Bearing the sword in the New Testament

So we ask ourselves at this point whether there is any agency in the New Testament era that has the right to carry out God’s sentence upon such criminals. Romans 13:1-4 (cf. Prov. 21:15) answers the question; Paul definitely places the right of punishment, even capital punishment, in the hands of the civil magistrate (an avenger who brings God’s wrath upon one who practices evil). The civil leader “does not bear the sword in vain”; this reference cannot possibly be restricted to lesser forms of punishment but expressly authorises the most extreme penalty: death. The “sword” properly symobilizes the death penalty (cf. for what the “sword” represents: Matt. 25:52; Acts 12:2; Rev. 13:10; Ulpian, Digest 1.18.6; Tacitus, Hist. 3.68; Dio Cassius 42.27). Therefore, civil magistrates today are under obligation to execute all those who commit capital crimes as defined by God’s authoritative law. Paul’s word in Romans 13 is sufficient to demonstrate to us that the magistrate does have the obligation and authorisation to inflict the death penalty upon certain violators of God’s law.

My two cents

Swords from the Tenth to the Thirteenth Centuries
Swords from the Tenth to the Thirteenth Centuries (Photo credit: One lucky guy)

Why can’t there be more exegesis like this around? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it explained so solidly as this. It’s very different from the spineless and watery Christianity that seems to be popular among believers at this time.

I like the particular attention paid to the bearing of the sword in the exegesis. At the moment, I’m also reading the writings of a particular denomination who would try to water down that reference to the sword to a generic and diluted version of criminal redress. Maybe I should stick with Bahnsen.

Quote source

Bahnsen, G.L. (1979). Theonomy in Christian Ethics. 1st. ed. Nutley: Craig Press, p. 442


2 thoughts on “Bearing the sword in the New Testament

  1. Since he has passed to his reward many of the critics of Dr. Bahnsen, whether in Theonomy, post-mil eschatology, or presup apologetics, take advantage of his absence to marginalize his arguments or misinterpret them completely. Anyone that takes the time to cross reference his writings with his systematic classroom/audio/video teachings will hear a very complete and well developed framework on each of the aforementioned areas of study. I would encourage everyone to pursue not only his books but to also see/listen to his debates with atheists (which he may be most famous for generally, even with critics) or his seminary level teachings and videos on preparation those in high school going to secular college. Of all the teachers in modern times I have found that Dr. Bahnsen had one of the most carefully built and exhaustively complete approaches to theological study. Perhaps motivated by the seriousness of the task (study of the things of the Lord) or his own God gifted personality and talents. Even when you don’t agree with him, it is hard to find a way to refute his teachings in a real and meaningful way. God Bless :)

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