, it should be noted that their warnings were often addressed directly to the rulers. For example, Isaiah pronounced a woe to rulers who “rob” (Is. 10:1-2). Jeremiah rebuked the king of Judah for “dishonest gain”, “oppression”, and “violence” (Jer. 22:11, 17). Amos rebuked Israel’s leaders specifically for exacting grain taxes, through which they “trampled the poor” (Amos 5:11). Evidently, the prophets didn’t view legal authority as a status which excused rulers from the sins of robbery and oppression.

Some may point to the tithes commanded in the Law of Moses as an example of a tax which was approved by God (Lev. 27:30-33). While the collection of tithes does give us an example of a collective pooling of resources, it should be noted that tithes were not to be collected by force, but rather they were to be voluntarily given as an act of obedience and devotion to the law (cf. 1 Chron. 31:4). Rather than establishing a system of taxation, the law of Moses limited the king from maintaining a powerful police force or acquiring much silver and gold for himself (Deut. 17:14-20).

Despite the Old Testament’s clarity that theft is wrong, and despite the fact that the Old Testament never suggest that governing authorities were excused from the law’s demands or permitted to take possessions belonging to their citizens, many Christians continue to defend taxation as an ethical practice by pointing to their New Testaments.

Taxation in the New Testament

Many Christians will defend practice of taxation by pointing to Jesus’s quote in Matthew 22 and Luke 20:

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

Luke 20:25

A simplistic reading of this text would seem to suggest that Jesus recognized, and even approved of Caesar’s claim of ownership over the money he was collecting as taxes. This reading fails to consider the historical or textual context, which I have written about more extensively here and here. If Jesus’s answer simply meant “Yes, Caesar has a right to collect taxes”, nobody would have “marveled” at Jesus’s answer (cf. Lk 20:16). Instead they would have rejoiced, because the trap set by the question of the scribes and chief priests would have worked! But no Jew would have taken Jesus’s statement as an endorsement of taxation.

If one’s faith is in God, then God is owed everything (cf. Ps. 24:1; 50:10; Hag. 2:8), and Caesar’s claims are illegitimate. If one’s faith is in Caesar, then God’s claims are illegitimate, and Caesar is owed, at the very least, the coin which bears his image. Jesus’s teaching should be understood as a challenge to the Jews to reconsider their allegiance.

If Jesus gave a hearty endorsement of taxation, as if often assumed, we are left to wonder why anybody would ever accuse Jesus as forbidding people from paying taxes to Caesar (Mt. 23:2). Such an accusation would have been laughed out of court, for it would have been quickly refuted by those who heard Jesus’ teaching. But if Jesus’s statement is understood as a challenge to serve God alone, then this accusation makes perfect sense.

Some will also point to the words of Paul in Romans 13, where Paul commanded Christians to pay taxes as an extension of their submission to government (Rom 13:6-7). It should be noted, that similar to Jesus, Paul offered no commentary on the ethics of taxation itself. He simply tells Christians to pay taxes should the government require it. To use these verses to justify taxation would be the same as turning to Matthew 5’s command to turn the other cheek as justification for the one who slaps you. Or praying for persecutors as a justification for persecution. Or pointing to Paul’s commands to slaves to submit to their masters as a justification for slavery.

Why did Jesus and Paul feel the need to command Christians to pay their taxes in the first place? This teaching only makes since if it was understood that something about Jesus’s mission actually challenged the very concept of taxation. If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not. If all the silver and gold belong to God, it does not belong to Caesar.

The only sense in which we can understand governing authorities as having the authority to take the possessions of others is the sense in which Jesus said that Pilate had the authority to crucify him.

You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.

John 19:36

So yes, there is a sense in which Pilate had been given the rightful authority to crucify an innocent man. In this same sense, we can accept that government has been given the authority to collect taxes. But just because Pilate “had the right” to crucify Jesus, that does not imply that Pilate was free from guilt when he did so. In the same way, just because there is a sense in which governments “have the right” to collect taxes, this does not imply that they are free from guilt when they do so.

The Bible is, of course, extremely supportive of free will generosity (Prov. 22:9; Mt. 5:42; Lk 3:10-11; Acts 2:46; Heb. 13:16). The Bible regularly condemns theft, even among governing authorities, even when theft receives approval from others, and even when theft us used to meet other necessities. There is nothing in the Bible that would suggest that taxes are approved by God. But as Christians, our response is not to rebel against paying taxes. Rather we should be like the Hebrew Christians who “joyfully accepted the plundering of their property, since they knew that they had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Heb. 10:34).

What Does It Mean To Be “Saved Through Childbearing”? (1 Timothy 2:15)

What did Paul mean in 1 Timothy 2:15 when he wrote “she will be saved through childbearing”? Is having children is somehow connected to a woman’s salvation? Here is the phrase in context.

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

1 Timothy 2:11-15

To begin to understand salvation through childbearing, we must start where Paul does, with the story of Adam and Eve.

Creation Order and Temptation Order

In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul refers to the familiar story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3. There are two key observations that Paul draws from this familiar text. First, notice that the temptation order (Eve first, then Adam) is a reversal from the creation order (Adam first, then Eve). The significance of Satan approaching Eve is magnified when we observe that God had given the command about not eating the tree directly to Adam prior to Eve’s creation (2:16-17), and Adam was with the woman during the temptation (3:6). When Satan approached Eve, the woman took the lead in responding to Satan while the man, who was there prior to the woman and heard the commandment directly from God, stood by silently and never intervened.

Satan never addressed the man directly. But by approaching the woman first, and using her initiative over the man, Satan successfully brought about the failure of both man and woman.  Paul points to Genesis 3 to remind them of what happens when Satan subverts God’s created order, and what happens when men stand by silently while their wives take the lead. Satan has used this plan of attack in the past. When Satan attacks man through the woman, we should not be caught off guard. He is using play number one from his play book.

Eve’s Salvation Through Childbearing

Secondly, observe that Genesis 3 does not leave Adam and Eve without hope. Towards the end of the story, as God is speaking to the serpent, God makes a very interesting promise.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15

The snake and the woman will each have offspring. There will be enmity between these two seed lines. The seed of the snake will strike, but the seed of the woman will crush the snake. For Eve, salvation from the curse was quite literally going to be found in bearing children so that her offspring could crush the serpent.

This idea – salvation through childbearing – doesn’t stop in Genesis 3:15. It is developed time and time again throughout the Old Testament scriptures. As we keep reading about the woman’s offspring, we eventually get to the story of Abraham, who was promised an offspring through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3; 22:18). Late on we get to the story of David who was also promised an offspring who would establish a kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12).

As we read through the prophets, it becomes clear that hope for God’s kingdom was going to be found through a “holy seed” (Isa. 6:13); through a virgin who would conceive and bear a child (Isa. 7:14); a child who would bring salvation (Isa. 9:6).  According to Isaiah, salvation really was going to be found through childbearing.

For this reason, childbearing carried very special significance for God’s people, because one day, salvation was going to come through an offspring. This helps explain why Malachi, in addressing the problem of divorce, refers to “godly offspring” as the very purpose of the marriage relationship (Mal. 2:15). To reject the covenant of marriage was to reject the hope of godly offspring.

The point is that salvation through childbearing is not simply strange phrase used by Paul in one obscure verse. Rather salvation through childbearing was a well-established principle in Jewish thought, tracing all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve. For a woman to suffer through the pain of childbirth (cf. Gen. 3:16) was an act of faith in God’s promises. The pain of childbearing was not only the curse that was going to be reversed, it was also the means by which that curse would be reversed.  Childbearing was the act through which Eve, and all women, would be saved.

Childbearing After The Birth of the Savior

But if Paul was thinking of the seed-promise, why would Paul refer to salvation through childbearing while writing to the early church? Would Paul have continued to view childbearing with the same saving significance after the Savior had been born?

Here it is helpful to remember that the word “offspring” can be used to refer to one specific individual as well as to an entire group of offspring. For example, I could refer to my son as my offspring, or I could refer to all of my descendants as offspring. Galatians 3 is a place where Paul applies the seed-promise to Christ individually (Gal. 3:16, “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring’ who is Christ.”) and then moves quite easily to apply the seed promise to all those who are in Christ when he writes, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

When Paul applied the seed-promise to Christ individually, he didn’t simply say “now that promise has been fulfilled, so we can put a checkmark by prophecy as fulfilled.” When Paul saw that the seed-promise was fulfilled in Christ, he quite naturally applied the promise collectively to all those who belong to Christ.

Yes, Jesus individually fulfilled the seed-promise when he rose from the dead, robbing the snake of his power (Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:10). But because of Christ’s fulfillment, now all those who belong to Christ have the power to resist the influence of the serpent (Rom. 16:20; Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9). Yes, childbearing brought salvation through the birth of the Child, Christ. But, because of Christ, now all in Christ can have the same power to crush the influence of the serpent. The birth of Christ does not end the significance of childbearing; it fills childbearing with even more hope! Because of Christ, the offspring of women can themselves be snake-crushers.

Implications For The Church

With this in mind, go back and reflect on the passage in 1 Timothy 2. After prohibiting a woman from teaching and exercising authority over a man in verse 12, and after reminding readers of Eve’s deception in verse 14, it is not surprising that Paul should positively affirm a woman’s peculiar honor in bearing children. This explains the conjunction “yet” at the beginning of verse 15. Verse 15 should be understood in contrast to what immediately precedes it. Paul is, in effect, saying, “this way isn’t good, yet this other way is” in reference to the peculiar role of women in the church. Salvation for women is not going to be found in reversing the creation order like Adam and Eve did, yet salvation is found when godly women devote themselves to childbearing. From a biblical perspective, childbearing has incredibly important significance for the world. Childbearing is the act through which Eve’s curse is reversed; it is the act through which women are saved.

Because this verse so strongly affirms the blessedness and value of a godly woman’s role in bearing children, and even ties childbearing directly to salvation, some might conclude that women who are single or childless have diminished value, or are perhaps be unable to be saved. This conclusion might follow if the text were to teach that childbearing is the only thing that women can do to bring about salvation, but that is not what 1 Timothy 2:15 teaches. Although the text does teach the blessedness and honor of women in bearing children, it does not logically follow that alternative avenues of service for Christian women are not available within the church.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 Paul teaches that there is real advantage to remaining single, so that one can be fully devoted to the work of the Lord. Later in 1 Timothy, Paul refers to older widows, who though unable to bear children, devote themselves to supplications and prayers night and day (1 Tim. 5:5). Nothing in 1 Timothy 2:15 would contradict with these verses.

What’s more, we know from the New Testament that women have served the Lord in a diversity of ways beyond simply bearing children. Women were among the first the report the news of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:7, 10). At Pentecost, the Spirit fell on both men and women alike (Acts 2:16-18). Men and women are both equally “one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). Women played an important role in the early church, serving as “fellow workers” with Paul (Rom. 16:1, 3).

The affirmation of women in 1 Timothy 2:15 does not diminish any of these diverse ways in which godly women have served the church. In fact, in appealing to the way this verse gives unique honor to women who bear children, it should remind us to be even more sensitive to and appreciative of the tireless service of those women who have not been given that opportunity.

Also note the way Paul switches from the singular pronoun (“she shall be saved through childbearing”) to the plural pronoun (“if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control”). This indicates that Paul was looking to Eve as representative of women collectively speaking. So while it is true that salvation for women is found when women, as a collective whole, devote themselves to bearing children, it does not follow that each individual woman’s salvation depends on her individual ability or opportunity to bear children.

So without diminishing the faithful efforts of godly women who are unable to bear children, Paul resoundingly proclaims the dignity of a godly woman who devotes herself to work of being a mother. Though it certainly sounds old-fashioned, or even unacceptable in our modern western culture, this verse was given to the church to remind us of something we too often overlook: godly women who devote themselves to bearing and raising children play an immensely important role in God’s plan to save the world from the curse of sin and death.

Baptism or Magic?

Some Christians today treat baptism like magic. Magic is generally understood as the practice of beliefs and rituals which are said to manipulate supernatural forces or otherwise influence the spiritual realm. Although the content of what Christians believe is obviously very different from pagan sorcery, the way some of them think about and treat baptism seems to be very similar.

For some Christians, baptism is (rightly) understood as an essential step that one must take to be saved. The Bible teaches the necessity of baptism in many places (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:26-27, etc.). For some Christians, to “be saved” means that a person must become sufficiently convinced of the Bible’s teachings about the steps of salvation, culminating in the act of being baptized. As long as they follow the right steps, their sins will be forgiven and they are added to the church. It seems to be assumed that if we follow the right steps and perform the right rituals (including baptism) then we can influence the spiritual realm (i.e. God) to respond to our acts in a particular way (i.e. forgiveness of sins and salvation).

While on the surface, this might appear to be very similar to what the New Testament teaches about the importance of baptism for salvation, this understanding is actually much closer to what is going on when people engage in practicing sorcery.

The Key Distinction

One of the key differences between magic and baptism is that magic is about performing essential steps in order to satisfy the desires of the practitioner. When baptism is overly simplified into a mere step of salvation that we perform in order to improve our spiritual condition and destiny, this is more akin to magic. Biblical baptism, on the other hand, is simply faithful. It is the ultimate surrender of ourselves to the will of God. Magic is performed to satisfy our own desires, while baptism is the ultimate surrender of our desires.

Similar to magic, it can be rightly said that baptism is an essential ritual that must be performed. But biblical baptism is so much more than just a ritual we must perform in order to obtain salvation.  Notice what Paul says about baptism in Romans 6.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:1-4

If baptism is rightly taught as an essential step of salvation, but disassociated with the radical change that Paul attaches to it in Romans 6 (putting to death the “old man” and rising to walk in “newness of life”), we’re no longer teaching the same kind of baptism. Simply practicing baptism as an end point of righteousness in itself misses the point. If we reduce “being baptized” into little more than a cultural expectation in our churches, all while continuing to live in a way that prioritizes our own wants and desires, we’re not practicing biblical baptism. If, in practice, our lives are no different than the way of live practiced by the rest of our society– the way of life that was supposed to have been buried at our baptism, we’re not practicing the same kind of baptism we read about in Scripture.

What Makes Biblical Baptism Significant

At the heart of the meaning of baptism is the astonishing claim that all divisions and sectarian groupings to which we once aligned ourselves are broken down. We now have one new identity in Christ. Or as Paul put it,

For as many of our as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:27-28

If we are committed to biblical baptism, how is that so many Christians keep dividing? Why do we find it so important to align ourselves with various political groupings and social movements? Why do we become so affixed on the issues that divide our society into different teams? Why do we so often use the pronoun “us” to refer to “us” as Americans, or “us” as conservatives, or “us” as progressives, rather than primarily thinking of “us” as Christians? Unless, of course, we have replaced biblical baptism with something more akin to a magic ritual.

In baptism, we are moved from death to life. In Colossians 2, our entrance into the waters of baptism is connected with Jesus’ entrance into death on the cross.

In him you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism., in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Colossians 2:11-15

If we are committed to biblical baptism, how can we keep living with little or no distinction between us and the world? How can we keep pretending like the rulers and authorities still have power? Unless, of course, we have replaced biblical baptism with something more akin to a magic ritual.

When Paul reflected on his baptism, he was able to say,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

If we practice biblical baptism, why have do so many insist on doing things their preferred way? When it comes to the local church, why do so many have the attitude where “if you don’t’ do things my way, I’m just going to go somewhere else”? What happened to self-sacrifice? Could it be that we have replaced biblical baptism with something more akin to magic?

When addressing the problem of church divisions in Corinth, Paul wrote:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made with to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

If we practice biblical baptism, how can we be okay with division in the church? How can we be okay with insisting on practices that we know others find problematic? How can we be okay with a portion of the body being absent, just so we can have our way? Unless, of course, we have replaced biblical baptism with something more akin to magic.

If we were “buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), why do so many live like we’re afraid of being buried one day? Haven’t we already died? Haven’t we already been buried? Unless, of course, we’ve exchanged biblical baptism for something more akin to magic.

The book of Acts continually connects Christian baptism with repentance.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

If we practice biblical baptism, why does it seem like some Christians haven’t changed the overall direction of their life? Why do some Christians not live like Jesus really is the Lord of this world, and He really is coming back? Unless, of course, we’ve replaced biblical baptism with something more akin to magic.

Yes, baptism is an essential “step of salvation.” But baptism is so much more than just a spiritual ritual. Baptism is about living a radically new and different kind of life, the kind of life that is loyal to the way of Jesus. When we remember our baptism, it should be so much more than just a reassuring thought of “yes, I’ve obeyed the gospel, so now I can go to heaven when I die.” It should be a memory that reminds us that are crucified with Christ, today and forevermore.

On Romans 13 (Moses Lard on War; Part 11 of 11)

This is the final part of Moses Lard’s 1866 article “Should Christians Go To War?”, originally published in Lard’s Quarterly. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)
The Will of God is Wholly Against War (Part 6 of 11)
It Is Wrong To Take The Sword (Moses Lard on War; Part 7 of 11)
Love Your Enemies (Moses Lard on War; Part 8 of 11)
The Golden Rule (Moses Lard on War; Part 9 of 11)
The Fruit of the Spirit (Moses Lard on War; Part 10 of 11)

On Romans 13

Here, now, are seven consecutive arguments against the position that the Christian is in any case bound to go to war. These arguments might easily be increased to twice this number. Any one of them, if countervailed by no conclusive offsetting argument, would, I hold, be decisive against the question in hand. When taken together, as a refutation, I feel them to be nothing short of final. How, in the teeth of their conjoint force, any sane man can stand up, and still say that the Christian should, in certain cases, go to war, is something I claim not able to understand. Of course, the right of others to a different opinion is not herein called in question, nor their sincerity in the event of holding in any sense doubted. If, now, there is nothing in the word of God to set aside or annul these arguments, they will, I believe, be generally accepted as decisive. Is there, then, any scripture to annul them? Of course the advocate of war must hold that there is. I shall consequently adduce the passage on which alone he relies, or, if not on this alone, on this and others like it; hence one will suffice.

Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Romans 13:1-3

The argument based on this passage is concisely the following: All legitimate war is an act of the State, and not of the individual. The passage in hand binds every Christian to be obedient to the State. Hence, if the State command the Christian to engage in war, he is bound to obey.

Now, for the sake of avoiding collateral issues, and waiving all immaterial questionable points, I will grant that all legitimate war is an act of the State, and not of the individual. Hence, whether there is any such thing as legitimate war, as the reader will perceive, not here made a question. Thus, then, we dispose at once of the first premise of the argument.

The passage in hand binds every Christian to be obedient to the State. This proposition is both true and false. Properly qualified, it is true; without qualification, it is false. It is not true that the passage binds Christians unconditionally to be obedient to the State. Certainly the passage binds Christians to be obedient to the State in all matters not in collision with Christianity; and in all such matters the Christian has no discretion, – he is bound to obey. The law of the State, in any case, may, in his judgment, be unwise, it may be expedient, it may be oppressive; it may be in many other respects objectionable; it may even be offensive and odious; still, if on comparing it with the word of God it is not found to be in conflict therewith, he is bound to obey it – to obey it, too, as a matter of conscience. All this I hold to be a matter of solemn duty with the Christian.

But the moment the State commands the Christian to do anything contrary to Christianity, no matter what it may be, or how great the necessity for it, he is bound to disobey. Of course, in all such cases there is a conflict between the will of Christ and the will of the State; and in every instance of such conflict, the will of Christ, and not the will of the State, determines the Christian’s act. This no Christian will deny.

If, for example, the king of a realm commanded all Christians within the bounds of his jurisdiction to set up in their respective houses of worship a statue of himself in simple token of their loyalty to him, no Christian man could refuse obedience to the command; for clearly there is no collision between it and any duty we owe to Christ. But if at the same time the king commanded divine honor to be paid to such statue, Christians would be compelled to disobey. Here, then, clearly the right of the State to command its Christian subjects is shown to be a limited, and not an unlimited, right. Of the truth of all this the well-known case of Daniel is a pertinent illustration.

Again: if the United States by special statue command all male citizens born within its limits to be circumcised, in order to distinguish them from citizens of foreign birth, however arbitrary and tyrannical such statue might be, I do not see how Christian men could refuse obedience to it. Indeed, on scriptural grounds they could not. But if the United States at the same time commanded such citizens to be circumcised as a religious duty, and as in obedience to the law of Moses, then every Christian man would be compelled to disobey, even at the peril of his life. For while so far forth as circumcision can be viewed as an indifferent act, the right of the United States to enjoin it may be held to be complete, and this whether the reasons for it be adequate or not; still the United States has no right to prescribe to its Christian citizens the observance of any act as a religious act. Hence all attempts to do so would have to be resisted, only, however, to the extent of disobedience, even if the disobedience led to the suffering of death.

In all cases, therefore, where the act is in itself right, or simply indifferent, that is, is made right or wrong solely by command of the State, the right of the State to command its Christian citizens, and their duty to obey, must be held as perfect and indisputable. But in all cases where the act is not clearly right in itself, or not clearly indifferent, then the State has no authority to command its Christian citizens, and every such command is null and void.

Now since the act of going to war is shown by the preceding Scriptures to be wholly inconsistent with the teachings of the New Testament, it is therefore shown to be, at least in the case of the Christian, a wrong act. Hence, since it is not an indifferent act, nor an act right simply in itself, but, on the contrary, is a wrong act, at least for the Christian, it thence follows that the State has no right to command the Christian to engage in it, and that where the State does so command, every such command is a nullity in the sight of Christ, and is to be absolutely and unconditionally disobeyed by the Christian. Such is the conclusion which results legitimately from the premises now before us. Hence on this conclusion we hold that every Christian man is bound to act; and that he has no discretion in the case. Consequently, if the State command him to go to war, let him mildly and gently, but firmly and unalterably, decline. If the State arrest him and punish him, be it so; if the State even shoot him, be it so; never let him go to war.

Much more, certainly, might be said on the question, but I shall now bring this paper to a close. My aim has been, not to make an elaborate argument, but a conclusive one. For this purpose, I have thought it best to confine myself strictly to the Scriptures. Hence, I have not turned aside to discuss the statistics of war, nor any other feature connected with it, except such as is involved in the question: is it right? This question settled; I deem all others of secondary importance.

Again: it will be perceived that I have discussed the question with no reference to the unhappy war through which our country has just passed. My object has been to make a calm, temperate argument, which should be offensive to brethren on neither side of the recent strife. I have wished to profit all, and offend none. With what success the task has been executed, the considerate reader is left to decide.

The Fruit of the Spirit (Moses Lard on War; Part 10 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)
The Will of God is Wholly Against War (Part 6 of 11)
It Is Wrong To Take The Sword (Moses Lard on War; Part 7 of 11)
Love Your Enemies (Moses Lard on War; Part 8 of 11)
The Golden Rule (Moses Lard on War; Part 9 of 11)

The Fruit of the Spirit

A seventh argument will be deduced from the following:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

On reading the fruits of the Spirit, as here enumerated, it seems to me impossible for the Christian not to feel that there is the most palpable repugnance between the spirit and acts which these fruits imply and the spirit and acts of war. Opposition cannot be well conceived which would be greater. Suppose the passage read thus: The fruit of the Spirit is love, hatred, joy, grief, peace, war, and so on, – would we not be shocked with its incongruities? We should feel that it was a tissue of contradictions; and the feeling no one could pronounce unjust. Yet how could we so feel, or why should we so feel, if war be right? If war be right, there can be no antagonism between the spirit which induces it and the Spirit which yields the preceding fruits. Nor does the fact that the passage reads not as supposed in the least change its value in the case in hand. The opposition between the contents of the passage and the spirit of war still as palpably exists; not only in the terms of the passage. It exists in the facts of the case, but it is none the less real on that account.  All Christians have the Spirit; and he who has not the Spirit is not a Christian. This we hold to be irrefutable. One of the named fruits of the Spirit is peace. The opposite of peace is war. Now how can man who is under the influence of the Spirit which induces peace, yet at the same time engage in war by the sanction of that Spirit? I hold it to be an insult to the Spirit of God to so affirm. Yet short of this affirmation the advocate of war cannot stop. I shall leave him, then, to reconcile the points of opposition; for I cannot.

Again: another fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. This is a lovely trait in the character of the Christian. Now can any two conceivable things be more opposed than this gentleness and the violence of war? In not a single feature do they agree. War is the very climax of violence. It is violent in spirit, violent in action, violent in every way. Yet, if it be right for the Christian to go to war, then, in some way, must the violence of war be shown to be consistent with the gentleness of the Spirit. But this can never be done. The conclusion is obvious – Christians cannot go to war; for they cannot become men of violence.

Continue reading to the final part of Moses Lard’s article here:
On Romans 13 (Moses Lard on War; Part 11 of 11)

The Golden Rule (Moses Lard on War; Part 9 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)
The Will of God is Wholly Against War (Part 6 of 11)
It Is Wrong To Take The Sword (Moses Lard on War; Part 7 of 11)
Love Your Enemies (Moses Lard on War; Part 8 of 11)

The Golden Rule

My sixth argument is suggested by the following:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12

Fortunately for us, in commenting on this passage, we shall not be met by objections based on supposed or real limitations in its meaning. Here, at least, no reference is made to nations as such, individuals as such, public enemies as such, or private enemies as such. The reference is to men universally, whether enemies or not. Neither nation, rank, condition, age, class, nor individual is excluded. All men are included, with all their relations, whether to heaven or earth, state or church, family or individual. All whose acts can affect us, or whom our acts can affect, are included; hence none are excluded. How, now, are we to act towards these? This the Savior does not absolutely answer in the case of each act; conditionally he does. He answers, it is true; but his answer is contingent, depending on our own previous determination or wish in the particular case. Whenever in a given case we decide what we would have a human being do to us, then he decides what we must do. Would we now, in any case conceivable or possible, have an individual to take our life? The answer is overwhelming – we would not. If an enemy saw us on the battlefield, we would not have him shoot at us; and if he shot, we would not have him hit us. This we know to be true at the bar of our own conscience. We would not even have him aim to hit us; for this would imply a willingness on our part to be hit, which is a thing we are incapable of. If our enemy saw us, we would have him to be, in some way, unable to kill us. We would have him out of ammunition, or his gun out of order, the distance too great, or his skill defective; in no case would we have him kill us. Even if we knew our enemy to be in the right, and ourselves to be in the wrong, or that by the laws, either of nations or of the State, we deserved death, still the same result follows – we would not be killed; we would live as long as nature would let us. If an enemy saw us exposed, we would have him pity a poor fellow-mortal and not shoot; or if he had the advantage of us, we would have him too magnanimous to use it; all this we know in ourselves to be true. If, now, such is the would or the wish of our own hearts, and such we know to be their would or wish, then we know what our conduct is to be, in every case, toward our enemy – we must not kill him. Not only so, we must kill no one, whether enemy or not. Then, if we must not kill, we must not go to war; for when we go to war, this is what we go for. This conclusion seems to me unanswerable, and decisive of the question in issue.

But, now, what exceptions does the Savior’s language admit of, or what means have we of escape from its meaning? I confess I know of none; nor do I see how any can be imagined. The passage seems to me to bring the controversy to an end. And, if so, the question: “Can a Christian go to war?” is settled. He cannot go.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s seventh argument here:
The Fruit of the Spirit (Moses Lard on War; Part 10 of 11)

Love Your Enemies (Moses Lard on War; Part 8 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)
The Will of God is Wholly Against War (Part 6 of 11)
It Is Wrong To Take The Sword (Moses Lard on War; Part 7 of 11)

Love Your Enemies

The following supplies my fifth argument:

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

Let any Christian man study the sentiment herein expressed, study the sprit, drink it in till his soul is full of it; till, in other words, he is thoroughly imbued with it; and then let him in candor say whether in his hearing he feels no antagonism between the spirit and that which would lead him to war, lead him to take human life. I set it down as a thing simply indisputable, that no man, be he saint or sinner, can with the sentiment and spirit herein named ever go to war. The spirit of the passage and the spirit of war are hopelessly irreconcilable. They can never be made to agree.

But let us inspect the passage a little closer. In what sense, then, are we to take the word enemy? Of course, if we take it not to express all enemies of whatever kind or name, at least we must take it to express a personal enemy. More than this it may mean, and most probably does; less than this it cannot mean. A personal enemy, then, we dare not hate; we must love him. But if we dare not hate a personal enemy, then we must hate none. And if we must love the personal enemy, I conclude we must love all. These positions will not be dissented from by the Christian. If, now, the Christian is solemnly bound to love his enemy, obviously he is equally bound to do nothing inconsistent with this love. Can he, then, at the instant while loving him and praying for him, and in harmony therewith, take deliberate aim at him on the battlefield, and shoot him dead? The thing is impossible. Human nature is incapable of the deed. No more than the Christian shoot on the battlefield a man whom he loves, and for whom he is praying, than he can the mother that bore him. The feeling of love must be wholly extinguished in is his bosom and all his prayers hushed before he is capable of his deed. But this with the Christian must never be the case. He can hence never go to war. To love an enemy and to want to kill him at one and the same time are feelings grossly opposed. No two can be more so. Yet such must be the state of the Christian’s heart before he can go into a battle; unless he may cease to love, which, of course, he can never do.

In estimating the bearing on war of such as passage as that now in hand, we must remember to look at war and warriors just as they are, and not in the deceptive light with which the glowing pen of the defendant of war sometimes invests them. To die for one’s country is a glorious thing, we are told. So it may be; but it must be a small affair to him that dies. If a glory indeed, it is so for him who lives, and not to him who dies. To follow the drum and fife in martial line, and shout: “On to victory, boys, on!” is very chivalric to be sure; but when a soldier lies mangled on the field, his last blood spouting from his heart, and murmurs with life’s closing sob: “Oh, my wife and little ones!” this is a note in a different tune. To report to His Excellency the number of troops engaged, the magnificent handling of forces on the field, the noble bearing of Gen. A., the strategic skill of Col. C., the dashing charge of Capt. B., the tug of battle, the wavering of lines, the repulse, the rout, the victory, the pieces of artillery taken, the flags captured, – all this reads well. But what is it to all him whose cold and pulseless body lies stiff on the sod through the frosty night, while his desolate wife screams in her distant home, and weeping, dependent children cry: “Father is gone; oh, gone, forever gone!” The poetry is now not quite so exquisite. But to draw the picture of a battle is not my object. I wish merely to call attention to the evidently very loving spirit in which this work of death is certainly done, to the many prayers which are breathed for enemies while it is going on, and to the strict accordance of both with the spirit and tenor of the passage in hand. That is all.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s sixth argument against war here:
The Golden Rule (Moses Lard on War; Part 9 of 11)

It Is Wrong To Take The Sword (Moses Lard on War; Part 7 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)
The Will of God is Wholly Against War (Part 6 of 11)

It Is Wrong To Take The Sword

My fourth argument is drawn from the two following passages:

Then said Jesus to him: Put up again thy sword into its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.

Matthew 26:52

Again:

He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed by the sword.

Revelation 13:10

If these two passages do not settle the question, then I must despair of ever seeing it settled, at least by holy writ. I cannot imagine how a passage, unless it ran in the words, “you shall not go to war,” could be more decisive than these are. To my mind they are final.

But let me analyze the passages. And, first, we have the broad general assertion: “all that take the sword shall perish by the sword.” This language is without limitation, and must hence be taken in its most comprehensive sense. It does not apply merely to men who take the sword for this purpose, but not to men who take it for that. It applies to all men who take the sword, whether in the kingdom of Christ or out of it, of today or tomorrow. No matter what they are, or when they live; if they take the sword, the decree is gone forth, they must die by it. This is absolutely indisputable. Why, now, has Christ decreed that all who take the sword shall die by it? The sole reason is, because it is wrong to take the sword. If it were right to take the sword, then it would be wrong to decree that he who takes it shall die by it. To die by the sword is appointed to be the penalty of taking it; it is the punishment due him who uses it. But this it could not be, if using the sword were right. It is hence wrong, universally wrong. No Christian, then, may use it. Consequently, no Christian can go to war. This conclusion seems to me wholly invulnerable. It is incapable of refutation.

Next, the specific direction: “Put up again your sword into its place.” But why put it up? Because, says the defendant of war, it was not allowable to use it in furtherance of Christ’s kingdom. Granted. But this is not the reason assigned by the Savior for putting up the sword. That reason is, “for all that take the sword shall die by it.” Clearly the train of thought which yields the specific direction is this: All who take the sword shall die by it, because it is wrong ever to take it. Then, Peter, you must not use it. Therefore put it up.

Now how antagonistic to this position of the advocate of war. He does not say to the Christian, who stands in the battle rank, with drawn sword, ready to strike his fellow down: Put up your sword. Not at all. He says rather to that Christian: Draw your sword and strike. Why? Because he who takes the sword shall not die by it; for it is right to take it. It is idle to say more here.

To the same effect is the language cited from Revelation: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity.” Now it can hardly be held to be right to go to war, but wrong to lead a captured warrior into captivity. This is certainly deemed, by such as defend war, to be one of its most legitimate consequences. Yet the passage settles that “he who leads into captivity shall himself go into captivity;” and his going into captivity is clearly determined against him as a retribution or punishment in kind for his deed. But how can he who leads into captivity be punished in kind, unless leading into captivity is itself wrong? The answer is clear. To go into captivity is a just punishment for leading into captivity. Hence leading into captivity is wrong. But leading into captivity cannot be wrong, and war, out of which it grows, be right. Hence war itself is wrong; and, therefore, the Christian can take no part in it.

But the remainder of John’s language is still more decisive than this: “He that kills with the sword shall be killed by the sword.” How, in the teeth of this, the Christian can persuade himself that he can innocently go to war, is a mystery I never expect to be able to show. There is but one way, it seems to me, in which he can possibly approve his deed himself, or make it appear to be right. If he can show that to be killed by the sword is not punishment, but is in itself right and approved by Christ, then it may be he can show that the killing of others, from which it springs, is right also. There is no other way.

The only possible reply to this, which I can think of, is, that the killing which leads to being killed is the killing, not of a public, but of a private personal enemy. Should anyone take this position, I have simply to say, that for him I am not writing. I am writing for fair men and reasonable; no others.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s fifth argument against war here:
Love Your Enemies (Moses Lard on War; Part 8 of 11)

The Will of God is Wholly Against War (Moses Lard on War; Part 6 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)

The Will of God is Wholly Against War

My third argument will be based on the prayer which the Christian is taught by his Savior to make to the heavenly Father: namely, “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.”

According to this, the profound and the expressed wish and desire of every Christian’s heart is to be, that the will of God may be done on earth as in heaven. This, moreover, is to be, not his occasional, but his constant prayer. Of course, then, while making it, he must do nothing inconsistent with it, or in any way calculated to defeat it. If now the will of God were today as perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven, does there live a Christian who believes that we should ever have another war? Surely not. But why? Because it is the instinctive feeling of every pious heart that the will of God is not only against war, but that were it done on earth as it is in heaven all war would cease, and peace would reign universally. In proof of the correctness of this feeling, we know that a time comes when the will of God will be done on earth as perfectly as it is in heaven; and that then there will be no war, but universal and perpetual peace. And this state of peace will be the immediate effect of the complete prevalence of the will of God. The inference, then, is just, that the will of God is wholly against war and inducive only of peace. This will the Christian is to do as far as in him lies; and no power or other will can legitimately interpose to interfere with his act, prevent it, or prescribe another. He is wholly and supremely bound to the will of God, and nothing, save that will itself, can release him from it, that he may do other acts than those prescribed in it. Certainly, then, he cannot be released to do acts contrary to it. Now, unless God has so far released the Christian from his will that he may go to war, which is an act contrary to his will, then is the Christian bound to refrain, and not to go to war. Has God, then, so far released him? I solemnly deny it; and from him who affirms is demand the most indubitable proof. God has certainly not in so many words released him. If, then, he has released him at all, it is by necessary implication. Is there a passage containing it? If so, we shall leave with the advocate of war the task of producing it. Our denial stands firm.

But to this is may be replied, that it was once, as in the days of Saul, the will of God that men should go to war, and that he actually commanded it; and further, that, since he is unchanging, it must still be his will. Here I must again remind the reader of the question at issue. It is not what may be the will of God be respecting men of the world – men who are not Christians. With this question I have nothing to do. It may, for aught I know, be God’s will, not that war should exist, but that, since nations will grow corrupt and go to war, one nation should thus become the scourge of another. He may avail himself of war to chasten; but this does not prove war right. It only proves that God will sometimes use human wrong as a rod of correction. But the question is, not what God permitted or commanded in the days of Saul, but what he commands or permits now under the reign of his Son. And as to his not changing, this is granted; but it does not therefore follow that he never changes the laws which men are to obey, or the principles by which they are to be governed. This he does. Hence, from the fact that it was once his will that Saul and others should go to war, it does not result that Christians may go to war.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s fourth argument here:
It Is Wrong To Take The Sword (Moses Lard on War; Part 7 of 11)