The Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians Sermon 50 of 54)
September 11, 2016 | Andy Davis
Salvation, Life in the Spirit, Internal Journey, Scripture Memory, How Jesus Views Scripture
Amen. Few things in military history, so aroused the passions of warriors, the imagination of warriors as does the sword. The long shiny, sharp, curved instrument of death. The sword devours life, it leaves death in its path. Technological advances of metallurgy, across the eras in which the sword was dominant. It was the seeking of a perfect blade that could endure anything that could happen on the battlefield. The dream of a perfect sword. Now, the merest mention of a sword if you know anything about military history, evokes images of legendary warriors, English knights like the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, or perhaps earlier Roman gladiators or maybe the Japanese samurai, viking warriors. When I was a missionary in Japan I became fascinated with Japanese samurai swords, the katana, the legendary sword, and there are numbers of them, there's all this mythology that grew up in Japan around the samurai sword around the katana. I was looking at it from the perspective of a mechanical engineer. I was interested in the engineering of it. But also the history. I find it fascinating when you look at the edge of the blade of an exquisitely fashioned forged samurai blade, you can see ripples in the steel dark and light areas. Almost like there were somehow sandwiches or layers upon layers of different kinds of steel and that's actually what they are, layers upon layers of two different types of steel. There's high carbon steel, that's exceptionally hard and can be honed to a razor sharp edge, but it's also brittle and therefore not really well suited for the battlefield, for the sword to sword conflict that's going to happen. So then they use lower carbon steel, in layer upon layer, that's more malleable, a little more durable and so they get the best of both worlds with that, that they developed this over centuries. A combination of exquisite hardness honed to a razor-sharp edge, and then durability in the blade of the sword.
Now, there are all kinds of mythological stories. I went to a military museum in Japan and learned this story years ago, about two actual historically true sword makers. Sadly for the legend, they lived at different times, but according to the legend they each made a sword to have a contest against each other, not that they would fight but that the virtues of their blades would be pitted against each other. The name of these experts were Masamune and Muramasa. These were two men, they lived at different times in each other, but there was some kind of a mythological contest, so Masamune’s swords were some of the most beautifully crafted katana ever made. And all of his surviving swords are priceless national heirlooms in Japan. By contrast in the mythology of it, Muramasa's sword, his student, were considered more brutish, and violent and ugly, but powerful.
So in the legend Muramasa was Masamune's student and they were pitted against each other and to test the swords they were each held in a stream of perfectly pure mountain water. And so they put the student's sword in there, Muramasa's sword in there, and it was so sharp that the first leaf that came down just divided, just with the force of the trickling water, just split right in half. It's that sharp, but the Master, Masamune's sword did something very different. According to the legend when it was put in the water, the leaves came in and they avoided it like a magnetic force was on it because the blade somehow knew that there was no evil in the leaves, it would only cut that, which was evil. Now that's interesting, cool. I don't know how the blade knows that kind of thing. Looking at it from the materialistic, scientific point of view that I have, but I just read this story, this is what I do at museums.
So, at any rate, in Ephesians 6:17, however we come to a sword that's described in the text as vastly more supernaturally powerful than anything in that legend. And actually, this sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is in some sense, spiritually told to be alive. It's actually a living and active blade. Even better than the samurai sword, this sword can cut in order to heal. But it also can measure out death to the enemies of God. So within this sword there is the power of both life and death within the same sword. It reminds me very much of the Apostle Paul, talking about the gospel ministry. "We are to those who are perishing, the aroma of or the stench of death, but to those who are being saved, we are the fragrance of life." The same message can be death, to some in life to others. But to the demonic enemies of God, it's nothing but death. It's a dreadful, terrifying, powerful sword, that measures out death to the spiritual enemies of God, Satan and his demons. This word of God, this sword of the Spirit. The author to Hebrews describes it in this way, Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything's uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account. So every time you pick up a Bible you're holding in your hands literally a miracle, by any definition you give a miracle, the Bible meets that qualification. It is a miraculous thing. Now, as we began this morning from my mind, I go right to the sword of the Spirit, but I'm not going to skip over a discussion of the helmet of salvation as well.
I. Our Spiritual Warfare: A Review
We're in the middle of this section talking about spiritual warfare. We have a struggle, we have a bitter conflict, we have a warfare put right at our feet spiritually if we're Christians. Look at verse 12 of Ephesians 6, 6:12, "For our struggle “ or “we wrestle not with flesh and blood." “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual force of evil in the heavenly realms.” Now, as I've been saying for weeks, most Christians seem to be completely moment by moment, day-to-day, even week-to-week, unaware of this spiritual warfare. Unaware of it. They do not take adequate precautions, they do not follow the commands that are given here in Ephesians 6. And therefore they are constantly damaged in their souls in the spiritual realm by Satan's activities. They're hurt, they're wounded by what Satan is doing because they do not follow the prescriptions of Ephesians 6:10 and following. Now, by way of review, Paul gives us three basic commands for spiritual warfare here.
First, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." What this means is, you cannot fight alone, you must draw near to Christ, have a sense of his omnipotent, a sense of his great power, immerse yourself in Jesus for apart from him, you will lose. So be strong in the Lord and in his mighty powers. Secondly, “put on the full armor of God.” And we've been going step by step through the six elements today, the last two elements of the full armor that God has provided. That's how I understand “of God.” This is the armor that God has crafted. This is the armor made for you in the heavenly realms, made by the power of God, and entrusted to you. But you have the responsibility, by faith and by the ministry of the word, to put it on to appropriate the truths in the armor of God. And then thirdly, he tells you to stand firm in the day of testing. Stand firm. Four times it tells you to take your stand, to stand your ground, to stand firm.
Now, we've looked at the full armor of God. We've gone element by element, we began with the belt of truth and how the truth of the word of God is drawn into your inner being. God desires truth in the inner parts. You have a sense of the immutability and the perfection, the absoluteness of the truth of the Bible. And just knowing that there is truth in the Bible, that the Bible is truth, the word of God is truth, helps you fight Satan's kingdom of lies, especially for us in the 21st century in the West, this postmodern world that we live in, which we're told, there is no metaphysical truth we can ever know. Well, we reject that. We believe that we can know invisible spiritual realities, especially the truth of the Bible as it testifies to Jesus, Savior of the world. And we talked about the breastplate of righteousness, how beautiful that is, how radiant and shining it is. How it absolutely cannot be your own righteousness, which Satan wants shredded in an instant and you know it. But it actually is the imputed righteousness of Christ that you put on you appropriate by faith. And we talk, thirdly, about “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.” And how there's that sense of preparedness. You're getting ready, you're getting ready to fight, ready to stand, ready to move. Stability and mobility and how the Gospel ministers peace to you, to your own heart, you're at peace, while you fight. And you know God's at peace with you, and you as a soldier, is a warrior of the Gospel, you're proclaiming a message that will bring peace to people who themselves were at war with God. So that's the feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. And then last week, we talked also about the “shield of faith with which you are able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” And how faith is the eyesight of the soul. You can see into the invisible spiritual realm, you can see these flaming arrows that they're coming at you, they come at you in major categories, temptations, alluring you towards sin, and wickedness, accusations, pointing out the sins you've committed, doubts, and false doctrines that come at us, and we're able to see these things for what they are and the shield of faith can block them. And having put all of these things on, we put on each part with prayer. We're not generalistic saying, "I know we have a struggle. I know we have a fight, so just pray about it." It's not like that we're going to get specifically ready in these six elements these six ways. Ready to fight Satan. We're going to fight, we're going to stand firm. And so, having put on the full armor of God, we stand our ground we stand firm.
II. The Helmet of Salvation
Alright, now we've been through four of the elements now, we're looking at the last two this morning and first of those is the helmet of salvation. Look at verse 17, "Take the helmet of salvation." Now the helmet protects the head, the most important part of the body. Whenever I ride my bike, I wear a helmet. It doesn't protect however, the whole body I found last Sunday afternoon. Some of you may be wondering why I look like this. Your imaginations are running amuck right now, you're thinking of all the things. No, it was not a bar fight. And it was not a member of the family, none of that. It was the road, it was the asphalt. I went around a corner and I leaned too fast, I was riding really fast, and I forgot to stop pedaling and on the inside, when the pedal finishes it cycle the pedal on the low if you're leaning enough, will hit the ground. At that point, the bike stops moving forward. You, however, do not until you meet the ground, which a long time ago, wasn't moving forward and so in about 5 feet, I slid to a stop, and I was done moving. So that's what happened to me. I was wearing a helmet at the time. It was completely irrelevant for my crash. Didn't get scraped at all, did not protect me in the least. I landed right here on my cheek bone and on my ribs. So that's what happened to me. Someone said I should make some analogy with spiritual warfare. That's the closest I can come. There was nothing spiritual about it, it was purely physical, and it hurt a lot.
Protecting the Head Means Protecting the Mind
But the helmet represents a protection for the most important part of the body. The head, the mind. While I was sitting in the pew this morning, I was thinking a beautiful thought. I never had it before, right before I came up here. Isn't it marvelous that we have a helmet of salvation? What it means is we will live through all of this. Satan can't kill us. Isn't it just as beautiful that Satan had no such helmet and his head was crushed by Jesus at the cross. Isn't that beautiful? We have the helmet! Satan doesn't. He will die, he will be thrown in the Lake of Fire, he will be killed forever and ever by Christ and that's a beautiful thing. Remember how it says in Genesis 3, I'll put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers. He, the woman's seed, Jesus, will crush your head and you will strike his heel." So we in Christ cannot have our head crushed. So that's a simple way of understanding the human salvation. We cannot die, none of these fights are going to kill us. We can be damaged, we can be wounded, we can be hurt, we can have less fruit to show on Judgment Day. There's genuine hurt that can be done to us. We can suffer in ways we wouldn't have to if we didn't sin as we do in spiritual warfare, but Satan can't kill us. But Christ will kill him. And I think to me that's a marvelous thing.
A Battle for the Mind
So this, I think, each of these kind of spiritual elements links to some part of the body in some way that's appropriate. The helmet of salvation, protects not just the head but what the head does, the mind, the thinking process. And so we have to be very aware of how important our thoughts are. Fundamentally, if you just keep it simple as you think, so you will live. If you're living wrongly you were thinking wrongly. And so, the helmet of salvation has to do with your thought process. The essence of Satan's attacks is his ability, mysteriously, to insinuate thoughts into your head. He has that power to do. We talked about Joseph's dreams, how the angel put information in Joseph's mind by his dreams about Mary and her virginity, and the baby and he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and then that he should flee to Egypt. And now, he should come back, an angel spoke those things to Joseph in a dream. Well, demons are just evil angels. They have the same ability, they can speak into our hearts and minds. They cannot flip the switch, pull the trigger on the decision that's something we have to make. But they can insinuate thoughts, dark thoughts. Temptations, accusations, depressions, those kinds of things.
Remember, if you look back at Ephesians 4:17-18, there, Paul talks about the thinking process of the Christian. He says there in 4:17, "So I tell you this and insist on it in the Lord that you must no longer live as the gentiles do,” listen “in the futility of their thinking. They're darkened in their understanding, and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that's in them due to the hardening of their hearts." Thus, four different words about their thoughts. They think darkly that's why they live, darkly. But you Christians you're different. Now we're going to think like Christ, we're going to think thoughts of light and purity and truth whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable. Those things, that's what we're going to think about.
The Hope of Salvation
Now there's an additional nuance in the helmet, given us from 1 Thessalonians 5:8, there the Apostle Paul says, "But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith in love as a breastplate,” listen “and the hope of salvation, as a helmet." The hope of salvation as a helmet. Paul then goes on, in that same passage to say "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath [in the future] but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." So this idea that I think is very helpful. The helmet of salvation could be seen, especially as hope of salvation, hope of salvation. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, hope fundamentally is a conviction, a sense that the future is bright, based on the promises of God. And especially, hope of salvation is my future salvation is guaranteed, because of the blood of Jesus, and that hope is a powerful thing in this spiritual warfare. We're filled with hope, it's a beautiful thing.
Now Satan, I believe, is actively engaged all the time on the Christians, to get us to be hopeless or another word for hopeless would be depressed, discouraged, down, sad, different levels of it, but Satan really wants to minister hopelessness to you. Depression. You know what I'm talking about, all of you struggle with it to certain degrees, spiritual depression. Now, if you wonder like, "How do I know when I'm in a battle, how do I know when I'm in spiritual warfare?" Well just assume every day, but especially when you see depression, or despair, coming on you, guaranteed it's Satanic. I'm not saying there's no physiological sides or even your own thoughts. They're involved. But you're under satanic attack. Same thing with anxiety or lust or covetousness, different things you just know Satan's working these things. That's how you can know.
Now, why does Satan seek to minister hopelessness to us despair? Well, I've been over this before, but it's so helpful to know this. The reason is it's the only possible way he can win. If the people of God take Paul's command to heart, and if we stand up on our spiritual feet, and we put on this full armor of God, and we take up the weapon of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit in our hand, and we, with the Gospel footwear, march forward and if we swing this sword of the Gospel, he's going to lose. He cannot penetrate our breastplate of righteousness. He cannot penetrate the shield of faith, he cannot pierce the helmet, and he can't stop the sword. Well, what's he going to do? He's going to lie to you. He's going to whisper depression in your ears. Tell you, "Just give up. What's the point in fighting for holiness? You're just going to sin anyway, eventually. What's the point in sharing the Gospel? They're not going to believe it. What's the point in going as a missionary? We're not going to be able to plant churches." Depression, discouragement, lies, and so, you lay down listless, lifeless, weak and weary, and do nothing to threaten him. That's his strategy and it's very effective.
Hope is Powerful in Spiritual Warfare
So the alternative here is hope, and hope is a powerful thing. We have a feeling, a sense in our hearts, that we are going to win. We're going to be victorious in the end. I've often thought of it like a buoyant cork. I got that image from John Piper's biography of William Wilberforce, who fought slavery for 27 years. And how depressing that must have been. Setback after setback after setback, entrenched economic forces fighting him. He never gave up. And one of his enemies said, "You have to watch him because it seems like the harder you strike him, the more buoyant he gets, he's a dangerous guy." I want to be that kind of a dangerous warrior. The more we get struck the more buoyant we get. We're like a big chunk of cork, and you just can't keep us down, because we just know we're going to win, we're going to be saved in the end. There's nothing that can stop it. So just tell yourself what is true. You say, "How do I put on the helmet of salvation?" Tell yourself again and again, what's true of you and of the future, specifically what's true of the future. "Who hopes for what he already has" Romans 8 says. We're talking about things we don't have yet.
How to Put on the Helmet of Salvation
So look ahead. So when it comes to the future in this life, for the rest of my life, I will, number one, be most certainly protected and shielded by the power of God, the rest of my life. Secondly, God will therefore not allow me to be tempted beyond what I can bear, but he will filter every temptation the rest of my life. So I can bear up under all of them and he will provide with every one of them a way of escape, so I never need to sin again, ever. Thirdly, in the future, I know going forward Christ will never leave me, and he will never forsake me. Fourthly, all of the physical and emotional afflictions, and trials that will most certainly come into my life are meant for good for me by my Heavenly Father. He is meaning to prepare me for Heaven and he will use those trials and afflictions to do it. Fifthly, I know that if I do sin, God will lovingly discipline me and chastise me so I learn to hate sin the way he does. But he will also forgive my sins, because sixthly Christ is at the right hand of God and is interceding for me so I know my faith is never going to fail. Not because I'm such a great believer or so tenacious in my faith, but because Jesus is praying to the Gather, that my faith won't fail. So seventh I know that nothing in the present world or in the world to come will separate me from the love of God that's in Christ Jesus, my Lord. Nothing. And eighth, I know that when I die, I will still be in the faith, I'll still be in Jesus, trusting in Jesus, loving Jesus. I just know it, there's no doubt in my mind about it. And I know that ninth when I become absent from the body, I will immediately be in the presence of the Lord. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” That will happen if the Lord doesn't return in my lifetime. And I know that 10th on Judgment Day, I will not receive wrath, but I'll receive salvation. I will be welcomed into my Heavenly home and not sent to Hell like I deserve. And so 11th, all of my sins will be totally covered by the grace of God, and the blood of Christ, all of them. And 12th, I will receive, at the right time, a resurrection body that will be radiantly shining like the sun, and I'll be in that resurrection body forever I cannot die and I feel any death, or mourning, or crying, or pain there will be no bike accidents in Heaven, none. Thirteenth, all of the elect, the things I've been saying about me are true of all of the elect. And that means that a multitude greater than any one could count will be there from every tribe, language, people, and nation. So that means missions is going to work in their case. Absolutely guaranteed. And I will spend eternity, fourteenth, looking at the face of Christ forever and ever as he sits on his Father's throne. Now, those ideas fill me with hope. It fills me with hope. That's how you put the helmet of salvation on. Think about your future, put on the helmet of salvation.
III. The Sword of the Spirit: The Word of God
A Powerful History of Famous Swords in Literature
Finally, the sword of the Spirit. Look at verse 17 again, "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Now, there's such a powerful history of famous swords and literature, like I think about Excalibur, the sword that King Arthur drew out of the store, the sword in the stone. There are different legends and different stories, but sometimes it's Excalibur, sometimes that sword came out of a lake. It's just different things, but there's that. Lord of the Rings in literature has lots of named swords like the hobbit sword was “Sting” and they killed spiders with it or orcs. And “Glamdring” was Gandalf's sword, and the most famous named sword in The Lord of the Rings was “Anduril” and that belonged to Aragorn. That was the sword that was broken, and it was re-forged and that gave him the right to rule. Probably one of my favorite martial arts movies is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Some of you may have seen it. And the special sword and that one was the “Green Destiny.” It looked like a piece of Jade. I thought it wouldn't stand up well on the battlefield, but no it was a special magical powerful sword, the Green Destiny. And the thing with the Green Destiny, that I thought was really cool, it could slice right through bars of iron, they were butter. I was like, "Wow." You better not come up against the Green Destiny if you're holding a sword like that, it's going to slice right through it. Powerful. By the way, hold on to that image for later, we'll come back to it.
Then, of course in Pilgrim's Progress, we've got this courageous warrior, this man named Valiant for Truth. And Valiant for Truth was a man who had long wielded the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, to win battles for the Lord. And in the allegory, part two probably it's part two, the time had come for Valiant for Truth to die. He receives a summons from the King, the time has come. He is going to die, so he calls all of his friends to stand around him and basically, it reads at that point, like a bit like a last will and testament. That's what he says, "I am going to my Father's. And though with great difficulty, I have got hither, I do not repent me of all the troubles I have been at to arrive where I am.” I don't regret this hard journey I've had. Now, listen to this, "My sword I give to"him that shall follow me in my pilgrimage." That's all of us. Here's the sword. "And my courage and skill to him that can get it." Wow. Can you get his courage? Can you have his boldness with the sword of the Spirit? And his skill? Can you learn how to wield the sword of the Spirit, skillfully? We're going to talk about that in the moment. "My marks and my scars", he said, "I carry with me as a witness for me that I have fought his battles, who will be my rewarder." It's very powerful. And then, he crosses over the river and goes. So that's an image for me. I follow him in his pilgrimage. There's the sword waiting for me to pick it up and to wield it now. And it's your turn too, this is your time now. It's your time in the arena, it's your time to pick up the sword and fight. There'll be no fighting in Heaven, praise God, no fighting, no chance for valor in Heaven, no chance for boldness in Heaven, no wounds in Heaven, no pain, no suffering, no valor in Heaven. Just memories of valor, stories of valor. Now is the time for us to weave those stories of valor. This is our time to be warriors for Jesus.
The Word of God as a Sword
Now, the sword of the Spirit in the text is called the word of God. Alright? The scripture, the word of God, this is the powerful weapon. Why is it called a sword? Well, it's called a sword because it's able to, I think, block and cut through all of Satan's lies. What sword does Satan have in his hand? It's a sword of lies. It's very effective against unarmed opposition. But it will never win against the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. So sword battles I think you picture the clang of sword on sword. Right? Metal on metal. As your enemy swings as sore, he seeks to bring that sword down upon you to wound you or kill you. Well, you learn defense, you learn swordsmanship, how to move your feet, how to block how to move and get in and attack. There's a whole skill to it, of fencing. So, the sword is both an excellent defensive weapon and an excellent offensive weapon. Both. And we need to think of it that way. Not just the one or the other. So, to wield it, you have to know your sword, and you have to learn to wield it properly. You have to grow in your understanding of Biblical doctrine, line upon line, chapter upon chapter book upon book, get to know your sword. You have to be able to refute Satan's false arguments with specific clear texts of scripture. This is the sword of the Spirit, wielded in defense. I'm going to talk more about that in a moment.
Secondly, this is a powerful offensive weapon for destroying Satan's empire, this sword of the Spirit. Many commentators have made it plain the sword is the only offensive weapon in this whole arsenal. Friends, it's enough, it's good enough. What a powerful weapon it is. Satan's kingdom, if you can picture it this way is made up of souls who are in some sense in chains by Satan's lies. Their minds, their hearts, their souls are chained. They're in dungeons, they need to be delivered, they cannot rescue themselves. So, chains of wickedness, chains of lies, chains of sins, chains of fear of death, chains of false religion, or false philosophies, they're enchained. We, under the power of God, we are their deliverer. We are their rescuers and what we have in our hand to deliver them from these invisible chains is the sword of the Spirit, so it's an offensive weapon. And like that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, like the Green destiny, even better than that. This has the power to just slice through chains that are holding God's elect in Satan's dark kingdom and set them free. That's evangelism. Your wielding scripture. But it's vital that your sword be hard and sharp. We'll talk about that in a moment.
Why is it Called the Sword of the Spirit?
Why is it called the sword of the Spirit? Well, it's called the sword of the Spirit, because the Spirit gave it to us. The Spirit inspired every word in here. 2 Peter Chapter 1 says, "No temptation of Scripture ever came about by the prophets’ own interpretation for prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." That's the doctrine of inspiration. Every word in every book of the Bible is inspired. All scriptures God breathed, breathed out by the Spirit. So that means no human author of Scripture ever took it upon himself to write scripture that day. "Oh, it's a good day, on Tuesday afternoon to write scripture." No one did that. Moses didn't do that. Samuel didn't do it. David didn't do it. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, none of them did it. Not Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John, or Peter or Paul, or James, none of the authors of scripture ever took it on themselves in their own initiative to write scripture. Rather the Spirit came upon them and navigated them using their minds, and their hearts, and their circumstances to write true words of God and give them to the human race. That's where we get this sword of the Spirit. So it's also called the sword of the Spirit because he's able to illuminate what's already written. There are no more books of the Bible, coming. It's complete, it's done, it's finished. Now we have the working of the Spirit to take what's already been written and illuminate it to our minds. It in John 16, "The Spirit of truth will come and he will guide you into all truth." And he also enables you to weld it, he can bring forth to your mind at key moments, the right scriptures that you've learned before. And Jesus said that also in John 14, "He will bring to you remembrance the things that I've said to you.” And so the Spirit is the active with the Word of God, it's the sword of the Spirit.
Christ as Role Model in this Swordsmanship
Now, Jesus is by far the best role model of swordsmanship that you'll ever find. I mean, Jesus was the perfect wielder of the sword of the Spirit. There are so many examples I could give to you again and again, Jesus turned to scripture, turned to scripture, turned to scripture. But I think, for our purposes, the best way is to look at Jesus' use of scripture when he was being tempted. He was out in the desert, the Spirit led him into the desert to be tempted by the Devil, and He was there for 40 days. And he fasted, he ate no bread, drank no water, he's in the desert and the tempter came to him and the tempter said, "If you're the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." And so, he blocked Satan's temptation with the specific word of scripture from the Book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 6. It's powerful. And he also said at that point, Satan leads Him to the highest point of the temple, and it has them stand up in the pinnacle of the temple, "If you're the Son of God he said, throw yourself down from here." Then he quoted scripture. Oh, Satan can do that. He knows the Bible far better than any of us ever will. For it is written, “He will command His angels concerning you and they'll lift you up in their hands so that you'll not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus said, "It is also written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test", also from Deuteronomy. Once more the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor. "All this has been given to me." Satan said, “and I can give it to anyone I want to. So it would all or if you'll just bow down and worship me." And Jesus said, "Away from me, Satan, for it is written worship the Lord your God and serve him only."
Now, Jesus teaches us swordsmanship there. He could have pulled rank. He said, "I'm the Son of God. You can't tempt me." That would have been effective, but instead he teaches us how to fight Satan's temptations, by means of the Word of God. And in every case, he chooses exactly the right doctrine, and scripture to block Satan's attacks. Those scriptures are all God-centered. Basically in effect in the first one, he said, "I will eat, when God tells me to eat and not before. What's more important to me than bread is doing the will of My God and Father. That's the most important thing to me." The same thing with the pinnacle of the temple, "I will throw myself down from the temple, when God tells me to do it, and at that point if He wants to send His angels He can do it, but God has given me no such command, and I will not put the Lord to the test." And then the third one, "No for all the universe, I will not worship anyone but God. Worship him only.” See, he taught us how to be God-centered and how to know the scripture and how to wield it and fight Satan at every moment. He is a model of swordsmanship.
Characteristics of the Sword
So what is this sword like? Well, I gave you a bunch of adjectives. I had a lot of fun with that. So 10 adjectives that are sword like. Oh they're plenty of other adjectives I could have used for the word of God, but I just pulled out sword like adjectives. Now let's go through them quickly. What kind of word, is it? Our word, the sword is perfect, it's perfect. Psalm 12:6 says, "The words of the Lord are flawless," listen to this, "like silver refined seven times in a furnace of clay." There's the picture of metallurgy, perfectly pure silver. Or you could think about the katana, the samurai, the blacksmiths back then, just perfectly folded. One layer upon. Now our word is an absolute perfect thing with no mixture of error at all, it's a perfect word. Secondly, it is powerful, it is a powerful thing, it achieves and accomplishes that purpose for which it is sent. That's Isaiah 55. And listen to this, Psalm 29:4-9, "The voice of the Lord is powerful. The voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert. The Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord, twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory.’" It's powerful. Thirdly, it's hard. This is a hard sword but the best verse for that, how about this, John 10:35, Jesus said, "Scripture cannot be broken." Wow. That's powerful. Scripture cannot be broken. So, hand to hand combat, sword to sword clash. If either sword's going to break, it's not going to be the word of God, it's going to be Satan's lies that'll go shattered to the ground. Fourthly, it's unchanging. Luke 16:17, "Jesus said, 'It is easier for heaven and earth disappear than the smallest letter or least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.'" It's still here. It'll be with us in a thousand years that the Lord doesn't return. Which I think He will within a 1000 years or less. Fifth, it is sharp and double-edged. We already saw that in Hebrews 4:12, "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." This is a powerful sharp sword.
Do you remember on the day of Pentecost when Peter went out and preached the Gospel, and thousands were listening to him preach, and he was very bold and very clear about how Christ died for sins. And he was raised on the third day, and that through him, repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached. When the people of Jerusalem heard this, it says they were cut to the heart, pierced, and said, "Brothers what shall we do?" It gave them a heart wound that they needed. It was able to cut out the tumor of sin. And say, "What do I have to do to be saved?" The word of God has that effect. It is eternal. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away," in the New Heaven, and New Earth will still have the word of God. It is bright. So, you know in the Lord of the Rings, whenever the Orcs are nearby, the sword shines and glows. Well, can I just tell you the demons are always around. This sword's always shining. "It is shining as a light in a dark place," it says in 2 Peter. This is a dark place. The word of God is a bright, radiant, shining blade. It is fiery. What do I mean by that? Well, I don't know, but this is what Jeremiah says. Jeremiah 23:29, "Is not my word like fire? And like a hammer that breaks rocks and pieces?” It's a fiery, powerful thing. And it is deadly to the enemies of God.
When I was writing my commentary in Isaiah, Isaiah 27:1, listen to this verse, this is a powerful verse, "In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent. Leviathan the coiling serpent, he will punish the monster of the deep." I couldn't read that except thinking about how Jesus, with the sword that's coming out of his mouth, will slay Satan and all of his enemies. It deals death to the enemies of God. He will overcome the antichrist with the breath of his mouth, and slay him with the sword coming out of his mouth. And finally, it is living and active. It is living and active, what does that mean? Well, I can say some scripture to you, and it will stick with you a long time. It has an activity to it. Like the flaming arrow has a destructive activity sticks in you and burns long after the initial wound. This has a healing, living activity, it's very powerful.
I heard a story back in the Puritan era, where a man heard a very powerful, as a young man, heard a very powerful, convicting Gospel message, but he hardened his heart and wouldn't listen. Decades later, when he was in his 80s, that Puritan pastor long since gone on to be with the Lord, that man was still in an unconverted state, he was sitting under a tree, looking up, feeling awful about his life, feeling guilty, feeling that his death was near, didn't know what to do. Remembered the sermon he heard 60 years before that, was convicted and brought to faith in Christ, 60 years later. Couldn't shake it, it didn't stop working on him. So, when I'm witnessing to people on the plane, I say, "I'm going to pray that God will bring to your memory tonight the things we've talked about, especially the scriptures. And that you will be unable to sleep." I've said that to people I've been witnessing to. I never know if it's ever happened. They never called and say, "Hey, that very thing happened. I couldn't sleep," but I'm trusting that at least some of the times I've said that, it's occurred. And they can't shake it and that they are brought to faith in Christ.
Practical Aspects of Wielding the Sword of the Spirit
Now, a couple of more words and we'll be done. How do we learn to wield this skillfully? Well, you have to learn the word of God. You have to get specific about what's in scripture. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this, "Christians tend to be vague, generalistic, unable to cite chapter and verse about the Bible. They say things like this, "I think there's something in the Bible about holiness, or something in the Bible about materialism, or something. I know it's in there somewhere." Friends, that's not going to do it in the day of battle. You need to learn what's in the word of God, you need to learn. When we do ordination councils, the elders do, we bring in these students that want to be ordained. And we ask them many questions. They expected that. What they didn't expect was that they would have to root right doctrines in the best scriptures to support them, chapter and verse. Wow. Well, I say it this way: Look, do you want a surgeon who knows generally where your pancreas is? “I think that's probably your liver, but I'm not 100% sure," it's like, "Do not touch me." But very soon after they're in ministry, some people struggling with sin, are going to say, "What are the best scriptures for me for fighting lust?” “My marriage is struggling. What should I do?" Well, I think the Bible says some things about marriage." That's just not going to cut it. "How can I best refute the temptations I'm feeling toward anxiety over money? Do you have any verses on that? Do you know where they are? Do you know what they are?" So, fighting specific temptations.
I remember when I was a young man, just out of MIT, I've been a Christian, three or four years. I remember I was in an office and I wanted to be pure. I wanted pure eyes. I wanted to be pure in my heart. And there were opportunities for visual temptations in the office, based on what people were wearing, and I remember memorizing Psalm 141, verses 8:10, "But my eyes are fixed on you, oh, Sovereign Lord. And you, I take refuge. Do not give me over to death. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, from the traps set by evil doers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets while I pass by in safety." So just guard my eyes, oh, Lord, to look at only those things that are pure. How about temptations? Struggling with temptations, how do you resist them? A temptation toward depression and discouragement. How about Psalm 42:5-6, "Why are you downcast, oh, my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise my savior and my God." What about anxiety? How about Philippians 4:6-7, "Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." How about accusations? Romans 8, "Who will lay any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died more than that is at the right hand of God, is interceding," or, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful, and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness," 1 John 1:9. So, I would commend memorization of scripture to you. Hugely beneficial. Out in the North Tower Resource Center, we got from Bethlehem Baptist packets of scripture verses that they call “fighter verses,” it's coming right from this Ephesians 6 image. Those are topical verses that you can use to learn specific ways to fight certain temptations. I think it's a good combination between that and memorizing whole books of the Bible for a general knowledge of all that Scripture says. So, this is the way you can wield the sword.
IV. Wielding the Sword in the Internal and External Journeys
One final word and then we'll go to the Lord's supper. You need to learn how to wield the sword both in the internal journey and the external. Internally, you have to block all of these things that I've been talking about. Satan's temptations, accusations, false doctrines. So, that you can grow in holiness. But externally, don't you want to set some prisoners free? They're in their chains, they can't get out. Think of what Charles Wesley did in, “And Can It Be”. How he wrote, "Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray," who's the thine? It's Jesus. But he does it through messengers. He does it through evangelists that go into the dungeon and say, "Let me sit with you and talk to you about truth." And you wield that sword better than the Green Destiny and the chains just get sliced and fall from their wrists and their ankles. "My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth and followed thee." Alright. Close with me in prayer then we'll go to a Lord's supper.
Father, we thank you for the power of the Gospel. We thank you for all that it teaches us in the way it instructs us. And thank you, oh Lord, for the way we're told to fight, to put on the helmet of salvation and to wield the sword of the Spirit. And now, as we go to a time for the Lord's supper and for the ordinance, I pray that you would take the words that I've just preached, and press them into our hearts so that we are ready to fight for purity and for souls. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.