Spiritual Warfare, Pt. 14: The Sword of the Spirit

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Faith Bible Church, NY

May 4, 1997

Spiritual Warfare, Part 14

The Sword of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:17

We come now to the sixth and last piece of armor God has given to us so that we might stand firm against Satan’s devices against us. Ephesians 6:17 says for us to, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The reference for the sword of the Spirit is in the text, it is the word of God, the Bible. But what is the nature of this sword mentioned so that we might understand the analogy Paul is making?

Nature of the Sword

The Sword mentioned here is the μάχαιραν, the short sword carried by the Roman foot soldier. This is not the large broad sword carried by the heavy calvary. This typical short sword would range in size from 6-18 inches. It was the principal weapon in hand to hand combat. The user had to develop skill with it or he would not survive. It is a weapons that requires precision in both its defensive and offensive uses. It is used to parry every jab and thrust of the enemy while trying to make your own thrusts and jabs.

The analogy

The parallel between the short sword and the Bible as a spiritual weapon is striking – the Bible must also be used with precision. Those without skill and those that are not careful with it can easily find themselves outmaneuvered by the enemy and stuck by his sword. Every lie, slander and deceitful effort of our enemy can be countered with the word of God if we know it, but if we do not, then we will soon be following his scheming falsehoods. This is why we must heed the warning in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.”

The importance of using the Bible accurately is brought out in the fact that the term translated here as “word” is not the ususal one – λόγος (logos) – which would refer to general statements or messages. The term here is ῥῆμα “rhema” which refers to individual words or particular statements. The same word is used in Romans 10:17faith come from hearing, and hearing comes by a word (ῥήματος) of God. As MacArthur has well pointed out, “It is not from just any part of Scripture that men come to faith, but from those parts that declare the gospel. Saving faith does not come from believing just any truth of Scripture, but from believing that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and trusting in His death to cleanse our own sins.”

You cannot just use any Scripture picked at random to parry the strikes of Satan against you, you must use the verse appropriate to the particular attack being made.

The Relationship of the Spirit & the Bible

The weapon given to us here is the “sword of the Spirit.” Let me speak a moment about what this means and the relationship of the Spirit and the Bible.

The phrase “sword of the Spirit” refers to the nature or origin of the sword. This could also be correctly translated as the “sword by the Spirit” or even, “the spiritual sword.” There have historically been two extremes that have gotten men into trouble because they do not correctly adhere to the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Bible.

The first error is an over emphasis upon the Bible that forgets that the Bible cannot be understood except by the working of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life (1 Cor. 2:12-16). 1 John 2:27 is specific that it is the Holy Spirit that teaches us. Without the enlightening ministry of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:18; Heb. 6:4) we would be like the liberal scholars in secular universities that can categorize every phrase, noun and verb tense in the Bible, but they have gained no life from it. This is dead orthodoxy and intellectual academic knowledge of the Scriptures. This is the tragedy of liberalism – it leaves people still lost in their sin and bound for hell.

The other error is the opposite extreme in which the Bible is subjugated to a mystical experience. The Bible can no longer be read and understood according to normal meanings of nouns, verbs, phrases and sentences. Instead it means whatever you feel it means at the moment. This is one of the great problems in the Charismatic movement. You can make the Bible say whatever you want and no one can correct or criticize you for it.

The Bible is the sword of the Spirit and you cannot separate the Bible from the Spirit. We must be diligent to do our part in studying the Scriptures while relying on the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds that we may understand and apply it to our lives.

Let me briefly give you some of the claims Scripture makes about itself and some of the resources in the Bible.

The Claims of Scripture About Itself

God is its author: 2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

2 Peter 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The Bible is not a collection of human wisdom or human religious thought. Evil men could not have written it because it condemns them. Merely good men could not have written it because they would not have lied about its authorship. God wrote it through men moved, literally “carried along,” by His Spirit.

Inerrant and infallible: 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. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Prov 30:5 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. 6 Do not add to His words Lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar.

This means the Bible is true in all it says on any subject it speaks too, and it will not lead anyone astray.

Complete: This is reflective of Prov. 30:5,6 just read and Deut. 4:2 and 12:32. Revelation 22:18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

The Bible is not exhaustive, but it is complete giving us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness (2Pet1:3)

Authoritative: Jeremiah 6:19 “Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also.”

When God speaks, you had better listen.

Sufficient: 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Teaching is how to get on the path of righteousness. Reproof is admonition that you are off the path of righteousness. Correction is how to get back on the path of righteousness. Training is how to stay on the path of righteousness.

Effective: Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding [in the matter] for which I sent it. Determinative: A person’s response to it will give determination of their relationship with God. Those who hear and heed know God, those that do not, do not. John 8:47 “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear [them,] because you are not of God.”

The Resources & Blessings of Scripture

Source of Truth: John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.”

Many voices cry out that they are truth, but only the Word of God is what it claims.

Source of Joy Proverbs 8:33 “Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect [it.] 34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts. Jesus said in Luke 11:28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.”

The world pursues happiness that’s dependent on circumstances. The word of God brings blessedness, a joy that is independent of circumstances because it is based in the unchanging nature of God and His promises.

Source of Spiritual Growth: 1 Peter 2:2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, – One cannot grow with out it.Source of Power: Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It reveals, convicts, changes our inner being – something outside forces can not do.Source of Guidance: Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path. We would be left to stumble in the dark without it.Source of Comfort: because it demonstrates God’s love, mercy, face and faithfulness to His people. Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Source of Perfection: 2 Timothy 3:16,17 again.

It prods us onto both understand true righteousness and live in it. It moves us onto maturity.

Source of Protection: Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping [it] according to Thy word. 10 With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. 11 Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee.

It warns and convicts that I might avoid sin.

Source of Victory as a defensive and an offensive weapon – see below.

The Sword as a defensive weapon

Turn to Matthew 4. In this text in Matthew we see Satan coming to tempt the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s see how the Lord responds to our adversary and also see how we should respond using the word of God as our defense.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

The first thing we note is it is the Spirit of God that led Jesus into the wilderness for the specific purpose of being tempted by the devil. God is sovereign in the matter. This is not something happening by chance, fate or bad luck. This not something the devil arranged. God the Spirit leads God the Son into the wilderness to face the Adversary.

Next, a reminder that the devil is real. He is not some guy with a red suit with a long pointed tail carrying a pitchfork. He is a fallen angel that seeks to usurp God’s glory and honor and take it for himself. Throughout this text we see Jesus addressing the devil as a real personal being. This is why we must have our armor on and why we must have in our hand, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.

Third, let me also make sure you understand that the temptations Jesus will face here are real. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “tempted in all points as we are, yet with out sin.” That means that He felt the full force of every temptation because He never gave in. By way of analogy to explain this point, a tree that is blown over in a hurricane only felt the force of that storms wind until if was blown over. It is the tree that remains standing after the hurricane has past that has felt the full force of the storm.

The nature of Satan’s attack is according to the name used in this passage for him – διαβόλου which means “Slanderer.” We will see that is exactly what he does, slanders what God has said in an effort to tempt Jesus to do things his way instead of God’s.

2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. Jesus had been forty days out in the Judean wilderness. Mark describes this as “with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). It is a dry harsh environment with little vegetation and steep hills, but because of this it also becomes a good place for solitude, thinking and praying. If you have ever been out in the desert alone you know that you can become engulfed in its immensity, yet you do not see anything and you hear little but the wind. Jesus was out in the wilderness fasting for 40 days. You can imagine that He is now extremely hungry. It is at this point the devil now comes to Him.3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” The devil challenges Jesus to prove His claim to be the son of God and he does so by appealing to Jesus’ physical flesh to satisfy itself. “Jesus, you are hungry, so satisfy that hunger by making these stones into bread.” Understand also the slander made against God the Father – “If you are the Son of God then why are you out here hungry? Why hasn’t the Father provided for your needs?” Isaiah 33:16 says of the righteous that “His bread will be given him; his water will be sure.” In essence, the devil is saying that “God has not provided for you, Jesus, even though you are His son, so take charge and provide for yourself ” .

Jesus responds in verse 4 by quoting Dt. 8:3 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.”(Deut 8:3) Jesus came to do the Father’s will even saying in John 4:34 that “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” Jesus puts his body in subjection to God and in complete trust waits for His provision.

Next, Satan attacks in the area of pride. The tempter tells Jesus to perform a great sign and miracle. 5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU’; (Ps 91:11) and ‘ON THEIR HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'” (Ps 91:12) Notice the craftiness of the devil. He even quotes Ps 91:11 and 12 to prove his point. The devil is the master of Scripture twisting. God had not brought honor and glory to Jesus yet, but Jesus could satisfy the demands of the Scribes and Pharisees for a sign and prove that He was the Son of God by putting the truth of God’s Word to the test. The temptation is for Jesus to gain the following of the people by His own means and methods.

Again Jesus quotes from Scripture and says, 7… “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'” (Dt 6:16) Jesus subjects His pride to God and will wait for God to do things in His way and timing. He knows that to put God to the test only demonstrates a lack of trust in God and that is sin.

The third temptation against Jesus is in the area of the lust of the eyes. Seeing something that He would want for Himself. Satan, who is the “prince of this world” and the “god of this age”, tries a third time. 8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” The devil slanders God again saying God has not come through, but if Jesus would do what Satan says, then Satan will give Him the Kingdoms of the world. Besides, this way is easier – all Jesus would have to do is give homage to Satan instead of enduring the pain and agony of the Cross.

This time Jesus not only quotes another Scripture, but rebukes Satan. 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'” (Dt 6:13) Jesus subjected Himself to the Father’s will, even knowing that it would take Him to the cross.

11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

One thing I want to make sure that you understand here is the use of sword of the Spirit by Jesus. Jesus did not defeat Satan by quoting Scriptures. Scripture cannot be used like some magical incantation. Jesus defeated Satan by knowing the Word of God and being obedient to it. A fancy sword will do you no good if you do not know how to use it. In the same way the memorization of Scripture will do you no good if you do not apply them it to your own life. You need to both know and apply the Word of God.

Do you know it well enough that you can counter the deceptions that are thrust against you? Take note that this requires study because a general knowledge will not be enough. This is a short sword, not a broad sword. You have to be able to counter every jab with the precise counter movement. You will have to counter every lie, every slander, every deception with the precise Scripture that lays out the truth. Are you controlled by the truth enough that you will be obedient to the Bible even when your emotions are in confusion? Again, the Bible will not do you any good if you do not apply it.

The Sword as an offensive weapon

This is the only piece of armor that has an offensive aspect to it. We are not to just passively wait for Satan’s attack. We are out busy in ministry, which by its nature is against Satan’s realm. We are in that respect on the offensive against him. It is the word of God that the Spirit uses to convict people of sin, righteousness and judgement – it goes to the heart. Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Every ministry must have at its core the Scriptures. Nothing we do as Christians can be done effectively apart from the Bible. Even the proper use of the gift of helps or giving requires the right motives as explained by the Scriptures. Cups of cold water are to be given in Jesus’ name. Why? Because our good works are to bring Him glory. How do I know that? The Bible tells me so (Matt. 10:42; Matt. 5:16).

The Scriptures are also offensive in nature because when we live according to them, then we are in submission to God and the devil will flee – just as James 4:7 says. Matthew 22 records a series of questions different groups proposed to Jesus to test Him and try to entrap Him. Jesus answers them by bringing them back to the Scriptures themselves. A challenge from the Sadducees on the resurrection of the dead, Jesus brings back to Exod. 3:6 to prove it and the Sadducees are silenced. The Pharisees question as to the great commandment, Jesus answers from Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 to make them see the personal application. He then asks them a question from Psalm 110:1 which the cannot answer and so as vs. 46 says, “And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.” Jesus use of the word offensively eventually reduced them to silence.

The Sword of the Spirit, the word of God, how well can you handle it? If you answer is anything less than “well,” then you need to get serious about studying it. There is no excuse for a believer to not know and understand the Bible. Every true Christian has the Holy Spirit within them. Every true Christian is called to obedience and one of the thinks believer are to do is study the Scriptures that they might live according to it. No believer can plead ignorance or inability, on disinterest and neglect. Get started on a regular study of the Scriptures today if you are not doing so already!


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