Sword of the Spirit
7th of 8 messages delivered at the ERCS Family Camp, 19-22 Jun 2006
"And take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph 6:17).
We are standing inside the armoury of the army of Christ last Friday.
Earlier on when standing outside the armoury, we have been reminded to be brave; to take courage and to draw equipment and strength from the Lord as we enter into the fight.
We have also been briefed on what kind of war we are fighting and the strategy that we must adopt in the battle. It is a spiritual war. The enemies are invisible spiritual terrorists. We must fight a defensive battle. Christ our King has already conquered. We must stand and withstand as Satan the Prince of the enemy army schemes and plots to regain lost ground.
In order to fight this battle effectively, we must put on the full armour that God has provided for us.
We have begun to learn about various parts of the armour that is available to us. We have considered the belt or girdle of truth. We saw that this belt symbolises everything to do with the truth.
Objectively it refers to the truth of the Gospel which we must hold on tenaciously. Subjectively, we must gird ourselves with honesty, faithfulness, and integrity. Unless we know the truth and are truthful, we shall easily fall prey to the temptation of the devil to fight on his side. For Satan is the father of lies.
We have also considered the breastplate of righteousness. We saw that the breastplate of righteousness has two parts. One part of it refers to Christ’s imputed righteousness, and the other part refers to Christ’s imparted righteousness. We must make sure that we are assured of our justification in Christ and we must live holy lives in response to the work of sanctification of the Spirit of Christ.
We have studied the shoes that Paul wants us to wear. We must put on the shoes of the preparation or readiness of the Gospel of peace. Though the war that we fight is a defensive war, we must be ever ready to move out not only to answer the queries of anyone who ask us of a reason for our faith, but also to present the Gospel to the lost.
We looked at the shield of faith. We saw that faith is the first level of defence against the temptations that the wicked one will hurl in our direction.
We considered our head protection: the helmet of salvation. We noted how Satan would always try to assault our minds—the citadel of our soul. He will make us doubt our salvation. He will give us reasons to disobey the Lord. We must put on the helmet of salvation by reminding ourselves that we belong to the Lord. We are now considering the final piece of equipment, and the only offensive weapon at our disposal, namely: "The Sword of the Spirit."
Let us study this equipment by considering for a moment (1) Why a sword? (2) What does the sword represent? And (3) How to take and use the sword?
1. Why a Sword?
The Roman soldier carried a sword, known as the machaira in Greek or the gladius in Latin. It is not a very huge sword—just 18 inches long. It was always carried on the right sight of the body; and regardless of whether the soldier was right handed or left handed, he would always hold the sword with his right hand. Left handed soldiers were trained with their left arm strapped to their body and made to practise using their swords with their right hands until it was second nature.
The reason for this is not only because the right hand is generally the dominant hand, but also because there was a need for consistency. You see, the Roman soldiers are not encouraged to fight one-to-one like what you may see in Chinese sword fighting serials.
No, no, the Roman soldier would usually fight side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, with up to 500 soldiers in a line. If every soldier were to fight with his own style, there would be chaos, and there would be a lot of friendly fire, or friendly cuts.
So the soldiers used the same type of sword, and fought with the same hand and the same style. They would never use the sword to hack or slice. Instead they would use it to thrust or stab in a very fast back and forth motion. It is estimated that in this way the soldier could make 4 stabs per second compared to 2 slices per second and that without exposing himself between slices to the enemy, or accidentally cutting a fellow soldier.
This method of using the sword was thus, not only very safe and effective, but ensured the safety of their comrades as well.
When the apostle Paul tells us to take up the sword of the Spirit, he was no doubt thinking about this Roman sword and how it was used by the Roman soldier.
2. What does the Sword Represent?
Paul says "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." So the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.
Now, there are two words in Greek which may be translated as ‘word’: one is logos, which usually refer to the written word; the other is rJh`ma which usually refers to the spoken word. Now, sometimes those two words are used synonymously.
But I believe that the apostle Paul is using this word very carefully to refer to the preached or spoken word of God.
Paul says in Roman 10:17—
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Paul is speaking about preached word. The written Word or Logos of God is important. It is God’s revelation unto us. But until it becomes the rhema of God through preaching, biblical-quotations or biblical-arguments it has little effect upon our souls and the souls of others which are in contact with us.
So Paul speaks about the rhema of God as being the sword of the Spirit. It is the Sword of the Spirit because this Word originates from the Spirit and is brought to us by the power of the Spirit—whether He brings it to our remembrance or whether He gives utterance to His preachers.
It is a sword, because with it we can, not only, defend ourselves against the wicked one, but we can also attack enemy strongholds. With it we can assail heresies, false opinions, errors, temptations and worldliness, which are the devices which the wicked one would use against God’s children. Scripture-arguments are the most powerful arguments to repel Satan’s devices with.
Like the Roman soldier each of us must use the sword individually, and we must also use the sword corporately.
Corporately the sword is wielded when the Word is preached.
Individually, the sword is wielded when we apply or quote the word of God when we are facing the assaults of the wicked one.
The Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. All three times He responded by quoting or applying the Scriptures. "It is written," "It is written," "It is written," He said.
What was He doing? He was defending Himself and attacking the temptations of the devil with the sword of the Spirit.
To the first temptation, He says:
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Mt 4:4).
It is instructive that the word used here is ‘rhema.’ By every word, I believe the Lord is not only speaking about the word of God’s providence by which He directs all things that comes to past. I believe He is referring to the Word of God spoken and preached.
The Lord Jesus was wielding this sword when He says, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." He was, you may realize responding to the temptation of the devil to turn the stone into bread. The devil was tempting the Lord to abuse his power and to give more priority to temporal than eternal things.
The Lord fought back with the sword of the Spirit. Three times the devil tempted Him. Three times, He quoted the Scriptures and applied them to the situation.
We too must learn to take up the sword of the Spirit if we are going to fight the spiritual battle effectively.
But how should we take and use the sword?
3. How to Take and Use the Sword?
Once we understand what the sword of the Spirit is, I think it is not difficult for us to know how to use the sword. But let me give 3 directives.
a. First, since the sword is to be wielded not just individually, but corporately, it is essential to make sure that the word of God is faithfully preached and received. So we must pray for the preaching of the Word. We are constantly at war; but every Lord’s Day when we gather together to hear the Word preached we are entering the battle zone.
We must pray that utterance be given to the preacher and the Word will have free course.
We must pray that the Spirit of Christ will own the Word preached so that it may indeed be the sword of the Spirit and not the vanity of human wisdom.
We must pray that we would be ready to receive the Word; and that the Word preached will be "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (2 Cor 10:4).
Then we must receive the Word preached with all readiness of heart like the Bereans. In this way, we would be fighting in unity like the Roman legions. If we do not receive and act on the Word, then every man will do what is right in his own eyes; and we may end up cutting each other rather than fighting the spiritual battle shoulder to shoulder.
b. Secondly, to wield the sword, we must regularly read the Word by ourselves and if possible memorise the Word. The psalmist says: "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps 119:11). Not only does using the shield of faith require you to hide the sword in your heart; you must hide the Word in your heart if you would have the sword of the Spirit.
If we don’t have the Word in our heart, then when we reach down to take the sword on our right side, we will find nothing.
Imagine the fear that the Roman soldier will have if he is faced with the enemy and he puts his hand down expecting to draw up his sword and realise that there is nothing in the scabbard.
So beloved brethren and children, you must make sure that there is a sword by your side. The Word of God is like a double-edged sword. If you memorise it you will be able to wield it in battle.
Now, some of us will find it very difficult to memorise the Scriptures word for word because we began late. If this is so, may I encourage you at least to know what the Word teaches.
So read it every day. Read a big chunk of the Word every day if you can. And meditate on some parts so that you become familiar with them.
c. But now, thirdly, to wield the sword, you must seek to recall the Word and to apply it in the different situations in your life. At times when you are tempted to sin against the Lord, do not simply rationalise in your mind what you should do. Instead, think about what the word of God has to say about the situation.
So if you happen to be angry with someone, do not allow your old man to tell you what to do to get back to the person. Rather recall the word of God. For example the Word of God says:
"Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil" (Eph 4:26-27).
And "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Prov 15:1).
If you will just speak these words to yourself softly, you will be surprised how quickly your anger will dissipate.
So if you are tempted to be discouraged because you lost your job or you have been unable to find a job. Then the first thing you should do is to recall what the word of God has to say about the situation. The Word of God says:
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Mt 6:33-34).
If you speak these words to yourself, or have someone remind you of them, oh what strength you will have to defeat the temptation to despondency.
So if Satan comes and assaults you with the thought that it is not worth it to spend time doing the Lord’s work, the first thing that you must do is to tell yourself, and to tell the wicked one why you are serving the Lord:
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor 5:14).
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rv 22:12).
Beloved brethren and children, is your sword in the scabbard? Are you using the sword? Let us learn to wield the sword corporately and individually.
Let us pray for the preaching of God’s Word. Let us seek to lodge the Word in our heart that we may wield the sword effectively when Satan tempts us sore. Amen.