But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 Peter 3:18
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT AND SELF-DEFENSE
“Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)
“If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” (Exodus 22:2)
“But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” (Matthew 24:43)
Our Lord Jesus is teaching a spiritual truth about His Second Coming in Matthew 24. The spiritual truth is that believers should be ready for His Second Coming -- He will come suddenly -- as a thief in the night.
He uses a commonly accepted practice to illustrate it. This practice is defense of life and property by a homeowner (goodman of the house).
God had told Moses that no blood should be shed for the life of a thief, if he was killed, while he was found breaking in to a house at night (Exodus 22:2-3). The Law of God sanctioned defense of family and property.
Thieves come to steal, to kill and to destroy (John 10:10). Therefore, knowing this, every Hebrew homeowner had a responsibility to stop the thief (with deadly force, if necessary). Our Lord uses this physical example to teach believers to be watchful.
The spiritual truth taught (believers should be ready for their Lord's coming) does NOT negate the physical example upon which it is based. If our Lord Jesus were against home defense, He could've condemned it in Matthew 24. But He did not.
Messiah was in perfect accord with Exodus 22:2-3. He says so Himself in Matthew 5:17-18.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
Another proof that our Lord believed in the just use of force for self-defense is found in the following passage:
“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.” (Luke 22:36)
THEY THAT TAKE THE SWORD SHALL PERISH WITH THE SWORD
Many argue that our Lord told Peter “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) They therefore believe that all armed resistance to evil is unscriptural.
But they ignore the context of our Lord's statement.
“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:52-54)
The context is our Lord's arrest the night before His Crucifixion. The Scriptures had foretold His Substitutionary Death in the place of the chosen (elect) people of God (Isaiah 53; Psalm 22; Daniel 9:24-27; Mark 9:31 & 10:33-34 and John 10:11-18).
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself....” (Daniel 9:26)
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Messiah's death was a fixed, predetermined event (Acts 2:23 & 4:28). The Scriptures could not be fulfilled if our Lord defended His Life at this point. He knew it.
So, in love for His Heavenly Father and his elect people, He willingly laid down His life. But this passage does not teach that self-defense is wrong in ALL cases.
Our Lord had just said the Father would've have given Him twelve legions of angels. Why? The answer is simple -- TO DEFEND HIM. A legion is a Roman military term, usually denoting about 2,000 to 6,000 soldiers.
The point is, both our Heavenly Father and the Son of God saw nothing wrong with angels forcibly defending life. But, it would've been wrong ON THIS OCCASION. Scripture needed to be fulfilled.
The Good Shepherd must give His Life for the sheep. Therefore, our Lord wanted no angels, and no sword from Peter. Self-defense is not always wrong. But this one time, it was inappropriate.
It is true, that many people become so concerned with physical safety, self-defense and survival that they literally “take the sword and perish with the sword”. Our number one concern should not be self-defense, but pleasing God.
If it pleases God that we seal our testimony with our own blood, then we must put this above our physical safety and survival. Martyrdom for Christ is a privilege. But again, this does not rule out self-defense in ALL cases.
ABRAHAM AND TRAINING
“And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.” (Genesis 14:14)
Abraham evidently had servants who were trained for combat. The father of the faithful saw nothing wrong with the just use of force. By application, Christians who train in self-defense are not necessarily out of the will of God.
Melchizedek, King of Salem (Peace) blessed Abraham for this very act of defending his nephew Lot. “And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand....” (Genesis 14:20)
He ascribed Abram's victory to the most high God. The LORD often uses means. In this case, He worked through Abram's trained servants. Defense of family can also be seen in the statement of another godly Hebrew leader.
“.... 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.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
COMMENTS BY GODLY CHRISTIANS
“I am not a pacifist, because pacifism in this poor world in which we live, this lost world, means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
“As an illustration: I see a great big burly man that is beating a little tiny tot to death. ...If he won't stop, what does love mean? Love means I stop him in any way I can.” -- Francis A. Schaeffer
“This command of our Lord, illustrated by the examples He brings forward, plainly does not forbid us to defend ourselves when we are in danger. To do so is one of the strongest instincts of our nature, the law of God written on our hearts.
But with regard to personal injuries, when there is no hazard of life, as in the case specified, it is our duty to repress resentment and to abstain from violence.” -- John Brown
“So too when a wrong is done to others for whom we are responsible, resistance becomes a duty. If a man's child is in peril at the hands of some human fiend, is he to stand by and see it outraged or murdered?
Did not Abraham, the friend of God and the father of all them that believe,” arm his servants, smite those who had his nephew prisoner, and free him (Genesis 14:14-16)?” -- Arthur W. Pink
“We desire peace, but not the kind that is found in the cemetery or in the slave camp.”
-- Loraine Boettner
George Theiss is a combat veteran of Vietnam who now follows the Lamb of God. He and his wife, Christy, have been married 42 years (in 2019). They have 8 grown children. You can contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2002 through 2019 by George Theiss