Peter's Sword
Pastor David Green

Note:  This is not a complete reference on the subject, but rather only "part" in a series.  For more info, please be sure to check the links at the end, particularly the link to my "Gun Rights" page.

"Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. 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 26:48-54)

    Among the Lord's people and among that big umbrella called Christianity, there is much debate about Christians owning and carrying weapons. So in this article, I thought we would consider the subject of “Peter's Sword.”   
    Some folks use this incident to say that Jesus was opposed to Peter's “bad example” here of carrying a sword, and that He would be opposed to any Christian carrying a weapon. We need to examine the whole of the Scriptures here to see exactly what is (or is not) being taught here. A lot of controversy could be cleared up when we examine this subject in the light of Scriptures, remembering that all human feelings and preconceived notions ought to submit to the authority of Scriptures. We also must bear in mind that the acid test for any position is not whether it is held by the majority but whether it is according to the Word of God!

 “Put up again thy sword into his place....” (verse 52). What does Jesus mean to put it into his place? Well there are many opinions, but thankfully the Word of God clarifies this very much:

"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?"  (John 18:11)
    Notice, Jesus was not saying to totally get rid of it. He was not telling him to take it back home. He was not rebuking him for owning a sword or for carrying it with him. He was telling him to put it back into its sheath. We don't use that word much anymore, but it is A case for the reception of a sword or other long and slender instrument; a scabbard.” It was what a holster is for a handgun. He was telling Peter a couple of things, but neither had anything to do with rebuke for having one:

  1. It was not the right time because the will of God was for Jesus to be taken and crucified.
  2. It was not necessary because Jesus could have defended himself if need be.

...for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” This was not a rebuke directed toward Peter having the sword with him. Jesus was directing this toward the Jews, who had taken the Roman sword and would one day be punished severely for it. He was not saying to Peter that he should not have it all. To the contrary:

"And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 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 22:35-36)

Note the importance our Lord placed in sword-ownership: If they did not have a sword, sell their garment to buy one! Now, three things about this –

    Jesus was not against keeping and bearing arms, in fact He commanded it! In spite of the clarity of this passage, their have been some attempts at explaining it away by saying the reference to sword here is totally figurative and what is meant here is the "sword of the Spirit." This makes no sense to me and actually causes more questions that it gives answers. For instance:

    No, by signifying purse, scrip and sword, the Lord is advising them to take care of the physical needs while they journey by the way. They will need food, money, and protection.   In doing the Lord's work, there would be physical necessities.  And in fact, the Galilaeans carried swords often with them to protect from wild beasts and robbers who would come to cause them harm in their journeys.  In our modern world, missionaries need food, they need money, and many times they need protection.  All this is part of living in a wicked world.  After Jesus was gone from them in a physical sense, they would need these things more so than while he was with them.  

"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."  (1Timothy 5:8)

    The provisions we must provide for ourselves and our families includes  food, money, clothing, protection, etc.

"And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough."   (Luke 22:38)
    Anyone who has ever been around someone opposed to weapons and arms would know that two would not have been enough, that would have been too much. No, Jesus did not rebuke Peter or the other Apostle for having the weapons but instead told them it was enough. (Note, some commentators and modern translators have added to this passage and made it to say "Enough of that; no more sword talk!" But that is not what it says either in the English or in the Greek!  To alter the clear meaning of a Scripture to fit one's preconceived ideas is dangerous - See Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19.)

Weapons in God's House
    I find that there are some who oppose the idea of weapons in the church. It has been a hotly debated subject in some circles of late and indeed in some states the government has stepped in. I do not believe this is a government matter and for any legislature or government authority to say what can or cannot be taken into a house of worship has overstepped its boundaries whether we agree with them or not. If a governmental authority can block a man from carrying a gun or sword into a private church building then that same authority can legislate whether you can carry a KJV Bible in there as well. Beware!
    The question ought to be decided on the authority of Scriptures.  Does the Bible forbid the carrying of arms into the house of God?

"Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said,  He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear."   (Matthew 26:20-51)

    Now a straightforward reading of this would have Jesus meeting the apostles and then being with them all the way through until our text. In this commentary of the events as given here there is absolutely no indication that Peter went home to get his sword. He must have had it with him the whole time: when the Supper was given, during the all night prayer session and then when Jesus was arrested.  Nowhere do we have the idea that Jesus opposed it in any of these places.

"And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise."  (John 2:13-16)

    When Jesus cleansed the Temple, He did took with Him a weapon. Now, I know that the temple is not the church, but Jesus called it “my Father's house.”  The church is also called the house of the living God (see I Timothy 3:15).  Our Lord is our best example.  He did not have a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of an attitude.  He never sinned and did not anywhere in all of Scripture do we find that Peter or the other Apostles were forbidden from carrying their weapons into any place where the saints were gathered as a church.

Conclusion. Peter had a sword, and so did at least one of the other apostles. Jesus Himself was not above the carrying of a weapon when necessary. The Bible does not forbid Christians from owning weapons, carrying weapons, or even of using them in defense. Weapons whether they be primitive (bows, arrows, swords etc) or modern (handguns, rifles , shotguns, etc) are tools. As tools they are neither good nor evil.  Forbidding them  from being owned or carried would render them useless.  Owning or carrying is not for everyone, but the Bible nowhere forbids it.