We have been reviewing the various elements of the Armor of God (from Ephesians 6:10-18), and this month we come to the sixth in Paul's list of seven:
And take... the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
This "Sword" is, of course, a well- known idiom:
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
There are a number of insights in this verse. First, it highlights the fundamental frustration of psychology which, at best, can deal only with the psyche, or soul level; it has no ability to reach into the pneuma, or spirit of man. Only the Word of God can.1
Only the Word of God can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is much confusion today concerning the existence of the "subconscious"-those areas of memory which seem to be out of reach to our own conscious effort. The Scripture clearly indicates that the heart is beyond our knowing.2
The sword is the offensive part of our armor. Notice also that the sword is two-edged: it is intended to be used defensively as well as offensively. In addition to the "pulling down of strongholds,"3it was to be used in defense of the faith.4
It is, of course, impossible to adequately characterize this fantastic element of our armor in this brief article. Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible, is entirely devoted to describing the "Sword of the Spirit"-the Word of God.
The Enemy's Stratagem
It comes as no surprise that Satan's most desperate stratagem is to cast doubt on the veracity and authenticity of the Word of God. His first attempt in the Garden was, "Yea, Hath God said?"5 It was all downhill from there.
And thus it continues to this day. We live in an age where pseudo-scholarship has made it fashionable to demean the Bible. Self-styled experts, with PhD's (and H2SO4's) behind their names, have disparaged, demeaned, and mutilated the sacred Scriptures in the mind of the uninformed. And yet, never before has there been more evidence of its true origin!
As most of our regular readers know, the two great discoveries that are the underpinning of this ministry are, first, that the Bible is an integrated message. Even though it consists of 66 separate books6 which were penned by about 40 different authors-over thousands of years7- we now discover that it is the product of detailed and skillful engineering: every detail, every place name, even the mathematical properties of the text are the result of deliberate and careful design.
The rabbis have a quaint way of expressing this idea. They often say that they really won't be able to interpret the true meaning of the Scriptures until the Messiah comes. "But when He comes He will not only interpret the passages, He will interpret the very words, the very letters, He will even interpret the spaces between the letters!" I used to dismiss this as just a colorful exaggeration, until I re-read Matthew 5:17, 18:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the Torah, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one yot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
Now a yot and a tittle are the Hebrew equivalents of our dotting an "i" or crossing a "t." I then realized that those rabbis were apparently closer to the truth than I had ever imagined!
The realization that the Bible is a skillfully designed message system significantly altered my understanding of the whole and my respect for the details. But it also involved a second discovery: the Bible demonstrates that its origin is from outside our time domain.8
Outside Time Itself
Since God has the technology to create us in the first place, He certainly has the technology to get a message to us. The question is, How does He authenticate His message; How does He let us know that it is really from Him and not some kind of a contrivance or a fraud? One technique He uses to demonstrate that the origin of this message is from outside our time domain is by writing history before it happens. He alone knows the end from the beginning9 and there is no way to counterfeit this characteristic of the Biblical text. We call this "prophecy." And, of course, there are ample materials available exploring this topic.10
Today's Technology for an Unbelieving World
It has recently been discovered that the Biblical text has secret codes hidden among the letters. Numerous articles have been published highlighting the incredible discoveries that appear to be emerging from computer analysis of the text.11 This was originally discovered by Jewish researchers and widely published in the professional literature, as well as disseminated throughout Israel. It also has now been revealed that the name Yeshua seems to be hidden behind virtually every Messianic prophecy! The Jewish researchers now have a problem!
It is interesting that in this modern world of skepticism, God has raised up a technological insight essentially unavailable to researchers of the past: our modern information appliances are revealing new discoveries daily which demonstrate properties of the text itself that are impossible to duplicate synthetically.
Paul's use of the idiom "the Sword of the Spirit" carries some other suggestive characteristics. Most of the ancient armies favored a long sword with a single edge. The Romans developed a short sword-the Machira-which, with its associated techniques, enabled them to conquer the world. It was only 24 inches long and was sharpened on both edges.
But there was a secret to its effectiveness: training and practice. Its uniqueness was a liability unless it was used with the proper techniques, which required extensive practice. Is there a lesson here for us?
Let's look at an example: What Bible study was given by seven different people, on twelve separate occasions (in just one book of the Bible), always yielded remarkable results, and yet is rarely given today? The Answer: Presenting Jesus Christ as the Messiah entirely from the Old Testament.12
In the Book of Acts, when they presented Jesus from the Scriptures, they were using only the "Old Testament." Could you present Jesus to your Jewish friends using only these references?13
The proper use of our "Sword" requires training, and practice, practice, and more practice, if we are to be effective for our Lord. There are (at least) four highly effective techniques to acquiring the essential skills:
1. Serious study, with a core set of tools in your home library. If you're serious about your Bible, invest in it: acquire a resource base of your own. Pick up a good study Bible, an exhaustive concordance, Biblical helps, etc.14
2. Discover the amazing results available through audio cassette tapes. You can be personally tutored by whomever you best relate to. Some have indicated that they have learned more about their Bible in six months with tapes than they have after twelve years of Christian schools plus seminary! This is one reason that our ministry has emphasized these remarkable resources (Romans 10:17). See the following article in this issue.
3. Join a home Bible study. The dynamics within an intimate group is where the real action is!
4. The biggest secret of all: teach a home Bible study. The way to really learn a book is to teach it. It is not hard to collect some competent background materials and stay a week ahead of the group. Few things are as rewarding.
A Sound Foundation
One of the biggest challenges is to maintain a balance, free of serious error. It is so easy to focus on a few pet areas at the expense of the whole. Avoid "Bible Bytes," or doctrinal snippets on which to hang some deviant notion. Attempt to embrace "the whole counsel of God," comparing Scripture with Scripture. Invest time in preparation and practice with your sword:
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
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