The Sword of the Spirit

As Paul brought his letter to the church in Ephesus to a close, he spoke of the armor of God in Eph. 6:10-17.  When one looks at this discussion it is immediately evident that every piece of armor in Paul’s list is defensive in nature, except the final one.  The lone offensive element in the armor of God is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17).  This imagery is present in both the Old and the New Testaments and is consistently used in reference to God’s word.

It is significant that Christians only have one offensive weapon at their disposal.  It is even more significant that this one offensive weapon is so precisely defined.  This suggests, first of all, that the Lord did not intend for Christians to be overly focused on winning victories, as it were.  Humans tend to be competitive and combative enough as it is, without giving them multiple ways in which to go to war with one another.  We are to take the offensive against the forces of evil, certainly, but our armory contains a single weapon, which must be wielded carefully.

The fact that our sole offensive weapon is the word of God is a limiting factor in our struggle against evil.  However, this does not suggest that God’s word is of limited power.  Rather, it suggests that we can only use it to accomplish what God intends for it to accomplish.  Speaking of His word in Isa. 55:11, God said, “It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”  Therefore, we may only use the sword of the Spirit to accomplish what God desires.  To do otherwise is a misuse of this weapon.

There is another reason why our one offensive weapon is defined so narrowly.  It is because our victory in the struggle against the spiritual forces of darkness will be won by God Himself, not by us.  This principle goes back to the time of the judge Gideon.  When God reduced Gideon’s army to 300 men, He did it so Israel would not be able to boast that they had, by their own power, destroyed Midian (Jdg. 7:2).  It is demonstrated again in Revelation, where the Lord Jesus is portrayed as having a two-edged sword in His mouth with which He makes war against the enemies of God (Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15).  The victories in both cases can only be attributed to the power of God’s word.

Lest anyone should doubt the power of the sword of the Spirit, God’s word is clear on what it is capable of doing.  In Heb. 4:12 the scripture says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  When Christians take up the sword of the Spirit, they hold in their hands all the power they will need in the struggle against evil.

This, then, is why the scriptures exhort and admonish us to know God’s word.  Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Just like soldiers in a physical army train incessantly in how to use their weapons of war, we who are soldiers in God’s army must conscientiously train with the sword of the Spirit in order to wield it accurately in the Lord’s service.  May each of us who professes faith in Jesus Christ become experts in the use of God’s word, which is the sword of the Spirit.

Ashamed of Christ

In his beautiful hymn, “May This My Glory Be,” Tillit S. Teddlie proposed the impossibility of one being ashamed of Jesus Christ.  To be ashamed of Christ, Bro. Teddlie suggested, would be like the evening blushing to own a star.  Since stars are the glory of the evening sky, to be ashamed of them would be something akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the actions of many believers do, in fact, show that they are ashamed of Christ.  Certain progressives within our fellowship have long pontificated about the “baggage” carried by the name “Church of Christ.”  This name, they say, is an obstacle to evangelism, because of the negative connotations associated with it.  Those among them with sufficient influence to do so have persuaded their congregations to drop “Christ” from their signage, stationery and advertising.  Now one may see a marquee with a name such as “Hilltop Church,” rather than “Hilltop Church of Christ.”  Insinuated in the arguments for such a change is that our denominational neighbors do not have such baggage to overcome.

In point of fact, however, more and more denominational churches are doing exactly the same thing, and they are using the very same reasoning for it.  It is not uncommon today to find a large church building with a sign that reads, “Crestview” or “Bible Fellowship” or “The Vineyard.”  To the uninitiated, these appear to be churches that are not affiliated with any denomination.  On closer inspection, however, one finds that the preachers on staff were trained in Baptist seminaries and the church is affiliated with one or more of the various Baptist Conventions, or with some other denomination.  They claim that they are “non-denominational,” but they are actually hiding their denominational affiliation for the same reasons given by progressives in our fellowship.

While those who take such actions will deny it, removing Christ from the name of the church is an act of shame.  The scriptures speak clearly of the church being the body of Christ (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:12, 13).  In Eph. 5:22-33 Paul speaks of the church as the bride of Christ.  Even in the convoluted world in which we live today, it is typical for a bride to take her husband’s name.  So why shouldn’t the bride of Christ also carry His name?  To choose not to wear the name of Christ suggests that one is ashamed to wear it.

Lost somewhere in the determined rush to jump on the ecumenical band wagon is the fact that the Lord warns us about being ashamed of Him.  In Lk. 9:26 He said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  This same warning is made also in Mk. 8:38.  Both of these warnings appear in the context of the Lord’s teaching on discipleship, specifically in reference to becoming a disciple by obedience to the gospel.  It is in this context that we expect one to make profession of his or her faith in Jesus Christ.  The Lord suggested that failing to do so indicates that one is ashamed of Him.

There are, of course, many ways in which our actions may show that we are ashamed of Christ.  A failure to be faithful in our walk as Christians is one way.  Dressing, speaking and acting like the world is another.  Refusing to put Christ’s name on a church marquee may seem a small thing, but it reflects an underlying shame that belies every other profession of loyalty a church may make.  Let us not be ashamed of Christ in anything we do, so He will not be ashamed of us at judgment.

Time Flies

We have all heard the expression, “Time flies.” We use it to remind ourselves of how quickly life goes by. The younger a person is, the slower it seems that time passes. The older one gets, the more quickly it seems to pass. This disparity of perception may be explained by the fact that a year for 5 year-old child represents twenty percent of his entire lifetime up to that point. For a 60 year-old, it is one-sixtieth of his life. When we consider the fact that our life expectancy is somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty years, the closer we get to that age only multiplies how quickly time seems to pass.

Sometimes instead of saying, “time flies,” we add the phrase, “when you’re having fun.” This modification captures the reality that we are less cognizant of time when we are having a good time. Thus, three hours at the football or baseball game seems like a short time, and we are sorry when it is over, while one hour in a class at school or in the worship assembly may seem like forever. This demonstrates that our attitude about the activity in which we are engaged plays a role in how we perceive the passage of time as we do it. A good attitude makes time pass more quickly, but a bad attitude mades the time drag.

Another aspect of this fact of life is that time flies, whether we want it to or not. this is an area in which self-help gurus focus much attention. Those who have personal issues that need correcting or improving must understand that time will pass, whether they make any effort to improve themselves or not. The question is not if time will pass, but what will the person have done to help his circumstance after that time has passed.

Having a good attitude and making the most of one’s time are essential principles in our daily affairs. They are also essential spiritual principles. The scriptures are very clear that a good attitude is a blessing for those who have it. In Prov. 15:13 Solomon said, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” In Prov. 17:22 he added, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” The point is that a good attitude is both physically and emotionally uplifting. King David, in Psa. 122:1 said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.'” If we choose to have a joyful heart that is glad when it is time to gather for worship, time will fly in the Lord’s service.

The scriptures are similarly frank about how we use our time. In Eph. 5:15-17 Paul said, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Here we see the importance of spending our time wisely, meaning, in context, that we must devote ourselves to understanding God’s will so we will be wise in our walk as Christians. Time that is wasted is time that is lost. Time that is wasted is time that has been foolishly spent.

It was once said that time marches on. This is a fact of life. We can do nothing to stop the progression of time. All we can do is make use of that time while we have opportunity. At some point, however, time will end, when God the Father sends His Son for judgment. Where we stand at the end of time will largely depend on how we spent our time while we lived. If we had a good attitude and spent our time wisely in obedience to God’s word, we will enter heaven. If we have not spent our time wisely (that is, have not been obedient), we will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15), where time will stand still in the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 25:30).

Living Water

When Jesus and His disciples came to the Samaritan city of Sychar, the Lord sat down by the well which serviced that city. As He waited for the disciples, who had gone into the city to buy food, a woman of that city came out to draw water. He asked her to give Him a drink, and then engaged her in a spiritual discussion. The record of this event is found in Jn. 4:5-42.

As He often did, the Lord used a mundane part of daily life as a springboard to teach a spiritual lesson. In this case, it was His request for a drink of water. The woman was surprised that He, being a Jew, would dare to ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. Jews typically had no dealings with Samaritans, and teachers did not speak to women in public. Part of the Lord’s mission in coming to the earth, however, was to break down the barriers between races and classes by means of His sacrificial death on the cross (Eph. 2:14-16). His conversation with the Samaritan woman was a first step in bringing these barriers down.

When the woman expressed surprise that the Lord would ask her for a drink of water, He replied in terms of spiritual importance He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (Jn. 4:10). The woman, as people often did, failed to grasp the Lord’s meaning. She supposed He was speaking about giving her water from the well at which He was sitting.

In the ancient world, the term “living water” was generally used to describe running water as opposed to standing water drawn from a cistern or well. Living water, in this sense, was considered superior because it came from a flowing source that would not be expected to run dry. Those who were so fortunate as to dig a well that struck an underground spring or river were deemed richly blessed.

The Lord, however, was not speaking about literal water. He was talking about eternal life. We see this in the next statement He made to the Samaritan woman, in vs. 13 & 14. He said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Even though the well in Sychar was deep and provided abundant water for the residents of that city, it was nothing compared to the gift the Lord would provide.

When Jesus went to the cross, the blood that He shed paid the price for the sins of the world from the beginning of time to the end of time. It was a perfect sacrifice that once and for all provided the atonement that mankind so sorely needs. Like water standing at the bottom of a deep well, though, this gift is of no use to us until we do what the Lord commanded us in order to receive its benefit.

This gift is freely offered to all who are willing to receive it, but we only receive it by obeying the gospel. The Lord said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). When we are immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we receive eternal life. When we obey His commands He gives us the living water of which He spoke to the Samaritan woman. Then, as faithful children of God, who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, we have within us this well of water springing up to eternal life that sustains us all the way to the home prepared for us in heaven.