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WHOSE SWORD IS IT?


When I was in school at what was then (and I will always think of it as) The Sunset School of Preaching, we students would frequently ask each other, “Do you have your sword?” Of course, we were referring to our copy of the Holy Scriptures. We had in mind this text:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God…. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, with all prayer and supplication. – Ephesians 6:13-18 (ESV)

I have preached on this text many times. I like to emphasize that each element of this “whole armor of God” centers on Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Paul said of Him, “Jesus… became to us… righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and writes of “the gospel of God,… concerning His Son….” (Romans 1:1-2). Our faith is in Jesus, and He is our salvation. John’s gospel begins by speaking of the Word who was with God in the beginning (and is God) being the one who became flesh and lived among us as we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:1-3, 14).

All elements of this armor point us to Jesus, who is our protection against the wiles of the evil one. Our trust is in Him, and it is He whom we proclaim.

Last night, however, a question came to me about the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Whose sword is it? My sword or the Spirit’s sword.

I use razor blades called “Wilkinson Sword.” This is the brand name of the Wilkinson Sword company, begun in 1772 as a manufacturer of fine swords. Are there any history trivia folks who can tell us if the sword General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington was made by Wilkinson Sword? If it were, was it General Cornwallis or Wilkinson Sword who surrendered?

At times along my spiritual journey, I thought of the Scriptures as a gift to us from God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – and that we were to use the Bible as a precious gift divine (some of us actually almost worshiped it as Divine) – but that the Spirit’s connection with it virtually ended when the last canonical Scriptures  were penned.

I no longer think that way. Here are a few of the texts that convince me the Word of God is the Spirit’s sword because the Spirit wields that sword, not because He inspired it. Of course the Spirit inspired it – and of course I am to use it to teach of Jesus. But it is the Spirit who effectively wields that sword in changing the hearts and lives of men. At best, I am but a lowly sword bearer in the service of the One who uses it.

Paul, using a different metaphor, wrote:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6

Staying with an agricultural figure of speech, Jesus said,

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. – Mark 4:26-29

How does the seed grow? We do not know. God knows. He is the life-force behind the sprouting of the seed we sow, and He is the power behind the gospel we proclaim.

Perhaps the clincher is another statement from the lips of Jesus, this time speaking of the Holy Spirit without a figure of speech.

And when He comes, He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. – John 14:8

Who convinces the world of its sin? It is the Comforter, the Helper, the Paraclete. Yes, we may preach the word, earnestly and fervently. But if the Holy Spirit is not active, there will be no conviction of sin. Whoever changed the first line of the second verse of the hymn, I Know Whom I Have Believed, did a grave dis-service to the church. The hymn author wrote, “I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus in the Word, creating faith in Him.” Someone changed it to read, “I know just how the Spirit moves,” ect.

Jesus said we do not know how the seed sprouts and grows. That is in God’s province of activity. Our responsibility is to sow the seed, to speak the truth in love, and to exhibit that love in our lives. We are to do this “in season and out of season” – or as one great preacher said, “That means when they want it and when they do not!” We are to nurture that seed with the water of God’s love in action and the encouragement of hearts full of concern for both saint and sinner.

But it is God who gives the increase. He gives that increase through His Spirit, the same Spirit that inspired the apostles and prophets to pen the Scriptures. He, the Spirit, knows how to use that living and active Word of God to touch the hearts of hurting men.

Whose sword is it? It belongs to Him who knows how to use it within the crevices of a human heart in the way that no human, earthen vessel can. Our job is to proclaim and pray. As the passage about taking “the whole armor of God” continues,

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. – Ephesians 6:18-20

We pray that we may be given words and boldness to speak as we ought. In another place, Paul wrote that we do not even know how to pray apart from the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).

What makes us think that our swordsmanship is so fine that we have the power to persuade men apart from the One whose sword we are privileged to carry?

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