Know Your Bible: Should a Christian Fight?
What the Bible says about military service

After the Twin Towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, many felt it was appropriate—perhaps even a moral imperative—to join the military to combat what was clearly a terrible evil. Millions have died at the hands of men like Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden. Even now, you can turn on the television and see live footage of atrocities in Ukraine. Terror and war is a horrifying problem, and one that must be solved.

The world has a solution to these problems: military action. But should we, as Christians, participate in war? Is it morally right for God’s people to combat terror? Many feel that evil attacks against their nations cannot go unanswered.

But what does God say? Does He condone military action?

Some would say yes. Didn’t God command the Israelites to fight against their enemies and destroy them?

Let us look into our Bibles and get a fuller picture of what Almighty God says about this topic, and what He would have us do. Let us find His solution to this world’s problems—a solution that will stamp out both terrorism and war!

Ancient Israel and War

Ancient Israel fought in many wars. Many times it suffered horrendous casualties. There were, however, also times that the enemy was soundly defeated because of God’s support. So did God want the Israelites to attack their enemies? Does God condone war?

What did God promise the Israelites if they obeyed Him? Exodus 23:22.

God wanted Israel to rely on Him for protection. In leading the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, He specifically led them around the land of the Philistines because He did not want them to even see war, much less participate in it (Exodus 13:17).

Consider Israel’s national release from slavery. God could have told the Israelites to slay the Egyptians themselves, but He wanted to protect His people, and He did when they obeyed Him. God supernaturally killed every firstborn son in Egypt. When the Israelites went through the Red Sea, they were miraculously protected from the Egyptian army by God. There was no need to fight. There could be no question that they were delivered by God, not by their own actions.

Did God allow the unconverted Israelites to do certain things because of the hardness of their hearts? Matthew 19:8. Did these exceptions come from God or were they a result of Israel’s stubbornness? Last part of the verse.

God promised to protect the Israelites from their enemies if they kept God’s law, but Israel did not continue to obey God. The choice to participate in war was made by the carnal-minded Israelites, not by God.

Israel Commanded to Rely on God

What did God tell King Jehoshaphat about the outcome of battles? 2 Chronicles 20:14-15.

Before this answer from God, Jehoshaphat fasted and prayed to God for deliverance. God responded and promised him that they would win any battle if they relied on God. The battle was not Jehoshaphat’s, it was God’s! It’s when the Israelites made the battle theirs that they would lose.

When the Ethiopians came against King Asa with a 1-million-man army, what did Asa do? 2 Chronicles 14:9-12.

This account shows that there was absolutely no need for Israel to fight. God protected His people when Israel submitted to Him. Sadly, even after this astounding demonstration of God’s power, King Asa did not continue to rely on Him.

In his 1985 booklet Military Service and War, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about this event: “This time Asa neglected to rely on God to fight off the attacking military force! This time he did precisely what the United States and Britain are doing today! He hired an ally—the kingdom of Syria (2 Chronicles 16:1-3).”

What happened when King Asa didn’t rely on God? 2 Chronicles 16:7-9.

Mr. Armstrong concluded: “If you wonder why our nations are continually having wars, there is your answer!” These wars are even more prevalent today than in Mr. Armstrong’s time. As Asa’s example shows, they happen because nations don’t rely on God.

And yet, there were times that God instructed the Israelites to take action themselves against their enemies. Why? Consider Mr. Armstrong’s words on this: “But, did God do wrong, in using the war-determined Israelites to drive out these nations, and to kill? Never!

“Remember this basic truth: God alone has the right to take human life, since He alone is the Giver of life.

“Because of Israel’s faithlessness and disobedience, God used them as His instrument in taking life, which God had full right to do!

“There is no unrighteousness with God! But Israel had chosen the way of sin in going to war. Even then, they could have changed their decision.

“The divine Giver of human life has the right to take the lives He gave. They belong to Him! But for any human, or nation, of his or its own volition, on his or its own initiative, to take human life is sin. The life he takes is not his—but God’s! He not only commits murder—he also steals or takes what is God’s.”

War Today

We’ve seen that human nature leads us to rely on ourselves and fight other nations. Does this mean that God actually condones violence? John 18:36.

True followers of Jesus in God’s Church refrain from violence. But the unconverted nations of Israel, much like ancient Israel without God’s Spirit, do not heed God’s instructions. Israel’s function as an instrument of death was just another result of its faithlessness and disobedience. The same principle applies to the situation Winston Churchill found himself in during World War ii. He was used by God to save America and Britain through military action. He was a man of vision and knew that action must be taken to save his nation. However, Mr. Churchill was not a man of faith and obedience, and the British people were not God-fearing. Led by Mr. Churchill, they were used in much the same way as the “war-determined Israelites.”

How has God cursed modern Israel because of their sins? Leviticus 26:15-16, 19. Is murder and violence against fellow man clearly a sin? Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-22, 38-39; 1 John 3:15.

The Philadelphia Church of God’s newsmagazine, the Philadelphia Trumpet, frequently comments on American military weakness. This is, however, not because we support military action—we do not! This military weakness of the United States and Britain demonstrates the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy—that the pride of our power has been broken. These curses have come upon these countries because of sin, and violence is a sin! In writing on this lack of military strength, the intent of the Trumpet is simply to show the extent to which God’s prophecies are being fulfilled in the U.S. and Britain.

If we are to be true followers of Jesus Christ, we must follow His commands. He clearly commands that we refrain from all violence, especially war!

Citizens of Heaven

Are God’s called-out ones citizens of this present, evil world? Philippians 3:20, 2 Corinthians 5:20.

The word conversation in Philippians 3:20 is politeuma in the original Greek and is properly translated “citizenship.” In fact, it is translated citizenship in virtually every translation of the Bible except the King James.

As a citizen of the United States of America, you would not fight for any other country; to do so would be considered treason. When you visit another country, you are a guest. You cannot participate in any aspect of its government, military or otherwise. Those called out of this world today are citizens of heaven, led by our King, Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

If you are led by a government that is fighting a war, then you can fight for it. But if you are led by God, He gives the following command: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). If we were to participate in any of this world’s military organizations, we would be demonstrating our lack of obedience to our Father and, at the same time, our willingness to fight against a terror that has been appointed by God (Leviticus 26:16).

Is the fight of true Christians physical or spiritual? Ephesians 6:12.

Jesus Christ’s Kingdom is not yet here, and His servants do not fight in physical wars. Our battle is not physical; it is spiritual. We are expected to follow the government of God Almighty, not the flawed governments of man. If man followed God’s law of love, peace would cover the Earth—and this is exactly what will happen in the near future!

Terrorism and war are appalling evils and will be stamped out by Jesus Christ at His return. We, however, do not have the right to go work for another government or kingdom—one being punished by God for its sins—simply because we believe its cause to be righteous.

Does the right to execute vengeance belong to humans or to God? Romans 12:19. Will God’s elect help God and Christ execute that vengeance in the future? Psalm 149:5-9.

World peace is coming, but not by man’s military systems. Vengeance is God’s, and He will bring peace at His appointed time. When Jesus Christ returns, His saints will fight by His side and will finally be allowed to execute that judgment. All of His saints will have that honor, and our victory will be assured!

Until that time, God expects us to serve Him, not one of man’s military organizations.