As I already mentioned in my previous article, Onward Christian Soldier, there are plenty of biblical examples of righteous and God-fearing soldiers, and I listed many of them. These men all carried the sword.
Submission to Rulers and Authorities
Moreover, Scripture teaches us to submit to rulers and authorities, and to be obedient. The apostle Paul wrote to Titus:
"Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed," (Tit 3:1)
The reason we submit to the governing authorities is because they were established by God, and all authority is from God. Paul wrote to the Romans:
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake." (Rom 13:1-5)
He said the governing authority does not bear the sword for nothing. The authorities bear the sword to maintain law and order in society, and as avengers, they bring wrath on those who practice evil. That being said, let's now look at the possible risks of Armed Forces being used for evil.
Since this is a fallen world and the government is unregenerate (not Christian), the authorities are sometimes used by satan as agents to carry out his purposes. Down through world history, governing authorities have often used their deadly force to do evil.
However, under no circumstances should a disciple of Christ, serving in the Armed Forces, ever participate in such things. As I explained in Onward Christian Soldier, a soldier must never compromise his faith in Christ, in order to carry out the mission or to obey his leaders. Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three Hebrew young men in Babylon, who refused to bow to the king's idol. Remember the prophet Daniel's refusal to stop praying. Remember the apostles Peter and John refusing to obey the Jewish ruling council that ordered them to stop preaching in Jesus' name. On one occasion they said, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;" (Act 4:19). On a separate occasion, they said, "We must obey God rather than men." (Act 5:29)
While it is necessary to submit to authority, we must never obey orders to do what is unlawful, immoral, evil, oppressive, or unjust. When the military service involves things like infanticide, unlawful killings, or oppression, then a soldier must refuse to participate. Obviously, taking such a stand may very likely result in punishment for the soldier, but since he is doing right in God's sight, this is commendable and pleases the Lord. He should accept the punishment, and may resign or take the consequences of avoiding military service for the sake of conscience toward God and his faith in Jesus Christ. God will protect you and keep you.
When the three Hebrew youths refused to bow, they were thrown into the fiery furnace, but the Lord sent His angel and rescued them from the flames and they were not even burned. When Daniel refused to obey the law against praying to God, he was thrown into the lion's den, but the Lord sent His angel and rescued him from the mouths of the lions, so that they did not attack and eat him. When Peter and John refused to stop preaching in Jesus' name, they were thrown into prison, but the Lord sent His angel and enabled them to escape. Trust the Lord to rescue you, and don't give into the enemy, no matter what. (Also see Angelic Escape from Terrorist Assassins).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom I wrote about in my article, The Cost of Discipleship, was a pastor in Nazi Germany during the 1930's, who evaded military service, because he knew that Hitler's war was unjust. He felt that there would never be a situation where Christian brothers should kill each other for any reason. And I suppose that since he had Christian brothers in England and the United States, he could not in good conscience participate in fighting against them for the Nazi cause. Some of his Bible school students, whom he had trained for ministry, were conscripted into military service and ended up dead on the front lines, which saddened him. He helped Jews to escape from Germany. Eventually, in order to avoid being conscripted like they were, he accepted an undercover role in the German Army's Intelligence Department. There he assisted the resistance movement that worked covertly and unsuccessfully to assassinate Hitler. This eventually got him imprisoned, where he was eventually assassinated. Therefore, when we take a stand for what is right, it may sometimes cost us our life.
Living and Dying by the Sword
Finally, I would like to mention that Jesus had His disciples bring along two swords to the Mount of Olives on the night He was betrayed (Lk 22:36-38). This was not for the purpose of defending Him, but to fulfill the Scripture that said He was numbered with the transgressors (v. 37). The Lord was not advocating the private use of weapons by Christians in their gospel work. In fact, when Peter struck the high priest's servant with his sword, during the initial arrest of Jesus, the Lord ordered him to stop (Luk 22:51). Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Mat 26:52). Then he touched the man's ear, which Peter had cut off, and He healed him.
When He said that all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword, He meant what He said. It's basically the law of reciprocity. You reap what you sow. If you live that way, wielding the sword against others, it will eventually come back at you sooner or later, like it did for Dietrich's students who died on the battle field. Some people believe this means that a Christian may never bear arms in the Armed Forces or law enforcement agencies. Others believe that it does not stop a Christian from serving in a righteous and God-fearing way in these professions, but that it prohibits their participation in unjust uses of deadly force, such as those I have already mentioned earlier. I tend to agree with this latter viewpoint, provided that you can do so in good conscience.
There is also the viewpoint that the Lord was forbidding the private, personal use of a weapon for one's own protection or to do evil. Obviously a Christian should never do evil under any circumstances, but I think there is also a strong case from the Lord's teaching to support the prohibition against Christians bearing arms privately in a manner that is not part of their service for a governing authority. As I said in my opening, that is outside the scope of this article.
Not of This World
The Lord also explained to governor Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world, otherwise His servants would have fought to keep Him from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, His kingdom is not of this realm (Joh 18:36). Therefore, let us remember the words of our Lord, who said that His kingdom is not of this world. If you are part of His kingdom, then you are not of this world, even though you may be in the world (Joh 15:19; 17:16). We are aliens and strangers here, being members of The Secret Kingdom.
The kingdom of God operates on different principles than this world does. We understand that our battle is "not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12). We don't war according to the flesh. We have been given the armor of God, and these are the weapons we must use. We have weapons of righteousness. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal or worldly, but they are mighty through God. They are divinely powerful for the pulling down of strongholds (2 Cor 10:4).
When you follow Jesus, you need to learn how to pray, how to battle the devil, how to cast out demons, and destroy the works of the evil one in the name of Jesus. More importantly than target-practicing to hone your skills with a worldly weapon, you need to realize that God has angels on assignment to protect you, and you need to pray that He will send them to your aid when you need them. If Jesus had wanted to, He said He could have appealed to the Father, and He would have immediately put at His disposal more than twelve legions of angels. (Mat 26:53).
As I wrote in my article, Angelic Escape from Terrorist Assassins, my dear brother Michael Sambo was captured by terrorists, who shot him at point blank range, and the bullets did not hit him. The Lord sent a mighty angel to protect him by blocking the bullets and helping him escape to freedom. That's the way we need to learn to operate in this world.
Putting it All Together
I hope this has helped to give you some Scriptural guidance on the subject of bearing arms. I think it clearly showed the legitimacy of the governing authorities maintaining Armed Forces and people submitting to those authorities. And I trust that it also adequately emphasized the need to avoid at any cost all forms of evil associated with bearing arms.
If you have used government-issue weapons (or weapons of any kind) for the purpose of infanticide, unlawful killings, innocent bloodshed, or oppression, then repent right now, and ask the Lord to forgive you. Turn back to God so that He may have mercy on you. But remember that mercy is only available on earth, so don't delay repentance. You don't know when your life on earth will end, and you need to get right with God now. Today is the day of salvation.
Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. The "Entering In" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. His artwork is available at inspired-art.
Author's Note: I also recommend reading Onward Christian Soldier, Now is the Day of Salvation, The Truth Set Me Free!, Overcomers in This Life, The Afflictions of the Righteous, Angelic Escape from Terrorist Assassins, Is it Always a Sin to Not Tell the Truth?, The End Time Saints, Keeping a Good Conscience, The Glory of Martyrdom for Christ, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, The Cost of Discipleship, The Kingdom of Darkness, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Is Obedience Optional?, Restored Truth, Aim for Perfection, The Straight and Narrow Path. You are invited to view my collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.