Changes Regarding the Use of the Sword

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 Changes Regarding the Use of the Sword


Below are some highlights on the use of the sword, from Key Connections: Understanding the Changes from the Old to New Testament by M. A. Erickson (Wipf & Stock 2023):


Changes Regarding the Sword

 …In the New Testament, Jesus tells Peter, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt 26:52 NASB). Jesus never takes up the sword, enlists an army, or tells his followers to use physical weapons to battle their enemies. He even tells his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them (Matt 5:44). Instead of fighting against their enemies in physical battles, the followers of Christ are told to flee from persecution (Matt 10:23). Fleeing is a very different approach, as compared to fighting in armed combat. This is clearly seen in the book of Acts, where Christ’s followers fled from persecution at various times (Acts 8:1–4; 13:49–51; 14:5–7; etc.) and never mounted an armed conflict of any kind. Why do these change occur?”  (Erickson 2023, 4).


 "Why are wars and battles featured as often as they are in the OT? The land is one of the key reasons. Land is a basic requirement for a nation. Any nation must have a land, and any nation will face war at some times in its history. Israel had a land uniquely promised to them by God. And not only Israel, but nations throughout history have had military forces or police forces of some kind to defend their land and to protect themselves against lawbreakers.”

     “Israel is told that if they obey God and keep the requirements of the covenant, God will bless them and defend them in their land (Deut 28:1–14). But if Israel departs from God and the covenant, they are warned that they will be defeated before their enemies. They will no longer abide in safety in the land (Lev 26:14–17)." (Erickson 2023, 4)


A Change in the New Testament

 ”Moving forward to the New Testament, we see that as the followers of Christ began to multiply and to share the gospel, new communities of faith were formed in various cities and towns in Israel and throughout the Roman Empire. But these followers of Christ were never told to capture land through the use of force; they never go to war to gain new territory in the Roman Empire or anywhere else. They were not a nation. Christ’s followers are told to put away the sword. This is a massive difference when comparing the Old Testament to the New. Why do these changes occur? A key point is the difference between God working with a nation in the OT and God’s work with freely gathered communities of faith in the NT, communities that would ultimately exist in all nations. These communities of faith are the local churches, which are described for us in the New Testament. So, why would God hand-select one nation in the Old Testament era to bring God’s salvation and God’s truth to a darkened world? There are many reasons for this, some of which may be known only in the infinite wisdom of God. But there are also more obvious reasons (some of which are stated in the OT and NT), which we will explore in the following chapters” (Erickson 2023, 5-6).


 "When we look at changes from the Old to New Testament, two key issues are what happens to the land and the sword. There are some very significant changes in these areas, and there are profound reasons for these changes. In the Old Testament, land and sword (the use of force to protect the land) have an incredible impact on the nation of Israel. When we move to the New Testament there is transformation. A major change is that Jesus did away with the use of the sword for his disciples, as we shall see. As communities of faith in Jesus begin to be established in many lands, they are never instructed by the teachings of Jesus or the apostles to use force to capture territory." (Erickson 2023, 36)


“…When the arrest of Jesus was imminent, Jesus did not gather his followers for battle. He had no plans to wage a physical war in order to capture territory or overthrow his enemies. When Jesus was being arrested, one of his followers (Peter) took up a sword to defend him. Jesus told him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt 26:52 MEV; cf. John 18:10). Here, Jesus is clearly stating a principle for his disciples. If his followers take up the physical sword, they will produce a reaction of the same kind and they will perish. Jesus stopped the use of force by his followers, refusing to allow them to defend him (Matt 26:47–56; Luke 22:47–54).

It is also very significant that later in the New Testament Paul identifies another group of individuals who have been “given” the sword: national authorities (Rom 13:1–7). Paul explained that leaders of governments have been given the use of force to protect their countries against evildoers. Whatever issues there are regarding the use of the sword by national Israel in the Old Testament, it must be stressed time and again that this use of the sword in connection with religion ceased nearly two thousand years ago, and Christ is the one who brought about this change through his teachings and example” (Erickson 2023, 37).


Old Testament Background: Protection for a Nation

 "So, why does the Old Testament describe a linkage between the nation of Israel, the land of that nation, and the use of the sword to protect the nation? The key issue is the plan of God to establish a nation dedicated to his purposes, which would need to be safeguarded from enemy nations as well as from moral and spiritual corruption over hundreds of years. The use of force is necessary for nations to protect themselves from evil. This is seen in the OT.” (Erickson 2023, 42-43).

  These and other points on the land and the sword, as well as quite a number of other changes from the Old to New Testament,  are explored more fully in the book, 

Key Connections: Understanding the Changes from the Old to New Testament by M. A. Erickson (Wipf & Stock Dec. 2023). The book is available in print or Kindle formats at, at:, Key Connections: Understanding the Changes from the Old to New Testament










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