Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 8: Spiritual Swordsmanship
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
THE GLITTERING FLASH OF STEEL by firelight! The clash and clang of blade against blade! The sneering taunt by one swordsman to another, as two determined opponents match wits as well as swords! That is the stuff of a grand adventure story! Here, for example, is a passage from that Alexandre Dumas classic of swashbuckling adventure and swordplay, The Three Musketeers:
"What is your name, my brave fellow?" said Athas.
"D' Artagnan, monsieur."
"Well, then, Athas, Porthos, Aramis, and 0' Artagnan, forward!" cried Athas.
"Come, gentlemen, have you decided?" cried Jussac. . . .
"We are about to have the honor of charging you," replied Aramis, lifting his hat with one hand and drawing his sword with the other.
"Ah! You resist, do you?" cried Jussac.
"Does that astonish you?"
And the nine combatants rushed upon each other with a fury which however did not exclude a certain degree of method. . . . D'Artagnan sprang toward Jussac himself. . . . Jussac was, as was then said, a fine blade, and had had much practice; nevertheless it required all his skill to defend himself against an adversary who, active and energetic, departed every instant from received rules, attacking him on all sides at once, and yet parrying like a man who had the greatest respect for his own epidermis. .
This contest at length exhausted Jussac's patience. Furious at being held in check by one whom he had considered a boy, he became warm and began to make mistakes. O' Artagnan, who though wanting in practice had a sound theory, redoubled his agility. Jussac, anxious to put an end to this, springing forward, aimed a terrible thrust at his adversary, but the latter parried it; and while Jussac was recovering himself, glided like a serpent beneath his blade, and passed his sword through his body. Jussac fell like a dead mass.
That is fictional swordplay. But here, torn from the pages of historical fact, is a brief but thrilling passage from a timeless chronicle of the buccaneers, Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates:
Suddenly, the mouth of a pistol was pointing straight at the lieutenant's head. He ducked instinctively, striking upward with his cutlass as he did so. There was a stunning, deafening report almost in his ear. He struck again blindly with his cutlass. He saw the flash of a sword and flung up his guard almost instinctively, meeting the crash of the descending blade. Somebody shot from behind him, and at the same moment he saw someone else strike the pirate. Blackbeard staggered again. . . toppled and fell. The pirate lay still for a moment--then rolled over-then lay still again.
Adventure aficionados down through the centuries have been fascinated by swords and swordplay from the sturdy broadswords of the ancient Romans and Greeks to the thin rapiers of The Three Musketeers to the wicked, curved cutlasses of pirates like Blackbeard. As we come to the last piece of armor Paul lists for us in Ephesians 6, we discover that this piece is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Swordsmanship, we learn, is an essential part of the Christian life.
But the swordsmanship God calls us to in Ephesians 6:17 is not a romanticized, swashbuckling adventure of smirking villains, dashing heroes, and flashing steel The sword of the Spirit is a practical piece of armor, designed to make us strong for the very real battle that each of us must face on a daily basis.
The sword is Christ
We begin our study of spiritual swordsmanship by underscoring the fact that the sword of the Spirit is Christ. Jesus Christ is our life, if we are Christians at all, and God has made His Son available in a practical, everyday way through the sayings of His word. I cannot overstress this fact. It is easy to have a vague sense of following Christ without knowing, in specific and concrete terms, what this means. That is why the Word of God has been given to us--Christian truth as a whole is more than we can handle, but the individual promises of Scripture make Christianity manageable and practical Writing to the Colossians, Paul says,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
Here Paul indicates that the authority of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture are one and the same. There are many today who challenge that. There are many voices telling us that as Christians we must follow Christ and accept the authority of Christ, but we need not accept the authority of the Bible. But Paul answers that by calling the Scriptures "the word of Christ." You cannot separate the two.
I once attended a meeting of ministers at which we listened to a Christian professor deliver an excellent paper on "Science and the Christian Faith." After he had finished, questions were addressed to him by members of the group. One man said, "I can accept the Bible as a witness of certain men to what they thought of Jesus Christ. But you seem to go further. You have used the word 'inspired' on several occasions in your paper and that seems to suggest that in your opinion the Bible is more than the views of men, that it has divine authority. Is this true?"
The Christian professor gave a very wise answer, "My answer may sound to you very much like Sunday school propaganda, but I can only put it this way: The center of my life is Jesus Christ. I have found him to be the key to everything I desire in life. And yet I could know nothing about Christ if I did not learn it from the Bible. The Bible presents Christ and Christ defines the Bible. How can I make a distinction between the two?"
With considerable embarrassment the questioner threw up his hands and changed the subject.
The authority of Scripture is the authority of Jesus Christ--they are indivisible. To attempt to separate the two is like asking which blade of a pair of scissors is more important or which leg of a pair of pants is more necessary. We know Christ through the Bible, and we understand the Bible through the knowledge of Christ--the two cannot be separated. That is why Paul calls it "the word of Christ."
The sayings of God
Having said that, it is important to understand clearly what Paul means--and doesn't mean--by the phrase, "the sword of the Spirit, which ,is the word of God." It is important to see that Paul doesn't mean the complete Bible when he says "the Word of God." There are two words that are used in the original Greek Scripture for "the Word of God." There is the familiar Greek word logos, which is used in the opening verse of John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Logos [Word], and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God." Then there is another word, used less frequently, hrema, which is somewhat different in meaning than the first.
The word logos refers to the total utterance of God, the complete revelation of what God has said. The second word, hrema, means a specific saying of God, a passage or a verse that has special application to an immediate situation. It implies a use of the Word of God that is applied to a specific experience in our lives.
The second word, hrema, is the one used here. The "sword of the Spirit" is the saying of God applied to a specific situation in your life. That is the great weapon placed in the hands of the believer. Perhaps you have had some experience with this. Sometimes, when you are reading a passage of Scripture, the words seem to suddenly come alive, take on flesh and bones, and leap off the page at you. Sometimes they seem to grow eyes that follow you around everywhere you go, or develop a voice that echoes in your ears until you cannot get away from it. Perhaps you have had that experience in some moment of temptation or doubt when you were assailed by what Paul calls here "the flaming arrows of the evil one." And immediately a passage of Scripture that supplies the answer comes flashing to mind.
That passage of Scripture is God's hrema for you.
Or perhaps you have been asked a question that caught you off guard for a moment and you were about to say, "I don't know," when suddenly you had a moment of illumination and a word of Scripture came to mind that provided the answer. Perhaps this experience has happened while sitting in a meeting where some message has come home to your heart with an unusually powerful effect. You were greatly moved, and in that moment you made a significant and lasting decision.
That illuminating word of Scripture was God's hrema for you.
The hrema-word of God in your life is called "the sword of the Spirit" because it not only originated by the Spirit as the author of the Word but it is also recalled to your mind by the Spirit and made powerful by Him in your life. It is His specific, well-chosen answer to the attack of the devil Like a swordsman with a trusty blade in his hand, the Spirit brings a flashing, sharp-edged, highly polished word to our mind to parry the sword-thrust of the devil
The only offense
Up to this point, all the pieces of armor we have examined have been defensive in nature. The belt, breastplate, shoes, helmet, and shield are all designed to protect you from attack and harm. But a sword is useful for both defense and for offense. So it is with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. As a sword, the Word is useful for both defensive and offensive purposes. It is, in fact, the only part of the armor of God that can be used for offense. It protects us for attack, in that it can be used to parry and deflect the vicious sword-strokes of the enemy--but it goes further, in that it can also be used to pierce other human hearts with the truth and to hack away and kill the lies of the devil in others besides ourselves. That is its great effect.
The Word is the only proper offensive weapon in the Christian's armory. We are to proclaim the truth. We do not need to defend the truth. We do not need to support the truth with long and extensive arguments. There is a place for that, but not in an encounter with those who disbelieve. We are called to simply proclaim and declare the truth.
As the Scripture says in Hebrews: "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). It cuts through the hardened armor of human arrogance, intellectual rationalization, agnosticism and atheism, sin and pride, and it homes in on the heart. The sword of the Spirit needs no defense, because it is its own defense, as well as its own offense. It is its own power supply, because it is the living and active word of Christ.
It is this offensive power of the Word that explains why the Bible is so continuously under attack., For centuries the enemies of the gospel, prompted by the devil, have tried to destroy the Bible. Sometimes this effort has been directed at completely wiping the Bible off the face of the earth. At other times, the enemies of the Bible have tried to destroy its significance through intellectual attacks or ridicule. In our own time, the primary means of attack has been to undermine its significance in the minds of people to attack and ridicule the Bible in the media, in the arts, in schools and universities, and even in churches that practice a liberal, humanistic theology. With clever words and subtle arguments, the' devil speaks through people of prominence and intelligence to blunt, twist, and disable the testimony of the Scriptures.
This does not mean that these prominent people are necessarily hypocritical It is not that they are being deliberately and knowingly destructive. Many of them are sincerely attempting to be what they may describe as "honest to God." But notice the focus of these intelligent and subtle arguments: They are always an attempt to disprove the historical trustworthiness of the biblical record, particularly in relation to supernatural events. They cannot accept the idea that an invisible realm (which the Bible calls the kingdom of God) has invaded our commonplace realm of space and time. Such a concept is distasteful to them, so their attacks are aimed at making the Bible accounts appear incredible and unreliable, not to be taken seriously.
Many of these speakers and profess01:s and doctors of theology claim to be Bible scholars, but they betray the Scriptures with the kiss of Judas and mislead thousands. The intent, of course, is to keep people from reading the Bible. That is the devil's principal strategy. The devil has declared war on God's Word because he knows the power of Scripture. He knows that when people are awakened to the truth of God's Word, he loses his power over their minds, hearts, and will. His aim is to keep people from seriously, thoughtfully examining the Scriptures. He knows that the Scriptures are living and powerful, and a sincere, open-minded reading of the Bible is all anyone needs to answer the attacks of the critics and scholars.
The answer to the critics: Just read
Take, for example, the story of the first Christmas. Nothing is more basic and central to the Christian message than the story of the way the infinite Son of God became a finite baby in a manger and was welcomed with the angels' praise, a brilliant star, the coming of the shepherds, and later, the wise men. We love the simple beauty of that ancient story. It transforms the world (at least outwardly) for a brief time every year and has done so for twenty centuries.
But the false prophets of our day treat this story as if it were nothing but a myth, a pretty adornment for a holiday greeting card. There is no attempt at all to disprove the supernatural claims of the biblical story the story is merely dismissed with a wave of the hand. Scorn is heaped upon this story as unworthy of modern intelligence. The implication is clear that any who believe in this story is in a class with those who still believe in a flat earth or in the existence of fairies.
The reason for this, of course, is that any acceptance of the biblical account, as historical fact means that its implications cannot be swept aside. We must face it as an incontrovertible event that can only be explained by the biblical explanation: The lost condition of humanity has been invaded by God so that at great cost to Himself He could redeem humanity and set men and women free.
What is the answer to the false claims that accounts of supernatural events are merely myths? Simply this: Read the Bible. Read the Christmas story as told by Matthew and Luke. As you approach the familiar account with an open mind, you will see how candidly and plainly it is presented, and how uncontrived the record is. There is no attempt to garnish it or to bolster it with arguments or theological explanations. There is just the simple narrative of what happened to a couple on their way to Bethlehem, what occurred when they arrived there, and what happened in the days following. When that story is set in place in the total narrative of the Bible, you instantly see how fitting it is, how natural and believable. From that simple story, all light is streaming, all hope is flaming, all songs are coming. Wesley captures this beautifully in his hymn,
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
This simple, uncomplicated story was widely accepted and proclaimed in the first century. Along with the account of the cross and the resurrection, that story completely changed the world. No Christian in the Scripture ever denies it. No apostle ever questioned these events, nor suggested that they did not take place exactly as recorded. The stories were well known in their day.
In other words, this account reflects the inherent ability of truth, simply told, to compel belief without artificial support. As we read the account, it wins the submission of our reason, it appeals to the love of the heart, and it compels the obedience of the will. To reject it, therefore, is to violate our basic humanity. This is why John declared in a letter written toward the close of the first century that this story is one of the tests of false teachers. He declared that if someone denies the incarnation and says that Jesus did not come in the flesh, he is inspired by a wrong spirit and is an antichrist (see 1 John 4:2-3).
The sword in action
The purpose of the Word, these "sayings of God," is to compel belief in the face of any distortion of truth. Looking back in my own life, I recall many times when the sword of the Spirit has saved me from error and delusion of one kind or another. As a young Christian, I was stopped at the edge of disobedience many times when temptation to sin seemed so logical, so reasonable, so widely practiced that I was strongly drawn by it. I was often arrested by a word I had memorized as a young Christian and which has come to me many times since: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It is so easy to think that because something looks logical to us it must be logical But we fail to recognize the fact that we are easily deceived. We are not the rational creatures we love to think we are. There is much illusion and delusion in our world, and by ourselves we are not intelligent enough to see through these phantasms, these lies. Therefore the word comes, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart." Believe the truth as it is revealed, and "lean not on your own understanding."
Sometimes a sword of the Spirit has been placed in my hand, not before defeat but right in the midst of it, or right afterward. It has thus become the means of preventing any painful recurrences. I remember when a word from the book of James came home to me with unusual power after a very violent and nasty display of temper on my part. A verse flashed into my mind which I had read in the letter of James, "Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:20). That arrested me. I thought, Here I am claiming to be interested in working the righteousness of God, and what am I doing? Losing my temper! Flaring up at someone then thinking I am accomplishing what God sent me to do. That verse stopped me then and has been a help ever since.
I remember another time when my heart was pierced by these words from the book of Proverbs, "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice" (Proverbs 13:10). When we get involved in contention and strife with one another, it is so easy to blame the other fellow. He started it! One day a nephew of mine and my daughter were fighting, and I asked them, "Who started this?" The boy said, "She did. She hit me back." That is so like us, isn't it? But the Word says, "Pride only breeds quarrels." Where there is quarreling and open anger, pride is at work and both parties are usually guilty.
As a young Christian, I recall how the powerful lure to sexual misbehavior was frequently dispelled in my thinking by the sudden recollection of that word in Ephesians where Paul says, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them" (Ephesians 5:6-7). That arrested me when I first heard it. Later, when I came to understand more fully what the wrath of God means--that it is not necessarily a lightning bolt from heaven or an auto accident or something like that, but rather it is the certain disintegration and brutalization of life, the natural consequences of sin in God's moral order--that verse took on even more power in my life.
A man once came to me for counseling. He was in the grip of a terrible emotional and spiritual depression--one of the most lonely, isolated, miserable people I have ever met--and we met together every week for over a year. His liberation began when he decided to pray a single phrase of Scripture whenever he was in the grip of his depression. It was the one portion of Scripture this man could, in faith, lay hold of. He rejected everything else I tried to point out to him. But one phrase stuck with him, and he prayed it again and again, the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Not my will but Yours be done." At last, slowly, like the sun coming up, the light began to dawn, and you could see the change in his life. Today he is living a normal, free life. He was set free by "the sword of the Spirit," the hrema, the saying of God given specifically for his situation.
Obviously, the greater exposure there is to Scripture the more the Spirit can use this mighty sword in our lives. If you never read or study your Bible, you are terribly exposed to defeat and despair. You have no defense; you have nothing to put up against these forces that are at war with your soul. So I urge you to read your Bible regularly. Read all of Scripture, for each section has a special purpose.
The Christian who neglects the reading of the Scriptures is in direct disobedience to the will of the Lord. The Lord Jesus said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me" (John 5:39). That is the way you come to know Christ. There is no way apart from the Scriptures. And there is no way to come into full maturity as a Christian apart from the Scriptures.
What is the responsibility of the Christian when the Spirit places one of these sayings in your mind for some specific need in your life? What should you do when the Spirit places a sword in your hand? Take it! Wield it! Use it! Obey it! Do not reject it, neglect it, or treat it lightly. Take it seriously. The Spirit of God has brought it to mind for a purpose, so give heed to it and obey it.
A balanced weapon
One final word of caution: We are also responsible to compare Scripture with Scripture. This is a very important matter. Remember, the devil can quote Scripture as well, as , he did on one occasion with the Lord. But the quotations of Scripture by the devil are never balanced. The sword of the Spirit in the devil's hands is an uncouth weapon.
Remember how Jesus Himself gave us a great example of this when the devil came to tempt Him in the wilderness? The devil said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus immediately met him with the sword of the Spirit. He said, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God' " (Matthew 4:3-4).
Then the devil tried a new tactic. He came to Jesus and said, in effect, "Oh well, if you are going to quote Scripture, I can quote it, too. There is a verse in the Psalms, you know, which says that if you get yourself into a dangerous position, God will send his angels to uphold you." Taking Jesus to the top of the temple, the devil said, "Cast yourself from this height and all the crowd around will see and know that you are the Son of God." The Gospel account tells us: "Jesus answered him, 'It is also written: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" , " (Matthew 4:5-7). Jesus knew how to handle the devil when the devil quoted Scripture. He said, "It is written again. . . It is written again. . . ." I urge you to take note of that. It is not enough to have someone quote a verse of Scripture to you or to have a verse come flashing into your mind. Ask yourself: Is this verse in balance with the rest of Scripture? Or has this verse been yanked out of context and twisted into saying something God never intended it to say? Next, you remember, the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. "All this I will give you," the devil promised, "if You bow down and worship me." And again our Lord answered him with the sword of the Spirit:
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' "
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him (Matthew 4:10-11).
The devil left him! That is always what happens. The devil is put to rout by the sword of the Spirit. It is this same sword Jesus so powerfully wielded that God has placed in your hands and mine!
Here then, is the Christian's complete armor: you in Christ and Christ in you; Christ, demonstrated as truth and experienced as righteousness and peace; and Christ, appropriated by faith and applied to life through the hope of salvation and the hrema sayings of God. That is all you need. If you are a Christian, you have the entire armor of God at your disposal.
On the other hand, if you are not a Christian there is no help for you. So the place to begin is to become a Christian. The Word of God has no comfort to give those who are not Christians; it has nothing to say to support or encourage someone who is not in Christ. The only way of escape from the lures, snares, and deceptions of the enemy is to receive Jesus Christ into your life. You must be delivered by the work of Jesus Christ from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. Then you can put on the armor of God.
So become familiar with this armor. Learn to use it, and call it to your defense when you are under attack. What good is armor if it rusts unused in a closet? No wonder Christians are constantly failing. Though they have the armor of God, they do not use it. So be a good soldier of the Lord; wear your armor and use it!
Remember: If you feel cold or lukewarm in your faith, you are under attack from the devil If you find yourself depressed or discouraged; if you are bothered with doubts, fears, and anxieties; if you feel the lure of lusts, the crush of pain, or the numbness of disappointment what must you do? Follow these steps the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the preparation of the gospel of peace on your feet, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. Think through these steps and systematically, deliberately, purposefully put on the full armor of God.
Do not give up if no immediate change occurs. Sometimes, we must persevere in fighting spiritual battles and maintaining our defense against satanic attacks. We are brainwashed these days into expecting instant gratification, quick results, and immediate relief but spiritual warfare cannot be waged in impatience. Remember, the attack may be prolonged and there are not always quick results. That is why the apostle Paul says, "After you have done everything. . . . [s]tand firm" (Ephesians 6:13-14). Victory is certain if you persevere. The promise is sure: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
Father, I thank You for arming me and defending me against satanic attack. I thank You for giving me the means not only to be defended, but the means to take the offensive against the devil and send him running from me! Please bring your Word to mind in the times of need, pressure, discouragement, and defeat. Remind me to take your Word seriously and to apply this armor to me that You have given me in Jesus Christ. Lead me to the full, rich, exciting life that is mine as a Christian, living and battling evil in Your power and strength.
In the name of my Lord and Commander, Jesus the Logos of God, amen.