"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.V No.XI Pg.12-13
June 1943

Is It Parallel?

P. W. Stonestreet

There is an effort made in the press to make it appear that the teaching that defends Christians in support of national defense to the extent of the government's divine mission is, from the standpoint of the Scriptures, parallel to defense of Premillennialism. It is therefore incumbent upon all, who oppose Premillennialism and also defend obedience to the government in "every good work," to speak for themselves. So in this capacity only, we quote and comment, omitting for the sake of brevity, the names of both papers and writers.

"It is always right to obey God, but who is ready to affirm that God has always told all men in all ages to do the same things?" No one whose position does not assume all that, is logically obligated to "affirm" all that; besides, all that is irrelevant. But we are vitally concerned with the important fact that commands of Inspiration to Christians in this age are sufficiently broad and inclusive to involve specific commands of the "minister of God," the temporal government, especially commands that pertain to its divine mission, and all such commands are comprehended in the following inspired command:

"Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as one sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well." (I Peter 2:13, 14.) Thus, the command is so associated with the mission, the command is only modified by the government's divine mission; hence, scriptural obedience or disobedience to the command of the "minister of God" turns only on whether vengeance is on evil-doers or on them that do well. Hence, in the light of that mission, Christians are not to render blind obedience. Besides, Christianity contemplates Christians having "their senses exercised to discern good and evil." (Heb. 5:14.) So we are to discern between the government's divine mission, which is "to thee for good" (Romans 13:4), and departures from that mission, and to be governed accordingly. This divine principle calls for the exercise of human judgment, whether one elects to be a combatant or a non-combatant, but no more in the one course than in the other.

Acting under this principle and using such judgment, conscience, and evidence that he has, this writer in the present world war, has cast his lot with the United Nations. All Christians in all countries and islands of the sea may, under the same divine principle, decide for themselves as to whether the country in which they hold citizenship is fulfilling its divine mission as set forth in the New Testament, or abusing that mission, and be governed accordingly. This leaves the matter exactly where God's word leaves it. If it results in a brother fighting against brother, who is responsible for it? Precisely the same principle obtains in the case of religious divisions. All religious people are parties to division, for they are on one side or the other. God knows where to place the responsibility for such divisions. That the Scriptures sanction one side of a religious division in some cases, is seen in the command to "mark" and "turn away from" some religious people, which spells division. So it is just as unscriptural to condemn all sides to all wars as it is to condemn all sides to all religious division, for God has no more plainly legislated concerning spiritual affairs than temporal affairs; and may this truth be impressed.

That "the government does the bearing of the sword" through its armed citizenry; and that "the Christian does not resist the government or rise in rebellion to it" is not the issue. But the implication that the Christian's obedience is thus limited to merit passive obedient is the precise issue. By contrast to that implication, we quote an inspired command to Christians:

"Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work." (Titus 3:1.) But if as alleged, only non-resistance is called for, then what is the practical purpose of the inspired admonition "to be ready unto every good work"? Behold what absurdity a human theory involves when placed alongside the truth of Inspiration! Pray, tell me how a Christian can be only passively submissive to and at the same time "be ready unto every good work" of the government. So the passiveness of that theory does not tally with the intense concern implied in that inspired admonition.

As to the claim that the Premillennial "we" in the place of the textual "they" of Rev. 20:4 is parallel to the implied "we" in the place of the textual "he" of Romans 13:4, it is respectfully denied. For to the extent that Christians bear arms under the command of Romans 13:1; I Peter 2:13,14; Titus 3:1; to that extent they are practically a part of the subject referred to in the text. In fact, the marginal reading suggests "it" for "he" referring to the government.

Again we quote: "If you say that we' are the government, then Romans 13 would have to be understood as saying that we obey ourselves." That is the first time I have ever seen an implied denial, so far as Christians are concerned, of Lincoln's famous definition: "Government by the people, of the people, and for the people." And according to that brand of logic, one could not obey the by-laws of a business organization of which one is a member, for that, too, would be obeying one's self. Civilization makes certain well-understood demands of all civilized people. Cannot one who is a member of that body-politic obey such demands? In spite of the assumption of his theory to the contrary, I am persuaded that the author of that theory is a civilized brother, but evidently has not given close thought to this subject.

I quote: "There is not a command, suggestion, or thought in Romans 13, or in the entire Bible, that a Christian, as such, must or should bear arms in carnal warfare." If assertions were proof, that would settle it. Indeed, one is not obligated merely on account of being "a Christian, as such." That fact alone neither qualifies nor disqualifies one scripturally; other factors may be involved. While one should be no more religiously than a Christian, that fact has nothing whatever to do with a Christian being several things not religious in other spheres. For example, like Paul and others, a Christian may hold citizenship in a temporal government. That fact and also whether the government is performing its divine mission (not violating it) are the obligating factors.

Furthermore, most of us are citizens of a temporal government by natural birth, for which we are not responsible. This citizenship in point of time (not in point of importance) has priority over spiritual citizenship. Hence, it is incumbent upon all who may dissent from this position, to prove by the Scriptures that a citizen of a temporal government renounces that citizenship by becoming a citizen of the spiritual kingdom. This logically places all such dissenters in the affirmative. May they speak to the point?

Rom. 13 And Rev. 20

The foregoing article by Brother Stonestreet is to the point, and is right. The author of the article referred to in the Gospel Advocate should consider his parallels more carefully before breaking into print. The thing that kills his parallel is the fact "we" are not a part of the "they" or of what John was referring to in Revelation 20. But we are a part of the government under which we live and are therefore an integral part of the "he" of Romans 13. For instance, it was Paul who wrote Romans 13. But Paul was a Roman citizen and said so. Therefore, according to this brother's article, Paul was himself a part of the "he" of Romans 13. Since it is admitted that "he" refers to the government, and Paul was a part of the "he," and the brother says that "the government does the sword bearing," it follows from his own argument that Paul could have been a sword-bearer as "a minister of God for good," but a Christian today cannot be one! That just about kills his little lecture on what God has told men "in different ages" to do--wonder if he thinks Paul lived in "a different age" from the age in which we are living? Could the Roman citizen, as a Christian, who was a part of that "he" (government), do a thing that an American citizen, as a Christian today, cannot do?

The attempted argument that Christians are not a part of the "he" of Romans 13 would force the conclusion that there were no Roman citizens who were Christians, and no Christians who were Roman citizens. That makes it hard on Paul, the Roman citizen. On the other hand, if there were some Christians who were Roman citizens, and hence a part of the "he" (the government), and some Christians who were not Roman citizens, and hence not a part of the "he," it follows that some Christians could be "a minister of God for good" in bearing the sword and some could not! According to that "brand of reasoning" some Christians could do a thing that other Christians could not do. The inevitable conclusion from the brother's own argument (?) is that in order to be exempt from the responsibility of sword-bearing one would have to be an alien! In this "age" that would automatically exempt him. It has been very appropriately suggested that those who are arguing on the conscientious objector's side of this question should, in order to be consistent, register as aliens.

The preacher who wrote the article referred to by Brother Stonestreet doubtless performs marriage ceremonies like all other preachers. When he does so, whose agent is he? Who gives him the authority to perform wedding ceremonies? The Bible does not. In that capacity he acts as a minister of the government--an officer of the state. Therefore, when this preacher performs a marriage ceremony, as a civil officer, he makes himself a part of that "he," of which he has said no Christian is a part. So that makes it hard on him, as well as Paul. As a civil officer in executing a marriage license he is in the same category with all other civil magistrates, doing the same thing. So, since the "he" of Romans 13 is the civil magistrate, what becomes of his contention that he, himself, is not a part of the "he"? But since he is a part of the "he" by his own official acts, then "he" could act in the capacity of "a minister of God" who "beareth not the sword in vain," when it is "for good."

The brother's contention that a Christian is no part of the government (and if his line of thought does not mean that it does not mean anything) will force him to surrender his credentials as a civil magistrate in performing ceremonies. Let all parties contracting marriage in the section where he preaches be so advised. And the government, too, for I hardly think the government would pass out such credentials to anyone who admits that he is not a part of the government. If I believed that way I would not accept the credentials nor would I perform such offices in and for the government.

It is becoming more and more evident that there are a lot of "Christians" (mostly among the preachers) who think it is quite all right to claim the privileges of a citizen, but altogether wrong to bear the responsibilities of one. Not being a part of the "he" of Romans 13 does not bar them from the privileges, it only exempts from responsibilities!

As for trying to parallel our contention on the government issue with the efforts of some who defend Premillennialism, that is absurd. They are in reverse gear in that effort. The very background of Premillennialism is the contention that all human government belongs to the devil and must be overthrown in order that Christ may set up his own government on earth, which will be the millennium. Russell taught it; Rutherford taught it; the Jehovah Witnesses cult still teach it --and some of our brethren appear to teach it. It is on the record that J. N. Armstrong teaches that all human government will be overthrown and there will be a period of time when no government will exist on earth except Christ's own government. Whether it will last "one thousand or two thousand years," he says he does not know--but that it will be the fulfillment of Dan. 2:44, he thinks he does know. All Premillennialists have similar ideas of it. So the silly attempt to link our contention with Premillennialism becomes a boomerang. The brethren who are opposing participation in civil and military government are themselves the ones who are yoked with the Premillennialists, for that is Premillennial doctrine in the very essence of it, including all shades and colors, forms and phases.

A man who cannot make better discriminations than that ought not to try to write--and a paper that will publish such an article as an argument on their side of the question must be hard pressed for something on the subject.-EDITOR.