The Power of the Sword

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I was a collector of blades in my early twenties. I thought I was going to collect swords and knives and have a room full of swords on display all over the walls. I wasn’t always looking for something functional. I saw them as art. I wanted the displays to make a statement. I would see a sword in a movie and think that would be cool to have in real life. Lo and behold, people began creating replicas of blades used in movies. I bought a few, but over the years finances and priorities changed. I sold a few, gave a few away, but I retained some of my favorites. Over the years I found myself desiring function over form, and that remains true today.
Blades come in all shapes and sizes. Some are single-edge and some are double-edge. Double-edged swords are some of the nastiest around. They are highly effective for thrusting and, because it has been sharpened on both sides of the blade, cuts both ways. This was the sort of sword a Roman soldier wore on his belt in the 1st century and the source of Paul’s inspiration in Ephesians 6:17.
Ephesians 6:17 NASB95
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We are on the final piece of our series called Suit Up. We acknowledge there is a spiritual war taking place, of which victory is certain as Christ has overcome sin and death through his death, burial, and resurrection. We still struggle against the devil and the forces of darkness as well as our own sin, but we look forward to the day where the war is over. Until then, we suit up. We put on our armor to stand against the devil and his schemes, to quench the fiery arrows he has launched at us until the day final deliverance has come. We keep fighting. We keep pushing against the darkness seeking those who need rescuing from the shackles of sin.
The word of God is the sword of the Spirit and to further understand this comparison, we need to jump over to Hebrews chapter 4.
Hebrews 4:12 NASB95
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.
Here we have a description of the word of God in which it is also compared to a sword.

The word of God cuts deeper than any other word.

The word of God is a living word. It is such because it comes from a living God. The Bible does not claim to be the words of men about God, or the opinions of men on how they perceived religious matters. The Bible claims to be the words of God passed down to human authors in such a way that the Spirit of God presided over the process, yet the authors were able to write using their own personalities and writing styles.
2 Peter 1:20–21 NASB95
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
The sixty-six books we hold in our hands today were not the inventions of men, but revelation of a living God who used human agency to communicate his message. The word of God is living because it comes from a living God.
The word of God is active in that it is not powerless. It has a profound effect on the reader.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB95
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
The Bible’s words bring salvation to those who will respond to it. The words of scripture convict us of our sin. It shows us who we really are, where we stand before God, and what has been done about it. When we respond to it, it transforms us from the inside out, shaping the way we think and act. It has transformative power.
God has also promised that is word will never return void. In Isaiah 55 there is a call to seek the Lord and if he is sought, forgiveness will be found. It is in this call to seek the Lord that God says this:
Isaiah 55:10–11 NASB95
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
The word of God will always achieve its intended purpose. When you and I speak biblical truth to others, it will always have the desired effect. The word of God both condemns and restores. It calls sinners to recognize their sinfulness and it calls those same sinners to throw themselves on the mercy of God who already paid the penalty of their sins through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The word of God cuts deeper than any other word. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts so deep that it cuts between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. Much has been said to try and understand what the writer’s intent was here. What we are sure of is that this is a figure of speech and it seems to communicate the idea that there is no part of a person that can remain hidden from the revelation of God. We think we can hide ourselves from God, but he sees all. He knows our deepest, darkest secrets, and chose to love us so much that he would send his own son to pay the price for it anyway!

While the sword is a weapon, it should be used defensively.

We have the most powerful message in existence in our hands and it is powerful. But as Peter Parker’s uncle once told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Wielding the sword of the Spirit comes with a great amount of responsibility for the user. With it the user can cut someone down but he can also build someone up. How you use it is up to you.
The Word of God is primarily to train us in righteousness and equip us for ministry not only amongst each other, but in the world waiting for us beyond these walls. As we live out our convictions, our lifestyle should be a testimony to who Jesus is. Jesus did not intend for us to rely solely on our visible lifestyle to win people to him. He commanded us to go and tell. As we live our lives, we should expect there will be some who will ask us why we believe in Jesus. We should strive to give intelligent answers.
1 Peter 3:15 NASB95
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
The words “to make a defense” is a legal term. This is what a lawyer does in a court room trial. He presents the best evidence he can provide for the position he is arguing for to try to sway the jury and the judge to take his point of view. This is not all too different than what we are doing in evangelism. We are trying to present the best case for why a person should believe the Bible is true and we ought to use the Bible as our foundation for why we hold certain views or live a certain way. This is what we call apologetics, which comes from the Greek word we translate to make a defense. In this tactic, I am presenting the gospel, and as objections arise, I answer them to the best of my ability. This is giving a defense using the weapon God has placed in my hand.
This was Jesus’ tactic when he was tempted in the wilderness.
Matthew 4:1–11 NASB95
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 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.’ ” Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will command His angels concerning You’; and On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’ ” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
As Jesus faced temptations, as you and I do every day, he turned to the words of Scripture to defend himself. The temptations Jesus faced were real. You and I face temptations every day. While we may wear a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness to share the gospel of peace, carry a shield of faith, and wear a helmet of salvation, we must take up the word of God, truth itself, to defend ourselves against temptation, including the temptation to use it to cut others down.

We wield the sword of the Spirit well when we use it to combat falsehood with truth.

Memorization of scripture is key in wielding the sword of the Spirit well. This is something we do not spend enough time doing. I encourage you to carve out some time to work on memorizing scripture. There are an abundance of resources out there including mobile apps, books, and online tools. Spend some time this week memorizing a verse you may not know very well. It could even be one from today’s sermon.
With the rest of the time I have today, I want to share with you another tool you might consider using when thinking about how to apply Ephesians 6:10-17 as a whole. A couple months ago now, everybody received a copy of Donald Whitney’s book Praying the Bible. Today, we will be applying the concepts from that book to this passage.
This might seem a little cheeky or silly, but if it works, it works. There are six pieces of armor in the armor of God. Might I suggest that you turn each one into a prayer as you get dressed as you start your day? It might go something like this:
Lord, as I put this belt on today, may it be a reminder to commit myself to your truth according to your word. Protect me from Satan’s lies and protect me from believing anything that you have not said is true.
Lord, as I put on this shirt, let it be a reminder of the breastplate of righteousness. Today I commit to living out your word to the best of my ability. I choose to do right by you and by others. I pray that you would guide my thoughts and my actions to that end.
Lord, as I put on these shoes today, let it be a reminder that I should be ready to share your gospel with others. I pray you would give me the opportunity to tell somebody about you today. I pray that I would not shy away from the opportunity when it comes, but to speak with kindness and boldness the saving power of the cross.
Lord, I pray as I put on [Insert item here], may it be a reminder of the shield of faith. Help me walk by faith in your promises today instead of fear. I know you hold my future and you have proven your faithfulness in the past. Help me walk in faith today.
Lord, as I put on [hat, or some other item] remind me of the assurance of my salvation. Guard me from doubts today as the enemy seeks to make me question your love for me. Remind me in the midst of my struggles that Jesus paid it all to purchase my pardon and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Lord, as I hold this Bible in my hands, may it be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. May I listen to your word today. Help me recall what you have said as I face various trials today. May your word guard my life, my thoughts, and my actions as I go about today’s activities. May I allow your word to shape me and mold me into a better disciple today.
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