“Fighting the Good Fight”
The Sword of the Spirit – (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)
This is the one singular offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit (v17b). The helmet and the sword are distinctive, ‘of’ possessive, the Spirit’s sword. And therefore invincible. The Christian’s warfare has to do with the mind, thinking. But with a Bible in hand, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). This is the means that the Holy Spirit uses and particularly the word of God preached. The deadly scythe to cut down the enemies of God and his people, the undiluted word of God. It is powerful and revealing, “for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). For Christ is in it, it produces faith that leads to salvation, “so then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). By it, we taste of the heavenly world (Hebrews 6:5). It is the Christians weapon before which the demons flee (v12). The truth is our belt (v14). The gospel is our righteousness (vv14b). Peace tranquilises the mind (v15). The shield protects us from the father of lies (v16). The sword of the Spirit is the word of God and is our principle means of grace. What does grace mean? It is an attribute of God, it is his attitude of favour towards undeserving sinners. Grace is the power by which the sinner is saved, delivered from the bondage of sin and corruption. It is by grace we are regenerated, sanctified and made pleasing to God. Grace is a spiritual blessing and virtue bestowed, by God. And the means by which it is bestowed? The preaching of God’s word.
Then there are what we would call the wider means. That of good Christian reading, of Scriptures too of course, which brings us to a conscious faith. There is the godly conversation with other saints, fellowship in other words. Fellowship is so misunderstood these days. It is not conversing about the week’s work, our favourite sports team or activities. It is conversing with and sharing the things of God with other believers. This is a means of edification, strengthening our faith. Some would include prayer, one could wider still and include all things, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The temptations we face, the lures of the world, the fight with the flesh, all our sufferings and afflictions. To be sure God uses all these for our growth in grace. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5). In Reformed theology, however, we see the preaching of God’s word as being the main means, the principle means of grace. It is by this means we are called of God to be Christians. It is by this means we receive the knowledge of Christ. And this without the sacraments, for they are added to the word, they are signs and seals of the promise of God. But it is the word that is primary that explains the sacraments. It is the word that is indispensable, we can live without the sacraments, but not the word. “But he answered and said, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). It is the word that works faith, sustains our spiritual life, explains the sacraments. Without the word of God, the sword of the Spirit the sacraments would be meaningless.