By Jon Kauffman
A Christian recently said, “we would hardly expect to hear the apostle Paul use the term “soldier” in a complementary manner in his letters if serving as a soldier was contrary to God’s will (Philippians 2:25; 2 Timothy 2:3,4).”1
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. Philippians 2:25, NIV.
3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2, 3,4, NIV.
Soldiers of Jesus.
By reading these two passages in context it is clear to see that Paul considers his friends to be soldiers of Jesus. If Jesus is our commanding officer, we must follow the teaching of Jesus.
How did Paul understand the teaching of Jesus? Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 and 2 Corinthians 10 that Christians do not use the weapons of this world. We use spiritual weapons to defeat rulers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. Using the above two passages to defend violence by Christians contradicts Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6: 10-12
In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul makes clear that Christians do not use weapons of war that the world uses.
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3,4.
Fighting for the Kingdom of God
Fighting a war for an earthly kingdom is insignificant compared to fighting one battle for the Kingdom of God. Our enemies are not flesh and blood.
If Jesus is our commanding officer, then praying for your neighbor or your own child or your enemy has more eternal significance than fighting in a worldly war.
If Jesus is our commanding officer, feeding the hungry, providing clothing for the naked and helping to rebuild houses destroyed in war has more significance in the eternal perspective than fighting as a soldier to protect kingdoms of this earth.
Paul Loved his Enemies
The Epistle of Philippians was written in 62 AD. Paul was in prison. Nero was Emperor. Christians were dying at the hands of Roman soldiers. Roman soldiers had killed Jesus. Roman soldiers were enemies of Paul. Paul was showing great love and patience to enemy soldiers. He did not kill them.
It is possible to show someone great respect, even if you disagree with their actions. It is possible to speak in a complementary manner of your enemy. Enemy soldiers had similar discipline, bravery and diligence required of a soldier of Jesus.
Fighting for a worldly kingdom such as the United States is clearly contradictory to what Paul thought were the teachings of Jesus.
The Philippians and 2 Timothy passages are very weak arguments if someone wants to use them as justification to join the US military. A military that kills Christians, civilians, women and children and impoverishes people in foreign lands.
The Armor of God, Ephesians 6:11-17
Does 2 Timothy 2:3 & 4 Justify Christian Military Service
Book Review: “America’s War for the Greater Middle East,” by Retired Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich.
See reasons that others have given to support violence by Christians: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate
Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.
3 thoughts on “Do Philippians 2:25 and 2 Timothy 2:3,4 Justify Violence by Christians?”
Definitely this is calling for a future post.
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Context. Context. Context.
First three rules of GOOD Bible study are context, context and context.
I am always happy just to find people actually opening a Bible these days. Just that is a start, an important one. I want to commend those who studied and found the word “soldier” in Philippians and Tim. That is a START, and a worthy hypothesis.
However, I still want to urge people to actually approach the Bible with their best attention. To listen to God’s Word CAREFULLY too. We all misunderstand some bits. God’s Word is full of mystery. Some bits are harder than others.
Still, one of the best things you can do to alleviate the confusion is to familiarize yourself with the CONTEXT. So much gets quickly settled when you put these passages in the proper context, the historical context, the broader context and so forth.
I think you have done a fine job of that here. I think you refute the promotion of violence from Paul very well.
Thanx for this.
I wonder if you might expand on the LOVE part. You said Paul loves his enemies. I am thinking that LOVE is his weapon in the spiritual war, his strategy, his means of waging war as a soldier of Christ.
As a soldier, Paul is not merely NONVIOLENT, he is pro_____ something. He is fighting a war, just not with worldly weapons and strategies. It is, to be sure, nonviolent, but something more too. The absence of violence AND ____.
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