I was reading something today in Deuteronomy and noticed an interesting comparison/contrast regarding the use of the sword among God’s people and how that has changed dramatically under the New Covenant. In the Old Testament, false teachers received a pretty harsh (in our eyes anyway) response from God’s people:
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:5)
Not only was this not to be accepted or tolerated, but the one who was a false prophet was to be slain. None of this shunning or getting called before the pastor! In the New Testament however, the wording is similar but the methods are different:
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor 5: 11-13)
The wording is very similar and the principle is the same: the immoral/idolaters etc. cannot be welcome among God’s people. While we are still to purge the evil doer from our midst, it is a rejection of fellowship. No longer are we called to take up the sword (or stone) and drive the evil one out from among us by killing them but instead we are called to withhold from them the fellowship of the saints. It is common to reference the Old Testament laws regarding self-defense and defense of others as a defense of believers using the sword, but it seems that in this contrast we see that yet again wielding the sword even in the defense of the faith is not permitted among the people of God.