I can find
nothing in Scripture which prohibits lawful self defense against
physical attack, even to include the defensive use of deadly weapons.
I offer the following Biblical defense of this misunderstood doctrine.
was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and was under threat of
attack, notice his reaction in verse 14. We see from verses 16-18
that their defense was with deadly weapons. There is no condemnation
of his defense in Scripture.
7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites,
and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being
restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became
8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem
and create confusion.
9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them
we set a watch against them day and night.
10 Then Judah said, "The strength of the laborers is failing,
and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the
11 And our adversaries said, "They will neither know nor
see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and
cause the work to cease."
12 So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they
told us ten times, "From whatever place you turn, they will
be upon us."
13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall,
at the openings; and I set the people according to their families,
with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
14 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."
15 And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to
us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of
us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.
16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked
at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields,
the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the
house of Judah.
17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens,
loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction,
and with the other held a weapon.
18 Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side
as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
In the Garden
of Gethsemene, when Jesus was being arrested, Jesus indicates
that it is permissible to come after a robber with swords and
clubs. The rationale is that a robber may be armed, therefore,
if we pursue a robber it is a good idea to be armed.
10 "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill,
and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that
they may have it more abundantly."
55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come
out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I
sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize
In the beginning,
Jesus disciples were well received and needed no protection.
3 And He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither
staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics
4 Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.
5 And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city,
shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against
Jesus' arrest, Jesus told the disciples that there would be much
hostility towards them and they would need protection, for since
He would be considered a transgressor, as His followers, they
would be considered transgressors.
35 And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag,
knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said,
36 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.
37 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."
38 So they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords."
And He said to them, "It is enough."
Some say that
the swords mentioned here are spiritual swords that Jesus is talking
about. I guess that the ear of the high priest's servant that
Peter cut off was a spiritual ear.
49 When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said
to Him, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?"
50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut
off his right ear.
Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword, because it is foolish
to try to oppose the Jews and the Romans by force (often the priests
were armed since they were the guardians of the temple). They
would surely be cut to pieces. Therefore, if they try to build
Christ's kingdom with the sword, they would surely lose the battle
and pay with their life. We should live at peace with all men
when it is possible. The kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom.
Notice, however, that Jesus does not command Peter to throw away
his sword, but put it away where it belongs, in it's scabbard
at Peter's side, only to be used for lawful self defense.
51 With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword,
drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting
off his ear.
52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to
him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once
put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"
not want to be defended because He had come to be crucified. If
He needed to be defended, God's legions of angels would handle
10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high
priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name
11 Then Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into the sheath.
Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?"
In fact Jesus
stated that His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom which needed
to be defended physically. If it were an earthly kingdom He said
that it would be perfectly just to defend it with physical force.
33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and
said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?"
34 Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about
this, or did others tell you this about Me?"
35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the
chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?"
36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My
kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I
should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not
It is clear
that Jesus' disciples were armed and He knew it.
In the following verses, Jesus spoke of spiritual matters, but
used principles which he and his audience accepted as true (I
cannot believe that Jesus would use as a teaching example something
which was not lawful)
21 "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace,
his goods are in peace.
22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him,
he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides
And how can
the master of the house prevent his house from being broken into
except that he use deadly force?
39 "But know this, that if the master of the house had known
what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not
allowed his house to be broken into."
us back to Exodus 22:2
2 "If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so
that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed."
said that when physically assaulted, we should turn the other
38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and
a tooth for a tooth.'
39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps
you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him
have your cloak also.
41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."
of these verses relate to the teaching that we should not trade
injury for injury; insult for insult. If the teaching here means
that we should respond to physical assault by inviting more physical
assault, then Jesus and Paul would have done the same when under
physical assault. Did they?
19 The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His
20 Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world. I always
taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always
meet, and in secret I have said nothing.
21 "Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I
said to them. Indeed they know what I said."
22 And when He had said these things, one of the officers who
stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do
You answer the high priest like that?"
23 Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness
of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?"
1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men
and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him
to strike him on the mouth.
3 Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed
wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you
command me to be struck contrary to the law?"
verses for consideration -
26 A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky
spring and a polluted well.
8 But if anyone does not provide (protection) for his own, and
especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith
and is worse than an unbeliever.
Richard P. Martin, LtCol, USAF (retired)