Chapter 8


And take the helmet of salvation, and the
sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of
God (Ephesians 6:17).

Now we come to the last of these pieces of the Christian's armor "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." The first thing we must say is that this, again, is Christ. Christ is our life, if we are Christians at all , but this is Christ made practically available to us through the sayings of his word. I think it is very important to stress this. is so easy to be Christians in general but not in specific- It I is so very easy to have a vague sense of following Christ but not know exactly, in specific terms, what this means. But that is why the Word of God has been given to us, Christian truth as a whole is more than we can handle--it is the individual promises that make Christianity manageable.

In writing to the Colossians the Apostle Paul says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

By that he is indicating that the authority of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Scripture is one and the same thing. There are many today who challenge that. There are many voices that tell us that as Christians we must follow Christ and accept the authority of Christ, but we need not accept the authority of the Bible. But Paul answers that by calling the Scriptures "the word of Christ." You cannot separate the two.

I once attended a meeting of ministers at which we professor who is a Christian read a very excellent paper on "Science and the Christian Faith." After he had finished, certain questions were addressed to him by members of the group. One man said, "Sir, I can accept the Bible as a witness of certain men to what they thought of Jesus Christ. But you seem to go further. You have used the word, 'Inspired' on several occasions in your paper and that seems to suggest that in your the Bible is more than the views of men, that it one authority. Is this true?"

The Christian professor gave a very wise answer, "My answer may sound to you very much like Sunday school propaganda, but I can only put it this way: The center of my life is Jesus Christ. I have found him to be the key listened to everything to everything that I desire in life. And yet I could know nothing about Christ if I did not learn it from the Bible. The Bible presents Christ and Christ defines the Bible. How can I make a distinction between the two?" With considerable embarrassment the questioner threw up his hands and changed the subject.

The authority of Scripture is the authority of Jesus Christ, they are indivisible. To attempt to distinguish the two is like asking which blade of a pair of scissors is more important or which leg of a pair of pants is more necessary. We know. Christ through the Bible, and we understand the Bible through the knowledge of Christ--the two cannot be separated. That is why Paul calls it "the word of Christ."

The Sayings of God

Now in the verse we are looking at--'The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God'-it is important to see that it is not the complete Bible that is referred to by the phrase "The Word of God." There are two words that are used in Scripture for "the Word of God." There is the familiar word logos, which is used in the opening verse of John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God." Then there is another word, used less frequently, rhema, which is somewhat different in meaning than the first.

The word logos refers to the total utterance of God, the complete revelation of what God has said. The second word means a specific saying of God, a passage or a verse which has special application to an immediate situation. It implies an existential use of the Word of God; that is, applied to experience, to our existence.

The second word is the one used here. The "sword of the Spirit" is the saying of God applied to a specific situation. That is the great wealth placed in the hands of the believer. Perhaps you have ad some experience with this. Sometimes, when you are reading a of Scripture, the words seem suddenly to come alive and take on flesh and bones, and leap off the page at you, or grow eyes that follow you around everywhere you go, or develop a voice that echoes in your ears until you cannot get away from it. Perhaps you have had that experience in some moment of temptation or doubt when you were assailed by what Paul calls here "the flaming darts of the evil one." And immediately a passage of Scripture which supplies the answer comes flashing to mind.

Or perhaps you have been asked a question that caught you Off guard for a moment and you were about to say, "I don't know," when suddenly you had a moment of illumination and a word of Scripture came to mind which gave the answer. Perhaps this experience has happened while sitting in a meeting where some message has come home to your heart with strange and powerful effect. You were greatly moved, and in that moment you made a deep and permanent decision.

All this is the rhema of God, the savings of God that strike home like arrows to the heart. This is called the sword of the Spirit because it is not only originated by him as the author of the Word but it is also recalled to mind by the Spirit and made powerful by him in our lives. It is his answer to the attack of the Devil who comes to discourage us; the Spirit brings a word to our mind to parry the thrust of the Devil.

The Only Offense

Now, as a sword, the Word is useful both for defense and for offense. This, by the way, is the only part of the armor that can be used for offense. It both defends and protects us, but it also pierces other hearts and destroys the lies of the Devil in others besides ourselves. That is its great effect.

The Word is the only proper offense that the Christian has. He is to proclaim the truth. He does not need to defend it; be does not need to support it with long and extensive arguments. There is a place for that, but not in an encounter with those who disbelieve. He is to proclaim it, simply to declare it. As the Scripture says in Hebrews: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). It gets below the reason and pierces the armor that has been erected against it and comes home to the heart. Thus it has power in itself.

Now, it is this offensive quality which explains why the Bible is so continuously under attack. For centuries the enemies of the gospel, prompted by the Devil, have been seeking to destroy the Bible. This effort has been directed both toward the very existence of the Bible and a seeking to destroy its significance. In our day, though, the attack is primarily directed toward a destruction of its significance. With very, clever words and subtle arguments the Devil speaks through men of prominence and intelligence to destroy the testimony of the Scriptures.

This does not mean that the men themselves are necessarily hypocritical. It is not that they are being deliberately and knowingly destructive. Many or them are sincerely attempting to be what they may describe as "honest to God." But notice the focus of these intelligent and subtle arguments: They are always an attempt to disprove the historicity of the biblical record, particularly in relation to supernatural events. These men cannot accept the idea that an invisible realm, which the Bible calls the kingdom of God has invaded our commonplace realm of space and time. Such a concept is distasteful to them, so their attacks are aimed at making the Bible accounts appear incredible and therefore unreliable. To the extent they succeed, people will no longer take the Scriptures seriously.

These speakers and professors and doctors of theology claim to be theologians and Bible scholars, but they betray the Scriptures with the kiss of Judas and mislead thousands. The effect, of course, is to keep people from reading the Scriptures. That is the main thing. The Devil makes this fantastic effort because he knows the power of the Scripture and his whole aim is to keep people from seriously and thoughtfully reading the Scriptures. For, of course, all that is needed to answer the attacks of the scholars is to simply read these accounts in a thoughtful and serious way.

Let me illustrate that with the Christmas story. Nothing is more basic and central to the Christian message than the story of the way the infinite God became a babe in a manger and was welcomed with the angels' song, a brilliant star, the coming of the shepherds and of the wise men. We love the simple beauty of that ancient story. It transforms the world, at least outwardly, for a brief time every year and has done so for twenty centuries.

But the false prophets of our day treat this story as if it were nothing but a myth, a pretty story. There is no attempt at all to disprove the supernatural claims of the biblical story--they are merely dismissed with a wave of the hand. Scorn is heaped upon them as unworthy of modern intelligence. The implication is clear that any who believe in this story are in a class with those who still believe in a flat earth or the existence of fairies.

The reason for this, of course, is that any acceptance of this account as a historical fact means that its implications cannot be shaken aside. We must face it as an incontrovertible event that can only be explained by the explanation which Scripture gives: the need of men in their lost condition for an invasion of God in order that he might accomplish a work of redemption at great cost to himself and thus set men free.

A Simple Tale

What is the answer to the false claims that accounts of supernatural events are merely myths? Well, simply read the scriptural accounts. Read the Christmas story as told by Matthew and Luke. As you read the familiar tale, see how artlessly and simply it is presented, how uncontrived the record is. There is no attempt to garnish it or to bolster it with arguments or theological explanations. There is just the simple narrative of what happened on their way to Bethlehem, what there, and what happened in the following. When that story is set in place in the total narrative of the Bible, how fitting it is, how natural and unforced.

As G. Campbell Morgan so beautifully put it, "The song of the angels to sighing humanity is the beginning of the infinite mystery of an incarnate God." From that simple story all light is streaming, all hope is flaming, all songs are coming. Wesley captures this beautifully in his hymn.

Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in Flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail the Incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Now we need only remember that this simple uncomplicated story was widely accepted and proclaimed in the First Century. Along with the account resurrection, that story has changed the world. No Christian in Scripture ever denies it. No apostle, or even Jesus himself, ever questioned these even they did not take place exactly as recorded. And the stories were well known in their day.

In other words, this account reflects the inherent ability of truth, simply told, to compel belief without artificial support. As we read the account, it wins the submission of our reason, it appeals to the love of the heart, it compels the obedience of the will. To reject it, therefore, is to violate our basic humanity. This is why John declared in a letter written toward the close of the first century that this story is one of the tests of false teachers. He declared that if someone denies the incarnation and says that Jesus did not come in the flesh, he is inspired by a wrong spirit and is an antichrist (1 John 4:2-3).

The Sword in Action

The purpose of the Word, these "sayings of God," is to compel belief in the face of an distortion of truth. They are a sword of the Spirit to defend against that which would undermine and attack ultimate authority. Looking back in my own life I am aware of many times when this sword of the Spirit has saved me from error and delusion of some kind or another. As a young Christian, I was stopped at the edge of disobedience many times when some temptation seemed so logical, so reasonable, so widely practiced that I was allured by it. I was often arrested by a word that I had memorized as a young Christian and which has come to me many times since. It is in the Book of Proverbs, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight" (Proverbs 3:5).

It is so easy to think that because something looks logical to us it must be logical. But we fail to recognize the fact that we are easily deceived. We are not the rational creatures. we love to think we are. There is much illusion and delusion in our world, and we are not intelligent enough to see through these phantasmas, these lies. Therefore the word comes, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart." Believe the truth as it is revealed, and "lean not to your own understanding."

Sometimes a sword of the Spirit has been placed in my hand, not before defeat but right in the midst of it, or right afterward. It has thus become the means of preventing any painful recurrences. I remember when a word from James came home to me with unusual power after a very violent and nasty display of temper on my part. A verse flashed into my mind which I had read in the letter of James, "The anger-of man does not work the righteousness of God." (James 1:20). That arrested me. I thought, here I am claiming to be interested in working the righteousness of God, and what am I doing? losing MY temper, flaring up at someone and then thinking I am accomplishing what God sent the to do. That verse stopped me then and has been a help ever since.

I remember another time when my heart was once pierced by these words from the Book of Proverbs, "Only by pride comes contention." When we get involved in contention and strife with one another, it is so easy to blame the other fellow. He started it! One day a nephew of mine and my daughter were fighting, and I asked them, "Who started this?" The boy said, "She did. she hit me back." That is so human, is it not? Ah, but the Word says, "Only by pride comes contention." Where there is strife and contention, pride is at work and both parties are usually guilty of it.

As a young Christian, I recall how the powerful lure to sexual misbehavior which exists in this world was frequently dispelled in my thinking by the sudden flashing recollection of that word in Ephesians where the Apostle says, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, [and that is exactly what they try to do] it is because of these things [the context is that of sexual wrong] that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:6). That arrested me when I first heard it. Later, when I came to understand more fully what the wrath of God means that it is not a lightning bolt from heaven or an auto accident or something like that, but rather it is the certain disintegration of life , the dehumanizing, the brutalization of life that comes when one gives way to these kinds of things it took on even more power in life.

Several years ago there was a man who came to counsel with me every week for over a year who was in the grip of a terrible depression of spirit, an utter desolation of mind. I have never met such a lonely, miserable man. He shut himself away from eve one His liberation began by repeatedly praying one single phrase of Scripture. It was. all the Scripture he could, in faith, lay bold of. He rejected everything else I tried to point out to him. But one phrase stuck with him, and he prayed it again and again, "Not my will but thine be done." At last, slowly, like the sun coming up, the light be an to dawn and you could see the change in his life. Today he is living a normal, free life, set freely "the sword of the Spirit which is the saying of God."

Obviously, the greater exposure the more the Spirit can use this mighty sword in our lives. If you never read or study your Bible, you are terribly exposed to defeat and despair. You have no defense; you have nothing to Put up against these forces that are at work . Therefore, learn to read your Bible regularly. Read all of Scripture, for each section has a special purpose.

The Christian who neglects the reading of the Scriptures is in direct disobedience to the will of the Lord. The Lord Jesus said, "It is they [the Scriptures] that bear witness to me" (John 5:39). That is the way you come to know Christ. There is no way apart from the Scriptures. And there is no way to come into full maturity as a Christian apart from the Scriptures. And there is no way to come into full maturity as a Christian apart from the Scriptures.

Now, finally, what is the responsibility of the Christian when the Spirit places one of these sayings in your mind on some appropriate occasion as a sword? What are you to do? Well, the Apostle says, take it! Heed it! Obey it! Do not reject it or treat it lightly. Take it seriously. The Spirit of God has brought it to mind for a purpose, therefore give heed to it and obey it. Now there is one word of caution that is needed here. We are also to compare Scripture with Scripture. This is a very important matter--remember that the Devil can quote scripture as well, as he did on one occasion with the Lord. But the quotations of the Scriptures by the Devil are never balanced. The sword of the Spirit in the Devil's bands is an uncouth weapon.

At Sword's Point

Remember bow Jesus himself gave us a great example of this when the Devil came to tempt him in the wilderness? The Devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread." Jesus immediately met him with the sword of the Spirit. He said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone,' [my physical life is not the highest part of my being. I do not have to sustain that, but I do have to sustain my relationship with God. That is the important thing], 'but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4).

Then the Devil tried a new tack. He came to him and said, "Oh well, if you are going to quote Scripture, I can quote it, too. There is a verse in the Psalms, you know, which says that if you get yourself into a dangerous position, God will send his angels to uphold you." Taking him to the top of the temple, the Devil said, "Cast yourself from this height and all the crowd around will see and know that you are the Son of God""If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you lest you strike your foot against a stone " (Matthew 4:4-5).

But Jesus knew how to handle the Devil when he quoted Scripture. He said, "It is written again--it is written again." I urge you to take note of that. It is not enough to have someone quote a verse of Scripture to you or to have one come flashing into your mind. Compare it. Is it in balance? Is it held in relationship to other truth in the Word of God? "Again it is written, You shall not tempt the Lord your God." (Matthew 4:7). It is that word which the Lord your God delivered him in that hour.

Next, you remember, the Devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said, "All this shall be yours if you fall down and worship me." And again our Lord answered him with the sword of the Spirit. "It is written, 'you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve"' (Matthew 4:10). Then the account says, the Devil left him. That is always what happens. He is put to rout by the sword of the Spirit. It is this sword, therefore, that is placed in our hands.

Here then, is the Christian's complete armor: you in Christ and Christ in you. Christ, demonstrated as truth and experienced as righteousness and peace and Christ, appropriated by faith and applied to life through the hope of salvation and the sayings of God. That is all you need. You do not need tranquilizers or expensive psychiatric treatments. You may need some physical therapy now and again, the Word of God has nothing against that, but you will not need all the remedies that science has now made available to give us a chemical bolstering in the hour of anxiety or fear. No, you have the armor of God, if you are a Christian.

On the other hand, if you are not a Christian there is no help for you. The place to begin is to become a Christian. The Word of God has no comfort to give those who are not Christians; it has nothing to say to support or encourage someone who is not a Christian. The only way of escape from the allurements and deceitfulness of the enemy is to become a Christian. You must be delivered by the work of Jesus Christ from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. Then you can put on the armor of God.

Now think it through. Become familiar with this armor. Learn how to use it, and then actually use it when you are under attack. Practice going through this when you feel yourself under attack from Satan. Like a soldier in battle, put it to work. What good is armor if it rusts unused in a closet? No wonder Christians are constantly failing. Though they may have the armor of God, they do not use it.

If you feel yourself growing cold or lukewarm, you are under attack from the wiles o the Devil. If you find yourself depressed or discouraged or are bothered with doubts, fears, and anxieties or if you feel the lure of lusts, the crush of pain, or the numbness of disappointment, what must you do? Then systematically, thoughtfully, deliberately, repeatedly, go through these steps we have discussed here. Think through the armor of God.

But do not give up if no immediate change occurs. We are so brainwashed these days into wanting quick results, immediate relief, instant deliverance. Remember, the attack may be prolonged and there are not always quick results. That is why the Apostle says, "Having done all, stand." I will say more about that later, but victory is sure if you persevere. Do not give up, it is only a matter Of time. For the word of the promise is sure. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Our Father, what practical import there is in these matters. How helpful this word is in the midst of our pressures, our discouragements, and our tendencies to defeat. Grant to us, Lord, that we will take them seriously and apply this great armor that is given to us in Jesus Christ and thus learn how full and rich and exciting life can be as a Christian, lived in your strength. For we ask in your name, Amen.