Swords and Wallets
One of my close friends was a member of the “Two by Twos” or “The Church With No Name.” They call themselves “The Truth” or “The Way,” and it was a major step for my friend to walk into my study to talk. He had been taught that all other churches were false, especially the pastors. Only their own church leaders, those who had taken vows of poverty and traveled from home to home in their assigned region, had revelation and the correct interpretation of the Bible.
Justification by faith alone was wrong doctrine. Instead, salvation could only be achieved by upholding the church’s standards against worldly practices and by faithfully following the lived example of the workers.
This movement started in the late 1800s when William Irvine was sent by the Faith Mission of Scotland to Ireland. In 1897 he read Matthew 10, the passage where Jesus sent His disciples out two by two preaching the Kingdom of God without money or other support, and he held that these commands were normative for the Church down through the ages. Irvine needed to keep reading God’s Story in its context.
Luke spoke about the same mission that Matthew did (Luke 9:1-6), but in today’s passage, right before Jesus was arrested at the Last Supper, Jesus gave them different marching orders.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a money bag, a traveler’s bag, or a pair of sandals, did you lack anything?’ They responded, ‘Nothing.’ Then Jesus went on, ‘But now if you have a moneybag, take it, also a traveler’s bag. And if someone doesn’t have a sword, let him sell his cloak and purchase one. For I tell you that it stands written. It’ necessary to fulfill the word that states, ‘He was reckoned with the lawless ones,’ for the things written about me, will be fulfilled.’ His disciples replied, ‘Look here, we have two swords.’ He said, ‘It’s enough.’” Luke 22:35-38
To get the full Story we have to read a book like Luke from beginning to end. Then we discover that Jesus revealed that He would not immediately set up His Kingdom on earth after His death and resurrection. There would be an interim period (the time we are living in) when His followers would live normal lives as they took the Gospel into all the world. In this period believers would need to buy and sell, work normal jobs, and as Romans 13 states, even become governmental officials with the right to use swords to restrain lawlessness.
This passage closes pointing out a strange twist. Isaiah 53:12 states that the Suffering Servant would be mistakenly grouped with the criminals and this would lead to His death as a sacrifice for our sins. When Peter used his sword during the Garden arrest, he gave Jesus’ enemies grounds for the false charge that He was an insurrectionist. He was not, but was willing to take the punishment that all of us thieves and rebels deserve so that we can be freely forgiven. Sadly, many fail to understand how Jesus changed the instructions about mission. Worse—many fail to understand that we are saved by trusting Christ alone. My friend did understand that day in my study and he’s been sharing amazing grace ever since.
LORD, I understand my Two by Two friends’ desire to get back to first century Christianity with its simplicity and warm home to home fellowship. Use Truth Encounter to help some of them to be challenged to read Your Word book by book so that they can understand the Story as You told it, instead of taking a paragraph like Matthew 10 and applying it in a wrong setting.
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