The Armor of God:
The Sword of the Spirit:
The Word of God
The Bible uses a great variety of metaphors to describe itself.
The Psalms refer to the Word of God as light, giving wisdom and understand, guiding the student of the Word on the path of virtue, and protecting him from wandering into self destruction.Ps. 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.In Isaiah the Word of God is like water, rain which gives life to a parched earth.
Is. 55:10-11Jeremiah referred to the Word of God as a fire, that burned in his soul until he could hold it in no longer (Jeremiah 20:9)
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Jesus refers to the Word of God as seed planted in the human heart, which grows, bearing the fruit of faith - both the fruit of salvation for eternity, and the fruit of service on this side of heaven. (Matthew 13:3-8,18-23)
James, the brother of our Lord, says that the Word of God is like a mirror that shows us our true condition. (James 1:22-25)
Several texts compare the Word to food (Proverbs 9; Isaiah 55:1-3; Revelation 10:9-11). And it’s not an occasional snack food. God’s Word will genuinely impact our lives, if only we consume it with a passion, with the attitude that we can never can get enough of it.
And our lesson from Ephesians 6 calls the Word of God the Sword of the Spirit.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews describes in greater detail how the Scripture is like a sword:
Hebrews 4: 12-13If I were to take a peek into your Bible, and if I were to find there that you have underlined verses, and highlighted texts, and written notes in the margin, then I could predict rather accurately that you understand how God’s Word is like a sword, for you find that you are often stuck with it yourself. The Word has given you insight into the situations and problems you face. The Word has given you insight into the condition of your own soul.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
But as our text reminds us, the Word is a tool, a weapon, in our hands as we do battle against the evil one.
The Word is a defensive weapon, that protects us from the assaults of Satan that come in the form of temptations and corrosive emotions. You may recall how Jesus used the Word to refute every single of the temptations Satan hurled at Him (Matthew 4:1-11). And as we mentioned in the introduction to this series, the time to commit that Scripture to memory to have on hand when you will really need it is not when the temptation hits, just as a soldier on the battle field doesn’t start reading the operations manual for gun when the bullet starts flying overhead.
The time to be in the Word and building your life on its foundations is now. And the way you do that is simply to read it, read it, and read it. It ain’t that hard. The Bible has been translated into English. There are a dozen easy English translations and paraphrases on the market. No, not all of them are good translations. But it would be far better to read a mediocre translation that not reading a good one. And as you read, begin memorizing those nuggets-of-gold verses that simply express profound foundational truths. And then start taking on memorizing whole chapters. Psalm 23 should only be the start.
The Word of God, as the Sword of the Spirit, is an offensive weapon as well. Our greatest battle against Satan is in joining with God to snatch the souls of men, women, and children from a certain eternity in hell. So the Word is our primary tool in personal evangelism. And I have found the most effective use of God’s Word in witnessing is to simply apply the Word to specific needs, to the problems that seem insurmountable, or to the ideas and attitudes which devoid of truth.
The enemy uses ropes of doubt, fear, and anger to keep the human race in bondage to hell, and the Holy Spirit uses the Sword of His Word to cut those ropes and set people free.
It is no surprise then, that one of Satan’s tactics is to disarm the Christian and his church of the Sword of the Spirit. The enemy does this by trying to get us to
I have never found useful or even necessary to argue the merits of the Bible. The Bible does that well enough on it’s own. Let me illustrate:
- deny the authority of the Word
- deny the truthfulness of the Word
- filter the Word through a cult leader or cult organization (rather than letting the whole word speak to us on its own terms).
A skeptic who says, "I don’t believe in the Bible," is like a thief who might choose to break into my house in the middle of the night. When I wake up and figure out what is happening, I quietly go to my locked gun case and pull out my shotgun and I load it. Then I call out the thief and notify him that there is a loaded shotgun pointing in his direction. But the thief responds, "Oh, that doesn’t matter. I don’t believe in guns."
Now I don’t need to waste my time and energy arguing with this thief issues related to the Second Amendment. I don’t need to argue the pros-and-cons of private gun ownership. I don’t even need to describe in detail the merits of this particular weapon that I have in hand. There is only one thing I can and should do which will instantly convince the fellow of the truth of my position. Pull the trigger.
So it is with the Word of God. Many a critic and skeptic has been convinced when brought nose to nose with Truth, and when the Holy Spirit has skillfully applied that Truth it the unmanageable needs of the unbeliever’s own life and heart.
So important is the weapon in the whole list of the Armor of God, that if I were the Holy Spirit inspiring the Apostle Paul to pen this text, I would have but the Sword of the Word in second place right after the Helmet of Salvation. But there is a very good reason the Spirit of God put it here near the end of the list of armor. Before we can begin to effectively use the Sword of the Spirit we must have all the other pieces of the armor in place. Without them, this one isn’t effective.
Without the Belt of Truth, the Word of God resembles more of a wet noodle than a sharp double edged sword of hardened steel. If it is not true (truth), then it has nothing more to say than Aesop’s fables and Mother Goose rhymes.
Without Breastplate of Christ’s righteousness covering us, and His Righteousness living through us, our lives make a mockery of His word, and we are proved to be lying hypocrites.
Without the Helmet of Salvation, we lack authority to utilize the Word on others; indeed, if we are unsaved, we lack a basic understanding of the purpose and message of Scripture. Rather, we need the Holy Spirit to use the Word of God as a sword on our own souls first.
Without the Shield of Faith we lack the life experience that can diagnose and apply the Word to others.
The Word of God not only is power behind personal evangelism, leading a person to saving faith in Christ (justification), but the Word is also the power behind visible ongoing transformation in every Christian’s life to become more Christ-like (sanctification).
I have found the whole process is neatly and clearly summarized in four words, all beginning with the letter "C".
ConvictThe Samaritan woman at the well felt it. (John 4)I have among my friends those who work as Bible translators, some with Lutheran Bible Translators, and others with Wycliffe Bible Translators. What these folks usually do is to live as missionaries (although they do not like to be referred to as missionaries) among a tribal group whose language has never before represented in writing. They learn the language, and using principles of linguistics in which they have been trained, they create a written form of the language and teaching the people to read it. They then begin the long laborious task of translating the Scripture into that language.
Peter’s Pentecost audience felt it. (Acts 2:23)
The Roman Governor Felix felt it. (Acts 24:25)
Indeed, we all have felt it.
It is interesting to read the reports of how the people respond when the translators test their work by reading to them newly translated portions of Scripture. Sometimes there is the excitement and conviction which comes when the hearers realize they are being told profound truth of how to have relationship with God for which they had been longing. Sometime people respond as if they had been simply entertained. Occasionally there is open hostility to the Word as witch doctors see the Gospel as an open challenge to their spiritual authority. One of the more interesting responses I read was when a translator was angrily challenged by a tribal leader, "You lie! What you are reading to us is not what that Book says! Someone in our village must be secretly been telling you what we do here."
This village leader was obviously coming under the conviction of the Word as the Holy Spirit used it as His "two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit..., [exposing] the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Now, when we are under the conviction of the Holy Spirit from the Word of God, we can respond of one of three ways we can respond:
(1) We can reject it.
(2) We can acknowledge the truth of the Word, but fail to apply it = ignore it
(3) We can acknowledge the truth of the word, and surrender the area under conviction over to God’s authority and repair.
After the Law of God’s Word has brought us to conviction, the Gospel of His Word brings us the Good News of His love and forgiveness, demonstrated and made effective through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Why is it that most Christians, and even many non-Christians have memorized Psalm 23? Because of the comfort it gives.
Martin Luther’s own conversion from despair and doubt to faith and life did not come because of any insights he received while studying the writings of the theological classics of the church. Rather, it only came when he had to starting reading the Scriptures for himself. Oddly enough, his motivation for studying the Bible was that he was required to teach it at the university. When he had to teach the Word to others, he began reading it for himself.
Luther said that he was reading in Romans 1:17, "The justice of God is revealed..." and he got stuck on that verse. Luther said that it was the "justice of God" which justly condemned him as a sinner. It so angered and upset him that he lost sleep. ...until he read the rest of the verse:
"The justice of God is revealed in it, as it is written: "The just person lives by faith."
All of a sudden the lights started coming on. And the truth of similar passages of Scripture started making sense:
Ephesians 2:8-9The great truth of the Gospel had eluded him during his years of theological training. When Luther saw this truth for the first time in his life, he said,
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
"All at once I felt that I had been born again and entered into paradise itself through open gates. Immediately I saw the whole of Scripture in a different light."Luther said that from that point on, the more he studied the Scripture, the more he saw this truth clearly presented. He also went back and reread some of the classic theologians whose writings had held him in such bondage, and to his surprise, that they too understood this truth, and had stated it. But Luther had always missed it, until it was the Word of Scripture itself, clearly stated in its own context, opened the eyes of his soul to recognize it.
[A personal story]
I vividly recall one summer during my college days... I had just graduated from college and that fall would begin my first year at seminary. It was my first summer vacation at home in two years. And it had been two years of incredible discovery of the work and ways of God.
It was the custom in our home to have family devotions immediately after dinner, while we were all still at the table. Dad would read a chapter of the Bible or a daily selection from Portals of Prayer. But on my first day home that particular summer, Dad and Mom thought it would be appropriate for their preacher-boy to lead the devotion. So they passed the book over to me.
I can still picture it. Dad was sitting at one of the table, and I was sitting at the other end. Mom and Dad could tell that something was bugging me, and they encouraged me to share it. So I did. I briefly described what I had discovered during the previous two years in my walk with God, and then I proceeded to chew out my parents. I told them, "You have known and understood these things all my life. Why didn’t you teach them to me!" They patiently listened, smiling a little, while I vented.
And when I was done, Dad just shook his head and said, "There are some things we can’t teach you, which you will have to learn from Jesus Himself." I there realized that I was in the presence of a very wise man. And in the months and years ahead, I began to appreciate more deeply the power and the insight that come only from the Word of God.
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