EPHESIANS 6:17b(part 2)-c
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:17b (part 2) “. . .and the sword. . .”
William Tyndale understood the significance of calling Scripture “the sword.” He deemed it a powerful weapon against forces of darkness. Believing every plowboy in England should be able to read the Bible, Tyndale gave his life to make possible an English New Testament in 1534. Sixty percent of this work was retained by the KJV translators. Tyndale knew warfare requires effective weapons.
When David asked for a weapon, the priests told him Goliath’s sword was available. Having used that very weapon to saw off Goliath’s head, David said, “There is none like that, give it me” (1 S 21:9). He wanted the best weapon available. We Christian warriors also need the best, the Bible. No other book is like it.
We Christians are engaged in a real warfare, and the Bible has historically been viewed as “the sword,” our most effective weapon of aggression. Oliver Cromwell and his soldiers, the Ironsides, understood this “sword” imagery. They went into battle carrying a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other.
We can not defeat God’s enemies and win God’s battles without God’s Book, but I fear we do not, in our thinking about the Bible, dwell enough on the “sword” metaphor. We have lost some of the military symbolism presented in our text.
It was once common to hear a preacher ask his congregation, “How many of you brought your sword?” Immediately, people would lift their Bibles and wave them in the air. A preacher posing this same question today would probably catch his listeners totally off guard. In Bible Drill, a wonderful program for children, the commands now are, “Attention! Present Bibles! Start!” When I was a child, we called it Sword Drill and the commands were, “Attention! Draw Swords! Charge!”
Are we slowly losing our understanding of the aggressive power of the Bible as an offensive weapon which can be mightily used to cut a swath through forces of evil? Has the present generation’s assault of infidelity made an impact on us unawares to us? Have the world’s attacks against Scripture caused a subtle disbelief to waft among us unbeknown to us? Has our faith in the Bible been slyly eroded?
Maybe the problem is our hectic schedules. There is, without doubt, more to do and read nowadays. However, one truth remains constant. People still do and read what they choose to. We need to be re-convinced to prioritize Bible reading.
I remind us of the cutting, slaying power of the spoken Word of God, of which our Bible is the written counterpart. The whole cosmos shakes beneath powerful utterances spoken with Heaven’s authority. God’s Word penetrated nothingness and created something-ness. God then spoke to the chaos, and it fled, scurrying to make way for order. God said of the disobedient, “I have slain them by the words of my mouth” (HS 6:5b). Of Messiah it was predicted, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:4). History’s final victory will be won by Jesus’ words, “Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations” (RV 19:15a).
All this energy inherent in God’s spoken Word is transfused into God’s written Word, the Bible. Holy Writ has power. “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword” (HB 4:12a). Every time God “strikes with it, Satan’s empire totters, and the dark coasts of hell tremble at the blow” (McClure, in BI). Under the Spirit’s anointing, the Bible cuts demons to the quick. As Pastor Kent Hughes says, “The Word of God draws the blood of Satan himself.”
The Word is a sharp, piercing weapon for humans, also. With one thrust it enters the very seat of life. At Pentecost, the Word was mightily preached by Peter. His listeners “were pricked in their heart” (AC 2:37). Under the Word’s powerful strokes, evil forces are humiliated, their chicanery and duplicity being cut to ribbon.
There evidently have been times when we better understood the power of the Word of God than we do now. At the coronation of young Edward VI, after several swords had been presented to him as emblems of his sovereignty, He announced, “There is yet another sword to be delivered to me. . . .the sacred Bible, which is the sword of the Spirit, and without which we are nothing, neither can we do anything.”
Eph. 6:17c “. . .of the Spirit,. . .”
The Bible is not an idol, an icon, or a lucky charm. It has no magic in and of itself. Its effectiveness is due to “the Spirit.” Never separate in your mind the Holy Spirit from the Bible. Emphasizing the Spirit without the Bible leads to all kinds of weird errors; the Bible without the Spirit leads to cold, dead orthodoxy, Pharisaism.
The Holy Spirit is Scripture’s Author and Creator. Having forged it by inspiration, Scripture is His weapon of choice, the instrument through which He chooses to work mightily. The way He empowers its use is by enabling us, its users. A Bible must not lie idle in a library. It is useless until used, yet must not be only wielded, but wielded effectively. Swords of the finest steel and craftsmanship are worthless without highly trained, well-disciplined swordsmen. Until handled effectively, the Bible’s usefulness is negligible, and only the Spirit can enable us to use it aright.
Be in the Word, but not in a pedantic, legalistic way. All of Christianity is to be rooted in personal relationship with God. Everything we do should rise from a sense of intimate communion with Him. With our minds controlled by the Spirit, let us learn Scripture’s doctrines, promises, precepts, consolations, and warnings. Under the Spirit’s tutelage, be prepared to recollect pertinent passages upon every emergency, to call up verses appropriate to the situation. We need not only truth, but truth for the occasion. As we learn at the Spirit’s hand, He will in our times of need bring appropriate passages to our remembrance. The Spirit did this for the disciples. Jesus told them the Comforter would “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (JN 14:26). The Spirit will do the same for us. He enabled the Apostles to recall what needed to be in the written Word, and will enable us to recall what we need from the written Word. Pore over the Bible’s words. The Spirit will bring them to our minds when we most need them.
Holy Spirit, Bible, self–the three should become totally intertwined. It must become hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. One day the Philistines routed Israel into a retreat, but Eleazar, one of David’s three mighty men, stayed to fight alone. He singlehandedly carried the day, waylaying Philistines “until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword” (2 SM 23:10). Based on this story, Bunyan’s Valiant-for-truth says, “I fought till my sword did cleave to my hand. And then they were joined together as if a sword grew out of my arm, and when the blood ran through my fingers, then I fought with most courage.” Master Holy Writ, and then trust the Spirit to enable us to thrust it as master swordsmen.