What authority has the Christian freeman to keep and bear arms ?

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The Lord Jesus Christ gave very clear instruction to His disciples in the upper room after the Last Supper. They were to be sent on a mission, and were to take with them certain things - moneybag, knapsack, and sword.

The Command of Christ

And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing." Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end." So they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough." -Luke 22:35-38

There are some among those who profess Christianity that advocate the disarmament of all but the police and military. They will not be swayed by the fact that the Constitution of the United States of America regards the right to keep and bear arms as a pre-existent prerogative of a free people. So be it. But then, how do they interpret our Lord's charge to buy a sword?

Most commentators take Christ at His word concerning the inoffensive provisions:

That the situation in which Christ's apostles would find themselves after his departure would indeed be different from what it was before follows also from the words found in the highpriestly prayer (John 17: 11-13). From now on these men will have to take the initiative. They will need to cultivate courage to a degree not expected of them before. Making provision for missionary travels, such as taking along a purse and a traveling bag, will now be necessary. THE NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY; by William Hendriksen

When it comes to the sword, however, many commentators refuse to accept the words of Christ in the same sense. Small Sword Image

Jesus's words on acquiring a sword (v. 36) should not be taken literally; they are a sign of the conflict and opposition which the disciples will face. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Elwell; 1989 Baker
These instructions are most certainly not to be taken literally, as the disciples at that time seemed to take them. The Layman's Bible Commentary

Some popular objections are :

A Butcher Knife ?

Some insist that the two swords produced by the disciples in the upper room were not swords at all, but rather knives. This argument declares that these were two specific knives to be used in the preparation of the Passover lamb - one to slit the lamb's throat, and the other to carve the roasted lamb. Before this time the needs of the disciples had been supplied by others. Their hosts would do the cutting and carving of the meat. Now they will have to do this themselves. This argument ignors the fact that the Passover lamb was but a foreshadow of Christ's Sacrifice, and that the shadow passes away when the reality has come.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many... For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect... Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. -Hebrews 9:27-10:10
Christ was not commanding His disciples to sell their garment to buy a butcher knife. The Greek word used here is commonly used to describe the short sword, the standard close combat weapon of the era.

From STRONG'S EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE OF THE BIBLE -

Greek 3162. machaira
makh'-ahee-rah; prob. fem. of a presumed der. of Grk 3163; a knife, i.e. dirk; fig. war, judicial punishment:-sword.
Greek 3163. mache
makh'-ay; from Grk 3164; a battle, i.e. (fig.) controversy:-fighting, strive, striving.
If the knapsack and moneybag are to be taken literally, should not the sword be treated the same? Certainly, the disciples would need courage to face the events of the next 24 hours, but the admonition to sell one's cloak in order to buy a sword had to do with trials to be faced beyond the immediate future. Would the disciples need a moneybag and knapsack at Gethsemane? At the praetorium?

Notice that the command to take provision is referenced to their previous mission. They were being told that in the future they would not be received warmly as they had been before, but rather would be considered as transgressors. They were warned to provide proper equipment to deal with contingencies. Christ has given those who are His a commission -

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. -Matthew 28:18-20
This commission is in nature the same as the previous one - to preach the Kingdom of God. But, whereas He sent His disciples out unprovisioned in the former, He stipulates that provision for contingencies be made in the latter. The fact that He (and His) would thenceforth be counted as "transgressors" was well understood by the early church. They suffered great tribulation at the hands of both the religious and civil authorities of the day. They would have need of the things Jesus told them to acquire. Through their perseverance, and the power of God, the gospel of the Kingdom was spread to the ends of the earth.

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Prophecy Fulfilled

Some would argue for a literal interpretation of the sword, but that the sword was required only at Gethsemane - not to be used, but seen only as a fulfillment of prophesy.
Jesus said that two swords would be enough (v. 38), though these would hardly have been adequate to defend the entire group against an arresting party. Did he mean that the possession of the weapons would technically place him among transgressors, and thus fulfill the letter of the prophecy quoted from Isa 53:12 ? The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Moody Bible Institute, 1962
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. -Isaiah 53:12
Apart from the fact that the command to buy a sword was given in connection with a future sending out (apostello), the prophesy quoted from Isaiah is fulfilled AT THE CROSS, with Christ being crucified between two lawbreakers. It is at the cross that Christ poured out His soul unto death, where He was numbered among the transgressors, where He bore the sin of many, where He made intercession for the transgressors.
"For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end." -Luke 22:37
Notice, please, that Christ Jesus says that the prophesy must yet be ACCOMPLISHED in Him. Was this completed at Gesthemane or the cross? Was the end, the goal, the purpose - His arrest - or His atoning death?

The argument for the sword as being necessary for the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy is false. The atonement on the cross fulfills the prophecy. The theological school that sees Peter's sword as being prophesied in Isaiah has molded the text to suit their assumption, ignoring the fact that the focus of both Isaiah and Christ Jesus is His crucifixion between two transgressors, shedding His blood at Calvary to discharge a debt not His own, paying the price for our transgression.

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A Figurative Sword?

Christian leaders of our day have no problem taking Christ's command to secure moneybag and knapsack literally. They are quick to admonish their congregations to provide for their family, and especially for the needs of the church. When it comes to the sword, however, these same men refuse to believe Christ meant what He said.
Jesus's words on acquiring a sword (v. 36) should not be taken literally; they are a sign of the conflict and opposition which the disciples will face. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Elwell; 1989 Baker
These instructions are most certainly not to be taken literally, as the disciples at that time seemed to take them. The Layman's Bible Commentary
Some say Christ was speaking of the "sword of the Spirit" mentioned by Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians. In the passage cited, however, Paul is consistently metaphorical and self explanatory, i.e. "the breastplate of righteousness...the shield of faith...the helmet of salvation...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;" -Eph 6:14-17. Christ did not say "take the moneybag of tax exempt status, the knapsack of frequent flyer miles". He spoke of a literal sword.

Hendriksen appeals to verse 38 "It is enough." Those who reject the literal interpretation of the sword read a rebuke into this phrase.

"So 38. `They said, Lord, look here are two swords!' As if Jesus had been talking about the necessity of having and using literal swords! No wonder that his answer is curt and decisive: `He said to them, Enough of that !' This reply prevents any further conversation about that subject." THE NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY; by William Hendriksen
THE INTERPRETER'S BIBLE, Pierce & Smith 1952, dissents:
The disciples took Jesus literally and any hypothesis that they were mistaken is too subtle to be probable. 'It is enough' was His comment that their resources were adequate for their immediate needs.
as does Lenski in his INTERPRETATION OF ST. LUKES GOSPEL, p.1068
So Jesus tells the apostles to buy a Roman short sword, if necessary, even at the price of their outer robe. It is better to freeze at night than to be killed...(t)he language is not figurative...The injunctions are concrete and simply use specific examples to indicate a complete course of conduct.

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Christian = Pacifist?

Christian pacifism has been around for a long time. Those who hold this position say that the teachings of Christ deny to Christians the use of force. This is patently false. While it is true that Christians are not to seek revenge of personal indignity, it is easily shown that God has ordained the sword in the cause of justice, in the defense of the weak, in judgment of wicked nations, and even in chastisement of His own people.
So David inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?" And the LORD said to David, "Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand." -2 Sam 5:19
And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses." -Neh 4:14
'O house of David! Thus says the LORD: Execute judgment in the morning; And deliver him who is plundered Out of the hand of the oppressor, Lest My fury go forth like fire And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings. -Jer 21:12
It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze...
I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed...
For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me. They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them. Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets. -Psalm 18:32-42
Then Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from each tribe; he sent them to the war with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand. And they warred against the Midianites, just as the LORD commanded Moses, and they killed all the males. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed-Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword. -Numbers 31:6-8
Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people...Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all. -Genesis 14:14-20
Then Deborah said to Barak, "Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the LORD gone out before you?" So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. -Jdgs 4:14-15
God is not a pacifist !
The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. -Exodus 15:3-4
Christ revealed as Commander of the LORD's army ...
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?" So He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" Then the Commander of the LORD'S army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so. Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. -Joshua 5:13-6:2
assaulting moneychangers ...
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up." -John 2:13-17
and Conquering King !
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. -Rev 19:11-16
Most Christian pacifists cite Christ's words from the Sermon on the Mount, "turn the other cheek...love your enemies" to justify their position. They conveniently ignore Biblical injunctions to defend the defenseless, uphold justice, provide for one's family, etc. One who truly seeks to do the will of God must find common ground in these seemingly incompatible mandates.
The Christians at the Elim Mission Station in Rhodesia were such convinced pacifists that, even within a few kilometres of Marxist Mozambique during a vicious war they refused to be armed. They had neither a fence nor dogs to protect them. They refused to allow the security forces to station some guards for their protection. When terrorists visited Elim the missionaries provided them with food and medical supplies. One fateful night ZANLA guerillas herded the 9 missionaries and 4 children onto one of the fields. Then in front of the parents they hacked the children to death. Then in front of the husbands they raped and tortured the women to death. Finally they brutally murdered the men. Yet so effectively had their pacifist doctrine neutralised them that there was no attempt at resistance. The men stood by and watched ruthless terrorists butcher their loved ones. Peter Hammond, SECURITY AND SURVIVAL IN UNSTABLE TIMES; Claremont RSA, United Christian Action; p.12
Did Christ wish His disciples to allow an aggressor to torture, rape, and murder without fear of being brought to justice? Shall the Christian offer no resistance when innocents are brutalized? Will you stand passively while your wife and children suffer atrocities at the hand of the wicked? If so, you have misunderstood Christ's intent.
Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. -Prov 25:26
Christ was addressing the attitude of the heart in His Sermon on the Mount. We are to go the "extra mile" in avoiding conflict. We are not to take personal insult or offense as justification for retaliation. We are not to hate those who despitefully use us. It is entirely possible, though not according to our fallen nature, to obey Christ in all these things.

One may ignore personal insult, yet retain Christian dignity. The Christian may uphold justice without demanding "an eye for an eye". One may defend the defenseless without undue cruelty toward the evildoer.

It is taught among us that all government in the world and all established rule and laws were instituted and ordained by God for the sake of good order, and that Christians may without sin occupy civil offices or serve as princes and judges, render decisions and pass sentence according to imperial and other existing laws, punish evildoers with the sword, engage in just wars, serve as soldiers, buy and sell, take required oaths, possess properties, be married, etc... -Augsburg Confession Article XVI
Christians repelled the invasions of the Moors and Turks, else Islam's doctrine of annihilation of the Infidel would have succeeded. During the Reformation era Christians with force of arms resisted antichrist forces and the gospel was restored. Oliver Cromwell's Christian "New Model Army" used the sword to depose a tyrannical monarchy and establish the first parliamentary republic placing even the Crown under the rule of law. As the "Black Regiment" preached liberty and resistance to tyranny from the pulpits of the colonies, American Christians took their muskets and sabers and established a Christian nation from which the gospel has been spread throughout the world.

Christians have faced antichrist forces throughout history. We shall do battle with the enemy till the Commander returns...

He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. -Rev 13:10
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war...He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS... And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. -Rev 19:11-21

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