Can the public bear arms against the Civil Magistrate without sinning, according to the bible?
Many gun enthusiasts think their calling is to overthrow government should some justifiable reason happen. But this is not in line with scripture. Under the New Covenant, God ordained the Civil Magistrates to bear the sword against evildoers. But never did he ordain the people to bear the sword against evil magistrates.
Romans chapter thirteen begins: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:1–4)
Paul does not say here people in general are the Civil Magistrate, he speaks to people in the second person. And he speaks of the Magistrate in the third person.
God also placed the Civil Magistrate in control of any sent for punishing evildoers. Peter says: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” (1 Peter 2:13–14)
This means if any person or group with a private arsenal wishes to use them on others, they cannot do so independently of the Civil Magistrate. They obviously cannot use them against the magistrate.
During Christ's ministry, vigilante groups staged many revolts. Indeed, after Peter used his newly bought sword to cut off Malchus’ ear, they framed Jesus for being a vigilante. And this fulfilled the prophecy about them numbering Jesus with the transgressors. But, being innocent of the charges, Jesus rebuked Peter for using the sword vigilante style and restored the ear.
Later James brings those, probably the Zealots, to task for waring against the system saying:
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:1–3)
Paul says, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4). And to pray for rulers that we might live in peace (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
Jesus and the early Christians, and later many Anabaptists gave us examples to follow. In the face of violence. They refused to fight. They instead left homes, families, jobs, and belongings, and many gave up life itself, refusing to compromise Christ.