Sword of the Spirit
On this Thanksgiving Sunday there are so many things we can and should be thankful for. Ultimately, of course, all our thanks should be directed to the one from whom it all came. Read James 1:17.
We should be thankful that has God loved us and provided redemption through the death of His Son on the Cross. We don’t have to face the challenges of the Christian life alone. The moment God redeems us He gives us the Holy Spirit to live within.
We also need to thank God for giving to us a suit of armor that we can wear to protect us from the attacks of Satan. He has given us armor that protects us as we face temptations, deception, fears, doubts, and uncertainties. God’s Word declares that Satan is the enemy of God and of God’s people and that he is determined to do all he can to disrupt our walk with our Savior. If Satan can get us to sin, he will. If Satan can get us to question our relationship with God, he will. If Satan can cause us to be depressed and fear that God has left us, he will. In Ephesians 6:11 Paul called the attacks of Satan on believers “the devil’s schemes.” Read Ephesians 6:12.
For us as Christians our enemy is too smart and too powerful for us to gain even a hint of victory over him. We should be thankful that God has not left us to do battle alone or to go into battle unprotected. God has provided the armor we need to protect us from Satan’s onslaughts but also to enable us to attack his strongholds of sin.
Read the list of the armor in Ephesians 6:14-17.
The sword referred to as “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” was called the “machaira” sword and was a much smaller one than used by an enemy to crush in the head of a soldier. This sword was designed for defense when the enemy got up close and offense when the enemy was being pursued.
Paul wrote that we were take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The New Testament uses two different words to describe Scripture. When the Bible as a whole is being referred to, the word “Logos” is used. Logos refers to the total utterance of God, the complete revelation of what God has said. It was used to describe the power or force behind everything that is. For Christians that is God who spoke and brought everything into being and also spoke via revealing Himself and all He expects of us.
The second word, and the one used here, is the word rhema. It carried the idea of specific saying of God. Rhema was a particular verse or a passage that was being applied to a definite situation. The best example of rhema being used in a specific way is how Jesus used the Scripture to defeat the attack of Satan on Him in the wilderness. Satan suggested that Jesus do something that in the end put into question God’s willingness or ability to care for Him. Jesus responded each time with, “It is written” and then quoted a specific passage of Scripture or the rhema that applied. Jesus modeled the use of rhema by quoting a verse that answered the specific temptation of Satan. Read Matthew 4:3-4. The specific verse Jesus quoted is Deuteronomy 8:3.
It is in knowing specific passages of Scripture that the Holy Spirit can enable us to yield that sword effectively. Satan says, “Go ahead and do it, it’s okay.” The Holy Spirit uses the Rhema or specific verses to remind us that in such and such place in Scripture God said “No, you can’t do that.” Satan almost always presents us with a temptation that seems logical, or reasonable, and is so widely practiced that we are easily drawn into it. But the Holy Spirit uses the rhema to remind us that our actions are based not on what is popular but on that which is directed by God’s Word. What is important to see is that Satan does not back off because we tell him to but he backs off in response to specific commands or promises of God.
The sword that Christians carry is the rhema or a knowledge of specific passages that can be applied to a specific challenge, be it an attack by Satan or an attack on one of Satan’s strongholds. That means that when we use the Bible to destroy an attack or in battle against Satan, we need to know as specifically as possible where in the Bible the verse we need is found. It is for that reason that we are called upon to hide God’s word in our hearts so we will not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). There are times when we will simply know it is in the Bible. Ehe more effective way, however, is to know the verses we are quoting. It is fine to say, “The Bible tells us not to steal” the sword is more effective if we can say, “The Bible says (that’s the Logos) in Exodus 20:15 (that’s the rhema) “you shall not steal.” The implications for studying Scripture are many. Read II Timothy 2:15.
Remembering that the Word of God is the instrument that God uses in conflict with Satan or in our witness is critical. Read Isaiah 55:1.It is not self-determination that we stand on or with clever words and subtle arguments that we reach the lost. It is the powerful Word of God that enables us to do both.
Too often we worry about what we can say in some clever way to defeat the enemy. What are the right reasons to convince someone that something is sinful and has no place in one’s life? What unique way can I tell my friend he needs to make a commitment to Jesus? The answer is clear. Strike the enemy with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Read Hebrews 4:12.
The more we expose ourselves to the Scriptures, the more the Spirit can use that powerful sword in our life. If we never read, study, or memorize the Bible, we cannot use it effectively.
Another component of the challenge to effectively using the sword of the Word is to note that it is the sword of the Spirit. We must be careful not to separate the use of God’s Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is essential that we combine our knowledge of the Bible with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Satan knows Scripture better than we do and was able to quote it to Jesus. The challenge is not to simply memorize Scripture so we can quote it but to memorize it so we can allow the Holy Spirit to speak it through us. When the Holy Spirit speaks, Satan must listen. Paul began this section on the armor of God by declaring, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Read Ephesians 6:12. Read what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 10:4-5. We are in a spiritual battle against the attacks of Satan on us and our also attacks on the strongholds of sin including our witness to non-Christians and calling sin, sin. Because they are spiritual in nature, we must wear the entire armor of God. We must remember that the value of that armor is not in simply wearing it but in allowing the Holy Spirit to use it on us.
As Christians we need to begin every day asking God to protect us and our family from the attacks of the enemy. Throughout the day as we face temptations, we need to shoot a quick prayer to God for His help. We must never assume “I’ve got this on my own.” Before we study God’s Word, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to bless our study. As we prepare to share God’s Word be it in a witness to the need of salvation or in an attack on sin, we need to ask God to help us. We cannot separate the armor of God from the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
At the cross Satan was defeated. He was crushed and so he has no hope of a final victory over the believer. We are assured of the ultimate victory. In the meantime, however, our Lord has provided sufficient and adequate armor for daily, present tense victory. The issue is not the adequacy of the armor but the wearing and effective use of it as a soldier who is trained and prepared for battle and is dependent upon the Holy Spirit.