What Do the Constitution and Bible Say About National Defense

Before Tea Party Christians should argue that our country requires a strong military, we should first understand what the Constitution of the United States and the Bible says about national defense. Read on to find out.

What the Constitution says about national defense

As Ernest Istook explains in his America at Risk Memo1, Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress. It begins:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;…

America’s priorities, according to the Constitution, is to first provide for the common defense and then generally for the nation’s welfare.

Regarding the common defense, the Constitution devotes six of seventeen clauses specifically to national defense. These include raising and supporting armies and the Navy, making the rules that govern the Armed Forces, and organizing, arming, and disciplining the state-level militia as well as the Army and Navy:

Clause 10: To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
Clause 11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
Clause 12: To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
Clause 13: To provide and maintain a Navy;
Clause 14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
Clause 16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Clearly, the Constitution considers the national defense a high priority for government.

What the Bible says about national defense

Wayne Grudem in his book, Politics According to the Bible2, argues that the Bible also places a high priority for national defense.  He cites 1 Peter 2:14 “or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right,” as support for civil government to use force to punish those who do evil.

Grudem also cites Romans 13:1-4:

1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. … 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

In this passage Grudem explains that governments are authorized to “bear the sword.”  They do so, commanded by God, to protect citizens inside the country from evildoers.  As a consequence, the government certainly has an obligation to protect the citizens from threats outside of the country. Grudem provides the following examples from the Old Testament, in which the nation of Israel repeatedly had to defend itself against other nations (Philistines, Assyrians and Babylonians) .

Judges 2: 16-18 16 Then the LORD raised up judges,who saved them out of the hands of these raiders….18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them

2 Samuel 5: 17-25 17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”
The LORD answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” …25 So David did as the LORD commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

Pacifists claim that the 6th Commandment in Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder,” means that we should not go to war and kill. However Grudem explains that, “The Hebrew word translated murder in Exodus 20:13 is ratsakh, a word used forty-nine times in the Old Testament. It is never used to refer to killing in war (other Hebrew words are used for this). Rather, the word refers to what we would call “murder” in English today (the unlawful killing of another human being)….”3

In Acts 10:1 “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.”  Cornelius, a Romans centurion in command of 100 soldiers, accepted Christ and was baptized as a believer with no mention that his occupation as soldier was undesirable. In Luke 14:31 Jesus speaks matter-of-factly about war without condemning it to make another point: “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?.”

Pacifists often claim that Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also,” provides support for Jesus’ opposition to war. However, Jesus’ teaching applies to individual conduct not to civil government conduct. In fact Romans 13: 1-4 teaches that God authorizes governments to use deadly force if necessary to oppose evil.4

Furthermore, Jesus implies the use of deadly force for self-defense in Luke 22:36, where “He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’”

Regarding non-interventionism, Grudem says there is no Biblical support. He cites Obadiah 1:11 “On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” In this passage God rebukes the nation of Edom for failing to provide Israel military support when attacked by the Babylonians.5

Clearly the Constitution and Bible provide strong support for national defense. To purposely weaken our military as a unilateral showing of pacifism is not only illogical but unsupported by either the Constitution or Bible.

To Read More

Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible; A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2010).


  1. Ernest Istook, The Constitutional Charge to Defend America (The Heritage Foundation, America at Risk Memo #AR 11-05, May 31st 2011) Available at: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/05/the-constitutional-charge-to-defend-america (May 30, 2012).
  2. Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2010), 388.
  3. Ibid, 389.
  4. Ibid, 391.
  5. Ibid, 398-399.

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