Did Jesus Suggest Christians Buy Weapons?
God has Given Us Interpretation
“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 22:35-38
This passage has caused great difficulty as to the proper interpretation of Christ’s meaning of the word “sword.” Did Christ mean that a Christian must carry a literal weapon, or did He mean a Christian must be equipped with spiritual weapons, i.e., “The Sword of the Spirit?”
Dr. W. A. Criswell, with reference to Luke 22:35-38, states: “This phrase is understood in various ways: (1) Jesus is indicating His former way has failed and now the disciples must become revolutionists. (2) Jesus is speaking in irony. Previously the disciples found His way adequate, but now they are ready to abandon it. (3) The disciples are heading toward a time of persecution different from anything they have known and for which they are to make prudent preparation.” Dr. Criswell further concludes, “The first view is impossible. The second or third interpretation best fits the passage” (CRISWELL STUDY BIBLE, page 1230).
As you may see, there are various views and interpretations of Scripture. We, therefore, should study the Word of God very carefully and ask God to give us wisdom and insight in forming the proper interpretation. To determine what God has said in His sacred Scripture is a high and holy task. With fear and trembling, a student of the Bible should be ever so careful of that which he has adopted as his method of Biblical interpretation.
It is the Bible student’s solemn responsibility to know what God has said with reference to each area of Scripture study. This can be done only by carefully, thoroughly, and systematically utilizing the system of Biblical interpretation which will yield most readily the native meaning of the Bible… The old adage: “Interpretation is one, application is many” means that there is only one true meaning to a passage of Scripture… but a given text may speak to a number of problems or issues… The interpretation of the meaning of a text is one thing, and the range of application is another, and the interpreter must always keep these two matters separate (PROTESTANT BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, Bernard Ramm, pp. 2-4, 113).
It should be understood that there are various methods used to interpret Bible passages. These are: literal, figurative, historical, and poetical. Thus, the only way to determine what is right interpretation and what is wrong interpretation, proper and improper, orthodox and heretical, is to give careful study to the science of Biblical hermeneutics. It is important, therefore, to determine how God’s Word is to be understood in the context in which the words and sentences occurred in their particular cultural settings.
The following interpretation of the Luke 22 passage is an example of the use of literal interpretation: “he [Christ] gives them [his disciples] notice that a very great change of their circumstances now approached… They must therefore expect troubles… they must now expect their enemies would be more fierce upon them than they had been, and they would need magazines [arms, i.e., swords] as well as stores [food and raiment]. ‘He that hath no sword’ wherewith to defend himself against robbers and assassins (11 Corinthians 11:26) will find a great want of it, and will be ready to wish, sometime or other, that he had sold his garments and bought one. This is intended only to show that the times would be very perilous, so that no man would think himself safe if he had not a sword by his side…” (MATTHEW HENRY, p. 813; also see BARNES’ NOTES, p. 150).
An example of the Luke 22 passage interpreted figuratively is found on pages 643 and 644 of Dr. H. A. Ironside’s COMMENTARY ON LUKE: “…Our Lord warned his disciples of coming conflicts. He knew what would take place and He said to them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Everything had been provided. He said to 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.’
He [Christ] did not mean literally that they should be armed with material swords; but we are taught elsewhere in Scripture that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). When they [the disciples] were ready to leave the upper room they said to him, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, it is enough –that is, no more talk about that.’ He was not speaking about actual defense; he was not interested in weapons. He wanted them to go forth armed with the Sword of the Spirit that they might meet the enemies of the truth as they went forth to proclaim the Gospel.