In several places in your Bible, the Spirit of God is likened to a sword. And a sheathed sword is going unused. The sharp edge of a knife may be used for peaceful purposes, but the cutting blade of a sword is designed for just one purpose—war! As Dr. Meredith mentions elsewhere in this issue (see page 3), Christians today are “at war”—we are Christian “soldiers” wielding the “sword of the Spirit” against spiritual wickedness all around us.
In military circles, there is an old saying: “You can’t sit on a bayonet.” Nor can a begotten child of God “sit” idly on the Spirit received from God the Father. A sword is also a defensive weapon. Are we using the sword of the Spirit to protect ourselves from the enemy’s attacks? If not, our adversary will easily overrun our position and conquer us!
Satan—the “adversary”—wants desperately to defeat the plan of God, and to ruin as many of God’s begotten children as he can. Because of vanity, he rebelled against his Creator, and now he is deeply angry at the prospect of mere mortal human beings being destined to enter the God-plane of existence, above him. As the Apostle Paul asked, “For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’? And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son’? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’ And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.’ But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions’” (Hebrews 1:5–9).
The devil hates the truth that today’s Christians are destined to inherit all things with Jesus Christ, if they overcome self, society, and Satan. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). Satan knows that if he can convince a Christian to put down his sword of the Spirit, and to practice the ways of sin instead of righteousness, he can keep that begotten child of God from being born into God’s very Family at the resurrection. This prospect should be very sobering to us, but we should not be afraid. By using the sword of the Spirit—the powerful weapon our Creator has given us—we can prevail against our enemy!
Keep the Sword Sharp!
For some, well aware that Christians are not called to fight in this world’s battles, the metaphor of the “sword” can be unsettling at first. Indeed, “Christian soldiers” are not to take up arms in battles between warring factions of this world. We are, however, called into a spiritual battle against a powerful unseen enemy. Though unseen, this foe is more dangerous than the most powerful earthly army, but we have the most powerful weapon available to us.
Decades ago, there was a man in God’s Church who could be seen at services, each Sabbath, with his briefcase on his lap and his Bible open on top of it. After each service, he would put the Bible into the briefcase, carry it to the parking lot, and place it in the trunk of his car.
You can imagine the shock that was felt when, one day, he suddenly abandoned his family and ran off with his secretary. When the local minister asked his wife what had gone wrong, she revealed that his Bible stayed in the trunk of the car all week, and only came out on the Sabbath.
“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:11–13).
God’s word is powerful, but it will only guard us if we use it continually. We hone the edges of our Spirit sword with prayer throughout the day (Daniel 6:13), and through daily Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting. Unless we practice using our sword, we will become spiritually weak, dull, and ineffective in our ability to resist Satan’s temptations.
If we neglect the Spirit, we will fall away, just like the man who only opened his Bible on the Sabbath. But if we stir up the Spirit of God within us, Satan has no power over us—just as he could not influence Jesus Christ when the devil tried to tempt him. Consider Jesus’ example:
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’ Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,” and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”’ Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:1–11).
Christ did not dispute Satan’s right to offer Him the rule of this world; He knew that Satan is the god of this present age (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4). But He also knew that Satan’s offer was worthless compared to what God the Father has in store for His sons. Satan is a loser, and his offers are not attractive to those who are close to God. We stay near to our Creator by stirring up the Spirit that He has given to us, which allows us to love Him, obey Him and keep His commandments (1 John 5:2–3).
We can have confidence, knowing that our sword of the Spirit will protect us against Satan’s temptations. If you keep yours sharp, and you wield it as Christ wielded His, the devil cannot stand before you, but rather must flee from your presence, because you are a begotten son of the Almighty God! We do not depend on our own power in fighting evil; we trust in God. Even the angels call on God’s power, rather than their own, against Satan. “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 9).
Again, it is not our power but rather our humility before God that allows us to wield the sword of the Spirit effectively. When we submit obediently to God’s word, He gives us all the power we need to resist temptations. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:7–10).
Do not be fearful when an evil, tempting thought comes to your mind. Christians can, in faith, simply ask God to rebuke the author of that temptation—and He will do it for us! This is how we wield the sword of the Spirit.
Never Forget the Armor!
Paul asked, “Who ever goes to war at his own expense?” (1 Corinthians 9:7). Left to ourselves, we would easily be overwhelmed by Satan’s far greater intelligence and power. But just as God has given us a powerful weapon—the sword of the Spirit—He has also given us the most effective armor available.
“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:14–20).
Yes, a vital part of our spiritual defense against Satan is the armor God provides. With it, we can withstand even surprise attacks from those closest to us. Christ warned us, “you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:16–19).
Paul in his ministry faced such attacks, but knew how to maintain an effective defense. Here is how he described his tactics: “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Corinthians 6:3–7).
Soldiers in the armies of this world, encamped on the battlefield, sleep in their bullet-proof vests, with their helmets on and their weapons at hand. Christian soldiers, too, must remain alert at all times, as our enemy is lurking, just around the corner. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8–9).
Are you spiritually prepared and ready for the next attack Satan is surely planning against you? If not, you may not survive the shock of his onslaught. But, if you use the tools God has so mercifully provided, your defense will be sure. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10–13).
The whole armor of God is available to every Christian. Are you keeping yours in good condition, cleaning and shining it through daily prayer and Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting? If you wait until you see an attack on the horizon, it may be harder to put on the armor at the last minute. Grow comfortable wearing that armor now, and you will be ready when trials come.
Going on the Offense
Soldiers rarely if ever win a war just by holding a defensive position. At some point, the enemy must be put to rout and defeated. Otherwise, the war drags on and on, leading either to a stalemate or eventual defeat. Christians, too, are called to fight—but our fight is the fight of faith. Satan would like to distract us with foolish lusts (1 Timothy 6:9–10). We are called, however, to resist. “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing” (vv. 11–14).
Today, as we see the end of this age rapidly approaching, we must recognize that Christians are at war! Now is the time, as never before, to gird on our armor and unsheathe the sword of the Spirit of God! Christ, our commanding King, has given us our marching orders: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:15–18).
The “battle plan” ahead of us is awesome in its scope. But we can have confidence that it will be accomplished, knowing that our King is at the head of His army, to lead us personally in the final prophesied battle of this age. “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11–16).
Just over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ came to the earth as a humble carpenter, bringing a warning message, a call for repentance, and the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. Since His coming, only a very few have heeded His words and accepted His calling. Soon, He will return—but this time, He will come as a conquering King, with an army at His back (Revelation 19:14), and a sword and a rod to put down all opposition.
When that day comes, those Christians who have learned to wield the sword of the Spirit will, as resurrected Spirit-beings, be fit to serve in Christ’s own army—serving under Him in subduing the rebellious nations and bringing to planet Earth the peace that can only come from living God’s way. “Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment—This honor have all His saints. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 149:5–9).
The sword of the Spirit that we are learning to wield today is the vital tool that will help us defend against Satan, overcome his temptations, and prepare to become firstfruits serving under Christ in the Kingdom of God. Let us all resolve to be diligent in learning how to wield that sword effectively!
—LCG Editorial Staff