Using The Sword Of The Spirit

By Eugene P Vedder, Jr. (adapted from the “Prayer Calendar,” November 2015)

It has often been pointed out that the sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon on the list of the pieces of the Christian’s armor given us in Ephesians 6. In ancient times armies had many different weapons, a number of which are mentioned in the Bible. A sword, like a bayonet today, could be used at close range for both defense and offense. Likewise, God’s Word is our weapon against the enemy.

How should we use God’s Word against the enemy? God’s Word is not meant to be used as a club for the flesh. It goes without saying that we should not use our Bibles to physically hit someone. Swords are seldom used in warfare today, but fencing is still a skilled sport in the Olympics and otherwise. Using God’s Word against the enemy of our souls is not a light matter. It involves being able to use the right specific texts against our foe. God wants us to know His Word and use it with skill, but not with mere human skill. The Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible is willing and desires to aid us in how we use it.

As always, the Lord Jesus is our great example here. After His baptism He spent 40 days without food in the wilderness tempted by the Devil. Three of the temptations are recorded for us in both Matthew and Luke.

To resist Satan, our Lord, who repeatedly refers to Himself as “the Son of Man,” did not make use of His divine power as Son of God. Rather, He was here as the dependent Man, the Holy One of God, not doing His own will. According to Isaiah 50:4, He was guided by God the Father’s direction morning by morning in every word and deed. He countered each temptation by quoting a verse of Scripture refuting that temptation. He was thoroughly acquainted with even what we might think of as obscure Scripture passages. “It is written” was how He warded off every thrust of the enemy.

As we study the Acts and Epistles we find the apostles often quoting from the Old Testament in their messages and writings. Those who know Greek tell us that some of these quotations are from the Septuagint, a translation into Greek of the Old Testament that had been made more than 200 years earlier. Other quotations are very literal translations from the Hebrew, and some are very free renderings of or allusions to the passage referred to in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit guided the apostles in all that they said or wrote. We appreciate too that the Holy Spirit led the New Testament writers, thereby providing us with an absolutely accurate record of the apostles’ teaching.

We also know, but often do not bear in mind, that in scriptural times every copy of any portion of God’s Word was written by hand. Scrolls were bulky and costly, and very few people would have possessed their own copies of such books. Printing was not invented until the mid-1400’s. We are enormously blessed to have in our language personal copies of the Bible that we can read and carry with us wherever we go! We can even store the entire Bible on a cell phone.

In the days of the Lord and His apostles many people were illiterate, a problem that even today has not been completely overcome. To be able to use the sword of the Spirit meant that a person had paid careful attention when hearing the Word read, had taken it in, digested it and, in all likelihood, memorized portions of it. Likewise we are to hide God’s Word in our hearts, the center of our beings. This is more than just having an intellectual knowledge of the Word.

Memorization is something that many of our educational systems no longer promote. We can understand this in terms of the things of this world. All sorts of information is readily available to us with a few clicks of the fingers on the internet. God’s Word, however, is not just for the mind.

Technology has made it easy to count how many times a word or phrase occurs in the Bible or in a portion of it, whether in our own language or in the original Hebrew or Greek in which God’s Word was written. But what does this mean to our heart? How do we grow in our appreciation of the preciousness of the Lord Jesus or of the privilege of being a member of the body of Christ? How do we grow in our longing to please Him and to make Him known? Such joys and desires are matters of the heart rather than merely of the mind!

One way we give assent to the value of memorization is by having our children learn verses and recite them in Sunday School. Yet we tend to be rather half-hearted in this. Often we commend a child who stumbles through or even reads a single verse that he began to learn a few minutes earlier, and which he will in all likelihood forget before the end of the day. We seldom explain the meanings of words and concepts which the child does not understand, and we most often expect the verses to be memorized in an antiquated translation to which children have difficulty relating. We would help our children and new Christians better to hide God’s Word in their hearts if they would be taught the meanings of the verses they learn. In Nehemiah’s day God’s earthly people rejoiced “because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (Neh. 8:12), not simply because they had been at a big, unusually important meeting. Following this meeting they were interested in learning more of what God had to say to them!

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is more than merely memorizing Scripture. God has given most of our children excellent minds. It is amazing how much they can take in and how well they can learn! God gives them credit for wanting to learn too, and He tells parents to answer their questions. One of our biggest mistakes in teaching our children the Word is to ask school age children to learn only one verse a week. Most are capable of learning longer passages, far more than we usually expect them to do. It pays to take time to answer their questions, encourage and challenge them to learn to use and become proficient in the use of the sword of the Spirit. How greatly we can help them by taking time to read God’s Word to them and with them, teaching them to understand what God says and helping them to hide these things in their hearts. We too will be helped as we help them! God’s Word is a rich mine of treasure. There is no limit to how much we can enjoy it and be benefited by seeking to understand and hide it in our hearts, making it part of our inmost being.

By Eugene P Vedder, Jr. (adapted from the “Prayer Calendar,” November 2015)

Author: Sebastien

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