************ Sermon on Ephesians 6:17b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 8, 2018
"The Sword of the Spirit"
We are told to "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph 6:10). We are told to put on God's might and power.
We used to live close to Niagara Falls and would hike to the bottom of the Falls and once were given a private tour of the hydro-electric plant. I watched the water rushing through the tunnels and turning the turbines. The electricity from that plant powered homes, farms, and factories throughout Ontario and New York.The power we Christians are told to put on is far greater and far more awesome than the power coming from Niagara Falls. It is power beyond compare. It is power that is limitless. Available to the Christian is the power that created heaven and earth out of nothing. Available to the Christian is the power that raised Jesus from the dead. Available to the Christian is the power of Jesus seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. That is mighty power.
Why do we need this power. We need this power to protect ourselves from the attacks of the evil one. Because, don't forget, we are in a war, a battle. We are fighting against Satan and his demons. Satan hates us. He hates us because we are the body of Christ. He hates us and fights us because we serve Christ instead of him. So we need the power of God.
How do we make this power ours? By putting on the armor of God.
We've been looking at the armor of God. HOLD UP PICTURE. We've looked at:
-the belt of truth -- which is knowing sound doctrine and being true and committed in our faith
-the breastplate of righteousness -- which is not our righteousness but the righteousness/holiness of Christ given to us by Christ
-the shoes of the gospel -- which means when we have a relationship with Jesus we can stand against everything and anything Satan throws at us
-the shield of faith -- which means believing God, believing Jesus, believing their Word, accepting their promises
-the helmet of salvation -- which is our hope in the fullness of salvation: that is, the return of Christ, the resurrection or transformation of the body, the creation of a new heaven and new earth, life forever with Christ
Tonight we look at the sword of the Spirit.
I The Sword of the Roman Soldier
The armor we have looked at so far is primarily defensive, used to protect the soldier from the attacks of the enemy. But now we come to a piece of the armor that is used for both defense and offense.
Paul had a choice of two Greek words for sword. He could have used the word "rhomphaia." This is the broad sword I mentioned last time. The rhomphaia is a massive double-edged sword that is 3-4 feet in length. The handle is gripped in both hands. The soldier raises it high over his head and strikes down on his enemy's head, splitting open the skull.
Instead, Paul used the Greek word "machaira." The machaira is more like a dagger or a knife, with a single cutting edge. When we turn to Matthew 26, we see that the Roman soldiers who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden were armed with the machaira sword. Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest with a machaira sword (Mt 26:47,51). King Herod had James the brother of John killed with the macharia sword (Acts 12:2). The machaira sword was used against the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 (Heb 11:34,37).
The machaira sword was the normal, everyday sword of the Roman soldier. The machaira sword was used in hand-to-hand combat. To be effective, the machaira sword had to be used in a precise way. You didn't just grip it in both hands and strike down as with the rhomphaia sword. As Peter found out in the Garden of Gethsemane, the machaira sword required finesse and skill instead of brute strength. You needed to be trained and drilled in its use so you could turn aside the weapon of the enemy and be able to stab and strike him a mortal blow.
II The Sword of the Christian
A "Take ... the sword of the Spirit." That's what Paul says to the Ephesian Christians. That's what Paul says to you and me. Take the machaira sword -- the sword that requires finesse and skill, the sword that requires training and drilling. Take the machaira sword so you can turn aside the weapon of the enemy and be able to stab and strike him a mortal blow.
Paul calls it the sword "of the Spirit." It can also be translated as the sword "from the Spirit." What Christians carry is a spiritual sword.
Like the machaira sword of the Roman soldier, the Christian's sword is meant to injure. When we use this sword against Satan, we are out to deal him a blow that will cripple him and keep him from hindering God’s work.
B "Take ... the sword of the Spirit." Notice the next phrase: "which is the word of God." The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. The Bible. Even unbelievers have the Bible; I suspect most of our unbelieving neighbors have a Bible in their home. I doubt if this is still done, but in our home Ruth and I have a giant King James Bible presented to every couple in DeMotte, Indiana who applied for a marriage license. Most hotel rooms still have a Gideon Bible. Unbelievers have the Bible. So it is not enough to have a Bible. That is not what Paul has in mind.
"Take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Something more is needed. That something is the Spirit of God. By the Spirit, believers take the word of God and it becomes alive, it becomes a flaming sword, it becomes a weapon to use against the Devil.
Do you hear what I am saying, congregation? By the Spirit the Bible is your weapon. A weapon given to you by God. A weapon you are called to use. A weapon requiring finesse and skill. A weapon that requires training and drilling on your part so that you know how to use it.
Do you know how long Paul spent in Ephesus? He spent three long years there. Paul was so eager to bring the Gospel to Rome and Spain and throughout Asia Minor, yet he paused on his missionary journeys to spend three years in Ephesus. Do you know why? He was teaching the Ephesian Christians. He taught publicly and from house to house (cf Acts 20:20, 27). Why? He was teaching them how to use the sword. He was teaching them how to use the sword of the Spirit effectively. He was teaching them the Bible.
We spend a lot of time and effort in this church doing the same thing as Paul. Why do I preach the Word Sunday after Sunday? Why do I teach the sound doctrine of the Creeds and Confessions? Why do we have Sunday School and Catechism? Why do we have Bible Studies? Why do we have GEMS, Cadets, and Youth Group? Why does the church camp-out include talks? Why do we have devotions before every meeting? Why do the elders ask about devotions in family visits? Why do we promote Christian education? Because we want our members to be able to use the sword of the Spirit. Because we want to train our little ones in its use. Because we want to arm our youth before they go out into the world. Because we want to protect our marriages and families and homes and our church from the attacks of the evil one.
I hope this is not true in Trinity URC, but many Christians fall victim to Satan because they don't know how to use this weapon, because they are inept with this weapon, because they don't know their Bibles. It is pretty sad when JWs are able to argue most Christians under the table. If this describes you please, please spend time with the Bible every day, be involved in Bible Study, attend worship. For your sake and the sake of your children. And, if this doesn't describe you, continue spending time in the Word, being involved in Bible Study, and attending worship.
C "Take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Now, what can we say about this weapon?
First, the Bible is inspired. Listen to what Paul says about this:
(2 Tim 3:16-17) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(CF 2 Pet 1:20-21)
Second, the Bible is infallible. It does not lead astray. Closely connected to this we can add the Bible is inerrant. Which means there is no error in it. That's why the psalmist can say "The law of the Lord is perfect" (Ps 19:7) and the wise man can say "Every word of God is flawless" (Prov 30:5). Not some words. Not most words. But all words.
Third, the Bible is sufficient. It tells us all we need to know for our salvation (cf 2 Tim 3:15).
Fourth, the Bible is effective. Isaiah compares the Word to rain and snow that water the earth and make it bud and flourish.
(Isa 55:11) so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Fifth, the Bible is powerful. Under the Spirit, it is a weapon of amazing power. So powerful that nothing can withstand it and nothing can overpower it.
This reminds me of an incident that allegedly happened in the former USSR in 1935. Stalin was asked to improve the situation of Catholics in the USSR so as not to provoke a quarrel with the Pope. In reply Stalin asked, "The Pope? How many divisions does he have?"Well, let me tell you that if the Pope was a true Christian then in the sword of the Spirit he had far more power available to him than all the armies and bombs of Russia.
D The sword of the Spirit is the source of victory over the enemy. I've noticed something over the years. When I counsel church members caught in a public sin almost all of them tell me they pray and almost all of them also tell me they rarely or never read the Bible. If you want victory over Satan, you need to spend time with the Word and in the Word. You need to study and meditate and search and memorize.
I want to direct your attention to Jesus. When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Christ used the sword of the Spirit to defeat the enemy. Three times in response to Satan, Jesus said, "It is written" (Lk 4:1-13). But we notice that Satan also quoted the Word (Lk 4:10), but he did not quote it completely. Satan tries to use the Word of God to confuse us, so it is important that we know every word that God has given us. "You can prove anything by the Bible," someone said. True -- if you take verses out of context, leave out words, and twist the meaning. The better you know the Word of God, the easier it will be for you to detect Satan’s lies and reject his offers.
So, you need to use the Bible -- as the sword of the Spirit -- to defend yourself against the attacks of Satan. The sword of the Spirit is your defense against temptation, discouragement, lusts of the flesh, pride, anger, an unforgiving spirit.
But you also need to use the Bible -- as the sword of the Spirit -- to go on the offensive and attack Satan. Every time you present the Gospel to an unbeliever, you know what you are doing? You are taking the sword of the Spirit and using it against the Dominion of Darkness. Whenever you dare to speak out on the public issues of the day and declare, "This is what the Lord says ..." you are taking the sword of the Spirit against the evil realms. Whenever you are teaching, rebuking, and correcting your children and grand children from the Word, you are fighting Satan with the sword of the Spirit.
E Satan knows the Word is the sword of the Spirit. He knows this sword is powerful and effective. So you know what he does? He does everything in his power to stop the Word, to silence the Word, to kill the Word. This is one of the lessons of the Parable of the sower and the seed. Satan loves it when the Word falls on the path and is snatched away, when it falls on rocky places and has no root, when it falls among thorns and is choked out by the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth (cf Mt 13).
We see the work of the Devil in the history of the church. By the time of the Reformation, Satan had succeeded in largely silencing the Word and making people and even priests ignorant of the Word. Satan removed the sword of the Spirit from the church and the church crept into error and heresy.
But Reformers like John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, and Guido de Bres took the sword of the Spirit. Satan attacked them. Numerous Reformers lost their lives. But they knew this was the only way to defend against and attack the devil's schemes. They knew they needed to use the Bible. Do you know what the Puritans decided early on? They decided every Christian ought to have a Bible. Why? Because if you don't have a Bible you don't have a sword. William Tyndale was shocked by the clergy's ignorance of the Bible. To one such clergy he declared: "If God spare my life for many years, I will cause the boy at the plow to know more of Scripture than you." Here Tyndale was echoing Erasmus’ famous inscription in the preface to his Greek New Testament: "I would to God that the plowman would sing a text of the Scripture at his plow and that the weaver would hum them to the tune of his shuttle."
We can thank God for such people. They put into practice the words of our text: "Take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
"Take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." I want to end by telling you this is not optional. It is a command of the Lord to His people. Take the sword of the Spirit, my brothers and sisters. Take the sword of the Spirit so you can be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. So you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page