Ephesians 6:17b(2)

Sermon preached on May 23, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Arthur Pink was a popular Christian writer in the early part of the last century. In his book, The Life of Arthur Pink, (p. 6-7) Iain H. Murray describes how Pink was converted. It was through his father's quoting Scripture to him. Though he was brought up in a Christian home, Pink rejected Christianity and espoused theosophy, a cult that claimed a special knowledge preserved from generation to generation by a brotherhood of initiates. He soon became one of the leaders of this cult and spent much of his time addressing gatherings of this group. But his father, Thomas, would always wait up until his son returned from those meetings and, to Arthur's annoyance, often accompanied his 'Good-night' with some brief but telling word of Scripture. One such evening, in the year, 1908, as Pink hurriedly passed his father and dashed upstairs to his room, the text which was received was, (Proverbs 14:12)

"There is a way that seems right to a man,
but in the end it leads to death."

That text disturbed Pink. He shut the bedroom door, intending to do some work on a speech for an important annual conclave of theosophists. But the text remained with him and so disturbed him that work became impossible. He felt that he could no longer reject the God of the Bible and began to cry unto the Lord in prayer, convicted by the Holy Spirit and His power to bring a soul to see his lost condition and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

God used His word to change the heart of Arthur Pink. That's the way that God usually works in the conversion of sinners. He uses His Word. Thus Paul tells us to take up our sword, which is the Word of God. It is called the sword of the Spirit because Spirit gives power to the Word. He makes it effective. The Word is the weapon which all Christians are to take up. This means that

you are to use the Word of God as an offensive weapon, going forth to conquer for Jesus Christ.

The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, used a different analogy to describe the power of the Word. He said, (Quoted from Nancy Pearcey, (Total Truth, p 17)

"The gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage."

Hebrews 4:12 says,

"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."

God's word is alive. Lefèvre d'Etaples says of God's Word, (Quoted from Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 164)

"is not a transient and evanescent word which when uttered is immediately diffused through the air and perishes, but it is a permanent word, not carried off, not dispersed, not diffused, but sustaining and binding together all things."

God, through His Spirit, uses the Word to bring sinners to Himself. God's Word penetrates to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. John Calvin says,

"there is nothing so hard or firm in a man, nothing so deeply hidden that the efficacy of the word does not penetrate through to it."

The world, the kingdom of Satan cannot stand against the Word of God. We are to go out into the world for Jesus Christ and demolish strongholds. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5,

"For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are
not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary,
they have divine power
to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments
and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought
to make it obedient to Christ."

Only the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God can demolish strongholds. The strongholds that we Christians are to overthrow belong to the realm of the will and intellect of the spirit of men who are separated from God. Philip E. Hughes writes, (2 Corinthians p. 352)

"the Christian warfare is aimed at the casting down of the reasonings which are the strongholds whereby the unbelieving mind seeks to fortify itself against the truths of human depravity and divine grace, and at the casting down also of every proud bulwark raised high against the knowledge of God."

The only weapon that can do that is the Word of God.

Christians, it is so important that as you live your life you are to be brandish the sword of the Spirit.

We see this in Philippians 2:14–18 where Paul wrote,

"Do everything without
complaining or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault
in a crooked and depraved generation,
in which you shine like stars in the universe
as you hold out the word of life…"

As we live for Jesus and shine for Him, we are to hold out the Word of life. By that He means the Word of God, the Word which gives life. The Word is the word about Jesus and that's why it gives life.

As you live your life you are to be holding out the Word of Life. It is to be your banner—you are to live your life in the brightness of the Word of God. It is to shine all around you. Your sword is to be visible to all. Your life is to be distinctively Christian in the sense that the Word is to surround you, to be an integral part of your life, not just in the sense of it being the principle you live by, but in the sense that you are overt about it—the Word of God is to be on your lips.

We see an instance of this in Colossians 3:17 where the apostle Paul wrote,

"And whatever you do,
whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father
through him."

We are to have the name of Jesus on our lips. If we don't, we fail to honor Him as we should.

Some years ago Jake Tyler told me a story that illustrates this. Jake spent part of his growing up years in Lisbon as his father was the pastor of the Wesleyan Church there. Jake was involved in a lot of Christian activities while growing up and knew many Christians. When Jake moved back to Lisbon many years later and attended our church, he was surprised to see on of his former teachers in our congregation. She had been a long member of our church and had even been so when Jake was in her class at school. He told me that he had no idea that she was a Christian. Now, don't misunderstand, this lady was always a fine Christian lady. Perhaps a lot of Jake's surprise came from the fact that he mostly knew Wesleyan Christians and that was the extent of his Christian experience there. But part of it was also because this Christian schoolteacher wasn't vocal about her Christianity, at least while she was at school.

Someone might say,

"But you can't be vocal about it, especially at school."

It is true that there are certain rules of propriety that should be followed. For example, I once knew a Christian who would try to evangelize people at their workplace, while they were supposed to be working for their employer. Although I admire his commitment to evangelism, I would suggest that it was at the wrong time because he was actually keeping them from their work. And you may say, "But that's more important." It is. But if hired someone to work for you and you were paying them by the hour and you saw them standing around, doing nothing, but rather listening to someone witness to them, you might be okay with that, but a non-Christian would see it differently and rightly think that his workers were cheating him. And in a very real sense he would be right.

So I'm not suggesting that you forget about the fact that there is a proper time and place for witnessing vocally.

But there other ways you can show you are a Christian. We had a friend in Pennsylvania who was a teacher and she always kept a Bible on her desk. She never opened it and read it to her students, but it was a small way of showing them who she was. She told us that one day a student castigated her for having it on her desk and said to her,

"You're not allowed to have a Bible on your desk."

She just told him that she was and kept it there. Actions like that are important but in a way they are the least that we can do. We are to have the name of Jesus on our lips. We are to honor Him in everything we do.

The most important way we can advance the gospel of Christ is by having God's Word on our lips.

To demolish the devil's strongholds, the strongholds of unbelief—we need to attack them with the sword of the Spirit.

Consider the strongholds of unbelief. How can we advance against the intransigence, the intelligence and arrogance of the unbelieving world? Ordinary means will not work. People are dead in trespasses and sins. Their hearts are so enraptured by sin that only something supernatural will change them. The apostle Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 2:4. He said,

"My message and my preaching
were not with wise and persuasive words,
but with a demonstration
of the Spirit's power,"

Then in verses 13 and 14 he said,

"This is what we speak,
not in words taught us by human wisdom
but in words taught by the Spirit,
expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
The man without the Spirit
does not accept the things
that come from the Spirit of God,
for they are foolishness to him,
and he cannot understand them,
because they are spiritually discerned. "

Only God's power can change hearts. He has promised to use His Word to do this. In Isaiah 55:10–11 God said,

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower
and bread for the eater,
so is my word
that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose
for which I sent it. "

Christians, use His Word. Know it, live it, speak it. What people need to hear more than anything else is the Word of God. In Romans 10:17 the apostle Paul said,

"faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard
through the word of Christ."

The Word is what we need to go out with. That's why in 2 Timothy 4 Paul told Timothy to preach the Word. That's why he told Christians that they are to hold out the Word of Life. That's why we see that the preaching of the early church that is recorded in the books of Acts is full of quotations from the Old Testament. You see it beginning with Peter's Pentecost sermon and ending with Paul before King Agrippa in Acts 26. Paul said to King Agrippa and Festus,

"And now it is because of
my hope in what God
has promised our fathers
that I am on trial today.
This is the promise our twelve tribes
are hoping to see fulfilled
as they earnestly serve God day and night.
O king, it is because of this hope
that the Jews are accusing me.
Why should any of you
consider it incredible
that God raises the dead?"

Then in verse 22-23 Paul said,

"I am saying nothing beyond
what the prophets and Moses said
would happen
— that the Christ would suffer and,
as the first to rise from the dead,
would proclaim light to his own people
and to the Gentiles."

Paul used the Word. The Word can penetrate. It can convict sinners. It can lead them to repentance. It can give us the victory. We must not put other means above the Word. Philip E. Hughes writes, (2 Corinthians, p. 350)

"the temptation is ever present to meet the challenge of the world, which is under the sway of the evil one, with the carnal weapons of this world—with human wisdom and philosophy, with the attractions of secular entertainment, with the display of massive organization."

No, only spiritual weapons will do. In order to advance and win people to Jesus—we need the weapons which the Spirit provides, which the Spirit enables. One of the preeminent ones is the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit.

But in going forth with the Word, we need to more than just say it, we need to live it.

Having the Word of God on our lips and not putting it in to practice in our lives is hypocrisy. That would only harm the gospel.

We need to have the Word so integrated with our life, that our actions reflect the Word. We see this in Jesus when He was crucified. At that very moment He said, (Luke 23:34)

"Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing."

His life showed the forgiveness that the Word of God taught.

We see the same thing in Stephen. When he was dying he said, (Acts 7:60)

"Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

We are not only to tell people what the Word says, but we are to show it in action in our lives. We are to do everything without grumbling and complaining, being blameless and pure as we hold out the Word of God.

The second way that we can use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God offensively is

using it against those who are implacably opposed to you.

We should use the Word to try to win unbelievers to Jesus. But besides that, there are some who oppose you that you cannot win over to the side of Jesus Christ. For example, you can't win Satan over. You can't win any of the demons over. There are even some people who you can't win over. Paul spoke about two of them in 1 Timothy 1:19–20. He wrote,

"Some have rejected these
and so have shipwrecked their faith.
Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander,
whom I have handed over to Satan
to be taught not to blaspheme."

In 2 Timothy 4:14–15 Paul said,

"Alexander the metalworker
did me a great deal of harm.
The Lord will repay him for what he has done.
You too should be on your guard against him,
because he strongly opposed our message."

What are we to do when we face Satan or others who are hardened against the gospel? We are to use the Word. As we've already seen from Hebrews 4:12, God's word is like a two-edged sword. There is no blunt side to it. It never fails to cut. It cuts either one way or the other, as Hughes says, (p. 165)

"either in saving or in a judging manner. Thus, on the one hand, Christ proclaims, 'The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life' (Jn. 6:63), and, on the other hand, he says of him who rejects him, 'The word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.' (Jn. 12:48)."

Jesus showed us in His use of the Word in His temptations by Satan. At the third temptation, Jesus said, (Matthew 4:10)

"Away from me, Satan!
For it is written:
'Worship the Lord your God,
and serve him only."

At that point the devil left Him. This reminds me of the apostle James' words in James 4:7. He said,

"Resist the devil,
and he will flee from you."

We are to use the Word against Satan and his minions. We see something of this in Jude 1:9. We read,

"But even the archangel Michael,
when he was disputing with the devil
about the body of Moses,
did not dare to bring
a slanderous accusation against him,
but said,
'The Lord rebuke you!'"

Michael used the Word of the Lord against Satan. The devil cannot stand against God's Word. He is a liar and the truth exposes him. So it is with all of his followers. Sinclair Ferguson writes, (p. 183)

"We must not only protect ourselves against the enemy; we must overcome him."

We can overcome with the Word. We should be like David before Goliath. He said to the Philistine, (1 Samuel 17:45–47)

"You come against me
with sword and spear and javelin,
but I come against you
in the name of the Lord Almighty,
the God of the armies of Israel,
whom you have defied.
This day the Lord
will hand you over to me,
and I'll strike you down
and cut off your head.
Today I will give the carcasses
of the Philistine army to the birds of the air
and the beasts of the earth,
and the whole world will know
that there is a God in Israel.
All those gathered here will know
that it is not by sword or spear
that the Lord saves;
for the battle is the Lord's,
and he will give all of you into our hands."

Lastly, for those of you who aren't Christians. What this means for you is that

the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God is going to be effective against you.

It is either going to penetrate your heart and bring you to Jesus, or it is going to render you inexcusable on the last day. It is going to be either life or death to you. Pray to God that He would use it for life toward you. Ask Him to remove your heart of stone and give you heart that loves Jesus.