The Bible teaches us that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit.
Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
It doesn’t take very long reading the Bible to realize that it is much harder to read and digest than any other book. It requires spiritual and mental effort, as well as physical stamina to read and understand the truth contained in it. The reason? The Bible is the only book that is alive. The word of God is a living sword of truth!
Don’t be confused, the sword of the Spirit is not just the written word, it applies to the spoken word as well. Without the spoken word we will never get the specifics needed to wage a good warfare and win the battles we are destined to fight.. Look at what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy.
1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
The spoken word of God is just as valid and important as the written word, yet there are entire denominations that reject prophecies and claim that such gifts ceased in the time of the original apostles. Others claim that the written word is the only sure word. In Paul’s writings to the Thessalonians he made this clear statement.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
I make this point so we don’t get trapped into wrong thinking about what our spiritual sword is and limit ourselves in our ability and knowledge of how to use it. We must not take lightly the words that the Lord has spoken to us, whether spoken to us directly or through other saints.
The word is described as a living sword, but in other places it is described as a seed, a mirror, a light, water, food, a fire, and a hammer. Jesus Himself is called the Word. The point is, the word of God contains anything and everything you need in any given situation.
John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth
Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified, set apart by the truth of God’s word. The sword of truth separates us from our old carnal nature so we might embrace our new life in Christ.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The sword of truth is sharper than any other sword, cutting clean and deep when we incline our heart to it. It is a discerner of our beliefs, our thoughts and the intentions of our heart. It has the power to separate light from darkness, identifying things in us that need change. The sword of the word challenges what we think and believe as it exposes us to God’s nature and His divine purpose for our lives.
Children shouldn’t play with a sharp sword. Not until they have learned the dangers of mishandling it, and the damage that can be caused to others by misusing it. The word should be handled with reverence and respect, with skillful wisdom in the fear of the Lord.
There should be no sword fighting amongst God’s children.
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.
2 Timothy 2:23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
Arguing about the word with other believers is a sure sign that we are unskilled with the sword.
We see in the gospel of John that Jesus is called “the Word.” Are we to take the sword and cut people up with it? I think not.
John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
Everything that was made, was made through the Word of life, Jesus Christ. notice it says nothing about things or people being cut up or torn down by the word. When we mishandle the word, we misrepresent our Lord and King. This brings a reproach on Jesus and the Father. It also grieves the Holy Spirit within us.
After the Apostle Paul’s dramatic conversion, he did not start teaching immediately, even though he was a trained Pharisee with years of study in the Old Testament. Paul clearly implied that he spent three years being taught by Jesus Himself.
Galatians 1:11-12 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Whether Jesus appeared to Paul physically or revealed Himself through visions and revelations is unknown, and unimportant. What is significant is that Paul received three years of discipling from Jesus personally, just like the other Apostles.
When Mathias was chosen to take Judas Iscariot’s place as an Apostle, we see the conditions required for that office in Acts 1.
Acts 1:21-22 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
God’s children should study the word to show themselves approved before they consider teaching the word. The foundational Apostles needed three years of direct teaching from Jesus Himself. We are not foundational Apostles as they were, but we must ask ourselves and the Lord; Am I ready to represent the Word life? Am I skilled enough to teach others to use the sword?
As we put on the armor of God, the sword is the last thing we are instructed to pick up.
Ephesians 6:13-17 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
We know that God’s word is a spiritual sword, but what is a “word” in general?
A word is a verbal or written expression that carries ideas and creates images in peoples hearts and minds. The very nature of the word shapes the image that it produces. All words are spiritual, and all thoughts are spiritual. The nature of God’s word is love. Love is our license to wield the sword.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the express image of God. He is our role model. He is The Word. As we behold His image, we are shaped into His likeness.
Paul’s exhortation to a young Timothy gives us clear instruction on our approach to God’s word.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Being skilled with the sword takes diligence and work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
All scripture is profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, but not necessarily our interpretation, or our delivery of it. Handling the word of life without humility and the fear of the Lord can result in people being cut, hurt, and offended. It brings a reproach on Christ, discrediting His name, His Church, and His word.
The Bible says in James 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
Teachers of the word of God are held to a high level of accountability. A stricter judgment. Teachers should teach from the overflow of their own intimate relationship with the Lord, for these are the only things they really know. Accumulation of knowledge about the word of God is not the same as knowing the Word.
In the age of abundant information that we live in, it is easy to accumulate a lot of knowledge about God and reduce ourselves to just relaying information. Unless we have practiced what we are preaching, we don’t actually know the truth we are trying to share. This results in teaching and preaching that lacks spiritual authority in demonstration and power. We try to make up for this lack of authority and power by being funny and entertaining. It is a poor substitute.
We should keep in mind that the Word is a person. When we share the word with others, we are to share from our understanding of God, not the knowledge we have accumulated about God. If we are not practicing what we know we are not able to teach it with the authority and power it deserves.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
When we teach what we don’t practice, we not only deceive ourselves but do an injustice to those we are attempting to teach.
2 Timothy 3:14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
We must ask ourselves; Are we learning from our relationship with the Lord and His written and spoken word, or are we just learning from the opinions of preachers and teachers? Are we studying to show ourselves approved by God, or are we just listening to the latest revelations from our favorite ministers? Do we rely on the revelations of respected theologians, or do we know God intimately for ourselves?
Even if we attend seminary and have multiple degrees, we must filter all that knowledge through our own intimate relationship with the Lord. Attending Bible college does not qualify us or validate our call to minister. Without intimate relationship with the Father we will teach doctrines of men and religious traditions filled with leaven like the Pharisees and Sadducees.(Matthew 16:6)
1 John 2:27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
The Bible also says, “call no man your teacher.”
Matthew 23:8-11 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.
This is not a contradiction to Ephesians 4 where Jesus gave us teachers and the other 5-fold ministry gifts to equip us. We should listen to other teachers and preachers, but at the same time we must filter those teachings through our own intimate relationship with the Lord, allowing the living Word to rightly divide and discern truth. If we are sensitive to the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can easily detect error.
We should ask ourselves; How much time and effort are we really investing in our own personal relationship with the Lord? What does our relationship with God look like when no one is looking? Are we studying the Bible to better know God, or studying to come up with a sermon to preach to others? Our own personal relationship with God is our most important ministry. It is ministry to the Lord, not to people. Ministry to people should flow from our ministry to the Lord. Priorities here are vitally important.
Acts 13:1-3 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
Notice how clear and specific direction came as they ministered to the Lord. The Holy Spirit spoke through one or more of these men by prophesy, word of wisdom, or maybe tongues and interpretation. It does not say specifically. However, it clearly bore witness with all present and they moved forward in that prophetic word with confidence to wage a good warfare.
If we try to “do ministry” without first ministering to the Lord, we will fall prey to false doctrines and develop itchy ears. We will seek validation by following others that believe like us and gravitate to others that treat the truth like a pair of shoes. We will try it on and if it is the least bit uncomfortable, we will set it aside and try on something else that is more comfortable. Truth is not always comfortable. That is why we have a comforter.
2 Timothy 4:2-5 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
We are in the latter times if you haven’t noticed. The great day of the Lord is upon us, so let us give proper reverence to the God and His holy word. so that we can handle our sword with skill and precision.
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