For some the conclusion reached in my last blog – that Jesus Christ is not a pacifist – may have appeared premature. After all, why should we moderns be bound by the doctrinal position of the English and Scottish divines of the 1640’s (Westminster Shorter Catechism)? The linch pin for this conclusion was the unity and equal authority of the New and Old Testaments. (I’m assuming that Christian pacifists will not object to Christ’s deity and unity in the Trinity.)
Surely, some might argue, the New Testament with its apparent emphasis on peace supplants and overrules the Old Testament with its apparent emphasis on judgement. I will answer this point with the demonstrable fact that Jesus Himself considered the Old Testament to be God’s Word, and, lived under its authority. As is so often the case (likely always if I looked harder) another person has already made the case far better than could I. Here’s an extended excerpt from “The Authority of Scripture” by William Webster.
Christianity is founded upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His attitude to the Scriptures is supremely important. Since he is God, then all that he teaches must be true and authoritative.
Jesus clearly taught that Scripture is inspired by God. He regarded it as truth—infallible, inerrant, historically reliable, authoritative for living, and an all sufficient rule of faith. He could say, for example, when speaking with the Pharisees or Sadducees, ‘Have you not read what God said?’ and then quote from Scripture (Matt. 22:31-32). In Matthew 4:4-10, Jesus repeatedly answers Satan by using the Old Testament as the Word of God, saying, ‘It is written.’ He maintained that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was accomplished (Matt. 5:17) and that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35).
In the prayer to his Father on the night before he was crucified, Jesus declared that ‘Thy word is truth’ (John 17:17). He affirmed the historicity of Adam (Matt. 19:4), Cain and Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah (Luke 17:26), Jonah (Matt. 12:40), the creation account (Mark 10:6-9), and the reality of heaven and hell (Mark 9:44-46).
Jesus also used the Word of God as an ultimate standard of authority when he came into conflict with other people. He rebuked men with Scripture; correcting their false concepts, teaching and misinterpretations of Scripture by using scriptural proofs. Matthew 22:23-33, for example, describes how Jesus told the Sadducees that they were greatly mistaken in their denial of the resurrection because they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God. Then he quoted a passage from the book of Genesis as an authoritative declaration from God to correct them. It is highly significant that Christ never appealed to tradition as a standard of authority; instead he used Scripture to correct the errors of tradition.
As Jesus is Lord over the Church, the Church must not only accept his teaching on the Scriptures; it must also adopt the same attitude towards them that he did. His entire life was submitted to the authority of Scripture. In quoting passages from the Old Testament during his conflict with Satan in the wilderness, Christ was applying them to his own life and thereby demonstrating that he was under the authority of Scripture. His victory was accomplished through obedience to the Scriptures, as he used them as the ultimate authority for every area of his life.
At another time, speaking of his relationship with his Father, Jesus said, ‘I know him and keep his word’ (John 8:55). From beginning to end, Christ’s life and ministry were governed by the authority of Scripture. As well as testifying to the truth of the Scriptures by submitting himself to their authority, Christ also declared their inspiration as he fulfilled in his life, death and resurrection the Messianic prophecies they contained. Over and over again he said, ‘This is being done in order that that which is written might be fulfilled.’
As a quick aside, it’s difficult to imagine a more complete and compelling refutation of the Confession of 1967’s view of Scripture. If you dare, consider the moral and theological corruption necessary to move from Christ’s to the Confession of 1967’s view.
Finally, I submit that Jesus Himself responded to a situation with violence (John 2:13-17).
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” [Psalm 69:9]
The “whip of cords” was used to compel otherwise settled men out before him. That is, violence was used as a means of resolving a particularly unjust and unacceptable situation. I would agree that this incident pales when compared to the Old Testament incidents of violence. However, this is a matter of degree as opposed to kind.
However, were this incident the only evidence that Jesus Christ isn’t a pacifist, then a legitimate criticism could be that we are placing much weight on a very slender reed. The following posts will demonstrate that there is much more Biblical evidence that counters a supposed pacifist ideology in Christ.