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Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
09-23-2017, 07:36 AM, (This post was last modified: 09-23-2017, 10:47 AM by StvAce.)
Question  Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
Our host, RR, posted an article entitled 'Self Defence and the Christian' (although, it was US spelling) - This article appears to have been inspired by discussions our host has had in his local ecclesia - as well as comments made on the thread 'Why are Bible Students so Easily Offended/Arrogant?' ( - See posts #2, #3).
Apparently, according to his comments on the forum, some in his ecclesia were said to be against owning firearms - although some believe it OK in a farm setting, or for hunting. It was also revealed that our host, who also engages in some form of martial arts, has a gun licence and likes going to the shooting range - apparently he find it 'relaxing'. He also revealed that if someone broke into his home and threatened his family, he would not hesitate to use his gun to take down the invader. He believe that the scriptures support self-defence.
I responded to his comments, and expressed agreement regarding the issue of 'thugs breaking into a house', in connection with protecting one's family from harm. However, I expressed some reservations about Christians engaging in martial arts, and also a Christian attending shooting ranges. Needless to say, I read the article our host posted regarding self-defence with great interest.
In this post, I'd like to take a closer look at some of the questions and arguments made in that article.
The article begins by posting several questions:
  • What does the Bible say about self-defense?

  • What is the Biblical view of using lethal force for self-protection?

  • Can a Christian own a gun?

  • What does the Bible have to say about that many guns actively being used for self-protection?

RR argues that one of the reasons we might want to consider this issue of self-defence is because as: '...Christians, we want to know how to apply the Bible to current issues in society'. I suppose that's a true enough statement. Another reason is that there are apparently over 250 million guns in use in the United States of America, and lots of people use a gun to defend themselves millions of times each year in the USA.

At this juncture, perhaps a couple of questions could be asked. Just because many people choose to defend themselves with guns in the USA each year, does that mean that Christians should also do the same? In lots of countries with restrictive gun and knife control laws, most law-abiding citizens have no form of protection - besides, perhaps, an umbrella or walking stick. Also, isn't it the case that in the USA there are lots of people who choose not to carry a gun for protection?

The article also states:

Quote:We live in a time where the aftermath of Hurricanes, current possibilities of economic and societal collapse, and crime have people buying guns and ammunition in large quantities for self protection. What does the Bible say about that? What does the Bible say about so-called “assault weapons”?

Indeed, what does the Bible say about 'that'...?

The article is broken down into five sections:

  1. The Biblical obligation to preserve life.

  2. The Biblical view of bloodshed.

  3. An examination of 'passages dealing with the application of lethal force in self-defense'.

  4. What the Bible says about possession of weapons and skill in using weapons.

  5. Consideration of the 'limitations and warnings about self-defense'.
Looking at the first section, the article states categorically 'The Bible clearly teaches that we must preserve life–our own lives and the lives of other people.' The following scriptures are referenced:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

(19)  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
(20)  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

The article makes the following comments in connection with these verses:

Quote:Our bodies are His property and so we are not permitted to treat or destroy them as we please... Not only are we to take care of our bodies and the life contained. We have an obligation to preserve the body and life of other people.

Other commentaries on these particular verses state the following:

Quote:And ye are not your own? - Ye have no right over yourselves, to dispose either of your body, or any of its members, as you may think proper or lawful; you are bound to God, and to him you are accountable. - Adam Clarke

What! know ye not
... - This is the fifth argument against this sin. The Holy Spirit dwells in us; our bodies are his temples; and they should not be defiled and polluted by sin... As this Spirit is in us, and as it is given us by God, we ought not to dishonour the gift and the giver by pollution and vice.

And ye are not your own - This is the sixth argument which Paul uses. We are purchased; we belong to God; we are his by redemption; by a precious price paid; and we are bound, therefore, to devote ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, as he directs, to the glory of his name, not to the gratification of the flesh... - Albert Barnes

The gist of these verses seems to suggest that a Christian is no longer free to act and behave how he used to do in his former course of conduct. Because the Spirit is now indwelling, the Christian must ensure that his body, the temple, is not defiled by vices, etc. The Christian, bought and paid for and a slave of Christ, must strive to remain in a state of purity - mentally, physically, spiritually.

Quote:The new mind, dwelling in the old body and using it, constitutes that old body thenceforth a temple of God, and gives to that body a holiness or sanctity. R5504:4

However, I'm not certain it is appropriate to attempt to use these verses in support of the need for self-defence. While it is entirely appropriate for the Christian to avoid doing anything to harm his body, the physical temple, it doesn't say anything about preventing others from doing harm to the body. In fact, the scriptures clearly demonstrate that Christians regularly expected to suffer physical abuse in the form of persecutions against the body. The account of St. Stephen demonstrates this fact:

Acts 7:59-60

(59)  And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
(60)  And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

St. Stephen, nor any other, attempted any kind of self-defence. Also, while being stoned to death, he provided us with an outstanding example of love for enemies - asking God not to lay their 'sin to their charge'! (Jesus Christ our Lord stated something similar, disputed in some quarters, when being crucified).

And we have Jesus Christ's word regarding his own body:

John 2:19, 21

(19)  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
(21)  But he spake of the temple of his body.

Jesus Christ, at the appointed time, permitted his temple to be destroyed. He set a pattern for us to follow.

Now consider the following verses and the question Jesus posed:

Matthew 20:22-23

(22)  But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
(23)  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

John 18:11

(11)  Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

We could ask ourselves, are we able (am I willing and able) to 'drink of the cup' that our Lord drank from; or, are we seeking to avoid drinking this cup by arming ourselves with carnal weapons?

Continuing; the article provides two further verses for our consideration, Psalm 82:4 and Proverbs 24:11. Psalm 82:4 reads as follows:

Psalms 82:4

(4)  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
In connection with this verse, the article states:
Quote:We have an obligation to preserve the body and life of other people. Psalm 82:4 even cites an obligation to protect those who are in danger.
Is Psalms 82:4 really instructing Christians to protect those who are in danger? Again, let's consider some Bible commentaries to see what this verse is actually stating.

Quote:Those described here as gods are evidently the judges and magistrates of Israel. See Joh_10:34. They were intended to be the mouthpiece and representatives of God; but instead, they thought only of their own interests and sought personal aggrandizement. But the psalmist beheld what was veiled from ordinary view-God standing in the midst of His people, judging them Himself and judging their judges. - F.B. Meyer

The psalmist, exhorting and expostulating with the judges, Psalm 82:1-4, reproveth their want of judgment and negligence, Psalm 82:5-7, and prayeth the Lord to judge, Psalm 82:8. - The Treasury of David

God stands, as chief director, in the congregation of the mighty, the mighty One... in the councils of the prince, the supreme magistrate, and he judges among the gods, the inferior magistrates...  A charge given to all magistrates to do good with their power, as they will answer it to him by whom they are entrusted with it, Psa_82:3, Psa_82:4. 1. They are to be the protectors of those who lie exposed to injury and the patrons of those who want advice and assistance: Defend the poor, who have no money wherewith to make friends or fee counsel, and the fatherless, who, while they are young and unable to help themselves, have lost those who would have been the guides of their youth. Magistrates, as they must be fathers to their country in general, so particularly to those in it who are fatherless. - Matthew Henry's Commentary

While there may well be a further spiritual application to these verses, it is apparent that the Psalmist was praying to God, and rebuking the judges who were failing in their duty to protect the weak and oppressed - basically stating that God is going to judge them for their injustices and failings in their duty towards others. It does not appear to be, as far as I can tell, an instruction for Christians to take up arms to defend others, or, indeed, themselves.

The next verse presented is:

Proverbs 24:11

(11)  If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;

The article states that this verse:

Quote:...indicates we have a duty to preserve the lives of those who are harming themselves...

Is this verse calling on Christians to rise up and defend others using physical violence?

Quote:If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death,.... Or "taken for or unto death"... in a violent way; who are taken by thieves and robbers, and used in a barbarous manner, as the man in the parable, whom the priest and Levite took no notice of, and was helped by the good Samaritan; or who are unjustly sentenced and appointed to death by the civil magistrate; if any know their innocency, it becomes them to do all they can to save their lives, by bearing a testimony for them; for "a true witness delivereth souls", Pro_14:25; or by interceding for them, and giving counsel and advice concerning them, or by any lawful way they can; as Reuben delivered Joseph, Jonathan interceded for David, and Ahikam and Ebedmelech for Jeremiah. Life is valuable, and all means should be taken to save it, and to prevent the shedding of innocent blood; and a man should not forbear or spare any cost, or pains, or time, to such service... - John Gill

A great duty required of us, and that is to appear for the relief of oppressed innocency. If we see the lives or livelihoods of any in danger of being taken away unjustly, we ought to bestir ourselves all we can to save them, by disproving the false accusations on which they are condemned and seeking out proofs of their innocency. Though the persons be not such as we are under any particular obligation to, we must help them, out of a general zeal for justice. If any be set upon by force and violence, and it be in our power to rescue them, we ought to do it. Nay, if we see any through ignorance exposing themselves to danger, or fallen in distress, as travellers upon the road, ships at sea, or any the like, it is our duty, though it be with peril to ourselves, to hasten with help to them and not forbear to deliver them, not to be slack, or remiss, or indifferent, in such a case. - Matthew Henry's Commentary

If thou forbear to deliver
- If thou seest the innocent taken by the hand of lawless power or superstitious zeal, and they are about to be put to death, thou shouldst rise up in their behalf, boldly plead for them, testify to their innocence when thou knowest it; and thus thou wilt not be guilty of blood; which thou wouldst be, if, through any pretense, thou shouldst neglect to save the life of a man unjustly condemned. - Adam Clarke's Commentary

Some of these commentators do appear to interpret this verse to mean that actual intervention (lawful) by a person is necessary in order to safeguard the life of another - perhaps by providing testimony. However, does this verse grant the Christian licence to take-up arms and train himself to be proficient in using lethal weapons? To what extent should a Christian intervene to help another, and is intervention necessary even at risk of his own life - perhaps to stop a mugging or worse?

1 John 3:16
(16)  Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he [Christ] laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Romans 16:3-4
(3)  Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
(4)  Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

John 13:15

(15)  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
Our Lord laid down his life for his friends, the disciples, and for us. We have scriptural examples of how the brethren help each other out in various trials and tribulations - even risking their lives. And we have the direction from St. John which indicates that we should be prepared to lay down our own lives for the brethren (laying down the life does not necessarily mean, but probably includes, giving up our lives for others - perhaps including our enemies). We are also instructed to 'do good unto all men', but 'especially unto them who are of the household of faith' (Galatians 6:10). There is also the account of Jesus Christ's unjust arrest, but more will be said about that later. Yet, there doesn't seem to be any scriptural account, other than Christ's arrest, whereby a Christian intervened with violence to save the life of a fellow Christian - let alone a complete stranger. 
The author of the article continues: 'Ezekiel 33 is a well-known passage'; and also references Deuteronomy 22:8 and Exodus 21:29-31.
Ezekiel 33:6
(6)  But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
Deuteronomy 22:8
(8)  When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

Exodus 21:29-31

(29)  But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.
(30)  If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.
(31)  Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.
The author's conclusion, in reference to these portions of scripture:

Quote:If you know danger is coming to others, and you deliberately fail to warn the others of the danger, you are guilty of harming the victims... The principle could hardly be stated more forcefully: you must protect your life and the lives of others.

It is difficult to see how these verses can be applied to mean that a Christian must take up arms, a gun, and train himself effectively with such a weapon so as to protect his own life and the lives of others. The Ezekiel account, simply stated, informs us that a watchman who failed to warn others about an impending attack would be blood-guilty if that failure resulted in loss of life. Likewise, as Christians, we are duty-bound to inform others about the Gospel, and the impending judgement of God upon the world. There's no connection, as far as I can tell, with this verse and the need to arm ones-self with a weapon for self-defence. The other verses simply inform us that we will be held liable for any negligence on our part for failing to secure dangerous animals, or make repairs on our home that result in a fatal accident (bearing in mind these laws were given to the nation of Israel, Jews, only - never to Christians). They do not appear to be instructions to take up arms, or train in self-defence.
The next section of the article will now be considered (The Biblical view of bloodshed). It begins with the author stating: 'So we see we have a Biblical obligation to protect life'. While it is true that we, as Christians, have an obligation to preserve life - perhaps through rendering physical aid, righteous testimony, etc. - it is far from clear that this 'obligation' includes carrying a gun, or any form of weapon, for the purposes of defending the lives of others, or even our own lives from potential attackers.
Key points from this section:
Quote:Genesis 9:5-6
(5)  And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
(6)  Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
  • If a man was killed, the man or beast who caused the death must pay with his/its own life. God says here, “I will require the life of man.”

  • Killing or bloodshed was not always wrong. But when it was wrong, the penalty was ultimate.

  • We learn here that there is sanctity to spilled blood.

  • Life is precious, and the life is in the blood.

  • An attack on man is an attack on the image of God.

As is pointed out in the article, this injunction (shedding of man's blood) predates the Mosaic Law, as it was given to Noah after the flood (this injunction is considered by many, thus, to be universal in application). This section basically highlights how valuable the life of mankind is in the eyes of God.
Pastor Russell made the following comment, in part, related to these verses when discussing the murder committed by Cain:

Quote:I do not understand this text to mean that it was obligatory to shed the blood of one who had committed [Page Q500] murder, but that such a course was justifiable. God would approve of the execution of the death sentence upon the murderer. - Q499:2

This examination of the article so far has focused on the nation of Israel when under the Law of Moses. Under the judicial system of that time it can clearly be seen that capital punishment was permitted, and Jehovah God used various means to execute capital punishments. Under the Christian dispensation things are clearly not the same. The 'sword' has been placed solely in the hands of the State, in respect to capital punishment (See Romans 13).

The next section is called 'David'. It begins: 'We learn more about God’s view of bloodshed from David'.
Key points from this section:

  • God raised [David] up to defend Israel.

  • When David killed... in battles, it was at God’s command. They were righteous killings.

  • ...shedding blood is so significant to God that David was unfit for certain “ministries”.

  • Killing someone is not a light thing... Shedding blood, taking the life of another, is a big deal.

  • Your life is forfeit if you wrongfully take the life of another.

In this section, the author demonstrates that past servants of God have killed others, and such killings were 'righteous' - sanctioned by God. Incidentally, the verses referenced in this section were 1 Chronicles 28:3 and 22:8.

It is evident that the situation for Christians today is very different from that of David. Christians no longer live in a specific locality as a nation. We have no boundaries or borders that require defence. Our warfare is a spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4), and our residence is temporary - we are strangers and aliens in the world.
At any rate, this section is concluded with a further question: 'Does the believer have an obligation to resist evil and to protect life?'.

I would answer that 'yes', the believer has such an obligation to resist evil and protect life- but not necessarily using lethal weapons, or engaging in carnal warfare.
The next section is entitled: 'Old Testament Passages on Lethal Force and Self-defense'. This sections stated objective is to 'look at passages dealing with self-defense and the use of lethal force'.
Key points from this section:

Quote:Exodus 20:13

(13)  Thou shalt not kill [murder].

·         Murder is wrong. This means the premeditated killing of others is wrong.

...killing someone out of:

  1. hatred

  2. negligence

  3. accident

...were subject to capital punishment... Premeditated, intentional killing, as well as killing in passion, was absolutely forbidden... In the case of sheer accident without negligence, God established a network of cities of refuge which made merciful provision to spare the life of the killer.
Key Scriptures used in this section:

Exodus 22:2-3

(2)  If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.
(3)  If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

These verse gets us to the nub of the issue.

In the original post to which I referred earlier, RR stated:

Quote:...if someone broke into my home and threatened my family, I wouldn't hesitate to use it. Some of the brethren felt the Lord would protect them, and if He didn't then that was the Lord's will. I certainly don't think letting a thug come into my house and rape my wife or daughter "His will".

I replied:

Quote:As for self-defence, I agree with your opinion regarding thugs breaking into a house. There's certainly scripture that supports the idea that a servant of God can, indeed should, defend his household from invaders - even using lethal force.

It was these particular verses, found in Exodus 22:2,3 that I had in mind at the time of writing my response (no doubt the same when RR penned his comments to me).

Apparently, these verses were dealing with burglary - or theft (see Exodus 22:3). However, as the article makes clear, if a thief were killed at night, the householder would not be guilty of bloodshed worthy of death, because the intentions of the invader could perceivably be more than just to burgle the house (potentially to commit murder). Still, as these laws were written to Israel, are Christians permitted to act in a similar manner in defence of their homes?

Does the following verse shed any light on how Christians may be expected to react under similar circumstances?

Hebrews 10:34
(34)  For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

Quote:...Christians were liable to be thus plundered by lawless mobs. - Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

And took joyfully the spoiling of your goods
- The plunder of your property. It was not an uncommon thing for the early Christians to be plundered. This was doubtless a part of the “afflictions” to which the apostle refers in this case. The meaning is, that they yielded their property not only without resistance, but with joy. They, in common with all the early Christians, counted it a privilege and honor to suffer in the cause of their Master; see the notes on Php_3:10; compare Rom_5:3. Men may be brought to such a state of mind as to part with their property with joy. It is not usually the case; but religion will enable a man to do it. - Albert Barnes' Commentary

Took joyfully the spoiling of your goods
- They were deprived of their inheritances, turned out of their houses, and plundered of their goods; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented. To suffer such persecution patiently was great; to endure it without a murmur was greater; to rejoice in it was greatest of all... -  Adam Clarke's Commentary

First Century Christians were frequently persecuted, and suffered at the hands of lawless mobs, and government forces. There's no record of these Christians forming some kind of militia to resist these mobs and other enemies. No, they joyfully endured these trials and hardships, resting in the knowledge that they had 'in heaven a better and an enduring substance'. More will be said about this later.

This leads us to the next set of scriptures, and arguments, presented to us in the article under examination. The author refers us to Nehemiah chapter 4. Key points are as follows:

  • Israelites have been sent back from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem.

  • They were rebuilding their lives with the sanction of the civil ruler, King Artaxerxes.

  • This was not a wartime scenario.

  • These were citizens, not soldiers.

  • They were merely concerned residents and settlers—citizens, not professional soldiers or law enforcement agents.

  • ...these families were armed, with “their swords, their spears, and their bows.”

  • This is a situation where they are willing to apply lethal force to defend themselves.

Here, the author is apparently attempting to use a situation wherein God returned his people (the Jews) back to their homeland, for the purposes of rebuilding Jerusalem, and their being attacked by certain enemies, as justification for Christians to carry lethal weapons. He compares the situation of the Jews to a 'racial integration scenario' where the KKK might surround, and try to kill, black homeowners (although, I'm not convinced that the two scenarios are remotely comparable).

Comparison is made between 'assault weapons' of old, and modern day assault weapons - as though a machine gun, mini-gun (not mentioned in the article) or even a standard pistol is in anyway comparable to a sword or spear. While all of these weapons can kill, it's plainly obvious that a gun is able to inflict greater casualties than someone wielding a sword or a knife - occasional mass-school shootings by unhinged gunmen in the USA, unfortunately, highlights this sad reality. There is also the occasional report of a child finding a concealed weapon in the home and killing itself accidentally.

Let it be noted what the scriptures reveal about a Christian's weapons and armour:

Ephesians 6:10-17
(10)  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
(11)  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
(12)  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
(13)  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
(14)  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
(15)  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
(16)  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
(17)  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

The author goes on to quote Nehemiah 4:14, which reads:

Nehemiah 4:14
(14)  And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

The article states, in connection to this foregoing verse:

Quote:It is good and right to defend your family, even using lethal force weapons.

Yet, as we have seen, in the Christian dispensation, the Christians did not retaliate or form militias for mutual protection. They endured persecutions and the plundering of their belongings. They wrote about a spiritual warfare, and spiritual weapons and armour. Thus, we must seriously ask ourselves whether  or not it is right for us, as Christians, to interpret these accounts in such a manners as to sanction the carrying of weapons for self-defence. Surely, if this was the case, we, as Christians, would be free to form local militias for mutual defence?

In Mexico, I am aware of the fact that this narco-state has serious problems with various cartels. In light of the problems, many of the locals in certain areas have formed self-defence groups, or militias. See:

If what is stated in the article under consideration is correct, then it would seem that Christians in Mexico, Bible students, are permitted to join these groups to combat these cartels. RR writes:

Quote:If you live somewhere where you have reason to be concerned about crime, this would be similar to legally carrying a weapon to defend your family, even when running daily errands to the store.

The article then proceeds to discuss the account found in the book of Esther. Once again, the scenario involves the Jews who were, at that time, particularly God's chosen peoples. The point is made that the civil authorities granted the Jews authorisation to use lethal force in self-defence.

Quote:So they have legal sanction to “protect their lives” using ultimate force, much as we do in most parts of this country [USA]...

We see that given legal sanction to defend their lives with lethal force, they do not choose non-violence. Rather, as it says in verse 11, to “protect their lives”, they use the “sword” (verse 5).  Here is another example of widespread use of weapons in self-defense—a non-wartime, non-law enforcement scenario.

Thus, if I've understood matters correctly, it would be acceptable, according to the author (RR), for a Christian to take up arms to defend against cartels, racists (the KKK) and various other threats - especially if the civil authorities grant such liberties to its citizens. But again, is it proper for Christians to read more into these accounts than is being stated? Are these accounts really granting Christians licence to take-up arms in self-defence, or is it simply a case of reading to much into what is written - perhaps even going beyond ('transgresseth' 2 John 1:9)  what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6 NIV)?

The article has focused primarily upon the Hebrew scriptures until this point. Now the author turns his attention to the New Testament: 'New Testament Passages on Lethal Force and Self-defense'.

The author correctly understands what his readers are thinking by now, and begins this section as follows:

Quote:At this point, you may be thinking this is all relegated to Old Testament principles and thinking. Let’s turn to some passages in the New Testament dealing with lethal force and self-defense.

Key scripture:

Luke 22:35-38
(35)  And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
(36)  Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
(37)  For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
(38)  And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

Key points:

  • If you read commentaries on this passage, there are a number of questions which are not clearly answered.

  • There are questions about the applicability of this passage, of the intent of Jesus, of the meaning of His response.

  • Whatever your interpretation of this passage, there are a few broad-stroke observations we can make about this passage.

    1. Jesus expected them to have swords and anticipated a time when those without swords would need to acquire them.

    2. Among eleven disciples, they did have two swords–in almost a 1:5 ratio.

    3. Jesus expected them to carry the swords on their person as they traveled from the city to the garden prayer meeting.

  • We cannot make absolute claims as to the reasons, right or, wrong, for the carriage of these weapons.

Other scriptures quoted are Matthew 21:51-56; John 18:10, 11; Luke 22:51; Matthew 26:52; Psalm 11:5.

At Luke 22:36 Jesus Christ states that 'he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one'. Later, as the article highlights, in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter attacks one of the guards, and cuts off his ear. Jesus responds by stating:

Matthew 26:52
(52)  ...Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

An interesting article found in a Reprint, has the following to say about this scenario:

Quote:[R5922 : page 206]


WHY did our Lord say to His disciples, "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one" (Luke 22:36,38), and then afterward say to St. Peter: "Put up thy sword into its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"?—Matthew 26:51,52.

We should remember the circumstances. Jesus knew that His hour was come in which He would be betrayed, made prisoner, and the next day be crucified. It was necessary to show that His capture was not made by force, but that He voluntarily permitted Himself to be taken and crucified. The Father might know, the angels might know, and His disciples might know that He had power to ask of the Father legions of angels for His defense and protection from the hands of His enemies; but others could not know this. It was desirable that it should be clearly manifested that Jesus and His disciples could have defended themselves, as St. Peter, indeed, started out to do when he drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. Jesus promptly healed the ear and instructed Peter to be non-resistant, and surrendered Himself, merely requesting that His disciples be not molested.

The circumstance demonstrated that our Lord surrendered Himself voluntarily, and therein was the lesson. Had there been no swords in the company of His disciples, it might have been claimed that no defense could have been made. The having of the swords made possible the exhibition of the courage of the disciples, and the willingness of Jesus to submit Himself.

When Jesus said that if necessary their garments [R5922 : page 207] should be sold to purchase a sword, the Apostles responded that they had in their company two swords; and Jesus answered, "It is enough." They were intended merely for a demonstration, and not for a defense.

Nothing in this Scripture seems to give any warrant to warfare, nor to the implication of some that Jesus desired His followers to take the sword. True, not all who have taken to the sword have perished by the sword, and not all who have avoided the sword have preserved their lives, but it is a general principle which the Lord discusses. He who prepares himself for warfare and trouble will be pretty sure to get plenty of it, according to the general course of the fallen human nature. On the other hand, the Lord's disciples are enjoined to "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."—Hebrews 12:14.

Far from sanctioning the purchase of weapons for usage in self-defence, the events that played out, as well as the apparent consent of the Lord permitting the disciples to bring two swords, was to teach a lesson - the lesson, it seems, is that Christians should *not* take up the sword against fellow human beings (under any circumstances), as was previously permissible under the Law (as RR's article amply demonstrates).

The article by RR continues by examining the 'Scripture’s view of owning weapons and being skilled in their use...', and ends with a section providing various warnings - particularly about improperly resorting to the sword. 

At this point it is worth highlighting the fact that the great bulk of the article under consideration relies heavily on the Hebrew scriptures for support of the idea that Christians can take up the sword in self-defence in certain scenarios. The only New Testament scriptures presented in support of taking up the sword are those found in the account surrounding the events on the night Jesus was arrested. Still, the author acknowledges that:

Quote:The sword is not always the appropriate response, especially in persecution for Christ.

Does the New Testament offer Christians any further insight into the matter of self-defence?

It is of interest to note that the Mosaic Law stated:

Exodus 21:24
(24)  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

The various scriptures that have been presented from Exodus, the Law of Moses, including those verses at Exodus 22:2, 3 related to the burglar, were subject to this principle. Yet, Jesus Christ stated the following:

Matthew 5:38-39
(38)  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
(39)  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

I present another snippet from a Reprint discussing these verses:

[R3737 : page 76]

Hear his words, "I say unto you, resist not evil [do not retaliate, rendering evil for evil], but whosoever shall smite you on the right cheek turn to him the other also." This is an astounding proposition—who can obey it? Even if we modify it all that language will permit, it is still apparently beyond reach of any fallen human being—it teaches the ideal requirements of the divine law of perfect love. When seeking for an interpretation of the expression, Resist not the evil doer, but turn the other cheek, we must look to our Lord and the apostles as examples. We find, for instance, that our Redeemer was smitten upon the cheek, and that while he did not literally turn the other he did not attempt to smite back, to retaliate even in word. In this indirect sense he did turn the other cheek. And this should mark our course. Our Redeemer did expostulate with his smiters in kindly terms, however, and we may properly follow his example, and consider it in full agreement with his instruction in this lesson.

We may remember him again when evilly entreated and taken to the brow of the hill to be cast headlong: he did not use his superior power to do injury to his opponents, but passed through their midst, evidently either directly or indirectly exercising over them a restraining influence, because his time for death had not yet come. So, too, we may use any moral influence we may possess to escape from the power of our enemies, and be assured that we will have the divine care and protection until our lessons and experiences are completed—until our time shall come to pass beyond the vail. Similarly the Apostle, learning of the threats of the Jews against his life, did not make threats against them nor pray evil upon their heads; but he did use such steps as were at his command to thwart their evil designs, sending word to the governor and invoking the power of the civil authority; and on another occasion he defended himself by appealing to the people.—John 18:22,23; Acts 23:1-5,17.

The lesson for us is that we may use all lawful and legal means in our self-defense, and may even wisely run away from dangers and persecutors, as the Lord directed and the apostles exemplified. (2 Cor. 11:33; Matt. 10:23.) But we are not authorized to retaliate. Difficult as this proper course may appear, it undoubtedly will be found to be the best one. Remember our Lord's words, "They that take to the sword shall perish with the sword," and again the Apostle's words to the Church is, "If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." (Matt. 26:52; Gal. 5:15.)

On the matter of Exodus 22:2,3 I found the following of interest:

Quote:Q731:2 QUESTION (1916-Z)—2—I find myself confronted with a problem in which I feel sure you will help me. As you know, we shall have compulsory military service: I am seventeen years of age, and if the trouble be not over by the time I reach my nineteenth year, I feel that I would rather be shot as a "traitor" than to disobey God's command. Is there any way in which we could defend our loved ones without murder? I am greatly perplexed and anxious to do what is right. I shall follow your advice, so great is my belief that God is using you to enlighten those who are willing to learn. Hoping I have not interrupted too long, I am.

ANSWER—We rejoice to know that the Truth is thus being spread in every direction, and that the Lord is using the consecrated talents of His servants everywhere for the sealing of His saints in their foreheads—intellectually—Rev. 7:1-3.

We are glad to note that you are in full agreement with what we said recently in The Watch Tower to the effect that God's consecrated people can have no interest in the war. If there be any excuse for violence and bloodshed anywhere, it would he in the actual defense of the home. The Bible, however, does not lay down laws for the world, but merely for God's consecrated people. To these the [Page Q732] Master's own example and words would seem to teach that although they may invoke every legal protection, barricade their homes, etc., against the enemy, such saints would not be disposed to take the lives of others—even in self-defense. And yet we confess that this would be a very serious test upon nearly all of them. (Also found in R5882 : page 111)

It is apparent that Jesus Christ gave Christians a different standard when it comes to dealing with enemies. The weapons of a Christian should never be 'carnal' (2 Corinthians 10:4). Perfect love, love of God, neighbour and enemy, is the key for the Christian. Apparently, according to the understanding espoused in the above articles provided, this love should be so great that a Christian would offer no retaliation in even the most trying circumstances (including home invasion) - though, the article admits 'this would be a very serious test upon nearly all of [the saints]. Matthew 26:25, where Jesus instructed Peter to return his sword to its place, seems to be clear - there are no circumstances when a Christian can take up 'the sword' against a fellow human being (granting usage for protection against wild beasts, and such like). Jesus did not include any exceptions.


... As we read recently of the gathering of a rough element outside a Presbyterian church in Chicago, probably drawn by curiosity to witness the drill of the Boy's Brigade, how they misused the janitor who attempted to quiet and disperse them, and how then the boy-soldiers came out and with fixed bayonets charged upon and dispersed the crowd, sustaining some slight bruises from sticks and stones, we were reminded of our Lord's words,—"They that take the sword shall perish with the sword."—Matt. 26:52.

 Neither the boys nor their religious instructors probably foresee the results of their present course.  The blending of carnal with spiritual warfare is impossible, and such a course is sure to cultivate, more and more, the carnal [R1954 : page 64] mind.  In the troublous times coming, the poor as well as the vicious will be only too ready to conclude that religion and civil government are banded together for their oppression. True Christians should keep themselves and their children free from all such evil entanglements. - [R1953 : page 63] (my emphasis added)

Admittedly, this viewpoint - as presented in these article snippets - sounds unbelievable, impossible. Perhaps that's an indication that more work needs to be done in developing Christ-likeness - to grow up in love. Or, perhaps it reveals a lack of trust in God and his providences and direction in our lives. It sounds like madness - against all common sense and reasoning. Actually, for those of us who do not live in the USA, it's not that much of an issue. We have no easy access to guns (just clubs and knives), and probably all we could do is to barricade the home to try and prevent thugs from breaking in. This issue appears to be more of an American issue, in that (gun) respect.  

Still, Jesus Christ our Lord did state: 'Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves' (Matthew 10:16). Sheep aren't usually know for their aggressive combat skills. Normally, the sheep are the ones preyed upon by the predator. And again, it is the 'higher powers' who are said to bear the 'sword' - whereas, Christians are instructed not to take up the sword (Matthew 26:52). Also, consider:

Romans 5:7
(7)  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

We are directed into this love through the divine Word which brings to our attention the peculiarity of God's love as distinguished from that of the natural fallen man. While love in the natural man is more or less selfish, even in our very best exercise of it, on behalf of friends, God commendeth his love toward us as being of a superior kind, in that while we were yet sinners, aliens, strangers, enemies through wicked works, under his gracious, loving plan Christ died for us. This kind of unmerited, sacrificing love is wholly different from anything that is known to fallen humanity. As our Lord Jesus said, the greatest love amongst men would be that a man should lay down his life for his friends, but to lay down his life for his enemies is certainly a much higher type of love,—unselfish, gracious, heavenly.—John 15:13; Rom. 5:7. - [R2648 : page 182] (My emphasis added)

The point here is that of laying down our lives for an enemy. To most this would be unthinkable, and yet, Jesus Christ did just that. He left us an example to follow (2 Peter 2:21).

From the foregoing, I find it difficult to accept that the New Testament encourages Christians to stock-up on weapons and ammunition, or permits the purchase and usage of 'assault weapons' (for use against ones fellow-man). I find it equally hard to accept that a Christian should learn to become proficient in carnal weapons of war (Isaiah 2:4).

As Christians we need to 'Abstain from all appearance of evil' (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Is there a need to consider how gun ownership is viewed locally, in the ecclesia and the community? How would neighbours or fellow-Christians react if they discovered that a Christian owned a gun, and visited shooting ranges, etc.? Does it even matter?

Anyway, I'll leave it there. As always, comments related to this subject are welcomed.

Romans 14:5
(5)  ...Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

1 Thessalonians 5:21
(21)  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Final note: This thread was not written as an attack on our host, RR. It was written to foster further discussion on the subject, and to share an alternative outlook - particularly the snippets I found in the Reprints when researching the subject.
09-23-2017, 11:20 AM, (This post was last modified: 09-23-2017, 11:22 AM by RR.)
RE: Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
StvAce Wrote:This thread was not written as an attack on our host, RR. It was written to foster further discussion on the subject, and to share an alternative outlook - particularly the snippets I found in the Reprints when researching the subject.

Sorry Steven, but I have nothing else to add to what I posted, we'll just go round and round ... so we'll just have to agree to disagree,

09-23-2017, 11:46 AM, (This post was last modified: 09-23-2017, 11:49 AM by StvAce.)
Wink  RE: Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
(09-23-2017, 11:20 AM)RR Wrote: This thread was not written as an attack on our host, RR. It was written to foster further discussion on the subject, and to share an alternative outlook - particularly the snippets I found in the Reprints when researching the subject.

Sorry Steven, but I have nothing else to add to what I posted, we'll just go round and round ... so we'll just have to agree to disagree,


Not to worry. I fully understand. LOL.

Further discussion did not necessarily mean with you. Others who frequent the forum are more than welcome to comment. I hope I did my part to clarify some of the 'muddled thinking' a certain forum member mentioned on another thread not so long ago... Wink
09-24-2017, 06:41 AM, (This post was last modified: 09-24-2017, 06:43 AM by RR.)
RE: Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
StvAce Wrote:Further discussion did not necessarily mean with you. Others who frequent the forum are more than welcome to comment. I hope I did my part to clarify some of the 'muddled thinking' a certain forum member mentioned on another thread not so long ago... Wink

Oh absolutely, anyone wishes to add their two cents is more than welcome to do so.

09-24-2017, 07:05 AM,
RE: Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
(09-24-2017, 06:41 AM)RR Wrote:
StvAce Wrote:Further discussion did not necessarily mean with you. Others who frequent the forum are more than welcome to comment. I hope I did my part to clarify some of the 'muddled thinking' a certain forum member mentioned on another thread not so long ago... Wink

Oh absolutely, anyone wishes to add their two cents is more than welcome to do so.


Yeah, it'd be good to hear from others who frequent this forum, rather than the same boring individuals. It'd be particularly nice to hear from those who are actually interested in uncovering the truth about certain subjects, instead of just those who are, perhaps, intent on promoting a certain understanding of scripture (their own) that harmonises with their current life-style choices and activities...
09-24-2017, 09:41 PM,
RE: Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
(Hopefully I’m posting this in the correct thread this time.)

Martial arts are essentially contact sports. Sports that encourage the development of individual skills. People get hurt. It is that kind of sport. Participants know that and accept it.

Gridiron (American football) and the Rugby codes are essentially contact sports.  They encourage the development of both individual and team cooperation skills. People get hurt. It is that kind of sport. Participants know that and accept it.

The website (as an example) lists boxing champions who were also Christians. Some were Christians and boxers simultaneously, and saw no conflict between their sport and their faith.

Those boxers who considered themselves to be Christian while active in their carreers were (are):
- Evander Holyfield;
- Manny Pacquiao;
- George Forman;
- Andre Ward;
- Chris Byrd;
- Robert Guerrero;
- Tyson Fury.

While I am not indicating that those people’s perception of “no conflict” is correct – and the same could be said for MMA participants, contact football players and the like – the point is that RR is by no means alone in his understanding.
The High Calling - First of all you Gunga Din. Afterwards you gungadout.
09-25-2017, 09:29 AM,
Star  RE: Self Defence and the Christain - What does the Bible Say?
(09-24-2017, 09:41 PM)gungadout Wrote: ...

While I am not indicating that those people’s perception of “no conflict” is correct – and the same could be said for MMA participants, contact football players and the like – the point is that RR is by no means alone in his understanding.

Yeah, there's a lot of 'muddled thinking' out there - including the recent comments and articles by our host.

So long 'gungadout', be blessed and perhaps see you around...

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