And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”
I admit that I have a strong conviction in the way I understand this Scripture. In having this conviction, I caution myself, and others, to not exploit the Bible in trying to find a convenient, Biblical reason to bear arms. It’s not necessary to force the issue nor is it appropriate to flaunt it. Yet the message is unavoidable: Jesus said to buy a sword. The context here is that He included the bearing of arms in a list of life’s necessities. Yet many would sanction this command as Jesus merely appeasing one who thinks he is weak. Jesus’ commands are not meant to appease or give a false sense of what is good; His commands are meant to be obeyed.
One may insist that surrender and sacrifice of arms are required for moral people. One may say that giving up weapons is what God wants for a peaceful man and his modern culture. However, disarmament is not a reasonable action for the Christian man, his moral peers, or his society. An honest man with a hunger for truth knows this. In researching the Biblical and historical Christian positions on keeping and bearing arms for self-defense and political resistance, Christopher Little said, “Christians who study the Bible, church history and Christian ethics with intellectual honesty will find no argument against the right to keep and bear arms.”*
There is something more acceptable to God than giving up weapons. The Bible says, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3); and, “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22).
Righteousness and justice define the spiritual and moral behavior God desires from people and nations. The obedient, faithful man exercises his God-given right to bear arms as he fulfills these requirements and protects his interests of life, family, home, possessions, country, and liberty. Under the standards of righteousness and justice, the armed, peaceful man is the guardian of everything precious to him. Again, the Bible says, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8); and, “Is this not the fast I (God) have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).
The surrender and sacrifice of arms are not options for any solution to violence, terror, or sustained liberty.
When Jesus called His disciples, it was at a time when His countrymen anxiously awaited a leader to rise up and lead them out of oppression. It didn’t take long for people to realize that Jesus was not the revolutionary they desired. Up until that realization, the disciples preached in towns and homes without the worry of the cares of life (Matthew 10:9-10). Now, however, Jesus knew His time was ending. His mission was the Cross, voluntarily and without resistance. But the works He started on earth must continue.
Enter the disciples, who John MacArthur described as a, “few men, whose backgrounds were in mundane trades and earthly occupations, (having) little more than eighteen months’ training for the monumental task to which they were called… no second string, no backup players, no plan B if the Twelve should fail.”** In other words, ordinary men like you and me would springboard Christianity into the ages to come. Their efforts could not be threatened nor could they fail.
Jesus knew, too, that when He was arrested, His followers would be next. And here they were unarmed, holding empty money bags and unfilled backpacks. It would be sheer folly to expect these young men to survive without means of self-preservation. Two swords were available and these He granted to be carried forth into potential conflict.
Two blades would be enough. Why? Throughout Biblical history, good men were almost always outnumbered. Victory was the result of being obedient to the Heavenly Father. Victory was not achieved by two swords, or 300 men, or human achievements, or any thing man could offer except faith in God. Two swords were more than enough.
My friend, Gary Ledbetter, offered this comment on the swords:
” …I’ve always assumed that his (Jesus’) declaration that two swords were enough was the difference between defense and offense. The disciples would not have been tempted to challenge the government, even though the government would certainly oppress them, or battle the Jews with two swords. But two were enough to protect them from random, lawless violence. When Jesus said to sell your coat and buy a weapon, he was placing self protection among the basics of life. In our current debate, many have stressed the sporting nature of firearm ownership as if it (were) the whole point. Swords have never been sporting/hunting devices, they are anti-personnel weapons and good for little else.”***
God spells out the rules of armed conflict in Deuteronomy 20. Upon confronting an enemy, peace is to be offered. If that is refused, then the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you (Deuteronomy 20:4). Jesus didn’t come to destroy that law or any law. He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). Indeed, He honored the rules of engagement and offered Himself, the Prince of Peace, to the enemy, the man of sin. With His ultimate victory over death, Peace saved us. Even today, nations rise and prosper when guided by His lessons of peace.
With the situation completely under Christ’s control, swords were thankfully not needed. Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily.com, stated that the disciples “would be committing suicide to choose a fight in this situation – as well as undermining God’s plan to allow Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.”**** So, Jesus the Peacemaker healed a servant’s severed ear and commanded the hasty Peter to sheath his weapon. This was His battle. (Luke 22:51; John 18:11)
Weapons should not be used carelessly or ineffectively, but they should be used when needed. Sheathing the weapon was appropriate. Surrendering it was not. Laying aside weapons only leads to trouble. There is Biblical precedence to support this. When the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, they chose new gods and disposed of all weapons, inviting war within their gates (Judges 4:1; 5:8). God expects His faithful followers to be ready with a defense against violent aggression. That means the righteous and just possession and use of arms by peaceful, Godly people.
We live in perilous times – more perilous than times before yet less perilous than times to come. Why would we choose to give up arms? In reality, it is not a good choice at all, at least one made by free men. The surrender and sacrifice of arms, by suggestion or by force, is a movement pushed upon good people by wicked and violent doers. The mere idea of disarmament is the preoccupation of those who would enjoy the fall of morality and the end of Christianity. Every infringement on the right to keep and bear arms threatens liberty and thwarts peace.
Gleason Archer suggests that a complete surrender of the right to self-defense would give free rein to evilness and crime (Archer, 1982). He equates depriving people of this right with promoting the cause of Satan. He states, “It is… incumbent on a ‘good God’ to include the right of self-defense as the prerogative of his people.”*****
We do serve a good God. He expects His people to stand in the way of what Archer calls the “horrors of unbridled cruelty… violent and bloody criminals (and) the unchecked aggression of invading armies.”
In my correspondence with Gary Ledbetter, he concluded:
“I’ve also taken Paul’s acceptance of Roman protection, an armed guard, when the Jews threatened his life as an indication that God sometimes uses armed force to further his righteous will… The difference between the armed and the squeamish regards how effective that defense will be. Personal pacifism is most often based on the assumption that someone else will protect me. Neither history nor law nor Scripture guarantees any such thing.”
Jesus did not give His disciples a right. He gave us a command to provide for daily needs, secure finances, and bear arms. These are the ingredients of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America, does not give us rights, it enumerates them or spells them out; it documents for history the rights that free people have – those things that Jesus commanded, those things learned from Jesus’ lessons of peace. To deny any right is to deny knowing anything about the peace and security of free people. One then becomes the rejecter of good and the acceptor of evil. One then acknowledges fear of something he does not understand. It is selfish and evil to presume that a free man would agree to surrender or restrict his rights, rights that will always be disdained by any number of people at any point in history.
The Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights states, “A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” This right of the people denies the federal government the authority to interfere with a person’s possession and use of weapons for lawful purposes. We “get protection against the wrong use of power by a national army.”****** Historically and sensibly, nothing more should be read into that right. As we have seen, it is a blessing endowed to us by the Creator.
I know that God condemns the illegal, illegitimate use of weapons. Several cruel implements of war spilled the precious blood of His Son and took His life. And I know that as a sinner saved by His grace, I don’t have to endure the cross or any other kind of horrible, unjustified death, even though I am worthy of both. As a child of the King, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and I will fear no evil because Jesus is with me, His rod and staff comfort me (Psalm 23:4). There’s not a weapon on earth that can compare to the Divine protection provided by Jesus.
But weapons I can own.
* Little, Christopher C. (1993). Christianity and the right to keep and bear arms. Guns & Ammo, March 1993, p. 74.
** MacArthur, John. (2002). Twelve ordinary men. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group.
*** Ledbetter, Gary. Communications Director, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. E-mail correspondence July 15, 2003. This and the subsequent quote Used by permission.
**** Farah, Joseph. (2001). The Bible and self-defense. WorldNetDaily.com, November 26, 2001. Article ID 25442.
***** Archer, Gleason L. (1982). Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
****** Findlay, Bruce Allyn; Findlay, Esther Blair. (1952). Your rugged Constitution. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Copyright © 2005 Don Hamlin. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce this page for private or non-profit use only.
Study guide available at: Study guide – on bearing arms
Reproduction of this online study is granted only for individual or small group use in not-for-profit organizations. Selling or seeking monetary reimbursement or gain, in any form or connection, is expressly denied. Permission for any other purpose or reproduction is expressly denied. If you have questions about these limitations, Contact Me.