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The Sword of the Spirit
Christian Warfare - Pt. 5
Today, we consider the fifth instalment of this series on the Christian Warfare. I trust that we have firmly engrained within our hearts and minds that we are truly engaged in a war. This war is between the Lord’s army and that of Satan We are constantly on the front line in this war and will be until the day our bodies lie asleep in the grave or when we hear the Archangel blow the trumpet of victory as the Lord returns in the air. I trust that we have also come to understand the absolute necessity of taking-up the armour of God… daily. I hope that you have taken this study seriously enough to have already begun learning to suit-up in the armour
The bulk of the pieces of the armour which we have examined, thus far, are defensive in nature. The breastplate, helmet and shield are meant to protect from enemy assaults and attacks. Today, we are going to examine a piece that is certainly defensive but is also offensive. It is a weapon - the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God
I. The Sword.
Every Roman soldier had a sword, the gladius. It was a double-edged blade of a length between 12 and 20 inches long. That is was not a long sword tells us that it was designed for close combat. The gladius was not the only Roman soldier’s weapon, but it was the weapon of choice. Using it effectively was a matter of life or death.
II. The Word of God.
The Spirit of God has given the Christian a marvellous weapon in the word of God. However, I need to clarify what is meant by the "word of God". This is extremely important.
The Apostle Paul is not referring to the entire Bible, as such. For, the Greek word we have translated "word" is not logos but rhema. Rhema refers to just a specific portion of the Scriptures pertaining to a specific subject or applicable to a specific situation. It is a particular passage that is relevant to the particular need at hand.
III. The Word of God as the Sword.
With that clarification in our minds, we can see how a word of the Lord compares wonderfully with a sword. For, whether used defensively or offensively, a single verse or passage, well understood and rightly applied is an extremely powerful weapon in our spiritual warfare.
A. Defensive Weapon.
A relevant Scripture can challenge and deflect a sharp temptation or block the thrust of a false teaching. We have several examples in the Bible of the inspired Word doing both.
The best example that we have of the use of Scripture to beat back temptation is the occasion of Satan’s attack on Jesus, recorded in Matthew 4:1-11, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, `man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’’ Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, `He will command His angels concerning you’; and `on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’’ Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, `you shall not put the Lord your God to the test’’ Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, `you shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’’ Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him."
Note that every time Satan tempted Jesus to satisfy his fleshly desires, fleshly pride, and fleshly ego, Jesus countered the enticement with a "It is written…" Jesus brought to the battle a specific passage of Scripture that dealt with the specific nature of the temptation. With the chosen Scripture occupying His mind, Satan and the temptation no longer could gain a foothold within
When temptation comes our way, whether it be a temptation to lose one’s temper, a temptation to be greedy, a temptation to become discouraged, a temptation to indulge in sexual immorality, a temptation to be selfish, a temptation to wallow in self-pity, a temptation to choose entertainment over worship, a temptation to gossip, a temptation to cheat, a temptation to drive over the speed limit, a temptation to complain, a temptation to worry about matters, a temptation to get high or to get drunk, a temptation to be envious or jealous, a temptation to speak a lie, or whatever else the temptation may be, we need to be able to blunt the temptation with a Scripture that speaks to the issue and meditate on it. If we are thinking on and speaking forth the Scripture, Satan and the temptation no longer can gain a foothold within us. We are on our way to enduring and triumphing over it.
Now, I would have you to note another point from this passage in Matthew. Take notice that Satan Himself quoted Scripture in one of his attacks on Jesus. The old Devil used a portion of the Bible to encourage and provide a justification for Jesus to do what the Devil wanted Him to do. Satan also pulled a "it is written".
Brethren, the Devil knows the Scriptures very well. He has and will use the Scriptures to entice you to sin against God. He loves to twist Scripture or take it out of context to get you to believe an idea or teaching that is contrary to the true will of God.
Let us remind ourselves that 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 warns us that Satan’s workers "disguise themselves as servants of righteousness." There are manifold pastors, reverends, preachers, evangelists and priests out there who seem to be servants of Christ Jesus, preaching and teaching the Word of God Sadly, they are actually servants of Satan who preach and teach lies and heresies because they twist and distort the Scriptures. The only way you are going to be able to defend yourself from lies is with the truth. The only way you are going to protect yourself from false doctrine is with sound doctrine. When they pull a ‘It is written…’, we need to counter as Jesus did with a ‘on the other hand, it is written….’. Psalm 119:98, 104, "Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,…From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way."
B. An Offensive Weapon.
The Word of God, also like a sword, is an offensive weapon. This is the weapon that you can use to inflict real damage on the works and kingdom of Satan. There are three ways we can use the word of God to assault Satan’s kingdom.
1. Expose Deeds of Darkness.
In Ephesians 5:11, we are told not to "participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them." There are people all around us who do or condone evil things because they do not know that they are evil, they do not know that God speaks against it in His Scriptures. We are commanded to bring understanding to them; that is, "expose" evil for what it is. Ephesians 5:13 states that the dark or evil deeds must be "exposed by the light." Okay, what is the light?
David confesses, in Psalm 119:105, 130, that "Thy (God’s) word is a lamp…and a light….The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. Using the "sword of the Spirit, the word of God", it is our obligation to inform people of the difference between darkness and light. If someone around us talks about something wrong as if it is okay, we must inform them otherwise. If evil is being conducted before us, we must not be silent. We must stand-up and say - God is opposed to that. We must proclaim, "Thus says the Lord" or "It is written".
2. Refute Worldly Philosophies and False Religions.
Many people participate in wrong because they believe in wrong ideas and teachings. Ephesians 3:18 tells us "they are darkened in their understanding…because of the ignorance that is in them." We need to educate people
Paul challenged the false beliefs of the culture around him. In Acts 17, we have an account of his going to Athens in Greece. First, in verse 17, he goes and teaches the Jews about how their Messiah or Christ had come. Then, in Verse 18, he goes to the philosophers - the Epicureans and Stoics - and challenges their beliefs by preaching Jesus and the resurrection. Then, in Verses 22-31, he talks to the heathen idol worshippers and philosophers about the true nature of the one God, about Creation, about the origin of Mankind, about Jesus, about the resurrection and the coming Judgment Day. He educated them and even persuaded some of them people to believe the truth.
We need to be able to refute the demonic-inspired beliefs that prevail in our culture today. We need to contest the worldly philosophies that shape our society - Evolution, Materialism, Narcissism, Moral Relativism, etc. We need to prove the fallacies of the false religions that entrap the souls of mankind - Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Bahaism, Islam, and Neo-Paganism. This can be done with the "sword of the Spirit, the word of God."
Beyond the worldly philosophies and false religions, we need to correct those within Christianity who have been entrapped by false doctrine. As we read the epistles of Apostles, they are frequently refuting false teachings that had crept into the Church. Paul warned that, in 2 Timothy 3:13, "evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." Today, we see the fulfilment of Paul’s words. There are so many churches that claim to be the Lord’s Church but are not. There are so many who believe themselves to be Christians but are not. They have been confused and blinded by false teachings. We need to unsheathe the "sword of the Spirit, the word of God" and help them to know the truth. 2 Timothy 2:24-26, "the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, …with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil." James 5:19-20, "Brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death."
3. Preach the Gospel of Salvation.
The greatest way that we can damage the kingdom of Satan is to turn people away from Satan to Christ Jesus through the Gospel. We will consider this, in some depth, in our next study. Therefore, we will only mention it here.
Let us return to the heart of the matter. The only way that we can defend ourselves from temptation and heresies. The only way that we can go on the offensive and expose evil, refute worldly philosophies and phoney religions and rescue believers in Jesus from false doctrine and proclaim the wonderful words of life…is if we know the Scriptures… if we know how to use the sword.
A couple of generations ago, the members of the Lord’s Church possessed a much greater knowledge of the Scriptures than members do today. Today, members of the Church seem to think that it is okay if there are a few learned teachers and preachers within the Brotherhood rather than understanding that God wants every Christian to become knowledgeable enough to share His truth.
Paul had to rebuke the Hebrew Christians for a similar mentality. Hebrews 5:12-6:1, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching of Christ, let us press on to maturity."
If you want to become expert in the use of the "sword" as the Lord Jesus wants, there are five things you must do.
1 Read and Study the Bible.
We are commanded in Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."
Brethren, you can listen to sermons, you can read religious pamphlets, tracts, books and devotionals every day and all day long. These may, indeed, bless you. But, let me say that such will not bless you half as much as your picking-up your Bible and reading it and studying it yourself. Why? There are a few reasons:
Only by reading the Scriptures ourselves do we learn what fully is in the Word. Sermons, pamphlets, tracts and books deal only with narrow subjects. Many times we are enticed to listen to sermons or read material that primarily deal with subjects that particularly interest us. Thus, our knowledge becomes very narrow. We are not getting the whole counsel of God.
Only by reading and studying the Scriptures themselves do we get the ‘big picture’. Many get led astray because they fail to grasp the overall plan of God.
Only by reading and studying the Bible ourselves do we learn how to use our Bible or sword. We need to know what is in the Bible, where it is in the Bible, and how to access it. This skill comes only by personally reading and studying.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when you personally read and study the Scriptures, you are giving the Spirit of God the opportunity to speak directly to you. He may speak to you and give you insights on matters that you never realized you desperately needed. When we read and study the Bible for ourselves, we are giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work within us. We are giving Him the opportunity to help us grow and become transformed.
2 Pray For Divine Enlightenment and Understanding.
Before you begin reading and studying the Bible, ask its Author to help you understand what you are about to read and study. David did this often. Psalm 119:12, 27, "Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes…Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders."
Before you read your Bible, ask the Lord to help explain the Scriptures to you. He will do it. He will not give you a complete understanding at one time; however, He will help you understand what He wants you to understand at that particular time. Over time, as you continue to read and study, He will give you an ever greater understanding
3. Memorize The Scriptures.
When you read the Scriptures, do so with the purpose of retaining what you read. James 1:25 tells us that the "forgetful hearer" or reader will not be blessed. This is true for a few reasons.
What you do not retain, you cannot apply to your life.
When you remember Scriptures you will have a better chance of re-calling them to mind during an occasion of need.
Remembering what you read one day will provide a stepping-stone to understanding a another passage tomorrow.
I recommend that, as you read and study, pick-out verses that really speak to you and write them on 3 x 5 note cards. I did this when I first started seriously reading and studying the Bible. I would review the card as often as possible. After I have mastered ten to twelve cards, I started a new group. This trained my mind to remember the Scriptures. By doing this, you are basically programming your mind with God’s word. Romans 12:2, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Psalm 119:16, "I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word."
4. Meditate On The Word.
Connected to memorizing God’s word is meditating on it. What does it mean to meditate? It means to think deeply about something. It is to reflect on something It is to roll something over in your mind.
It is one thing to know what a passage says, its another thing to know what it means in a practical way. It is extremely important for us to think about what we have read and studied.
What would God want me to understand about this passage?
What does it and what should it mean to me? We need to answer the question, ‘how can I apply the truth found in this passage to my life?’ Based on this passage, how should my thinking, or my speech, or my actions change? What can I do today or tomorrow to practice this...to make it real?
David meditated on God’s word much. Psalm 119:97, 15, and 24, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day….I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways….Your testimonies also are my delight; They are my counsellors."
5 Share the Word With Others.
Lastly, we must not keep the sword in its sheath. We must, says Philippians 2:15-16, "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life." Psalm 119:13, "With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Thy mouth." Psalm 71:15, "My mouth shall tell of Thy righteousness, and of Thy salvation all day long."
We need to share the blessing of God’s word with others. If God has shown you a new truth, share it. Has God revealed to you a wonderful promise, share it Has God convicted you of things amiss in your life, confess it. Share God’s wisdom with others. You will be surprised how blessed you will be by God by sharing what you know with others.
Psalm 19:7-8, "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."