Certain radicals have adopted pacifism as part of their program. They oppose military service, thinking that by doing so, they can oppose war. According to the Bible God has given the sword to the civil government and at the same time has given it the authority to command its citizens to use it. The Christian faith does not include the idea that arms and military service are in themselves evil. Christian indeed want to live in peace with all people. But that is another matter. God has given the civil government the sword to use in this evil world so that with its help He can prevent the coarse outbreak of evil. God wants the sword held by the civil government to be directed against evildoers for the benefit of the citizens. Defending one's country is also using the sword of the civil government. An anarchy would soon arise if a State had no army, police, laws or punishments. Man's corruption is the reason for all this. Wars are not caused by armies and arms but by people. According to the Bible there will never be a kingdom made up only of believers on this earth. On the contrary the great majority will be unbelievers. Experience also indicates that we cannot always even rely on the peaceful aspirations of Christians because every Christian still is corrupt by nature. Peter used the sword by his own authority against the civil government. Jesus told him: "Put your sword back into its place" (Matt. 26:52). The question has often been left unasked: By whose sword would have the rebellious Peter perished? By the sword of the government, of course. Thus Jesus placed His Apostle as a human being and member of society under the authority of the civil government, even under the sword of the government! (Compare this to the Catholic Church's demand for power). Jesus did not take away the sword from the civil government, but rather
In our day the Christian Church is viewed as a sector of society and even as a group for pressuring society. This can be explained by the fact that the methods of operation used by the unbelieving world are being brought into the churches. The Apostles knew how to separate the spiritual from the earthly. The Apostolic Church was not a pressure group or a sector of society. This is apparent, for instance, from the Apostles' attitude toward slavery. Paul writes: "Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that" (1 Cor.7:21). According to the Bible the task of the Christian Church is not correcting the faults of society. The Church merely exhorts its members to act properly and expects this of them.
The above-mentioned exhortation of Paul to slaves provides much room for thought because the lines of demarcation between the spiritual and earthly spheres are jumbled in the minds of people today. The members of the early Church obeyed the civil authorities. Without pressuring the masters of slaves or urging the slaves to rebel against their masters, the Christian Church, as is generally known, was in time instrumental in abolishing slavery, even though the abolition of slavery was not a part of its program. One wonders just how great a blessing would ensue, if in Christendom today the spiritual and earthly matters were kept separate from each other.
From that perspective accusations against society are made. It is accused of practicing bureaucracy and government by police force, of being slow to act and promoting class distinction and racial segregation. Something of this nature can indeed occur at times in certain areas among certain people. But it does not occur because everything old is bad, and the matter cannot be corrected by rejecting basic values. There are many acceptable ways of improving our society. Mature citizens, especially Christians, should also have patience. A sinless society cannot be created from sinful people.
The agitators among the restless see modern day society as the root of all evil. For this reason they believe that society must be renewed by corrupting and destroying the old or opposing it in some other way. What sort of society they want is often unclear to them. By destroying the old they envisualize a better society, the nature of which cannot as yet be determined. There is even one school of thought which maintains that there is nothing permanent to strive for. Goals, the way of life and morals may change continually. Today its representatives may be of one opinion, tomorrow of another.
According to God's Word, however, there are certain institutions that have a divine right of existence, and which cannot be rebelled against without incurring God's wrath.
Institutions of this type are:
- the home, family and marriage
- civil government, civil law, society, the State and Fatherland
- God's Word and the Christian Church
Of these the first two belong to the sphere of earthly life, the third, to the sphere of spiritual life.
In present-day youth's desire to destroy the old, the question is not really one of renewal, which is constantly needed in the face of changing times and circumstances, but the question is of the destruction of the above mentioned institutions or rebellion against God.
To the Christian, who knows the Bible, it is apparent that by-passing the Law and rebelling against it, is against God's will and His Word. "Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves... Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake" (Rom. 13:2,5).
The Bible, it's true, recognizes exceptional circumstances in which one "must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). But during the time of the Apostles circumstances of this type did not even include slavery. The Apostles were permitted to act contrary to the civil authorities when the authorities forbade them to proclaim God's Word, so too the Egyptian midwives (Ex. 1:15-21), when they were commanded to kill the male children of the Hebrews. In many countries, through the influence of the atheistic philosophy of life, certain changes have been made in the laws, which do not protect the development of life. But restless youth does not take note of this. When we compare the faults of society, which today's youth is attacking, to the faults at the time of the Apostles, for instance slavery, we can readily see that circumstances today are not exceptional to such a degree that the law can be by?passed.
Youth seeks ideals. It has a proclivity for idealism, and often at the same time is full of enthusiasm, eager for action and seeking a way to put its ideals into practice. In such an attitude there is not yet anything moral, either good or bad. Whether we approve or disapprove of youth's attitude depends on the deals and the way in which they are pursued and carried out. Are the ideals right or wrong? And are the ways in which they are pursued and carried out morally acceptable? In one of our songs for youth we sing: "Here your zeal is appropriate and your cheerful songs are of help."
Youth of a necessity lacks experience. Young people do not know how improvement can be achieved, and often do not even know which means of improvement are right and already in existence. The lack of experience is also partly to blame for the superficial understanding of man's corruption and the childish belief that the world can be improved instantly and changes brought about in matters whose roots had their beginning centuries ago. Disappointment gives rise to bitterness and the disappointed one doesn't understand its cause. Christian young people also often do not understand what means God has provided for holding in check fallen mankind and the world, which lies in "the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19), so that man cannot commit all the evil he
Among the youth of our day there is an effort to bring about changes in our society through certain means of pressure and coercion, by attacking matters straight on and by-passing the methods presupposed by our nation's laws, decrees and good proven customs. Those involved in this effort do not represent all of our youth - perhaps only a small minority. They are influential largely because of the media, which seem to have difficulty in presenting matters from a realistic perspective. This method (the direct approach), which has been learned from the world, has also been used in the Christian churches. The task of the Church has been construed to include not only curing the ills of society, but also curing them by unconventional methods
The Bible gives Jesus the name, Chief Shepherd, and those who believe in Him are called His sheep. This is a beautiful illustration. The Good Shepherd takes care of His sheep and loves them. The sheep follow the Shepherd, need Him, and recognize their own Shepherd's voice from among the voices of strangers. Instruction in God's Word that is based on this illustration should be emphasized in our day, because that which is directly contrary to the teaching of the illustration is happening today. Many shepherds are hirelings. To them their own welfare and security are more important than the fate of their sheep. The sheep are not warned by them concerning the voices of strangers or false doctrine, but are rather urged to be faithful to all shepherds regardless of what they teach.
Jesus says: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27). Jesus' sheep listen intently to determine whether the voice they hear is that of their Shepherd or the voice of someone else. If it is all the same to a person what is proclaimed, just as long as something is proclaimed and a nice speech is given, then such a person is not one of Christ's sheep. If on the other hand a person has a desire to hear God's Law so that he will come to a knowledge of his sins, and at the same time has a desire to hear the Gospel in order to believe in the forgiveness of sins, he has the characteristics of a sheep of Jesus. A true Christian also longs to receive instruction that will offer him guidance for leading a Christian life. But what if something contrary to God's Word is taught? To one of Jesus' sheep this type of teaching should be like the howl of a wolf that quickly frightens him away.
A sheep does not trust his shepherd on the basis of sight. Sheep's clothing can deceive. The voice is the deciding factor. Preaching must be in agreement with God's Word. He who teaches contrary to God's Word is a false shepherd. "A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers" (John 10:5). It is the sacred responsibility of God's children to judge whether or not the preaching and teaching they hear is in accordance with God's Word. If it is, they must follow it. If not, they must go where Christ's voice is heard.
Our Reformer Martin Luther says of shepherds: "I am one of God's sheep. I want to have and accept His Word. If you will give me His word, I will regard you as my shepherds. But if you set up another doctrine, and do not offer me the pure Gospel, I do not wish to regard you as shepherds or to accept your voice. For the Ministry of which you boast does not extend any further than the Word does. If someone is a shepherd we must accept him; if he is not, we must depose him from office. For the sheep must judge the voice of the shepherds."
Some have at times advised false teachers to resign from the shepherd's office, but no one has followed such advice. Why not? Well, has anyone ever heard of a wolf, by his own initiative, leaving the sheep he holds captive? This does not happen. The sheep must flee from the wolves and true shepherds must keep the wolves away.
Many do not understand the significance of pure teaching. The ear has become numbed. But a true sheep, the older he becomes, is more and more attached to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Nature, bursting into its summer dress, is refreshing and pleasant to observe. It has the spirit of life and hope. The Bible compares Christian faith to this type of aroma of life (2 Cor. 2:14) that Jesus sent His disciples to spread.
Sin brought a deathly smell into the world, into our body and soul. But the Savior bore our sins and reconciled us to God. Now everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins in His name. This is the sweet aroma of eternal life which springs from the Gospel. It brings summer into the midst of winter.
All people do not feel the need to have their sins forgiven by God. They think they can get along without forgiveness. God's Word places them under the Law. It demands that they obtain eternal life for themselves by keeping the Commandments. "He who practices them shall live by them" (Gal. 3:12). A good and respectable life in the eyes of society is not sufficient. The heart must be filled with pure love toward God and one's neighbor. This is impossible for everyone. Thus everyone who rejects God's grace is condemned by the Law. The condemnation of the Law is death. "The letter killeth," says Paul, referring to the Law's purpose (2 Cor. 3:6). For this reason, to those under the Law, God's Word has an aroma of death. They accuse Christians of condemning them and do not understand that they condemn themselves by rejecting God's pardon.
Paul had many different types of experiences while proclaiming the Gospel. He was privileged to observe how pagans, while listening to the preaching of the Gospel, "began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord, and as many as had been appointed to eternal life, believed" (Acts 13:48). But he also observed that others hardened their hearts and blasphemed. This, however, did not cause him to lose heart, for he realized that this was part of his calling. He marveled and thanked God: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
Why don't you too, friend, join Christ's triumphant victory parade? Breathe the refreshing aroma of life and enjoy the bliss that God's children enjoy in Christ in all its fullness.
The Bible compares the acceptance of salvation to tasting. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews speaks of those who "have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come" (Heb. 6:4,5). The taste of food can be experienced only by those who actually taste it. Jesus says: "I am the living Bread that came down out of heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh" (John 6:51). Only he who has tasted can know Jesus as the good Bread of Life. In other words: only he, who believes that his sins have been forgiven because of Jesus' sacrifice, can understand that the Gospel is good news. Others are not competent to judge.
The Bible warns especially those, who have come to know that the Word of God is good, not to reject it intentionally. If someone, despite being convinced of the truth by the Holy Spirit, rejects salvation and blasphemes the Spirit of Grace, he can no longer be brought to a knowledge of the truth. The sin against the Holy Ghost is a sin to be feared. Often, however, those who have not committed it, fear that they have. If someone is troubled because he fears that he has committed this sin, he can be at peace and return to the Father in the manner of the prodigal son. Those who have committed this sin are not troubled because of it. They have once and for all driven away the Holy Spirit, so that He not longer convicts them of sin or convinces them that they need salvation.
If we have tasted the good Word of God, let us remain at God's table. "Like newborn babes,long for the pure milk of the Word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (1 Pet. 2:2,3). The devil would like to draw us away from God's table and have us join the celebrations of the unbelieving world. The devil offers fleeting pleasure and with it captivates short-sighted and ungrateful man. Such food is poison and it results in death. But of His own bread Jesus says: "If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever."
Esau sold his birthright for some lentil stew. Judas betrayed his Savior for thirty pieces of silver. Many sell the salvation of their souls for money. The most unscrupulous use the cause of Christ to make money. To these self-indulgent people the Bible says: "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?" (Luke 12:20). Friend, do not measure the value of the Bread of Life with money, but rather taste and experience how good the Lord is.