Armor of God Series, Conclusion

The Sword of the Spirit
—Ephesians 6:17

THE LAST OF the accoutrements of the armor is described in the last part of the 17th verse of the 6th chapter of Ephesians. We read there about “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” In Matthew 11:29, our Lord referred to himself, saying, “Learn of me; I am meek and lowly in heart.” Just how do we in our minds reconcile the image of meekness with that of an armed soldier? We have heard of the breastplate, the sandals, the shield and the helmet; all for protection. They are defensive in nature. There is no conflict between a meek individual and one attempting to defend himself. But the sword presents a different aspect, since it is both an offensive weapon and a defensive weapon. We suggest that in the context of Ephesians 6, the sword should also be viewed solely as defensive—in exactly the same way as the other elements of the armor.

Let us look specifically at the 13th verse. Here Paul says: “Take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” That was the purpose for the armor. We are to stand our ground in the evil day, and the sword helps us to do that.

The 17th verse defines the sword. There is no speculation required. Paul says, “The sword is the Word of God.” Frequently, in years long gone, a speaker might ask the question, “How many swords do we have here today?” Then each one in the audience would hold up their Bible. It is true that the Bible is the Word of God. But the Bible, as a closed book in your hand, or in your head, is not the sword. It is, however, what energizes your sword. The sword is your tongue!

Notice in Revelation 1:16, John describes someone ‘like unto the Son of man’. “He had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.” There is the sword. In Revelation 2:16, the message to the church in Pergamos, reads: “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” The sword is not in your hand, but it is in your mouth. John is representing words as though they were a sharp sword. The words pronounced by the Lord cut and penetrate deeply. The 20th Century New Testament Translation of the Greek reads this way, “I will contend with such men with words that will cut like a sword.”—Rev. 2:10

A long time ago, we heard a speaker whose topic was “God’s Workshop.” In the discussion of this topic, the speaker reviewed supposed conversations among the tools, when the master was absent from his workshop. They were discussing which one was most important in working on the masterpieces that came from the master’s hand. The speaker said: “Just as the chisel arose to deliver a cutting remark, the master entered the room.” Most of us, at one time or another, have been on the receiving end of cutting remarks. Some of us have even been guilty of delivering them from time to time. This illustrates what harm the tongue can do.

The psalmist also pictures the tongue as a sword. In Psalm 57:4, we read. “My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.” The same picture is given in Isaiah 49:2: “He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me.”

It is the Word of God that is in your mouth that Paul pictures as the sword. Hebrews 4:12, making that point, reads: “The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” We suggest that the sword is your tongue, and its purpose as described by Paul is a defensive one in the picture of the armor of God.

How do we use the sword to defend ourselves? A good way to answer that question is to see how our Lord defended himself with his sword or tongue, when he was tempted by the Adversary in the wilderness. After his baptism he went into the wilderness, and near the close of the forty days, the Adversary came to him. In Matthew 4:3,4, it says, “When the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” But Jesus answered and said, “It is written …” (vss 6,7) The temptor said, “Cast thyself down for it is written …” And Jesus said unto him, “It is written again …” And in verses 9 and 10 the tempter says, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Then said Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written …” All three times, Jesus did not even consider debating the Adversary. The Word of God in his mouth provided all of the defense that he needed for any situation in which he found himself.

The Adversary’s behavior here is a good illustration of how he hurls the fiery darts at his various targets. One way is an appeal to the gratification of one’s own fleshly appetites. If that fails, he tries to appeal to one’s pride; and if that fails, then he suggests that perhaps there is an easier way to accomplish your objective. The Adversary will even quote Scripture, himself, to try to shake our complete faith in, and devotion to, the Lord. But the Word of God in the mouth of Jesus was better than any literal two-edged sword could ever be. When we are at a loss how to proceed, the Word of God provides all the direction we could ever want.

Note the comments in Acts the 15th chapter, on the question of whether the Gentiles ought to be accepted into the fellowship or not. After this had been debated and they had heard the report of Peter, then James spoke, “Simon [Peter] had told us how for the first time God had looked with favor on the Gentiles, and has chosen from among them, a people dedicated to his name. This is in agreement with the words of the prophets.” (Acts 15:14,15, Knox Translation) Notice how this became part of James’ sword in considering the problems of the church at that time.

The ability to quote the words of God is not enough. For instance, remember Eve in the Garden of Eden. She could quote the words of God. We quote Eve, as recorded in Genesis 3:3, “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” When you read this account, you can get the strong impression that she did know the words of God, but was not quite sure whether or not she believed them. She seems to have been readily willing to accept the suggestion of the Adversary. Therefore, she could be implying that perhaps God was lying. She agreed and proceeded to carry out the suggestion the Adversary gave her. From this incident we can see that just because we know the Word of God, it is not enough. You have to know it; you have to believe it; and then you have to act on that belief. Eve did not do that.

Most tools that we have today require maintenance. If you do not believe that, then do not maintain them, and you will soon discover that you are in trouble! The sword is no exception. In fact, so is the whole armor. If the sword were simply the Word of God, it would not need any maintenance. The Word of God remains the same: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But since the Word of God is what energizes our swords—our tongues—we do need to maintain our sword. How do we do this?

Paul said to Timothy, “Try hard to show yourself worthy of God’s approval, as a laborer that needs not to be ashamed. Be straight-forward in your proclamation of the truth. Avoid empty and worldly chatter. Those who indulge in it will stray further and further into godless courses.” (II Tim. 2:15,16, New English Bible) Our first rule of maintenance to keep our sword sharpened and rustfree is to work at being worthy of God’s approval. We do this by daily study and meditation on his Word, as we try to understand just what the truth is. If we do not apply ourselves to this step, it would be like driving a car without putting any fuel in it. Soon the car is going to stop because it has no energy supply. You have to put the energy into the car in order to get the benefit from it. We have to do that too.

Another helpful rule is to commit texts of Scripture to memory. Centuries ago, many literary works were memorized because there were not the huge number of books available that we now enjoy. We have concordances of the Bible, and they are a wonderful aid. But even if we do not remember exactly where a particular scripture is, we should know that a particular scripture exists, and a few of the key words it contains. Then we can use the concordance to find it. Jesus had the entire Old Testament recorded in his mind. He applied texts from the Old Testament appropriately, no matter what situation he was in. We ought to do the same, so far as possible. In I Peter 3:15, New English Bible, “Be always ready with your defense whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you, but make that defense with modesty and with respect.” This is a good example of the defensive idea of the sword.

There is still another rule, which is extremely important! Do not depend upon your own wisdom in this battle. One single text of scripture is more powerful than anyone’s opinion. Eve attempted to reason with the Adversary when she should have continued to quote God’s words, and to put her trust in them.

And, finally, no matter how complete our armor is, no matter how skilled we are in its use, without prayer we will be defeated. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” (Eph. 6:18) In I Thessalonians 5:17, Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright. Maintenance applied to the complete set of armor is all important.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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