Posted in Christian Living

Christian Life as Dictated by the King of Kings: A Prelude to Easter

Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?” (Eccl 7.16; NASB)1

Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6.1).

INTRODUCTION:

We are closing in on the culmination of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry—His crucifixion and resurrection and ascension. In just two weeks we will be celebrating Easter. Some of us with family and friends, but those of us here as members of the Body of Christ. In recent generations Easter has been turned into a cultural icon celebrated by many but the meaning of which has been by and large lost. Like so many things taken from our Christian heritage it has become a historical tradition with no greater purpose than serving the individuals who celebrate it. In other words, Easter like Christmas and Thanksgiving has been turned inward where we gratify ourselves rather than recognizing what the celebration truly points to—Jesus Christ.

This attitude is not new. It was rampant in Israel at the time of our Lord’s coming. It was evident in ancient Israel under the reign of righteous kings like David and Solomon. It was visibly practiced during the period of the Judges. And, it was something that Moses had to contend with as he led God’s people towards the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to Abraham in giving the land of Canaan as an inheritance to the children of our chief patriarch’s loins.

Why? Because we are not very good with remembering. We like gifts. We enjoy blessings. We lift our voices in shouts of exclamation when something good happens in our lives. But we struggle with seeing the true importance behind an event, a statute, or a gift.

There were many festivals celebrated in Israel from the time of Moses to Christ Jesus. There was the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), the Day of Pentecost, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Passover. Each event symbolized a greater truth but what was remembered was the celebration in the sense of a self-gratifying festival of eating, drinking and being merry. Nothing wrong with the latter elements being exemplified. These are things that godly people are commended to do. But there is something wrong with missing the significance of the event pretending that its all about us when its not.

Instruction to His people…

The same may be true with the law of God. God gave His law to reveal His will for His people. Individuals made up of families within a larger community that were created and set-apart to bear His image in this world. Every area of life was to be governed by the life giving instruction of God. As Moses explained to the children of Israel before they took the Promise Land—a reward for faithfulness not faithlessness:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding close to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, so that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them” (Deut 30.19-20; emphasis added; also see Deut 32.39).

The law was given to offer instruction to the people of God that they may be righteous before the Lord and as a result live, experiencing His blessing on their life of faithfulness. It is not as if the Law gives life, it does not nor can it. The Law shuts the mouth of sinners for it proves that though they eagerly profess their goodness to themselves and to others the reality is that they (we are all!) sinners. In this way then the Law is meant to drive us to our knees beseeching God’s grace so that we might live by Him; for Him.

I have often pondered the meaning of Solomon’s words recorded in Ecclesiastes 7:16. Is there such a thing as being too righteous, too holy? Is that even possible for a human being? And what of wisdom? Is there such a thing as being too wise? To have obtained such a treasury of knowledge that our wisdom (i.e., the practice of applying knowledge gained) handicaps us? Though the answer is easily enough discerned from the rest of what is said in Ecclesiastes I find it interesting that Jesus addresses the issue as well. In fact, He goes into greater detail of the true meaning of being too righteous or wise.

Christ’s Gold Standard

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of the “Golden Rule.” I have had conversations with self-professing atheists who have cited this rule as the mode of operation (modus operandi) by which all human action should be governed. It is a tradition that has been borrowed from the Christian worldview. It is taken from Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:16,

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (see Rom 10.13).2

But the question we ought to be asking when something like Matthew 7:16 is cited or the so-called “Golden Rule” is referenced, is by what standard? What is the standard by which I am to treat others? More importantly, how will this standard effect my interaction with God. Meaning, how do I treat God with my life (i.e., my thoughts, words and deeds), and how will He treat me in retrospect?

You see the standard by which we are to treat others is not within ourselves; it doesn’t derive from our inner being. According to Jesus, the standard to be applied in treating others, including the God who formed us and gave/gives us life is God’s law. Again we find that our culture has appropriated a truth, turned it into a tradition, but the aim and purpose of it has been forgotten.

Matthew 5-7 is often called the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt 5.1). It contains the meat of much of what Jesus taught during His 3 ½ year earthly ministry. It references God’s people and the standard by which God’s people are to live by. A standard, by the way, that Jesus informs His listeners He did not come to abolish but rather to uphold:

Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5.17-20).

God’s law is His instruction for life on this planet. If we want to live, if we want to be blessed, if we want to prosper in what we do building that which will last long after we have faded from memory on this earth, then we must not only know what His word teaches but be diligent in the keeping of it. Both faith and faithlessness in light of God’s Law-Word have their rewards, either life or death.

Matthew 6 and Where the Believer’s Emphasis Lies

Now I noted in the heading (at the beginning/top of the sermon) that we were going to cover Matthew 6 in light of what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, and in light of how Christ Jesus lived on this earth. But before we get there I wanted to give you come context first. I will be quick here. I have already stated that standard by which Jesus applies to the believer’s life in His famous sermon here (the longest we have recorded in Scripture) is the Law of God.

From Matthew 5:21 until the end of that chapter Jesus uses the corrective phrasing,

You have heard that it was said of those of old…But I say to you…” (Matt 5.21a, 22a; ESV).

Here, He is explaining to His audience “you’ve been taught this way…, but I’m here to tell you otherwise….” In short, Jesus is correcting a commonly held (traditionally held) understanding of God’s Law-Word that is actually in error.

Beginning in chapter 6 we see a different emphasis being placed upon Jesus’ hearers; those claiming to be children of God, what we would call “believers” or “Christians” using today’s common vernacular (or if you prefer, language or tongue).3 Matthew 6 starts off with a principle for those who fear (i.e., honor and respect) God:

Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of the people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6.1; emphasis added).

If we compare this with Solomon’s earlier statement recorded in Ecclesiastes (cf. 7:16) we find that he and the Lord’s words seem to be of similar intent. How so? For Solomon follows his advice of not being too righteous or too wise with the rhetorical question:

Why should you destroy yourself?” (Eccl 7.16b).

The question demands a negative answer. No one should destroy themselves. That is folly. Better to make sure we live in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord God (cf. Eccl 7.18; also see Eccl 8.12; 12.13). Notice that Jesus’ emphasis is the same.

Jesus warns how one ought to live their life (comp 1Pet 4.11). He says to “take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of the people….” Taken at face value it would appear that He was saying, we shouldn’t practice our righteousness in the public square. But this contradicts how He lived His own life and what He had taught earlier in the same sermon:

Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5.16; ASV; cf. Prov 4.18).
If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love” (John 15.10; comp Acts 3.14).

Righteousness properly defined means “the quality of being morally right.”4 Jesus never sinned (Heb 7.26; 1Pet 2.22; 1John 3.5). No foul word ever touched His lips (1Pet 2.23). For this reason He is identified as the perfect “Lamb of God,” (John 1.29, 36; also see 1Pet 2.24) the “propitiation” (1John 2.1-2) for our sin. And yet, He performed many righteous acts before the people. As long as He had breath in Him until the appointed time, He lived for God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s Law-Word.

And so, when Jesus gives the warning to those who claim to follow Him, to those who profess to be children of the Most High, the Heavenly Father unto whom all creatures owe their due, He is not prohibiting or cautioning the practice of God’s righteousness (i.e., godly/goodly works) but the attitude and standard by which we seek to do them.

Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them…” (Matt 6.1b).

Such a righteousness is not a godly righteousness. It is the type of righteousness that the wisdom writer Solomon, the 3rd king of Israel, warned against. For what is the goal of the one who seeks to be noticed by others? Is it not to be praised by them? Is it not to gratify the desires of your own heart? Is it not to be cherished by the masses, great or small?

A truly righteous person seeks to please who? God or mankind? The Lord or the people in our day-to-day lives? If it is the latter and not the former, then according to Jesus,

“…you [will] have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6.1c).

He then cites many religious activities that people seek praises from others for.

On Giving…

So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues on and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they will have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt 6.2-4).

On Praying…

And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Bu as for you when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt 6.5-6).

On Fasting…

Now whenever you fast, do not make a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they distort their faces so that they will be noticed by people when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But as for you, when you fast anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by people but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt 6.16-18)

Christ’s Standard is NOT the World’s Standard

The point here is not that living righteously or wisely is bad, but the standard that we use to deem what our righteousness and wisdom looks like might be. According to Jesus our standard ought to be to please God in all that we do. To honor His Word. To obey His commandments. To live for Him. To seek our reward from Him, not from creatures. Jesus points out in Matthew 5:48 that God’s people are to pursue perfection, which is a synonym for righteousness:

Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

That’s our goal. That’s our motivation. That’s our chief pursuit. We strive to be good and pure and holy like our Creator. We make every effort to live for Him and not for the people of this world. This makes many professing believer’s uneasy. And to some extent it should. But it must be noted that,

...there is not a righteous person on earth who always does good and does not ever sin” (Eccl 7.20; cf. Rom 3.23).

This truth, though, does not nullify the expectation that God places on us. Rather it points us to our true need: We need to be delivered, We need to be saved. This is the reason for Jesus. He—the living Word—stepped into creation as a babe, putting on flesh, so that He might represent His people whom He came to deliver from their sins. What the Law of God points to is our desperate need for a Savior, whom we have been gifted in Jesus of Nazareth called the Christ.

While this is true…we NEED a Savior… we must also recognize that the One who saves us is also our Lord! Our lives having meaning because of Him. He defines who we are. Not our feelings. Not our thoughts. Not our desires. Not the people around us in this life. He defines who we are. He is our righteousness. He alone is our wisdom. We are called from the depths of sin—made possible by His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension in history—to live our lives in accordance with His Word, for His glory not the praise of others.

We are told three times (vv. 4, 6, 18) that what is done in secret is rewarded by the Lord. But the converse is also true, what is done in front of people, seeking their praise, is also a reward (vv. 2, 5, 16). If our desire is to please and honor God through Christ by the Holy Spirit demonstrated through faithful obedience (i.e., righteousness), then He will reward us. This does not mean we have to pray in a closet or give in the dark or fast away from others. What it means is that our delight is in pleasing our Father who is in Heaven, whom the world does not know or see. The attention we are intending to draw is His not the praise of others.

Where our Heart Lies

This is what I believe to be the meaning of Matthew 6:19-21 when Jesus speaks of treasure hunters:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Now it is true that this can pertain to material wealth. But the more robust meaning given the flow of the text seems to implicate any type of treasure seeking. Some prefer the treasure of “men’s applause.” The desire to be known, to be thought highly of, to be adored is nothing short of wanting to be worshiped in some way. The accolades of people’s applause is great, and has allured many throughout history. Rather our desire should be to seek the Lord’s will. And with that in mind we shall wrap up with the Lord’s teaching on a proper pray life.

Please note that when Jesus instructs believer’s to pray He is giving a model to follow not only in our prayer life, but also in our day-to-day living. He says,

And when you are praying, do not use thoughtless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debtors, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6.7-13)

According to Jesus here what is the purpose of our prayers? To bend God towards our desires or to bring our desires in line with His own? We are warned not to pray like unbeliever’s, this is the meaning of not praying like the Gentiles do. An unbeliever identifies their god as a way to get what they want, but the believer recognizes first and foremost that God alone is Holy; for His name is Hallowed.

After we admit that our God is Holy other, then we pray that His will be done on this earth as it is done in heaven. This is not a reference to everybody else but is foremost to be concerned with the believer’s life. God’s kingdom rule is first seen exercised in His people’s lives. Lives of individuals submissive to His dictates. Next, we find that the believer is to ask for God to provide for his/her daily needs. God gives us the ability to produce wealth, therefore HE alone should get the glory and be recognized as the One who provides for our daily needs. This includes the forgiveness of sins. He saves us from ourselves and He likewise requires us to be gracious in forgiving others who have wronged us (vv. 12, 15-16).

Finally, we close in prayer for God’s deliverance from evil, whether it be the evil one or one of those that serve him (speaking spiritually—demonic activity; speaking materially—human beings that hate God and therefore hate His standards).

Closing Remarks…

In all of this we seek to glorify God not ourselves. Thus as we prepare our hearts for the upcoming Easter celebration let us put forward every effort to remember who it is that died on the Cross, who it is that arose from the grave, and who it is that is seated at the Father’s right hand exercising all authority in heaven and on earth. Easter is the dawning of a new age. Not eastern mysticism, but the rising of the Son of God who not only shines as a bright light upon this earth in the life of His people, but who rightly claims Kingship over all nations and tongues.

ENDNOTES:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).

2“the Law and the Prophets” speaks of the entirety of God’s instructive word (Torah—i.e., law) given to His people in the Old Testament as the covenantal (contractual) boundaries by which they were to live (image Him) in this world. When the prophets spoke in the OT they cited God’s Law as the reason judgment (life or death; blessing or curse) was about to fall upon them or some other nation unless they turned (repented) from their sin.

3As an interesting side note the term “vulgate” as in “Latin vulgate” means “common tongue or language.” Therefore, when Latin was the most widely used language (though now it is dead) the Bible’s most prolific translation at the time meant “[in] Latin the common tongue.” Or, so it would seem.

4James Strong and John McClintock, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, 12 vol. TheWord Bible Software.

Posted in self-defense

Purchasing Swords to What End? The Second Half…

But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and a whoever has no sword is to sell his cloak and buy one…They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’” (Luke 22.36, 38; NASB).1

INTRODUCTION:

So did Jesus tell His disciples to purchase swords because He was teaching a deeper spiritual truth about being prepared to fight demonic teachings in their near future? The correct understanding of purchasing swords is spiritual, not physical; metaphorical, not literal? Is that how we are supposed to understand Luke 22:36, 38?

How far do we need to go in order to draw the right conclusion? Is the only way to determine Jesus’ meaning (spiritual or physical, metaphorical or literal) is by going outside of this text? Were the disciples just too dense to figure out the true meaning of Jesus’ instruction?

My argument near the close of my last post was that the answer is right before our eyes. Jesus is giving His disciples instructions before He partakes of the cup (cf. Luke 22.42) that His Father in heaven had prepared: “[to] be numbered with the transgressors” (Luke 22.37; ESV).

Jesus calls to their attention the manner in which He had previously sent them (see Luke 9.3; 10.4) and then, contrasts it with how things will be in their near future. “But now…” (v. 36) serves as a point of difference; “last time you brought nothing,” Jesus says, “but this time you will bring the following…and if you don’t have this item (a sword) then you should sell your cloak and buy one if you can.”

But what of verse 38? Some argue that Jesus’ statement, “It is enough” after the disciples tell Him they have two swords already, is demonstrative of a rebuke by the Lord. But, the phrase can also be translated “It is sufficient.” Meaning, “you have enough for now,” or “that will do.” I find this more acceptable than the more commonly accepted “We are done talking about this! (since you’re not really getting My intent).” You have to assume a rebuke for the language of the text does not imply anything more than a simple declarative response by our Lord. However, to draw support for the supposition that Jesus must rebuke His disciples because they are too slow in understanding Him about purchasing swords (spiritual rather than literal), many will turn their audiences’ attention to Matthew 26:52.

A Brief Look at Matthew 26:48-54

Although it will be lengthier I will cite a larger portion of the passage in order to provide context for the reader:

Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign previously, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; arrest Him.’ And immediately Judas [Iscariot] went up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matt 26:48-54).

Verses 48-50 show that Judas Iscariot, along with a mob of armed men (cf. Matt 26.55), betrayed Jesus, his former teacher (rabbi), having Him arrested. Verse 51 highlights the response of one of His disciples in reaction to the events as they unfold around them. Verse 52-53 reveals Jesus’ rebuke of the disciple. Verse 54 shows that the concern of the Lord is that God’s Word is upheld regardless of how mankind may view it. Obviously, the key text for our current discussion is Matthew 26:52, but the key part in determining the meaning is accomplished through observation. The surrounding details are vital to a proper understanding.

The reason for the rebuke…

"Then Jesus said to him, 'Put your sword back in its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt 26.52; emphasis added).

Here we see the Lord rebuking one of His disciples for cutting the ear of “the slave of the high priest” (Matt 26.51). What we are looking for is the reason for the rebuke? A couple of quick points before we attempt to see the flow of thought here. First, notice that Jesus tells His disciple (Peter according to John 18.11) to put the sword “back in its place.” He doesn’t tell him to get rid of it. He doesn’t say there is no value to it, but He does indicate that now is not the time a sword is to be used. Second, Jesus is specific in saying that it is those who “take up” the sword who will, in time, fall by it. As I have stated before in previous posts related to this issue, life is sacred and it is not to be taken lightly. Jesus’ reminder here points us back to Genesis 9:5-6. As a general rule violence is not the path that God’s people take.2 There are mitigating circumstances3 when this general rule does not apply, when the preservation of life may require such action, but not here.

What transpired during Jesus’ arrest…

Before Peter (John 18.11) pulled the sword out of its sheathe and attacked those who came to arrest his Master (Matt 26.51; Luke 22.50), the disciples asked a quick question: “Lord shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22.49). Unfortunately, they didn’t wait for an answer. Or, at least Peter didn’t. He jumped the gun, even though, you can understand why he reacted in such a way from a human standpoint. Those that came to arrest Jesus in the garden were armed to the teeth. The Lord even challenged them, saying,

"Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a man inciting a revolt? Every day I was with you within the temple grounds teaching, and you did not arrest Me…" (Mark 14.48; also Matt 26.55).

Before He did that, though, He rebuked Peter and healed the wounded man (Luke 22:50). Then Jesus commands His disciple to put the sword back, offers a reminder of the general rule against wielding the sword (Matt 26.52), adding the following statement:

"Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? [But] How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" (Matt 26.53-54).

A Few Questions

Did Jesus’ comments in Matthew 26:52 to Peter and the rest of the disciples standing there mean that all uses of the sword (physically) speaking were forbidden? Is the pacifist right that a true follower of Jesus should never act violently towards attackers?4 Does the Lord’s rebuke (Matt 26.52) add further support to the idea that He was only speaking of purchasing swords in a metaphorical sense, not a literal one?

Let me answer those in reverse.

Purchasing Swords in a Metaphorical Sense…

According to Albert Barnes, Jesus words in Luke 22:36

“…were not made with reference to his being taken in the garden, but with reference to their future life…They were going into the midst of dangers. The country was infested with robbers and wild beasts. It was customary to go armed. He tells them of those dangers—of the necessity of being prepared in the usual way to meet them.”5

In other words, appealing to what transpired in the garden as grounds for denying that Jesus did tell them that in the days ahead a sword may be necessary, in the sense of defense, is uncalled for. Though the passages are near one another, Jesus telling Peter to put his sword away is not an endorsement of a figurative understanding of the Lord’s earlier words.

Pacifistic correction…

Would you be surprised to learn that it was customary for people in the 1st-century to go about armed as they traveled? Thus our tradition here in the United States to be armed in the home or on the road traveling is not a historic anomaly. As one author’s astute observation puts it:

“Jesus knew very well His disciples had weapons, for He was with them for three years. Christ allowed His followers to pack weapons…He never corrected [them] because [they] didn’t need [to be] corrected.”6

Is the physical use of a Sword forbidden?

The comments of our Lord telling His disciple to “put the sword away” followed by the proverbial truth, “for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword” was not an indictment against the use of the sword in all circumstances (see note #2). The issue at that moment was that it was God’s will that Jesus be arrested. As a recitation of Zechariah 13:7 verifies,

"'Awake, sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man, My associate,' declares the Lord of armies. 'Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered; and I will turn My hand against the little ones.'" (cited in Matt 26.31; Mark 14.27).

It was the explicit purpose of God that Jesus is taken that night, that He is crucified as a substitute for His people, and that after His resurrection He might draw those that were given to Him into His fold. Jesus is the Shepherd that was struck, and His disciples were the sheep that were meant to flee, and it was in demonstration of God’s power (i.e., hand) against those who were defiling His land (earth).

Notice what Jesus says after He tells His disciple (Peter) to put the sword back in its sheathe. He explains that if He so willed to fight at that moment a myriad of angels were at His disposal to eliminate His foes (Matt 26.53). Those are not the words of a pacifist. But they were the words of One who desired that all Scripture be fulfilled (Matt 26.54). Since it was God’s purpose for our Christ to die in order to be raised, then so be it. Jesus desired that the Father’s will be done. Instead of being saved from the cup of divine wrath, He was about to partake of, in Love (Matt 26.42; Luke 22.42).

What’s my point? That the circumstance determines the action. There are times when the use of the sword is not wrong, contrary to those who argue that Matthew 26:52 nullifies the self-defense position. Armed defense, whether it be with a sword, a club, or a gun is allowable in certain situations. The taking of another’s life is a worst-case scenario, one that should not be looked forward to with excitement but disdain. Luke 22:35-38 authorizes the use of the sword to the disciples of Christ as a deterrent from harm in the pursuit of the preservation of life. Matthew 26:52 does not counter Jesus’ instructions there, nor does it make the use of the sword metaphorical. As I’ve already stated, “circumstances determine action.” There will be times when the use of the sword spiritually speaking is warranted, and there will be times when the use of the sword physically speaking is justified. Wisdom based on the knowledge of God is the standard by which we are to make such determinations.

In some forthcoming posts, I will be critiquing the writing of a popular Evangelical pastor—John Piper. The article is a bit dated (2015), but his various points are popularly held by many within the Christian context. My goal in writing the critique is not personal. I’m not attacking anyone’s faith, rather I am attempting to reason through the arguments he presents to see if they hold any validity. It is my hope that this forthcoming article and others along this same genre are of some benefit to those who read them. Until then, God bless.

ENDNOTES:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).

2John Calvin asserts the following:

“But here a question arises. Is it never lawful to use violence in repelling unjust violence? …First we must make a distinction between a civil court and the court of conscience; for if any man resists a robber he will not be liable to public punishment, because the laws arm him against one who is the common enemy of mankind. Thus, in every case when defense is made against unjust violence, the punishment which God enjoins earthly judges to carry into execution ceases. And yet it is not the mere goodness of the cause that acquits the conscience from guilt, unless there be also pure affection. So then, in order that a many may properly and lawfully defend himself, he must first lay aside excessive wrath, and hatred, and desire of revenge, and all irregular sallies [outburst] of passion, that nothing tempestuous may mingle with the defense. As this is of rare occurrence, or rather, as it scarcely ever happens, Christ properly reminds his people of the general rule, that they should entirely abstain from using the sword.”

In other words, self-defense is the last resort and the taking of life is to be avoided if possible. But as Calvin notes the Law of God does not forbid it altogether. John Calvin, The Complete Biblical Commentary Collection of John Calvin: Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, William Pringle, translator, Kindle Edition, loc 395867-75.

3“Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20.13) is pretty straightforward, but there are exceptions. Based on the ninth commandment’s prohibition against lying—“Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod 20.16), most would agree it is likewise straightforward, but there are exceptions to this one as well. Two examples may be given where lying was not only allowed but praised by the Lord God: The Hebrew midwives in protecting the male offspring of birthing mothers while in Egypt (Exod 1.15-21); Rahab the prostitute in misleading the king of Jericho about the whereabouts of Joshua’s spies (Josh 2.1-7; 6.25). Based on the ethical teachings in Scripture, we should not be surprised to learn that there are exceptions to “killing” as well. Bear in mind that the taking of life must be investigated by the civil authorities over us in order to determine whether or not the killing was justified or accidental (cf. Numbers 35:9-34).

4D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with New International Version: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Vol 8, Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1984), 547-48. Carson notes the following attitudes regarding Jesus’ words to His disciples, “Some take Jesus’ response—’for all who draw the sword will die by the sword’ (v. 52)—as a call to pacifism, whereas others observe that Jesus told Peter to put his sword “back in its place,” not throw it away. Both views ask the text of no immediate relevance.”

5Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Explanatory and Practical (1872), theWord Bible Software, Luke 22:36. Emphasis mine.

6Jeff Robinson, God and Guns: Freedom in a Time of Crisis, (Xlibris, 2012), Kindle Edition, loc 281.

Posted in self-defense, Uncategorized

Purchasing Swords to What End? An Article on Self-Defense in Light of Jesus’ Instruction to His Disciples, Part I

And [Jesus] said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take along, likewise a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his cloak and buy one’” (Luke 22.36; NASB).1

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword’” (Matt 26.52).

INTRODUCTION:

The Eagles had a hit single in 1976 entitled “A New Kid in Town.” That song serves as a semblance of my life growing up. Several times during my adolescent years, I was the new kid in town that everybody was talking about. And it was during this time of my youth I found out the hard way not everyone likes you.

Sometimes this is your fault. Maybe you have a bad attitude, and this leads to diarrhea of the mouth. Not a popular position to be in if you are spewing words in the wrong direction. There is perhaps an unspoken correlation between vulgarity of the mouth and that which spews from down below as both are fit for the refuse pile (i.e., skubalon).2 Talking in such a way to the wrong person will, more than likely, end up bringing about an uncomfortable situation. One where we are left with a little color on our face and a slab of cool meat to ease the swelling; or worse.

Other times, though, living in the fallen world that we do, the dislike of others is not our fault. The fact is some people will enjoy your personage and others will not. This was a lesson I learned early on as a youngster and I have witnessed little change in this reality as I’ve reached adulthood. Most of the time, the dislike of another rarely leads to what some would consider an act of violence (e.g., fist-fight; i.e., conflict). The dilemma, however, was what to do when such activity became unavoidable (e.g., self-defense).

As a result, I had to learn very early that there were times when fighting was the only option. Violence, aggression, combat, war, battles, are not names normally associated with the Christian worldview. I would imagine that many Christian parents loath the idea of their children getting into an altercation with a fellow classmate. No question, peace is to be preferred (cf. Rom 12.18). My wife and I have six children (two of which have grown and left home to start their own lives), and we prefer, I think as all parents do, that they experience a peaceful coexistence with their peers. Alas, this is not always possible. Remember we live in a world filled with sinful, carnal creatures that have a great inability to see things beyond the concerns of self-gratification. According to the biblical worldview, this inevitably leads to various shades of conflict (cf. James 4.1-2).

Therefore, I taught my children the same lesson I learned when I was growing up: “Do not start anything with anyone, but if another attacks you…make sure you finish it.” To be honest, I thought such a life lesson was common sense. Experience, however, has taught me differently. Interactions with other parents and school administrators at various levels have helped me see how difficult the concept of self-defense is in our current cultural climate. Even a significant number of professing Christians display a knee-jerk reaction against it.

A brief explanation…

This has continually left me with a desire to carefully define and articulate the actual position I am advocating for. Though I personally find the process a bit tedious I realize that providing proper categorical qualifications is necessary, for much of the confusion or denial of seeing self-defense as a legitimate response to counter wanton acts of violence or aggression in certain situations is because people do not take the time to critically think through the issue.

Self-defense while appropriate and normative as an act of protection or deterrence, is only practiced (to be applied) in unique cases. Meaning it is something prepared for with the hope that it is never necessary to use. For example, I have spent many years of my life learning various arts of self-defense; boxing, martial arts and some grappling techniques. I have competed in a few competitions with decent results. Many of my children have shared in these experiences personally as my wife and I thought it necessary to teach such things in case the need called for it.

But one of the key aspects of such training is that you don’t want to use it outside of the ring or dojo unless no other option is available to you. The goal is to avoid confrontation at all costs. In fact, one of the first lessons we were taught in Matsubayashi-Ryu (Pine Forest Style, an Okinawan form of Karate also known as Shorin-Ryu) was to avoid conflict3 (to flee) if the opportunity is presented. Not only to protect oneself from injury, but you may have to live with injuring another, perhaps permanently. Lethal force is always a last resort. The same is true with firearm training. You never point your gun at another unless no other alternative presents itself and you never place your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot.

Self-defense is not violence, although it uses violence as a form of protection or deterrence. Self-defense, properly defined, is never vengeance but a guarding of life—either yours or another. Predators go for weak prey in the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, there is little difference between human or animal predators. For a human predator is more akin to a beast than a fellow image-bearer.

Biblical justifications…

So far I have sought to be reasonable regarding this issue. (Actually, I have attempted to do this for some time as I have worked through what I believe were pertinent issues raised as a result of the national debate sparked by the Kyle Rittenhouse case). I realize that this topic is a worldview issue, and depending on what a person’s worldview is they will have already drawn their own conclusions regarding it. Contrary to popular opinion, facts and pieces of evidence do not lead a person’s thoughts on a given issue, their presuppositions do. As Greg L. Bahnsen explains,

“The unavoidable fact is…that nobody is a disinterested observer, seeing and interpreting the facts without a set of assumptions and pre-established rules. All men have presuppositional commitments prior to their examination of various hypothesis

Each worldview has its presuppositions about reality [metaphysics], knowledge [epistemology], and ethics [law]; these mutually influence and support each other. There are no facts or uses of reason which are available outside of the interpretive system of basic commitments or assumptions [i.e., presuppositions] which appeals to them; the presuppositions used by Christian and non-Christian determine what they will accept as factual or reasonable, and their respective presuppositions about fact and logic will determine what they say about reality.”4

In short, people are not neutral. They are not neutral when they look at issues. They are not neutral when presented with proofs. Nor are they neutral when they reason (think through) subjects like self-defense. Individuals will have prior commitments that will shade their understanding and limit what they accept as truth. This is true for members of the believing and unbelieving world.

And so, the question is ultimately by what standard do we appeal to in order to decide a matter? Since I am convinced that nothing makes sense of reality besides the revealed Word of God, this is where I go. The Bible lays out the purpose, principles, and justification for the “what and why” of all reality. A point that I have been attempting to make through various posts related to self-defense. In this post, I begin to look at Jesus’ command to His disciples which seems to offer biblical justification for Christians to practice self-defense. In a follow-up post, I will address what many think is a counterclaim to this command.

Figurative or according to the letter?

At the beginning of this post, I cited a couple of biblical texts where Jesus spoke about swords with His disciples. The first text mentioned was Luke 22:36. To avoid confusion let us look at this verse within its surrounding context.

And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything did you? They said, ‘No, nothing.’ And He said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that which is written must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And He was counted with wrongdoers’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’” (Luke 22.35-38; NASB).5

Notice in this passage, Jesus is telling His disciples what they are to do in the days ahead. For, He compares their former mission with the next one, illustrated by the phrase: “But now…” (Luke 22.36a). Previously, the Lord had sent them out in pairs to share the gospel of peace. At that time they were instructed to carry no “money belt…bag…[or] sandals” (Luke 22.35; cf. Luke 9.3; 10.4). It was a faith-building exercise. They had little to fear, for they were under divine protection. A change was about to occur. Hostilities would increase. They would be venturing outside of their nation (Israel) to other nations. This is not to say that they would no longer be under God’s protection, for Jesus reminds them that they “lacked nothing” in terms of need (Luke 22.35; He does this with the use of a rhetorical question). God provided everything. He would continue to do so. As Abraham said of the Lord God, “He provides” (Gen 22.8, 14).

The training wheels, however, were about to come off. The days ahead, Jesus warns them will be of greater difficulty, and so they need to be prepared.6 He instructs them

But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his cloak and buy one" (Luke 22:36; emphasis added).

Many of the commentaries that I read tend to say that Jesus was only speaking about “selling your cloak and buying a sword” in a figurative sense. This is a popular notion among many Christian leaders.7 They secure their interpretation of the text on Jesus’ response here (Luke 22.36, 38) and in the subsequent narrative in the Garden of Gethsemane during His arrest (Matt 26.52). (Later on, we’ll address the one in Matthew, but for now, let’s keep focused on the instructions recorded in Luke.)

In Luke 22:38 Jesus’ disciples respond to His instruction in Luke 22:36 with the following statement, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” To that, the Lord says, “It is enough” (Luke 22.38).8

Supposedly, the idea is to take Jesus’ comments about swords in a figurative sense, or as John Calvin asserts, in a spiritual sense. He wrote,

“It was truly shameful and stupid ignorance, that the disciples, after having been so often informed about bearing the cross, imagine that they must fight with swords of iron…it is evident, at least, that they were so stupid as not to think of a spiritual enemy.”9

I don’t deny that spiritual enemies are real enemies. Nor do I deny that spiritual enemies are to be fought off with the Sword of the Spirit (cf. Eph 6.17; Heb 4.12). If that is what Jesus meant by his early words in Luke 22:36, then I have no problem with it.

Some key questions…

However, if we are going to say that purchasing swords is meant to be taken figuratively to protect oneself from spiritual enemies in the future, then shouldn’t we take “money belts” and “bags” to carry one’s luggage in a figurative sense as well?

I mean, if we are concerned about being consistent.

If, however, the text does not allow for us to take “money belts” and “bags” in a metaphorical sense of just “being prepared for hard times ahead,” then where does it allow for us to go from taking “sword” according to the letter?10

Context takes precedence…

In order to answer these questions, biblical commentators attempt to pin their interpretation of “it is enough” to Jesus’ comments about Peter’s misuse of the sword (cf. John 18.10) in Matthew 26:52. But as we shall see in my next post that is an entirely different context. Jesus’ concern while talking with His disciples is in light of what they shall face after He is “counted with wrongdoers” (Luke 22.37), not during. The purchasing of swords and the selling of cloaks in order to obtain them is post-arrest, not pre-arrest. First, Jesus must be counted with sinners on the cross, and then afterward there would come a time when preservation of life in terms of self-defense would be necessary.

Exegesis is not playing hopscotch, it is dealing with the details available in the text. Exegesis is concerned about drawing the meaning from Scripture rather than reading one’s ideas into it. Luke is the only one that recorded Jesus’ instruction for the disciples to prepare for the dark days ahead by purchasing a sword. He stressed the urgency of it by telling them that if they didn’t have one they should sell their cloak to buy it. A cloak (outer coat) in the 1stcentury world was of paramount importance. It was what protected a person from the elements and gave them something to snuggle in at night. To sell it and buy a sword meant to forfeit one form of protection from danger in light of obtaining another.

I believe that Jesus’ comments in Matthew 26:52 are important. They need to be properly weighed. But they are not necessary for understanding what Jesus says in Luke 22:35-38. For it is my contention that two different matters are being dealt with in those two different passages of Scripture. Something that I will do my best to prove in my next post.

To Be Continued…

ENDNOTES:

1All Scripture shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 Update (NASB); unless otherwise noted.

2According to J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan the apostle Paul’s use of the term skubalon (G4657) “‘Dung,’ [is] the prevailing sense of this word…its original meaning thus would be “refuse” (RV marg.); but ‘dung’ is probably what Paul meant in Phil 3:8, the only occurrence of the word in the NT.” The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament: Illustrated from the Papyri and other Non-Literary Sources (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1929), 579, PDF E-book.

3Shoshin Nagamine, the founder of this particular style of martial art writes, “Karate ni sente nashi (There is no first attack in karate).” Meaning that karate is not a violent martial art but only one to be practiced in self-defense, a method of preserving life. Shoshin Nagamine, The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, [1976], 1992), 13. Italics in original.

4Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, Joel McDurmon, ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision & Covenant Media Press, 2011), 25, 26, PDF E-book. Emphasis added. This will be found under the heading “The Necessity of a Presuppositional Approach.” I include this since the page number may be different depending on what electronic book reader one uses. For example, my copy of this book in my Adobe Digital Editions will show the quoted material above on page 27.

5All Scripture shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).

6This is not fatalistic teaching. Fate does not determine the outcome. The actions of God, the Creator, and man, the creature bring about the causal experiences of life. God provides for His people. This is true. He gives us food, wealth and health (life), but this does not eliminate our responsibility to work and enrich the talents, the tools, He’s given us. Farmers that desire to see a blessing from the Lord must work the ground in accordance with God’s commands. The farmer cannot hope to see a crop yield without working the soil and planting the seed. Laziness will bring him nothing but an empty hand and stomach. This is true of all our endeavors. Salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9), but in order for a person to be saved, we must do the work of proclaiming the gospel of Christ (Rom 10.14-15). God provides but He also instructs us to be prepared for the days ahead, not knowing what they will bring (Prov 27.1; Isa 56.12; James 4.13-16).

7For example, Paul Carter, a contributor to the Canadian version of the Gospel Coalition, denies that Jesus was instructing His followers to sell their cloaks and buy a physical sword. After citing a few biblical commentaries, he writes,

“On balance it seems that Jesus is not telling the disciples to buy actual swords. He is saying that they are about to enter into very perilous times and they will need to keep the sword of the Spirit ‘half drawn’ at all times.”

Paul Carter, “Did Jesus Tell His Disciples to Buy Swords?” The Gospel Coalition: Canadian Edition, December 9, 2017, accessed February 14, 2022, https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/ad-fontes/jesus-tell-disciples-buy-swords/.

An unnamed writer for Biblestudy.org states, “It is difficult to imagine Jesus telling his disciples to buy swords, considering that he would soon state the following” comments found in Matt 26:52. A little later and the same writer claims that the Greek term machaira is better understood as a knife according to a popular layman’s Greek to English concordance:

“But in Luke’s 22:38 Strong’s Concordance acknowledges the Greek word machaira (Strong’s #3162) is defined as a knife, dirk or sword…The disciples would need certain provisions [after the Lord’s ascension], including a knife for preparation of food, cutting wood for fuel, and possibly to fend off robbers for which the area was noted. So, once Jesus’ ordeal was over, they should make sure they each had a knife.” The writer then claims that the disciples claimed to have “two knives, and Jesus said, ‘It is enough.’”

“Why did the disciples buy swords?” Bible Study—Newsletter, accessed February 9, 2022,https://www.biblestudy.org/question/why-did-jesus-tell-disciples-to-buy-swords.html.

Another is John Piper, but I will deal with his arguments in the near future.

8Or it could be translated as “it is sufficient.” Interesting that this possible translation of the text is largely ignored by a great number of English Bible versions (translations). Young’s Literal Translation is one of only a couple that I have found that offer “it is sufficient” as a possible rendering. Although, if “sufficient” is what Jesus meant, rather than “enough” as many biblical commentators like to delimit it, this would remove their “figurative” understanding from consideration.

9John Calvin, The Complete Biblical Commentary Collection of John Calvin: Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, William Pringle, translator, Kindle Edition, loc 395406. Italics mine. For the moment I will limit my references to this one, penned by one of the greatest lights of the Reformation period.

10Normally the term “literal” would be used. Both “literal” and “letter” mean the same thing. They both emphasize “according to” the “literature” or the use of “language” (i.e., letter) in light of the given context.

Posted in Uncategorized

Dr. David Martin’s Urgent Canadian Trucker Update & Trudeau’s Conflict Of interest, Lawsuits Coming [VIDEO]

Dr. David Martin with an emergency broadcast message everyone needs to hear, know about and spread… Real News & Commentary for Patriots:
— Read on www.redvoicemedia.com/video/2022/02/dr-david-martins-urgent-canadian-trucker-update-trudeaus-conflict-of-interest-lawsuits-coming/

No doubt there is a weariness that comes from the battles we wage in this life. The pandemic narrative of the past two years is one such example. It is divisive, contentious, and downright irritating to a lot of people on both sides of the issue. People just want it to go away…to vanish from existence and no longer impact our day-to-day life. At such times we need to be reminded that hiding from reality does not change it. Growing weary is never the plight of the victor. Let us be reminded of this biblical truth in light of the battle we are in:

Then Gideon and the three hundred men who were with him came to the Jordan [River] and crossed over, exhausted yet still pursuing–Judges 8:3; NASB

To use a phrase from Dr. Martin the “fig leaves” that these liars are hiding behind will eventually be taken from them. And it will be the courage of the faithful who will see that it happens. Truth cannot remain hidden forever for darkness cannot overcome the light. Lies wither like autumn leaves. They do not hold sway forever.

Please watch the video in the link and share. Money and power is what has been driving this narrative for the last two years. Stop listening to tyrants. Make them be held accountable.

Also pray for those in Canada who are having their freedoms trampled. Good citizens who are calling on political officials to obey the laws as expressed in their charter. The corporate media likes to twist the narrative calling law abiding citizens lawbreakers, when in fact the lawbreakers are those in power.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blackface Conservatives & the War for True Love

Blackface Conservatives & the War for True Love
— Read on www.tobyjsumpter.com/blackface-conservatives-the-war-for-true-love/

A needed wake up call for conservatives that have adopted statist propaganda in an attempt to lead away from progressive statism. The problem is when you adopt the same methodology as your enemy, you are acting like the enemy but in different garb (outwardly speaking). Or as Pastor Toby points out “black faced conservatism,” which is folly on its face.

Hope you enjoy.

In Christ,

Kristafal