Taking Up The Sword In Vain

“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’” (Matthew 26:52).

It is wrong to violently take justice into our own hands, even to defend or promote the name of Christ.

The Body of Christ does not grow and strengthen itself by physical warfare. Every time it has endeavored to do so, the name and cause of Jesus Christ have been harmed. Such wars as the Crusades in the Holy Land or later religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe served no scriptural purpose. As Jesus taught many times, and as Paul reiterated to the Corinthians, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4).

Peter, in his usual headstrong fashion, had not yet understood this principle the night of Jesus’ arrest. That’s when Peter used his sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s prominent slaves. But the impulsive disciple’s reaction was all wrong. Peter no doubt took Christ’s earlier statement, “Let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one” (Luke 22:36) much too literally. Our Lord was actually speaking of preparedness for spiritual, not physical, warfare.

Jesus therefore had to instruct Peter to put away his weapon. In effect, He was saying, “Peter, no matter how unjust My arrest is, you must not respond with vigilante action. If you do that and kill someone else, your own life will justly be forfeited as punishment.”

Christ’s power has been demonstrated many times—in person to Peter and through Scripture to us. It is incredible that any of us should think He needs the puny help of a sword, a gun, or any other human device. Christ’s battles are won in the strength of His sovereign power alone, as He pointed out to Peter: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions [72,000] of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God’s forgiveness for times when you’ve been too quick to seek your own justice during arguments or conflicts.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 19:14-37.

  • How did King Hezekiah respond when God’s people and land were threatened?
  • How did the prophet Isaiah support Hezekiah’s actions?
  • How did God finally respond to the Assyrians’ threat?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.