47: The Sword of the Spirit

 

Ephesians 6:17

 

The Hymn writer asks the question, “Am I a soldier of the Cross?” But that is a pointless question: the scripture says that we are. Although not very popular these days, the terminology of the battlefield is used throughout scripture. Paul, writing to his disciple Timothy, for example, said “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ . . .” And the scripture says nothing about retired officers! As the Apostle Paul faced the problems of the believer’s relationship to Satan he did not present the idea of a cease-fire or a of a peaceful, tranquil life. Although there may be lulls between battles from time to time, over-all we must expect to face the onslaughts of Satan. And interestingly enough, the more we purpose to walk closely with the Lord, the more fierce the battle becomes! But as we have been seeing throughout this series of studies, God has not left us alone to fight the battles – he has provided a complete armor for every need.

 

We have looked now at all of the defensive pieces of the armor – the girdle (or belt) of truthfulness, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation.

 

Now there is one last piece of “armor” left, and it is different from all the others. It is “the sword of the Spirit.” Notice some interesting things about this piece of equipment: First of all, it is the only offensive weapon – the others are all defensive. And second, it is the only one that is identified for us: it is “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.  Now as we look at this weapon we will think about it from three standpoints: First there is the sufficiency of the sword, and then there is a sample of the use of the sword, and the skill necessary for the use of the sword.

 

So let’s think first about the sufficiency of the sword. The sword is sufficient for overcoming our enemy for at least two reasons. First, because of its source. This is touched on, of course, in the phrase “the sword.  . . Which is the word . . .” But this is even more clearly stated in II Timothy 3:16,17.  The context of these familiar verses is the evil conditions of the last days. And what would be sufficient for Timothy to combat such evil? The Word of God. And specifically because it was “breathed out from God.” This is to say that God put His very breath into it. In terms of our own day we could say that “we have God’s word on it.” In a sense this is even more important than the actual writing of it, because the implication is like “I know what you wrote, but I heard what you said about what you wrote.”

 

So it is sufficient because of its source. But a second reason we can know it is sufficient is because of its surety. As Peter approached the end of his life, he was concerned about the spiritual maturity and development of his disciples after he was gone. For this reason he told the elders to “tend” or “feed” the flock of God. And this feeding was to be done through the Word of God. And no doubt this is what he had in mind when he wrote the words of II Peter 1:15

 

Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.

 

Then in verses 16 through 18 he reminds them of his authority – he had been with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.

 

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ , but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the excellent glory: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. “And we heard this voice when we were with him in the Holy mount.

 

But with that in mind, in verse 19 he makes an astonishing statement:

 

“We have an even more sure word of prophecy”

 

How could anything be more sure than an eyewitness account? The later fulfillment of the prophecies to which they were eyewitnesses!

 

So not only does our “sword” have its source in God, but its surety has been demonstrated repeatedly down through the years of experience of those who have claimed it.

 

Our sword is sufficient for any adversary because of its source and because of its surety. But for our further instruction, God has given us a very clear sample of the use of the sword in Matthew 4:3 through 11.

 

Here is the familiar story of the temptation of Christ by Satan. And it is not our purpose here to discuss the specific temptations. But what we do want to do is notice the way in which Christ met each of them. The first temptation centered on using His power selfishly in verse 3.

 

Now when the tempter came to Him he said, if you are the son of God, command that these stones become bread.

 

Christ was hungry in verse 2. And he had the power to meet his own need. But notice His answer: “it is written, man shall not live by bread alone . . .” Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. And a literal translation would be “it stands written” Leviticus was the book that governed the worship of the people. But Deuteronomy was the book that governed their daily life. So when Satan came along and tried to divert Jesus from the path of perfect obedience, he quoted the book that governed the walk of the believer. And after He used the “sword” of the Word of God, Satan had to attack along some other line.

 

The second and third temptations were along the same line: to use His power sensationally by jumping off the temple in verses 4 and 5, and to use His power subversively by worshipping Satan in verses 8 and 9. And in both cases He answered from the book of Deuteronomy. In verse 7 it was “thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” And in verse 10 it was “thou shalt wordship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Incidentally, there are two implications here: first, we “worship” whatever we “serve.” In life. And, “to serve is to worship.” But the point for us to see is that in each case, when Jesus answered with the scripture, Satan dropped that particular temptation!

 

But incidentally, Luke includes an important point (for our purposes) which Matthew doesn’t mention. Look at Luke 4:13.

 

Now when the devil had ended every temptation he departed from Him until a more opportune time.

 

As mentioned in the beginning of this lesson, Satan may drop the attack for a time, but don’t relax – he’ll be back! Now there is one final thing about the sword of the Spirit, and that is the skill necessary for the use of the sword. There are four Greek words that are translated with the word “sword” in the New Testament. Now we would think off hand that this verse is talking about the Word of God as a whole. And that would be described by the Greek words “appangallo or “logos” – “the announcement of” or “the expression about” God. And certainly there is power in the Word of God as a whole. The late Dr. Dwight Pentecost used to tell about a businessman friend who did a lot of traveling, and he would put a Bible on top of his luggage in the airport so nobody would steal it while he was making telephone calls. On the other end of that spectrum, the Gideons, whose ministry is placing Bibles in hotels and other public places tell about how many Bibles are stolen from those places every year. And both of those tales indicate that there is a certain kind of power in the book as a whole.

 

But the word that is used here in Ephesians 6:17 is the word “hrayma.” And the basic meaning of that word is “saying.” So when verse 17 says that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, it actually means the sword of the Spirit is “the sayings” of God. So what this is actually saying is not that we defeat Satan by keeping a Bible on our desk at work or carrying a Bible with us (although there’s nothing wrong with doing either one.)

 

Every Christian should know what our own areas of weakness are, then make note of various passages that apply to those areas of weakness, memorize them, and use them against Satan.

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