Rev. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.
And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We have a sword!
Thank God, while the arrows of the wicked assail us and while Satan hurls his fiery darts at us, we do not have to sit by helplessly and question the outcome.
We have a sword!
That makes our armor complete. We are covered from head to toe. Our spiritual loins are protected by the girdle of truth, our breast is secure with the breastplate of the righteousness of Jesus, our feet are shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace. With the helmet of salvation our minds are secure, and with the shield of faith we have additional security against the fiery darts of the enemy.
We also have a sword.
With that sword we are able to be aggressive. We can attack the enemy ourselves, we can begin our own assault, we can “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, 8) and, “put to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:34).
A soldier without a sword would be in a most precarious position. Imagine that the enemy had begun the battle by shooting his fiery arrows and hurling his incendiary darts. In the midst of such a holocaust, the Roman soldier could make out the approaching army. Quickly, he would take his shield, pull on his helmet, grab his sword, and face the foe. The text refers to the short sword used in close combat. There were also long swords, three or four feet in length, with which they could jab and kill from a greater distance. (Such as word is referred to inRevelation 1:16: “Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (great sword.)” Here however the word used refers to the shorter one of about 12-15 inches in length. There was no other way to victory than for the soldier to unsheath his sword and face the enemy. He had to kill, to wound, to strike fear in the heart of the enemy. Only then would the enemy ever flee for his life or be defeated by death.
Our faithful God has given to us a sword, a weapon for the battle of faith.
It is appropriately called, “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
” The “word of God” is the Holy Bible, Gods written Word, which is further described as a sword which the Holy Spirit provides. We do well to emphasize that this belongs together. The Bible without the Spirit is just another book. To imagine that the Spirit speaks apart from the Bible leads to mysticism and all sorts of abomination. Here, the two are identified as one, our sword is the Word of God which was produced by the Holy Spirit. What God wants us to know as soldiers is graciously provided for us by the Spirit on the pages of Holy Writ.
The word translated “word” of God is the Greek word which emphasizes speech, the act of communicating. God spoke His Word, and it was in turn written, so that we can know His speech. All the books of the Bible, written over a period of some 1,600 years with as many as forty authors, contribute to the one message which God communicates to mankind. He is God, and salvation is necessary and provided in none other name than that of Jesus. It comes to us in the form of history, poetry, prophecy, etc. No passage contradicts any other; each complements the other.
How can that be explained?
There is only one author, the Eternal Spirit of God.
This is what Scripture claims for itself.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (II Tim. 3:16). “For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21).
The Word of God is here called the sword of the Spirit. The Spirit is the One who produced it. He prepared the authors so that they could write. David, for example, was a shepherd as preparation for the writing of Psalm 23. The Spirit gave them the desire to write. According to Luke 1:1-4, for example, it seemed good to Luke to add to the collected writings his own account of the ministry of Jesus. The same Spirit revealed to the writers what to write, He guided their hands to write accurately, and He finally led the church to include in the canon of Scripture all the books which He willed to include.
The written Word of God forms the basis for the spoken word. When the Bible is used as the sword of the Spirit, it includes its written form. God is able to work through the Bible as He wills. Just the reading of the Bible can be a powerful influence on the lives of people. There is more. The Bible forms the basis for the preaching of the gospel and the witness of the believers. The Holy Spirit works effectively through such speaking to accomplish His purpose. When the Word is preached, the Holy Spirit exposes error and convicts souls. He frees from the dominion of sin and turns men over to the power of the lie. The same is true for the admonition of the elders, and the comfort of the deacons. We bring this Word to our children and to one another. It is like a sword. It destroys the enemy and brings to the feet of Jesus all those for whom He died.
We do well to remind ourselves what a precious gift this sword of the Spirit really is.
If we use anything else, we must be warned by this word of God and take heed as Christian soldiers. Are you confronted by someone who wants to argue with you about your faith? Does anyone call into question your walk of obedience? Are you having difficulty with the behavior or belief of your husband or wife? What about your children – are they unruly, are they walking in sin, do they raise questions and ask why certain things are the way you say they are? How do you deal with these situations? Do you just shrug it off and say, “Well, that’s the way it is”? Do you say, “Believe me because I said so”? Do you try to reason with your children only from the point of view of their own good? Do we resort to human science and philosophy? If so, we fail to use the sword of the Spirit. We need to open our Bibles. We must show to them what God has to say. This is critical to our effective warfare.
Thus it has been throughout the entire history of Christ’s church. Micaiah could do nothing but speak the word of the Lord to Ahab, even though it brought him the bread of affliction (I Kings 22). Jesus used this sword when He contended with Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). Each time He said, “It is written.” To the lawyer who tempted Him with subtle words, Jesus said, What is written in the law?” (Luke 10:25, 26). Jesus opened up the prophets to the two travelers to Emmaus (Luke 24:13ff.). Wherever the apostles preached the gospel, they demonstrated that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and prophets (Acts 8:26ff.), as Philip did to the Ethiopian eunuch. This is the great lesson of the Reformation. The influence of the church in her ministry is not to be found in tradition, or in the words of men, but in the Holy Scriptures. Luther and Calvin both answered the charges of the apostate church by requiring of them that they demonstrate their beliefs from the Word of God. The only thing binding their conscience was the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. In all that controversy, they used that sword in battle. They exposed error, defied false accusation, and taught the people the great comfort of the gospel, justification by faith in Jesus Christ.
Why is this so? Why is the only effective offensive weapon against all of Satan’s assaults the Word of God? It is because of what the Bible really is. It is the last word regarding doctrine and life. It carries the authority of the sovereign God. Again and again the saints of old cried out, “Thus saith the Lord.” That settles all disputes, it exposes all error, it asserts truth. In addition, the Word of God is clear. Its message is so simple a child can grasp it. One does not need to know Hebrew and Greek in order to know the mind of the Spirit. He needs but read his Authorized Version. Even archaic language need not stand in the way, for with a little effort the message can easily be discerned. The Bible is sufficient. Other books may be helpful, but they are not necessary. You don’t need to believe a certain system of theology or to embrace a certain philosophy in order to know what God says in the Bible. If the only book a person every studied all His life were the Bible, it would be adequate. Finally, the Bible is necessary, for there is salvation in no other name given among men than that of Jesus, and He is set forth in the Bible and nowhere else.
Little wonder, then, that in the midst of the battle of faith, Satan designs to grab that sword out of the hands of the Christian soldier. This is why the battle for the Bible is so crucial for the victory today. Satan tries to distort truth by introducing so many new translations that he can subtly insert distortions (e.g., denials of the divinity of Christ or the atonement). He would like us to use many different translations in our homes, schools, churches, so that we can’t even quote the Bible anymore. The new method of interpreting the Bible is an attempt to take our Bibles away and to destroy their effectiveness. More than anything, however, if we are so busy that we can’t even read our Bibles and are ignorant of their contents, we won’t use them anyway.
Use your sword, dear reader.
That’s the only way to victory.
It is guaranteed; for the same Spirit who gave us the Bible is the Spirit who gives us understanding, helps us to explain it, motivates us to quote it, and ultimately applies it in the hearts of His dear people.
The Word of God is still powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12).
As soldiers we maybe wounded and scarred in battle, but when we fight with the sword of the Spirit in hand, we die victorious.
The mouths of liars shall be stopped. Those who confess truth shall rejoice. Gods Word never returns to Him void.
This is victory!