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Friendship Baptist Church 4-1-07 Hilario Perez
“Our Greatest Weapon”
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I. The Sword Described
“The sword of the Spirit,” the “word of God,” is the only offensive weapon in our Christian armory. Paul likened it to a particular kind of sword that Roman soldiers carried, and that all of his readers in Ephesus would be very familiar with.
The sword mentioned in Ephesians 6:17 is not the long sword we usually see in the old movies hung at a soldier’s side. The word for “sword” here refers to a much shorter, dagger like weapon that a soldier carried in his belt for quick access in case he got into closer combat and needed a precision weapon to strike a decisive blow. A soldier sometimes used both hands to handle his long sword, flailing and slashing away at the enemy. But his short, dagger like sword could be applied much more directly and with deadly result.
This was the same kind of sword that Peter used in the Garden of Gethsemane to cut off a man’s ear when Jesus was being arrested (see John 18:10). This may explain why Peter was able to grab it and strike before anyone could stop him. If Peter had reached across his body to draw out a long sword from its sheath, the others might have had time to react.
But it was done in a flash, and I think Peter accomplished his intent. We are often told that Peter really meant to take the guy’s head off, but swung wildly and only got his ear. I don’t think so, because that’s not the way this sword was handled. Think precision cut here, more like a doctor with a scalpel than a man flailing wildly with a big sword.
I’m making this point in depth because this is the word that Paul chose under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to describe what God’s Word is designed to do for us in spiritual battle. It’s important to understand that spiritual warfare is not swinging at the enemy from a distance, but close-in combat. The devil may be beaten, but he is still alive and well for now, and he loves nothing better than to get all up in your face and kick sand in it. That’s why victory in spiritual warfare requires a weapon that can deliver precision blows.
Another Greek word in Ephesians 6:17 is very enlightening as we seek to understand how to win at spiritual warfare. Paul called the Spirit’s dagger “the word of God”—but we need to stop here, because this is not the ordinary word for Scripture.
Paul did not use the familiar Greek word logos, which looks at the Bible in its entirety as the received body of God’s truth.
Instead, Paul used the word rhema, which means “an utterance,” and looks at the Bible not as a bound volume of sixty-six books, but as a weapon ready at hand to be used in a definite way at a definite time of need.
This is where it gets exciting! Paul was saying that if we want to be victorious in spiritual warfare, we must be able to draw on specific truths from the Bible in specific situations to counter specific temptations and attacks from the Enemy.
There are many ways to illustrate this. It is like my cell phone, there was something that I needed to figure out I didn’t go and read the whole owners manual in fact I didn’t read any of the owners manual I asked Brad how to figure it out.
I like to use sports analogies, so when I think of the difference between logos and rhema I picture a tennis racket or a golf club. A tennis racket hanging in the garage has built into it all the qualities needed to be victorious, but there is a world of difference between hanging a racket in the garage and putting it in the hands Serena Williams. She can use that racket with surgeonlike precision to slice up their opponents and win tournaments.
The same is true of a set of golf clubs. They may look great standing in the corner of your den or office. You may have paid a lot of money for them, and you love to show them to people. Those clubs won’t do much in your den, however. But give them to Tiger Woods, and we’re talking a potential Grand Slam sweep because he can use those clubs to drop a shot within inches of a little cup from a hundred and fifty yards away.
II. The Sword Demonstrated
The first thing I want to show you is at the end of Matthew 3, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and God the Father declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (v. 17). In other words, Jesus was heading directly from a great spiritual victory into a great spiritual battle.
Don’t be surprised if some of your hardest times of struggle and temptation come on the heels of some of your greatest victories. That’s the nature of spiritual warfare. The devil knows that our human tendency is to lay down our sword, take off the armor, and put our feet up after we’ve been through a battle. But when we relax our guard we are most vulnerable to attack.
Here’s another important principle of spiritual warfare and victory. Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). The battle Jesus was about to face was God’s perfect will for Him. And remember, Jesus also faced crushing agony and temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane when His human spirit wanted to avoid the pain and suffering of the cross (see Matthew 26:39).
Now if the perfect, sinless Son of God had to undergo the most severe kind of testing, what do you think we need to experience? We often think that if we were just better Christians, we wouldn’t be facing all these battles. Nothing could be further from the truth. God allows the Enemy to attack us precisely so that we can learn to use the sword and armor He has provided us with. You’ll never know that your weapons can stand the test until you’re tested.
Jesus’ temptation not only came after a great victory (Mark 1:12 says the Spirit “immediately” sent Jesus into the wilderness), and was permitted and ordained of God, it also came when He was physically weak after fasting for forty days (see Matthew 4:2). But Jesus answered each of the devil’s temptations with the sword of the Spirit, the rhema of God. “It is written,” Jesus said three times (vv. 4, 7, 10), quoting Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; and 6:13.
Let’s develop the first of these scenarios to see how the Master used His sword to counter a specific attack in face-to-face spiritual combat and emerge victorious. The devil tempted Jesus to meet His legitimate need for food by making stones from bread—but at the devil’s will and command, not God’s.
Here is the full text of Deuteronomy 8:3, the verse Jesus drew on to deliver His precision blow to Satan. Moses said, “[God] humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Jesus did not pull out a random verse and swing it at the devil. In fact, His use of Deuteronomy 8:3 was so precise that He only quoted to the devil the part of the verse He needed. The Lord cut right to the heart of the issue. He was hungry, so He drew on a scriptural occasion when the Israelites in the wilderness were hungry and cried out to God. He answered by raining down white flakes the people had never seen before. So they asked, “What is it?” which is exactly what the Hebrew expression transliterated as “manna” means.
Now why would God give His people a food called “What is it?” Because every time they said it, they were reminded that the answer to the question from God was, “This is My supernatural provision to meet your legitimate need for food in a legitimate way, which is in My time and My way, not anyone else’s.”
God knew the people were hungry and needed to eat. But He wanted them to understand that how and where they got their food was more important than the fact that they had food to eat. And God drove the lesson home in another way, because any Israelite who disobeyed Him and tried to collect more than one day’s supply of manna found it spoiled.
Jesus knew that it was His Father’s will for Him to fast for forty days to the point that He was really hungry, and He also knew that when His Father was ready, He would feed His Son. Satan tried to short-circuit that connection, but Jesus sliced the devil’s argument to ribbons by saying He would eat only when God said it was time.
This same principle of Jesus’ reliance on God’s power and His refusal to act independently of His Father runs through the other two temptations He faced. The devil offered Jesus instant recognition and fame by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, because the devil had read the Bible and knew that God had promised to protect His Son. Satan even quoted Psalm 91:11–12 to prove his point—an attempt to use the rhema of God that was completely illegitimate. Then he showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and offered them to the Lord in exchange for His worship.
But Jesus refused in each case, because He knew something we have to know too. Jesus knew that everything the devil offered Him was going to be His already in the will of God. Here’s the principle: The victories and blessings God has for you are yours, and nobody can take them away from you if you will pursue them in His will and way. Satan can’t offer you anything good that God can’t give you if it is in His perfect will and pleasure to give it to you.
What about the things Satan offers you that look awfully good, but which you would have to violate God’s Word to get? No matter how much momentary pleasure these things may bring you, they will turn on you and slice your soul up someday. That’s why you need to have the rhema of the Spirit at your disposal to defeat these temptations.
Now if Jesus, the author of God’s Word, needed to use that Word to defeat Satan, how much more do we need to use it? Every time we say, “Well I think … ,” the devil says, “Gotcha!” All Jesus did was quote the Bible.
What happened when Jesus had defeated Satan? “Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him” (Matthew 4:11). That’s exciting, but I have a question: Where had those angels been, and why did they show up after the battle was over?
Because sometimes God wants us to be alone with His Word, that we might learn to trust what He said and learn how powerful and sufficient His Word actually is.
God is asking us, “Do you really believe My Word? I know you are hungry. I know the answer to your prayer is taking a long time to come. I know Satan is offering you something that looks good. But will you trust My Word?”
Would you like to have Satan leave you alone for a while and have angels minister to you? Then use God’s Word to send him packing. Satan cannot stand the Word of God. He isn’t afraid of you or your words, but the sword of the Spirit will cut him up so badly he can’t take it anymore.
The angels ministered to Jesus’ needs. He was hungry and exhausted, so He needed food and rest. The angels came, but not until Jesus had demonstrated that He lived by every Word that proceeds from God’s mouth. In other words, God held off the angels until He saw trust being placed in His Word.
You may be wondering where the angels are with your victory. Don’t worry, they’re out there. God has a spiritual support system waiting to go into action that can do powerful things beyond your wildest ability to conceive of (see Ephesians 3:20–21—and sharpen your rhema by memorizing it!). But if Matthew 4 teaches us anything, it teaches us that God’s power is released by our willingness to use His Word and defeat the devil in real combat.
If you want the power of God’s transforming Word to transform you, and you want it more than you want to mess around with the devil and his toys, then take your Bible off the desk or coffee table and start hiding it your heart. God’s Word is sufficient for anything you will encounter this side of heaven!
After loosing the battle to tempt Christ into sin, the Devil departs "until an opportune time." (Luke 4:13)
AN "OPPORTUNE TIME" – That is what the Enemy of our soul is soliciting from you as he "prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)
Let me suggest five "opportune times" when Satan is most likely to strike:
1. During periods of strength and success –
"But when (Uzziah) became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and was unfaithful to the Lord… " (2 Chronicles 26:16a).
2. When you choose to live by wrong priorities –
David, while at the pinnacle of his career got into trouble with Bathsheba because he was lounging when he should have been fighting (See 2 Samuel 11).
3. When you decide to go against godly counsel
Jehoshaphat, who for years had followed God in an exemplary fashion, chose to discount a prophet's warning not to go to war. It cost him his life (See 2 Chronicles 18).
4. When you, in your pride, think that you are capable of winning over Satan's "attacks" –"Put on the full armor of God… to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11, 13).
5. During times of stress and fatigue –
Elijah hit a devastating low after his victorious but intense encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal, and after traveling a demanding day's journey (See 1 Kings 18:37-19:4).
QUESTION: What steps do you need to be taking now to insure the fact that you are not Satan's next victim… during an "opportune time?"