Header Image: Public Domain

"We interrupt your regularly scheduled programme to bring you this..." Sorry if you were waiting for part 3 of the Coming of Jesus series, but what with all that's going on in the news lately, I felt that this needed to be written first.

"Support Israel's right to defend itself from terror."

israel_memes_4.jpg
Images like this really don't help anything.

If you've been on Facebook, or any other social media no doubt, I'm sure you will have seen (or even said) words to this effect in status' or memes. I keep seeing memes and images posted by people, often from Christians, about "supporting Israel" and each time it makes me stop and question that statement and/or sentiment. I question its accuracy, how biased or not the sources were, whether it's propaganda rather than truth. It makes me wonder about what view of God and theology that person holds to that enables Israel to get a 'free pass' as it were. There's images and videos being posted from both sides, but it seems that when there is something negative against Israel, it's called "propaganda" and staged/fake etc, but the other way around it is terrorism and self-defense by Israel. Then there's those who play the racism card, such as the image to the right, making people feel guilty of Anti-Semitism for not being a die-hard Zionist.

But what I'd really like to know is when did Christian's begin supporting any kind of violence or war? I realise the church has a long and bloody history - but is that really the Jesus way - Jesus the "prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6)?

Advertisement

How about we do what Jesus taught and support efforts for peace, and not war; praying for our enemies and those who persecute, and not take sides, you know, like we're supposed to as Christ-followers.

"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." – Matt 5:44-45

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." – Rom 12:21

In the midst of all this though, there is one meme I've seen which seems to go against the grain, and which I would feel most comfortable sharing online, which I will do here too:

israel_memes_5.jpg
This, I can agree with.
Advertisement

Memes aside, what does the Scriptures say on the matter of Israel, war and support for violence?

Being against the war that is being waged isn't the same as condoning the actions of terrorists or racism or killing children. The arguments just become emotional knee-jerkers when you throw in "the children" rather than looking at the situation as a whole and realising than killing anyone - whether babies, full grown adult or somewhere in between, is wrong (#6 of the 10 Commandments, anyone?). 

Consider this from 1 Peter 2:21

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

Advertisement

And Romans 12:17-21,

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Covenant, under Jesus, presents an interesting tension of non-violence and justice. A tension which Paul continues in Romans 12 in the context of governing authorities and their role in the world, but I think this quote from John Stott sums it up quite well:

“If my house is burglarized one night and I catch the thief, it may well be my duty to sit him down and give him something to eat and drink, while at the same time telephoning the police.”

Advertisement

Then you have the Church Fathers, who for the first few centuries, had some things to say on violence and joining the military in general. They weren't all in total agreement; some were complete pacifists, whereas others seemed to advocate non-violence but permitted self-defense. I'll just put a few quotes to make the point, but you can read more here about what they had to say, and by looking at the links at the end of this article for more info.

We refrain from making war on our enemies, and [we] cannot bear to see a man killed, even if killed justly.

 Justin Martyr

He who holds the sword must cast it away and that if one of the faithful becomes a soldier, he must be rejected by the Church, for he has scorned God.

— Clement of Alexandria

For even if soldiers came to John and received advice on how to act, and even if a centurion became a believer, the Lord, in subsequently disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.

— Tertullian

War is war.

From what I can see online, and in the various conversations I've had, is that people are also confusing what "we" should do as a country, with what "we" should do as Christians. Obviously we as a country are going to respond in some form, often with violence as is the way of the world. My main question though, is is that how the Church should respond? Is violence a position Christians should show their support for, whatever the reason?

Advertisement

No, we shouldn't just sit back and accept terrorism or war, but neither should be respond with, or support, evil. And in this context, "evil" isn't simply just Hamas or whoever, it's everyone who perpetrates senseless killing, on both sides. It's about being pro-peace over and above any pro-nationality.

If, as in some posts I've seen online, this comes down to basically saying "the Bible says God gave the land to the Jews, therefore they can blow up anyone who says otherwise" and thus "support" Israel because they are God's "chosen" people – to that I say you've misunderstood the New Covenant, and possible the role of God with Israel. Even if you believe the Jews have some special status with God over and above the rest of us, there's still the issue that even from a cursory read of the Old Testament, it was GOD who protected Israel and often specifically told them to go to battle with seemingly weaker positions so that it could be shown that God was their protector, not their own might (eg. Judges 7:2; Lev 26:7-9).

With that in mind, can we honestly say that what Israel is doing now is under orders from God? That they are fighting from a weaker standpoint to prove God is on their side? More to the point – is any of this war "justified" religiously by the Israelis, or is it simply a secular war over land ownership? I suspect it's the latter, yet many Christians seem to be blindly "supporting" Israel just because it's Israel, as far as I can tell.

 

Who is Israel?

Advertisement

No doubt what I'm about to say will ruffle a few feathers (if I haven't already thus far!) but we need to address the issue of who is Israel, Biblically speaking? Yes, there is a modern nation known as "Israel" now since 1948, but is that the same Israel of the Bible? The same Israel to whom God made his promises? If so, does that mean God's plans were on hiatus while there was no nation of Israel from AD 70 when Rome destroyed them, until 1948?

As one blogger put it,

If the laws that governed Israel in the Old Testament do not apply to Israel today, then they are just another nation, and they should be held to the same standard as every other nation. ... But evangelicals keep giving Israel a free pass. They do so because they believe it is God’s covenant nation. Yet when it comes to holding Israel to the stipulations of that covenant… silence.

And again;

Let’s say modern Israel IS a continuation of the Old Testament kingdom (with the noticeable absence of a king) ... How do we conclude from any of this that it’s not OK to criticize the Israeli state—especially when so much of the Hebrew Scriptures are themselves a prophetic critique of Israel? 

 

Let me say it another way: the nation of Israel in the Middle East which we know of today, is not the same Israel of the New Covenant.

So who is Israel then, according to the New Testament? In a word: Jesus.

Galatians 3:16

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ.

That promise to Abraham of his offspring blessing the earth was not speaking of the Jewish people as a whole, but their culmination in being the lineage to which the Messiah would come!

israel_memes_6.jpg
It's things like this which show a misunderstanding of the New Testament and who Jesus is.

What about the nation of Israel?

There are memes like the one on the right, which are also doing the rounds on the internet, quoting Gen 12:3 and by implication, putting guilt on anyone who dares say a bad word against the nation of Israel. Yes, all the families of the earth shall be blessed - but not by national Israel, but Jesus who IS the true Israel; the one in whom all the promises to the people of Israel are found complete (2 Cor 1:19-20).

Advertisement

It is now through faith in Jesus that we are grafted into the true Israel of God, and because of that, we are blessed! The true Israel of God now are those who believe in the promise that was given to Abraham, which was the Gospel, and not his earthly/natural descendants.

Don't take my word for it though, read for yourself how the Apostle Paul understood this:

Galatians 3:6-9

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of AbrahamAnd the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

Advertisement

This passage from Galatians is an echo of what God said in Gen 12:3, and also Gen 22:18, which Peter also refers to as well in Acts 3:25-26.

Opponents to this view (often called "Replacement Theology") say that this means that God somehow failed in his plans with physical Israel and needed a "Plan B" as it were, hence, the Church. To be clear, I'm not saying the Church replaced Israel, but rather it is the continuation of what Israel was always meant to be, and so will be the people group in whom the promises from God will be made complete. It's no longer about land or race, but Jesus's righteousness and faithfulness and an expanded plan to include all people – not simply the Jews. God didn't fail in his promises to bless the nations, his plan was just bigger than anyone first imagined!

To be against this idea/view that Jesus is Israel though, is to be against the teachings of the Apostles and the Church Fathers. I'm not quite sure how you can come to that conclusion when Paul writes things like this to the church in Rome:

Romans 9:6-8

It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants.

Paul is building his case that it is not simply a matter of being born a Jew any longer. God's plan all along was to include Gentiles (ie. non-Jews), but that was only going to happen after his Messiah had come. God's plan was always for the whole world, but his vessel of choice to bring this to fulfillment, was the Jewish people. It is now through faith that we become the true spiritual Israel under the New Covenant, grafted into the vine (Rom 11:17; Jn 15:1) so that by God showing mercy to the Gentiles through the Jews disobedience, God can in return, show mercy on them again through the Gentiles in order than none can boast, but all may be humbled by God's overwhelming grace (Rom 11)!

This is Paul's theme throughout his letters to the churches and the new believers, making the point over and over that natural Jews are now no different than Gentiles when it comes to the promises of God. Through Jesus, God has created a new humanity — a new race of people, who are heirs and descendants to Israel's promises!

Eph 2:14-16

For he [Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

Galatians 3:28-29

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

And finally,

Romans 2:28-29

For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

Thus, it follows then, that it is the Church and Christians - whether natural Jew or Gentile, who believes in and follows Jesus, that are now "spiritual Jews" grafted into the True Vine of Israel, that is, Christ Jesus.

I'll conclude and finish with a quote from another blogger who made an interesting observation with regards to this matter, and the parallels of what God spoke about national Israel, and what Peter says of the Church, which I think sums this all up nicely (the letters A,B,C are to link the parallels between the two verses):

To ancient national Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be [A] MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me [B] A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and a [C] HOLY NATION…” (Exodus 19:5-6).

To the church: “But you are a chosen race, [B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Support the true Israel by being Christ-like in your behaviour, having the mind of Christ in your thinking (Philippians 2:1-18), and by loving God and loving your neighbour – whoever they may be.

 

Advertisement

 


Further reading:

 

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 551 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

How many apostles are there in the New Testament?

| 22nd May 2018 | Gifts of the Spirit

Often in any discussion on the gifts of the Spirit and whether they are still active today (Cessationism vs Continuationism), the topic of Apostles comes up and whether the gift/office is still active today in the Church. Detractors of the Continuationist position will often quip that ‘if there were modern-day apostles, they would be world famous!’ – though I’m not sure why. Even the original Twelve weren’t “world famous” in the sense that they mean. But I digress. This isn't a question of practice, or opinion, but to examine the Scriptures to see what they say about the gift. Scripture gives us an indication that this gift, or role, wasn’t just for the original Twelve, and it also says how long we should expect the gifts (all of them) to be in operation within the Church. Paul writes about this to the Ephesus church in his letter: Ephesians 4:11-13 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (emphasis mine) This is sometimes called the “Five Fold Ministry”. Compare this with 1 Cor 13:8-12, which parallels this thought using sightly different words about coming to maturity and being fully grown, and of seeing Jesus “face to face”. To put it simply, these gifts don’t end until we meet Jesus face to face, either in death or at The Resurrection, which makes complete sense if these five major roles are to “to equip the saints” and for “building up the body of Christ”. So if these five gifts are for the continued benefit of the whole Church body, then it makes sense that we should see others who possess them, and the apostolic gift is often the most controversial one (along with prophet). So let's see how many apostles there were in the pages of the New Testament: Acts 1:13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. Acts 1:26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles.   That's 12 so far. Romans 1:1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news   Now we have 13. Some contend that Paul was the true replacement for Judas, but even if he was (which I don’t believe) and there were no more than twelve apostles, then we wouldn’t see any others – but we do. So let's continue counting: James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church—Galatians 1:19 Barnabas – Acts 14:14 Apollos – 1 Corinthians 4:6-9 ("...us apostles..." v.9) Timothy and Silvanus – 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:7 Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:25.  While some Bibles translate the word as “messenger”, the Greek word apostolon is actually “apostle” (as in other places – see endnote). Two unnamed apostles – 2 Corinthians 8:23 Again, this is translating apostolon as "messenger" rather than “apostle”. This should make around 21 apostles now, including the Twelve and Paul. (22 if you count Judas as an original apostle before his betrayal). There are then potentially two more in Romans 16:7, Andronicus and Junias, who are called "prominent among the apostles". Scholars debate the meaning of the phrase here as whether that means they were "prominent apostles" or that the apostles considered them "prominent" in their work. If we include them, it makes the count 23 so far. And if we include Jesus, "the apostle and high priest of our confession" (Hebrews 3:1), then we have 24 apostles mentioned throughout the NT (or 25 if we include Judas in the count). Now, obviously the initial Twelve were special i...

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

| 01st April 2018 | Easter

Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! What a wonderful day to remember and praise, but not just because Jesus was raised to new life, but because in that moment it sealed the promise of our own hope in God. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, we can now be partakers in that new, eternal life! 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” "Where, O death, is your sting?" Paul writes, showing the fulfillment of this prophecy in Christ. This should now be our battle cry as we go forward in Christian life; death has no hold over us who are sealed by the Holy Spirit through baptism, raised to new life in Christ. I won't go into this topic too much now, as I've written on it plenty before here and here. I just wanted to focus our minds on the victory we have because of Jesus and what he did for us this day, centuries ago. I'll close with this worship song which celebrates the resurrection, which I really like. Focus on the words of the song and praise God for Jesus! Happy Easter, everyone. ...

How was Jesus a sacrifice?

| 25th March 2018 | Lent

So often we hear this phrase said about Jesus, that he was “the lamb of God” and that he “takes away the sins of the world” — but what do those things mean and how did he take away sin? John 1:29The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (cf. Jn 1:36) The New Testament writers repeatedly refer to Jesus as a lamb; but not only that — as a ransom too. Jesus even introduces himself that way at one point: Mark 10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (cf. Matthew 20:28) To better understand the terminology and analogy we need to go back to the Torah, the Old Testament, and look at this from a Jewish perspective and what the sacrificial lamb initially meant. The main comparison that is drawn between Jesus and the old sacrifices, is that of the Passover lamb. The link between the two is really quite amazing and to be honest, I didn't realise just how much of this Jesus fulfilled in himself until I was writing this. First we need to go back to the very first Passover to see what it meant for Israel. The whole story can be found in Exodus 12, but the relevant parts to the lamb are about how it should look and be prepared, and the reason for the blood covering: Exodus 12:5-7, 13 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. […] The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. The instructions about the Passover meal also go on to say that no bones of the lamb may be broken (v. 46) and that nothing must be left overnight (v. 10). Already I’m sure you can see some of the parallels with Jesus and other prophecies and Scripture concerning him in these ways, primarily in the Psalms, and specifically John 19:33; Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20 concerning his bones not being broken. But it doesn’t end there — even the day that Jesus was crucified aligned with the Passover sacrifice of the 14th of Nisan (by our calendar, April), and later died that evening. The Jews asked Pilate to let them take the bodies down that same day (which was unusual, but done because of the Sabbath), so that meant that Jesus wasn’t left overnight, thus fulfilling the obligations of the Passover ritual! The apostles obviously recognised these parallels, as they refer to them in their epistles — see 1 Peter 1:18-20, 1 Corinthians 5:7 and basically all of Revelation. But how does this help us in our sins? The Passover wasn’t a sin offering, yet somehow the death of Jesus in this way saves us from our sins. To better understand this, and to grasp why in various places Jesus is called our “ransom”, we need to go back to the reason for the original Passover, not the ritual. Passover was what God did when he delivered his people from the slavery of the Egyptians. The blood of the lamb was the symbol that they belonged to God, and so escaped death. Originally the paschal lamb was about Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and slavery, now Jesus is the greater lamb who rescues us from slavery and bondage to sin by his blood. The blood on the doorposts covered the Israelites from the angel of death, and now by Christ's blood that covers us, we are saved from eternal death (Hebrews 9:11- 14)! Paul covers this topic of sin as our master which we are slaves to quite often (Romans 6:16-18), and how through Jesus we have been set free by being baptised into his death, so that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:4-6). Romans 6:11 So you also mus...

What did Jesus actually sacrifice?

| 18th March 2018 | Lent

Sometimes the question, or accusation/criticism maybe, is posed by atheists and critics of Christianity that Jesus didn’t really sacrifice anything because he is God and also because he got his life back three days later. So where’s the sacrifice if you know that what you give up will be given back, and given back even better than you previously had it? It’s an interesting question, and one that should cause us to stop and think about what we, as Christians, say to non-believers in case the question is ever given to us. Most people will say Jesus  gave up his life for us – but is that such a big deal if he knew he’d have it back in three days; and then to be taken up to heaven and resume his Godly-divine status he had before the incarnation? Well, yes. Obviously all the pain and suffering that Jesus had to endure before his death was a big deal, and it showed, as we can see from the Gospels when Jesus says to his disciples that he is “deeply grieved, even to death” (Matt 26:38). Luke 22:42-44‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. We can see from the quote above that Jesus really wasn’t looking forward to this, despite knowing its purpose. He even needed an angel to come to physically come to him to give him the strength to go on with this plan! Suggesting that this was a walk in the park for Jesus and making light of what he was about to go through is just ignorance of the reality of the situation. There’s also a significant detail in the Luke passage above which gives us a medical insight into what Jesus was going through in these moments: the sweat of blood. This is actually a rare condition known as Hematidrosis, and in certain conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress and/or mental anxiety, the blood vessels that feed the sweat glands break and result in actual blood seeping through. This in itself shows just how much stress Jesus was under in the lead up to his execution to cause such a thing to happen. Modern day research also shows that this condition still manifests in people awaiting execution today. So even if you knew that you would be resurrected in a few days time, I am sure that you wouldn’t really want to go through a Roman flogging and crucifixion –  some of the most brutal ways to be tortured and executed in human history! There’s lots of atheist memes on the internet making digs at this idea of what it means that Jesus sacrificed himself. “Jesus came back to life, so he basically sacrificed his weekend for you”, or similar types of jabs, totally missing the point. Typical atheist meme So what did Jesus sacrifice if he only lost his life temporarily? Everything about his pre-incarnate self. Where once a spirit, now a glorified body. Where once only divine, now fully God and fully man. The incarnation had eternal consequences for the Godhead. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just about dying, it was about taking on our humanity eternally. The eternal God now united forever with humanity. Jesus wasn’t only the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) whilst on earth, no; he is forever that now. Like John says in his opening chapter about the coming of the Word into our world: he became flesh (John 1:14) and has stayed that way. This is the “mystery of godliness” (as some translations have it) that Paul talks about in 1 Tim 3:16, where he states that Jesus was “revealed” or “manifested in flesh” and later taken up in glory. Look at when Jesus was taken up into heaven in Acts 1:11, the angels say to the disciples watching that they will see Jesus “come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” – ie., bodily. But we know from the accounts in the Gospels that Jesus’ body was no lon...