Summary: The words of the Word are the sword God has given to each Christian to defend the territory assigned. We must learn the Word and employ the Word, if we will successfully resist the evil one.
“Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
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].