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“Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”[1]
God’s Word is the sole weapon provided to His people to enable them to fulfil His charge to stand firm on the ground that He won through sacrifice.
Whenever we think of the Bible, we seldom think of it in militaristic terms.
However, Paul appears to have admired the martial aspects of national life, since he so frequently referred to the advance of the Faith in militaristic terms.
In our text, he clearly identifies this Word by the arresting phrase, “the sword of the Spirit.”
He speaks of the Word as both a defensive and an offensive weapon.
There was a time when the copies of Word of God were rare.
In those ancient days, the reading of the Word was a common feature of worship.
The people listened intently, seizing on the teachings and incorporating them into their lives.
Today, each home in Canada probably has at least one copy of the Bible—and in many instances, multiple copies.
However, there is not a great deal of evidence today that Canadians read the Word, much less appreciate the instruction of the Word—not even among the professed saints of God.
Nevertheless, this Word is identified as “the sword of the Spirit,” implying that it is to be used against the foe.
Many professing Christians admire the Word, declaiming devotion to the Word and avowing allegiance to what is taught.
However, the mass of people are ignorant both of the Word and of the One that gave the Word.
I recall an occasion when I was invited to address a congregation.
After a great deal of prayer, I decided to speak on the subject of the biblical ignorance of the saints.
As I stood to address the congregation, I asked how many of the people had a copy of the Bible with them.
Most indicated that they had brought a copy of the Word with them.
Those that did not have a Bible with them were asked to take a copy of the pew Bible.
Then, I invited them to turn to the fourth chapter of the Book of Hezekiah.
The people began to turn in their Bibles, though it was obvious as I waited for them that they were not having much success in finding the passage.
After a period, I mentioned that the Book was found immediately after Second Samson.
This announcement caused some confusion, but almost the entire congregation continued turning pages in a desperate search for the Book of Hezekiah.
A few desperate souls turned in their Bible to the index and scanned the books listed there.
First one and then another, with a sheepish look on their faces, closed their Bible and looked up.
When a number of people surrendered to the knowledge that they were not likely to find the Book of Hezekiah, I at last announced that I would be speaking from *Amos 8:11, 12* and addressing the subject of the saints’ ignorance of the Word of God.
It is likely that some were offended, but I can assure you that I had a rapt congregation for the remainder of the morning.
The pastor felt humiliated—he should have!
He had spent over twenty years with that particular congregation.
To think that his people were no better trained than that left him aghast.
However, in previous conversations he had stressed that he was a “counsellor,” not a teacher.
The evidence certainly led me to concur with him.
However, I could not help but recall that those appointed to the sacred desk must be “able to teach” [*1 Timothy 3:3*] and also are required to be “able to give instruction in sound doctrine” [*Titus 1:9*].
Following the service, a man approached me and introduced himself.
I recognised his name as that of a prominent theologian, whose writings I had read with great benefit over a period of years.
He was quite amused, and said, “Young man, you certainly enjoy a lot of freedom in the pulpit.
Seldom have I heard anyone speak as pointedly to the issue of biblical ignorance.
I trust you will maintain your courage.”
I hope I am not speaking to people content to admire the Word without using the Word.
God has given us this Word to use to the praise of His glory and for the benefit of all mankind.
This Word is given us to enable us to resist the wicked one, to permit us to hold the ground which the Saviour has entrusted to us, and to pierce the heart of darkness.
I invite you to think with me of this marvellous weapon God supplies.
*The Word, Our Sword* — Paul has itemised the items that comprise the panoply of the Christian warrior.
Make no mistake, if you are a Christian, you are appointed to be a warrior.
Though we are not to be warlike or combative, we are nevertheless warriors.
The Apostle to the Gentiles has spoken clearly of this aspect of the Christian life in a letter to Corinthian Christians.
“Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” [*2 Corinthians 10:3-5*].
Practically speaking, we have but one weapon with which to defend ourselves when the enemy closes, and that is the Word of God.
The broad implication arising from this knowledge leads us to conclude that we are responsible to be familiar with the Word, preparing ourselves to employ it whenever required.
In the history of the race, it has not been that many years since the Bible was rarely found in the homes of common individuals.
One need but return to a time in the western world before Wycliffe when the Bible had not been translated into the vernacular.
The Bibles that were available were written in Latin, a dead language.
Only a few priests could read the Latin Bibles, and they delivered to the people what they wanted them to hear.
The mass of people were ignorant of the Word of God, depending upon religion to make them acceptable in the sight of God and accepting without thinking the dictates of the clergy.
It is difficult for us to imagine a day when the Bible is not available to anyone.
However, until the invention of the printing press and the courageous efforts of men such as John Wycliffe who translated the Bible into the language of the common people, there was no possibility of someone who was not a member of the clergy or of the nobility ever seeing a Bible, much less holding one in his own hands.
How eagerly did the people of England seize the opportunity to read the very Word of the Living God in their own tongue!
I have a dear friend who has planted over twenty-seven churches in the Philippine Islands.
Before travelling to the Islands, he will purchase cases of Bibles in the Illocano dialect to distribute to the people in the jungle barrios.
His method of church planting is to enter a barrio where there is no evangelical witness and ask if there is interest in having a Bible study.
There has never been an instance where there were not a number of people eager to study the Word of God for themselves.
There is often opposition from religious leaders, but given the opportunity to study the Word of God for themselves, the villagers will seize that freedom.
As they study the Word together, many become believers; and as they turn in faith to the Son of God, they seek to obey Him through identifying with Him in baptism as commanded in the Gospels.
Having been saved, they begin to pray together and endeavouring to find the will of God for their lives, they soon ask about whether they should become a congregation.
Clemente prays with them, asking God to raise up elders and servants, which the Lord does.
He spends a few months longer with them, focusing in particular on the leaders whom God has raised up, teaching them the great truths of the Faith and equipping them for service as the God’s shepherds.
The result is churches where previously there were no congregations.
I should mention that Clemente is an electrical engineer.
He is not a trained pastor.
He has, however, a passion for the lost and unbridled confidence in the power of the Word to transform people who read it.
He is convinced of the work of the Spirit of God moving in the lives of those who are redeemed.
Consequently, God uses him powerfully and to His glory.
I have been privileged to witness the power of the Word of God on occasion.
I recall the first Bible study I ever led.
The pastor of a Bible church we were attending asked if I would lead a study of the Word.
I had never conducted a Bible study, but full of confidence in my abilities and unaware of what was entailed, I agreed.
When we met for that first evening, imagine my chagrin at the discovery that most of the fifteen or so people gathered were preparing for missionary work as Bible translators.
What would I say?
How could I teach such people?
Nevertheless, I had given my word that I would conduct a study, and so I began.
I asked on the first night what book of the Bible we should study.
After considerable discussion, we settled on the Book of James.
And so my education began.
I had a wide margin King James Bible and a couple of devotional commentaries that I had acquired; so, thus armed, I began the challenging job of teaching the Word of God.
At our next meeting, almost everyone there appeared with a Greek Testament in addition to their various English translations of the Bible.
Very quickly, I discovered how utterly unprepared I was to teach them anything.
Somehow, I stumbled through the first night’s study, concluding with a request that each participant read the Book of James at least once a day in preparation for the coming week’s study.
I spent a great deal of time in prayer and reading the Bible before the next study, but I knew that I knew less than anyone else present.
Before the study began, a woman asked if she could speak to the group.
Thinking that it would surely eat up a little time and make my inadequacy appear a little less glaring, I readily assented to her request.
She began by noting how unstimulating the lesson had been the week before and how she had half-heartedly decided to read James.
As she read, she came under conviction that she was a fraud, pretending to be a Christian when in fact she had never believed.
That week, she testified, while reading James, she had come to faith in the Living Son of God.
Almost immediately after she finished, a man asked permission to speak, to which request I willingly agreed.
His testimony was similar to that we had just heard, except he confessed that though he was a believer, he had been “playing at church.”
Reading the Word, he came under conviction and had experienced revival in his own life in that week preceding.
These testimonies unleashed a torrent of confession as one after another individuals spoke of renewed love for the Saviour as result of reading the Word, as they spoke of reanimation of devotion to His service and as they spoke of reinvigorated love for His people.
Revival broke out and God worked powerfully to glorify His Name.
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