What does this phrase mean: “those who use the sword will die by the sword”? 

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Use the sword

The proverb that says, “Those who use the sword will die by the sword” is found in the gospel of Matthew 26:52.  Jesus said these words to Peter just before He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. After Judas betrayed Jesus, the soldiers of the religious leaders and the temple attempted to capture the Lord. “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 was Malchus” (John 18:10). But Jesus touched the ear of the servant “and healed him” (Luke 22:51).

Then, Jesus said to Peter, “Put away your sword…Those who use the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52 – NLT). Jesus wanted Peter to understand that those who use violence may, sooner or later, find themselves at the mercy of merciless people. In addition, since Heaven does not sanction the use of force, God’s children cannot expect to have His protection when they violate His laws. The strength of the gospel lies in the principle of love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Battles won by force are brief but in the end they fail.    

God doesn’t use force

And Jesus said to Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (v. 11). Jesus told Peter that He would not fight the arrest, for it was God’s plan that He drink the cup that was given to Him (John 18:11). Jesus had come to die as atonement for sin, and now was the appointed time for that. And Jesus’ restrain to Peter saved the disciple from being arrested. 

Had Peter’s violent act not been speedily remedied, it might have been shared with the Sanhedrin and with Pilate as proof that Jesus and His disciples were dangerous people and a threat to the national security. Interestingly, the soldiers didn’t mention this incident at the trial because they would have had to acknowledge that a miracle of healing was done.  

Meaning of the proverb 

“Those who use the sword will die by the sword” has become a common saying, which means that a person who lives violently will probably die in the same way. That Bible teaches “For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). This principle is true in spiritual things, social relationships and in the natural world.   

In His service,
BibleAsk Team 

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