Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sword of the Spirit

The sword of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:17 
“And take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God
 John 10:31-36
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?"  The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods"'?  If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),  do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? NKJV

Here we are to look at the sixth piece of the whole armour of God which the Apostle exhorts the Ephesian Christians to take unto themselves and to put on. While it is the sixth of the entire series, it is the third in the second division into which we have seen that these pieces of armour can be divided.

The Sword of the Spirit differs from all the others in three main respects. It is interesting in the natural realm and therefore still more interesting when we come to the spiritual application. Every other part we have been looking at provides a protection for the body as a whole or particular part of the body. But this is not true of the sword of the Spirit. 

Another point of difference is that this weapon is defensive in a different way. It is defensive in the sense that it keeps back the enemy as a whole rather than some particular aspect of his attack or some particular method of attack. It is obvious that the breastplate, as we have seen, protects the seat of affection. Similarly the helmet and the sandals protect different special parts. But when you come to the sword, it does not protect different parts of the body, or cover the whole body as the big shield does, it protects us in the sense that it helps us to hold back the enemy himself rather than some particular action on his part.

But the third point of difference and distinction is that this is also an offensive weapon. There was no element of the offensive in any of the other five parts of the whole armour of God, but here there is. We use it to repel and also attack the enemy.

It throws the light on phrases in the Scripture such as “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7) You will not merely hold him up, and he will flee. He is to be discomfited, and to cause the devil to retreat, we must drive him back by a counter attack. One of our main troubles is that the devil tends to terrorize us and to frighten us, and make us feel hopeless. But the Apostle’s statement about the sword gives us the most effective antidote. We must have the assurance that though the devil is so great and powerful, and though all we have seen concerning him and his forces is true, it is not a hopeless battle. It is possible for the Christian to resist the devil so much as to cause him to flee.

There is a balance in the Scripture with regard to our resistance against the devil. We are not to indulge in a foolish overconfidence, making us feel that because we are Christians, we can be care free. Rather we are told “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he falls” But at the same time we must avoid being terrorized by the devil and being brought to a feeling of utter hopelessness because of his great power and strength. Remember that he is still a creature and not the creator. “He that is in you is greater than he that is without” But we must now go on to the detailed description given by the Apostle.

The sword, the Spirit and the Word

We are “to take the sword of the Spirit”; which means that it is the Sword which the Spirit supplied. But then he added the phrase: “which is the Word of God” The New English Bible translates it: “For sword take that which the Spirit gives you – the words that come from God” What in the world does that mean? Every other translation says “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” Another false translation says: “Take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” But this is obviously wrong because nowhere in the Scripture is the Holy Spirit described as the Word of God. The definition is confined solely to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The Spirit is not the sword!

What the Apostle is saying is this: “Take up the Sword which the Spirit Himself provides for you, that is to say, the Word of God”; in other words, the Scripture, the Bible. We can easily prove this by looking at the temptation of our Lord Himself at the wilderness. Soon after His baptism in River Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended on Him as a dove. “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1) In the account of the temptation, we see our Lord filled with the Holy Spirit resisting the temptation of the devil by quoting the Scriptures. He did not merely speak words that were given Him by God at the moment. The weapon He used was the Word of God, the Scriptures. And you and I are to fight the devil and all his powers with the same weapon, “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”

This in turn leads us to ask the question: “Why are the Scriptures described in this way and defined as the Sword provided by the Spirit?”  It is the Sword of the Spirit. It comes altogether from Him. It is the Spirit who inspired the men who wrote it; so it is the “Sword of the Spirit” in that sense. Paul writing to Timothy says: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (Second Timothy 3:16) – a statement which assures us that the Scriptures are given to us by God the Holy Spirit. But look at another statement: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the day star arises in your hearts; knowing this first that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” (Second Peter 1:19-20) Peter plainly says: “the prophecy did not come in old time by the will of men” man is never able to produce it; “But holy men of God spoke as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit”. So there is every reason for describing the Word of God as “the Sword of the Spirit”. The Holy Spirit guided chosen men as they wrote the revelation. The Scripture is not a human document; it is indeed God’s own inspired Word. We are not to fight the devil in our own strength or power, or with our own ideas; we are to fight him with this Word that the Spirit of God has produced. When we consider the strength and the power of the enemy that is against us you will see the importance of realizing the strength and the power of this particular weapon.

But we must go further. The Holy Spirit alone enables us to understand this Word. The Bible says “We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (First Corinthians 2:12). We cannot know them in any other way. The world did not know Jesus when He was here on earth hence they crucified Him. But how does anyone come to believe in Him? Paul answers: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard neither has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love Him; But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things; yea, the deep things of God” Again the Apostle adds: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them. Because they are spiritually discerned … he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged by no man.  It is the Spirit alone who enables us to understand and to receive His Word. In the same way, the Holy Spirit alone enables us to interpret the Word.

Lastly and perhaps this consideration was uppermost in Paul’s mind when he wrote these words – it is the Holy Spirit alone that enables us to use this Word properly. It is one thing to know the contents of this Book; it is a very different thing to know how to use it aright. The Holy Spirit alone can enable us to do so.

The relationship between the Spirit and the Word is an all important one. Failure to realize it has accounted for many troubles in the long history of the Christian Church. People always tend to put the emphasis exclusively on one side or the other. The moment you separate the Spirit and the Word you are in trouble. - Tweet

There are some who say that having the illumination of the Spirit you do not need the Word of God at all. But then there is the other tendency at the other extreme, to discountenance the Spirit and to say that as long as we have the open Bible and the Word before us, and as long as we know it in some mechanical sense, we need nothing further. So the Spirit is forgotten. The Spirit and the Word must be kept together always. The Spirit has provided for us the instruction found in the Word, but we cannot use it without Him. It can be a dead letter to us: “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” What is needed is the Spirit opening the Word, and opening my mind and opening my heart. As long as you keep the two together as the Apostle has done here, you cannot possibly go wrong.

Error comes in many ways. The enemy makes his general attack in many ways. He does so through philosophy which has been an enemy of the truth from the very beginning. One of the first battles the Christian Church had to fight was the fight against Greek Philosophy when the Gospel first came to Europe in Greece – the seat of philosophic tradition – the outlook of which says that man can find out God by seeking, that man can arrive at the truth as the result of meditations and the working out of his theories. There was a great fight in the early centuries between the Christian Church and the subtle attack that came from philosophy. That battle is still with us today and perhaps in a greater vigour.

Coupled with philosophy is what is generally called knowledge – scientific knowledge in particular. The only way we can repel this particular attack is to take up and wield “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”. This is what our Lord Jesus Himself did. Those clever men, the Pharisees, Scribes, doctors of the law, came with their catch questions, saying to themselves: “who is this fellow?” He has never been trained as a Pharisee, He is just a carpenter, He has never been to schools; what does He know? So they brought their clever questions. They were great scholars, so they came with all their scholarship and thought they could trap Him and bring an end to His ministry. He always met them in the manner we have already seen in the temptation in the wilderness: “it is written…”

Two examples quickly come to mind. One involving a learned lawyer in Luke 10:25-26; “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"  NKJV and the other involving a large group of the Jews in John 10:31-36. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?"  The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods"'?  If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?  NKJV 

In all these examples, Jesus took up the sword of the Spirit and He smote them with it. He not only defended Himself, He discomfited them. We cannot but do likewise – walking in His steps.

In this way, we too can deal with these general attacks upon the whole truth. What these men were always trying to do was to discredit our Lord, to prove that He was not what He claimed to be, and to show that His teachings were wrong. And men are still doing the same thing today. We are facing today an attempt to discredit the whole revelation and the very essence of our Gospel. And the Apostle’s teaching here is that the only way to withstand such attacks is to take up the “Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”

Another example of the use of the Sword is found in Acts 17. Paul had gone to the Synagogue at Thessalonica and he faced the gainsaying Jews. What we are told is that he “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures proving and alleging that the Christ must needs suffer, and that this Jesus whom I preach unto you is the Christ” (Acts 17:2-3) He reasoned out of the Scriptures.

We can withstand the devil in this way whatever the argument that his agents may bring forward. We are not all experts in science, we are not experts in philosophy, but we can stand up against the people who bring unchristian arguments. Take your stand! Take up the one thing which you can use – the Word of God. Keep to the Word, keep to its teaching and you will invariably cause the enemy to flee.

There is but one way to fight any enemy which attacks the whole Christian Gospel, whether it be an apostate Church or whether it be infidels with their modern knowledge, and science, and philosophy. The only way to fight and to repel the enemy is to take up this “Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” If you are not certain that it is the Word of God, if you do not rely utterly, absolutely upon it, if you do not believe it is inerrant, then you have a broken sword in your hand and you are already defeated by your enemy. Take up this Sword and use it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we are to conquer as our Lord conquered, we must not only know the way of salvation, and know that we are saved, we must know our Scriptures, we must know them in a detailed manner; and not only so, we must learn how to use Scriptures, know how to be able to quote the most telling Word when someone tries to shake us.

The term Sword in this context, does not refer to the general knowledge of the way of salvation, but rather to the ability to use the Scriptures and to give the appropriate answer at any particular point as our Lord did in His temptations. Oh the need for Christians today to study and memorize the Scripture, then and only then can we speak with certainty and authority.

We are living in desperate days when the enemy is trying to undermine our whole position. “Take up the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” Let us do so, and use it and wield it to His glory and to His praise.

God bless you all.

Read previous posts in this series: The Armor of God Series

Next in the series:
Praying in the Spirit

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