September 10, 2023
Dressed for Battle – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 6: 14 - 18

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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

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Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians chapter six. If you’re visiting with us this morning, again, welcome. We are in a sermon series, almost done, only two or three to go, on the book of Ephesians, a series we have called Life Together. One of the big themes of Ephesians is unity in Christ, oneness in Christ, what Christ is doing in the world, and bringing Jew and Gentile together in reconciliation. And the church will ultimately be a wonderful display of God’s grace throughout the ages.
Here we are in chapter six. We have been working our way through verses 10 through 18, and we’re going to get to the end of verse 17 today. We’ve been looking at 14, 15, 16, and 17. This is a part two called Dressed for Battle. Every soldier needs to be dressed for battle and we’re learning what that looks like. Ephesians six, verse 14, I’m reading from the new King James.
“Stand therefore having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you are able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one, and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” So reads the Bible.
I spent a very memorable day, along with June and some friends, at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. It’s just one of those things that you will not soon forget. As we were being shone around, we were reminded of the pivotal nature of that battle, and how it kind of turned on a little hill called Little Round Top. On the top of that hill were some Union forces under the leadership of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. They were the extreme left flank of the Union forces, and within minutes they were attacked by a much larger force of Confederates.
They were outnumbered, they were running low on ammunition. There was no reinforcements at hand, but they understood that if the Confederates broke through their line, they could flank the Union forces and there could be a rout. So in the middle of that fierce battle, Chamberlain ordered his men to fix bayonets. They were going to charge the charging Confederates, and they did, and they caught them off guard, defeating them completely.
In fact, according to history, those 80 to 100 men captured 4,000 Confederate troops. Their line was not broken. The battle was well on its way to a win. As one writer said, “One man’s courage, saved the day, saved the war, saved the Union.” Many years later reflecting on the event, Colonel Chamberlain said this. “I had deep within me the inability to do nothing. I knew I may die, but I also knew that I would not die with a bullet in my back.”
I love that story. I love that spirit. If I’m going to die, I’m going to die facing the enemy. I’m not going to die with a bullet in my back. And what’s true in physical combat is true in spiritual warfare. Christ calls us to courage. Christ calls us to stand our ground. Christ calls us not to turn our back on the enemy or turn our face away from the world. Like good soldiers, we are to endure hardship. We are to seek to please our commanding officer.
II Timothy 2: 3-4, like good soldiers, we are to risk our lives for the sake of the gospel. Like Epaphroditus in Philippines, 2:25-30 like good soldiers, we are to believe in the cause. This is a good fight. This is a fight for holiness and wholesomeness. I Timothy 1, verse 18, like good soldiers, we’re going to stand our ground. We’re not going to run from the enemy. We’re going to put on our uniform, we’re going to take up our weapons, and we’re going to seek to make a stand for Jesus Christ and thwart the devil and his evil deadly plans.
There’s a great classic book on spiritual warfare by William Gurnall, the Puritan, and he says in it, “Let this exhort you to petition God for holy determination and bravery as you follow Christ. The fearful are those who march for hell. The valiant are those who take heaven by force. Cowards never won heaven. Do not claim that you are a begotten of God and have his royal blood running in your veins, unless you can prove your lineage by this heroic spirit to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.” Make a commitment this morning that you’re not going to take a bullet in the back, that you’re going to stand up to the world of flesh and the devil for the cause of Christ.
So with that in mind, we’re going to come back and look at Ephesians 6: 14-17, a message entitled, Dressed for Battle. Remember what we said back in chapter 4:20-24, Paul has told the Ephesians to put off the old man and put on the new man. Here, he picks up that language, he picks up that theme. He tells them in verse 11 to put on the whole armor of God. He tells them in verse 13 to take up the whole armor of God. Then in verses 14, 15, 16 and 17, we see what that looks like.
We’ve been working our way through these verses. Last week we looked at the provision of the armor, the priority of the armor, and the plenitude of the armor, and we started to look at the parts of the armor. We’re back at that point this morning, the parts of the armor. There’s six parts, six pieces in total. We decided we’re going to view them subjectively. We’re on the second half of the book, and I believe we’re looking at ethical behavior and practical conduct. We’re going to read these pieces of the armor subjectively as they relate to Christian discipleship.
We looked at the belt of truth, which was a call to inner truth, to integrity of life, a life not marked by hypocrisy but by integrity. Then we looked at the breastplate of righteousness. That was a call to outward truth, to ethical behavior, to a lifestyle that mirrors likeness to Jesus Christ. All of that said, let’s pick up the third part, the shoes of the gospel of peace. The shoes of the gospel of peace, verse 15. “And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”
As you can imagine, shoes were a vital part of a soldier’s equipment. Shoes to march in, shoes that were for the warrior, a firm footing in battle. These shoes were called caligae. They were akin a half boot worn by Roman Legionnaires. They were open toed, they were made of leather, they were fastened around the ankles and the shins by leather straps. The boot was stuffed with wool or fur for cold weather. These weren’t running shoes, they were not really for pursuing the enemy. They were thick soled. They were for long marches. They were for giving the soldier stability in the midst of the conflict. They were about three quarters of an inch thick and many of them were embedded with hob nails, which protruded through the sole so that the soldier could stand his ground.
That’s what we have in mind here. We know the importance of good shoes. To change the analogy from warfare to sports, if you’ve read anything about the life of John Wooden of UCLA fame and the world of basketball, you’ll know he actually spent a lot of time training his players to put their socks on and their shoes on, because wrinkled socks could cause blisters, loose shoes could lead to injuries. Shoes are very, very important.
Now, there’s an interpretive issue here. Are we talking about the firm footing that the gospel of peace gives us amid satanic attack and worldly pleasure? The doctrine of justification, right? That we enjoy peace with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the objective interpretation. Or are we talking about feet prepared, made ready to march into enemy territory with the gospel of Jesus, triumph over sin, death, and the powers of hell.
I tend to go with the second interpretation for the arguments I made last week. I’m going to take the subjective, the practical, understanding that you and I have feet that have been shod and prepared with the gospel of peace to go into a world at war with Jesus Christ, and declare peace with God. I think that’s a fair interpretation and we made an argument.
Some of the background of this passage is Isaiah, and in Isaiah 52, verse seven, we read about beautiful feet that bring good news. Remember how Paul picks that up in Romans 10, verse 15 about preaching the gospel? So the one grows out of the other, for sure. The peace that we enjoy in the doctrine of justification makes us confident and courageous in sharing the gospel of peace to a hating world.
But given the imperative and actionable nature of chapters four through six, I embrace the view here that we’re dealing with sharing the gospel, going into the world with the gospel, discipling the nations. You’ll see in verse 19 of this chapter that Paul picks up the idea that, “Hey, pray for me that I’ll open my mouth boldly, that I won’t play the coward.” Even Paul needs prayer. Evangelism doesn’t come naturally to any of us in the face of opposition. Paul says, “Pray for me. I want to speak the gospel and preach the gospel.”
That’s the context. I’m going to tie that into verse 15. If you go to the corresponding section of Colossians, that passage, chapter four, verses two to six again, is all about being ready to give an answer when you’re asked. So what’s this verse about? Go share the gospel. That’s what we’re being asked to do. Our standing in the evil day is not static. We’re to confront Satan’s lies with the truth of the gospel. We’re to bring the gospel light into a dark world. We’re to preach liberty to the captive, those held by Satan at his will. Those are our marching orders. Matthew 28:18-20, and as one of the old writers says, “And those orders have not been rescinded.” So go preach the gospel, my friend. That’s what God has called you to do. We’re to be going into the world with a message of love from another world.
Now you know this, but it’s worth underscoring that when you go to Matthew 28, verses 18 to 20, the command is not to go. The command is to make disciples. The going is assumed, “In your going, make disciples and baptize them.” I love that. The implication of that is not that you have to go to the other side of the world to be a witness for Jesus Christ. The implication is that as you’re going about everyday life, seek opportunity to preach the gospel. Look for doors that God opens before you. The enemy is taking life. Let’s go into the world and offer the life eternal that’s found in Jesus Christ.
Here’s an implication of this. If that’s what God calls us to be and do, and it is, the last thing we want is to be a church absorbed with itself. Let’s not be that kind of church. Let’s not get so absorbed with ourself, and our needs, and little ticky-tacky things, and spending a ton of time around the fringes of theological debate. Let’s not do that, because the world is perishing, and the darkness is deep, and hell is filling, and the grave is real, and people are in this world without God and without hope. Soldiers don’t get entangled in the small stuff. They’re at war.
Old Richard Baxter, the Puritan, said this. “The work of conversion is the first and great thing we must drive at. After this, we must labor with all our might. Alas, the misery of the unconverted is so great that it calleth loudest to us for compassion. I confess I’m frequently forced to neglect that which should tend to the further increase of knowledge in the ungodly, because,” and then he said this, “who is able to talk of controversies or of nice unnecessary points of even truths of a lower degree of necessity, how excellent soever while he seeth a company of ignorant, carnal, miserable sinners before his eyes who must be changed or be damned.”
That’s old language, but I decided to read it. Again, I’ll paraphrase it just as I did. He says, “Hey, let’s not get down into the niceties of unnecessary doctrine and neglect the unconverted. To be so absorbed as the church, we fail to see what God has called us to be, and that is light to the world and salt to those around us. Let’s not get so absorbed with ourselves that we forget others.
It’s a good word to our elders, to our deacons, to anybody in leadership. When you’re in one of those meetings and we’re talking, and conversing, and we’re getting off track, somebody call us back to the desire to reach the unconverted and disciple the nations. When we get drawn into squabbles among believers, let’s remind believers, “Come on, cut it out.” Squabbling among the ranks doesn’t help the army and doesn’t further the mission. That’s what this text is about.
In his book on conflict, Paul Powell tells about the city of Constantinople and how it fell to the Turks in the Middle Ages. It was reported that while the city was being besieged on the outside, Christian monks were on the inside debating the sex of angels, the color of the eyes of the Virgin Mary, and whether a fly which fell into holy water would be sanctified or the water corrupted. Come on, that’s a church absorbed with itself.
In his book on Christ incarnate, Nelson Price, the Southern Baptist pastor, tells of a small Tennessee town where there’s a small church with this sign on the front, Left Foot Baptist Church. It was so named years ago when foot washing was in vogue, and there was a great debate erupted in the fellowship over which foot should be washed first, and there was a disagreement and the left footers left. Can you imagine? Think about that, Left Foot Baptist Church. Really? Why don’t you just shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel, and go and reach the world, and stop that nonsense.
Now remember what’s our mantra here at Kindred and be part of it. We exist to make mature and mobilize disciples of Jesus Christ for the glory of Christ among the nations. Are you mobilizing? Have you got your gospel shoes on? Are you helping us? Do you support Living Waters? Go and get trained by them. Go to some of our core classes on discipleship and disciple making. Join some of the guys on a Friday night evangelizing. Make sure you’ve got some material on your person when someone was within your reach for the gospel. That’s mobilized. Next Sunday, listen out for 2024. What about a missions trip in 2024 with your gospel shoes on like a good soldier of Jesus Christ?
Okay, 1, 2, 3, the fourth piece of armor is the shield of faith, verse 16. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you are able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” You’ll notice above all. This is a priority and that shouldn’t surprise us, right? What does the Bible say in Hebrews 11? “Without faith it’s impossible to please God.” This is a priority. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God, and if you’re not pleasing God, you’re not protecting yourself. The centrality of faith is seen in the importance of the Roman shield.
There were several shields available to the Roman soldier. This is one of the larger shields. It was oblong, oval in shape. Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary will describe it for us. “It was made of two wood planks glued together, with an outer surface covered first with canvas and then with calf skin. There was metal on the top and bottom edges to protect the wood when it hit the ground, and on the center front there was an iron boss causing most stones and heavy arrows to glance off. Before battle, the shields were often immersed in water, soaking the leather cover and canvas so that it would extinguish flaming arrows.”
Have you seen some Hollywood movies? We’re talking about that Roman shield. It’s like a half a door, that big oblong shield. That’s what Paul has in mind here, and he tells us that faith in Christ is a shield. Faith is the shield, faith in Christ. You see, faith must have an object. Paul’s not talking about faith in faith, or mere exercise of belief. Faith is only as reliable and as helpful as the object it is put on is trustworthy. Faith acting as a shield is not faith in our ability, but in Christ’s ability, not in our resources, but in Christ’s resources. That’s what we’re being called to consider. If you study this book, I’m not going to do it this morning, but go back through it. There are several references to faith in Christ. Paul talks about this even in chapter one, verses 12 through 13 that they were the first to trust in Christ.
What we’re talking about here is a full weighted resting on Christ, His person, Son of God incarnate, One who was tempted in all points like as we yet without sin. His passion, His love, His going to the cross, His emptying out His life on the death, His presence that’s being promised to us that He won’t forsake us or leave us, His prayers. Right now, He’s in heaven, winning for us all the fruits of His work. His provision, where He will supply our every need, His promises to send the Holy Spirit to empower the church, to never leave the believer. We could go on. You get the point. That’s where our faith is focused. When we have a faith in Christ that’s solid, and sure, and steady, and ongoing, that acts like a shield against the wiles and the stratagems of the evil one.
Don’t you love the fact in Revelation 3:14, Revelation 19:11-16, that Jesus is called the faithful and the true. That’s gorgeous. That’s where our faith is, in the one who’s faithful and true, who won’t let us down. That kind of faith in Him will overcome the world, right? I John five, verse four, or let me go to I Peter five, verses eight and nine, listen to these words. “Be sober. Be vigilant because your adversary, the devil, walks a about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same suffering are experienced by your brothers in the world.” Similar language. It’s your steadfast faith in the steadfast love of the steadfast Christ who doesn’t change. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. That will act as a shield.
By the way, Christ isn’t only the object of our faith, He’s the example of it. He actually has done and modeled what He’s asking us to do. Think about His own temptation. He stood firm by trusting his Father in the face of evil. The enemy said, “Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus says, “No, I will obey my father even if it means going more days without bread,” and remember, He had fasted for 40. The enemy comes and tells him to jump off a cliff, and He says, “No, I will trust my father even if I see no evidence of the fulfillment of His promises,” because the angels were said to be able to catch God’s people. Then the enemy says, “Bow down and worship me and I’ll give you the kingdoms,” and He says, “No, I will worship and serve my father even if it means going to the cross.” You see Jesus trust? So He’s not only the object, but He is the example. He’s worth our trust. It’s not faith in faith, it’s faith in Christ. Your faith is only as strong as the object it’s put in.
When I got to Kindred some years ago, a kind brother donated an older but a good F-150 truck to June and I, and we used it for many years. Yet one day I came onto the campus, I forget why I came on. I was up on the top lot and I put the brake on to come to a stop, and there was nothing there. It went straight to the floor. Brakes were out, and I just did some donuts for about five minutes until the thing stopped. Then a cold sweat broke over my brow because I left our home up in Anaheim Hills or in Orange and came down Imperial Highway. I’m glad it didn’t go out then. That would’ve been fun. It’s hard to stop your car coming down Imperial Highway.
I was reminded, hey, I put my trust, I put all my weight on the brake peddle and it wasn’t there for me. There’s things that will let you down in life, things you’ve maybe trusted for a while that have worked, and then they let you down like the brakes in that old F-150 Christ will never let you down. He’s faithful and true.
Now, before we leave this thought, you’ll notice that the Roman shield acted as the defense against what? Flaming arrows, fiery darts. Remember what we said or Harold Hoehner said that the Roman soldier get into battle, often soaked his shield in water and the wood absorbed the water and the leather absorbed the water, so that when the enemy dipped their arrows and pitch and set their arrows alight… If you’ve watched the opening scene of the gladiator, this is where we’re at. The flaming arrows are coming and they’re hitting the shields and they’re quenching. That’s where we’re at. The shield soaks and quenches the flaming arrows.
We’re told here that our steady faith in a steady savior helps us survive the fiery darts of the wicked one. Now, what are those fairy darts? It’s a good question. I’ve kind of polled the commentators and come up with a bit of a list. It’s everything in anything, in many ways, but I think there’s a special nature to this kind of attack. I don’t think this is necessarily your run-of-the-mill temptation fostered by your flesh.
I think this is uninvited blasphemous thoughts that just take hold of your mind. I think this is moments of doubt when you were so steady in your faith. This is the onset of depression that becomes stubborn. It could be physical persecution, it could be moral temptation, it could be false teaching and error, emotional instability. What about suicidal urges in the life of someone who once loved life? Where did that come from? What about compulsive thoughts that rattle around your brain as it seems a little harder to fight them?
In his book, Understanding Spiritual Warfare… I’ve got some beef with parts of it, but overall, brilliant… Sam Storms says this… A book I’d commend to you… He says, “Someone has asked me, ‘Well, Pastor, what’s the difference between, let’s say, the fiery darts of the devil and my own flesh?'” You know you can sin by yourself, you don’t need the devil’s help. Okay, “The devil made me do it.” No, he didn’t. You can do that by yourself, but he can attack you in a way that can be very hard. So he’s trying to wrestle through and try to help people. I’m going to read him than just paraphrase him. I think this is helpful.
“People often ask, ‘How do I know the difference between the fiery missiles of the evil one and the sinful activity of my own flesh?’ That’s a challenging question to answer, if for no other reason than it pertains to our subjective experiences. But in most instances, our sinful, fleshly propensities are something with which we are already quite familiar. Satan’s flaming darts most often strike us as strange, unprecedented, and virtually out of nowhere. They appear suddenly in our minds without warning or any sense about what may have provoked them. Furthermore, when the problem is our sinful flesh, the Holy Spirit will bring conviction of sin but without condemnation. This often painful awareness of our failure comes with the promise of forgiveness. Satan’s flaming darts of damnation, on the other hand, produce only guilt, shame without any hope of freedom from its condemning power.”
I think that’s helpful. That just might get us thinking in the right direction. They’re unusual, they’re unprecedented, they’re stubborn, they really get us done. We get bind up in a sense of hopelessness.
You know the story of the lady had a problem with compulsive purchasing of clothes. She was raking up quite an amount on the credit card, to her husband’s annoyance, and so he sat her down. He said, “This has got to stop.” Now, I’m going to trust you with the credit card, for sure, but the next time you’re in one of these department stores and you feel the urge to buy that dress, you just need to remember these words. “Get behind me, Satan.” After a little while, she comes back with a dress, and he said, “What happened? Didn’t you do what I told you to do?” She said, “I did. When I put my hand on that dress, I said, ‘Get behind me, Satan.’ And he did, and he said, ‘It looks good from behind, also.'”
It’s a kind of stupid story, but hey, sometimes it’s hard to know which part of sin is us, and which part of sin is Satan. I think those words by Sam Storms is helpful. My friend, if you’re going through a season of unusual attack and you feel very discouraged and bound in your spirit, it could well be a fiery dart of the devil. Make sure you grab tightly your faith in Christ, and fight that thing off in the company of the church.
Let’s get to the fifth one, the helmet of salvation. This is verse 17. We’re going to get these all done today and we’ll move towards a closing the book. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. You don’t need for me to tell you the vital nature of a helmet. That’s why we’ve got helmet protocols in football, right? That’s why every picture you’ll see of a warring soldier, he’ll have a helmet on because the soldier’s got to protect his head.
I grew up in a pretty tough neighborhood. I remember distinctly a conversation I had with my father where he said, “Philip, if you ever get ambushed or set on,” and I actually did one night, but thankfully not as bad as he was anticipating. He said, “If you can’t fight them off and you get knocked down, roll into a ball and protect your head at all costs.” Always remembered that. Roll into a ball and protect your head at all costs, right? We understand the nature of protecting the brain and the head and that’s where we’re at here.
There’s not a ton to say about the helmet. It was made of tough metal like iron or bronze. It was often lined inside with sponge just to sit well and to bear the weight. Really, nothing short of an ax or a hammer would penetrate that helmet.
What’s Paul getting at when he talks here about the helmet of salvation? Well, I think he’s talking about salvation, that’s very clear. But he’s talking about, I think, assurance concerning your salvation, or maybe even better still the anticipation of final salvation. The assurance that while you can be wounded spiritually, you will not be killed spiritually, and that your salvation is sure.
Salvation’s a big theme in the letter to the Ephesians. The classic passage is chapter two, isn’t it? Verses one through 10, where Paul talks about salvation in the three tenses. You understand that salvation, biblically, is understood as three phases or three tenses. Initially, you put your trust in Jesus and you are saved, and you are justified, and you are declared righteous by grace. Then the Holy Spirit comes into your life and begins to redecorate your life with the fruit of the Spirit, and goodness, and kindness, and love, and you become a different person on a daily basis. That’s another evidence of salvation where you have been saved and now you are being saved. That’s sanctification.
But we will always battle to be all that we should be to the day we die or Jesus raptures the church. Then we enjoy final salvation glorification when we’re saved to sin no more, when we’re given a spiritual body according to I Corinthians 15, not subject to the flesh. You’ve got that in chapter two. We’ve got verse five, you have been saved. Then verse 10, you are being saved, created in Christ Jesus on the good works. Then someday we will be saved. In the ages to come, God will show the exceeding riches of His grace.
We’re to put on the helmet of salvation. I think along with most commentators, Paul is focused on the final aspect of salvation, our glorification. We have ultimate hope, what Paul calls the day of our redemption, chapter one, verses 12 to 14 and chapter four, verse 30. Another reason I take it that way is because over in I Thessalonians five, verses eight through 10, the hope of salvation is talked about in the context of final salvation. Chapter five verse eight, “Let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.” We’re not going to be part of the day of the Lord, we’re not going to be part of the great tribulation. The church will be evacuated, we will be saved from that. That’s our hope and we wear it like a helmet.
My friend, Mark Hitchcock, helps us here. He says this. “The only thing that can keep our thinking straight and give us hope is remembering that Christ is coming again to bring our salvation to completion, and He is coming to save us and set things right, and that He alone can bring utopia on earth. Keeping this eternal plan in view will keep you from a great deal of heartache and fear. As you read the paper every morning and listen to the news, it will keep you from being surprised, panicked, stampeded by the relentless Niagara of disheartening information. The hope of salvation reminds us the battle is not ours, it’s the Lord’s. History is not a meaningless mess, but rather a controlled plan that is right on schedule. Despite all appearances, Christ is directing these events, and everything will work out in the end.”
Mark goes on to say, “For this reason, I believe it’s imperative to preach and teach on biblical prophecy. God’s people need regular reminding that Christ is coming again to bring our salvation to consummation.” What does a soldier need most of all? Hope, that the battle will be won, that the war will come to an end.
Marguerite Higgins was a war correspondent, received the coveted Pulitzer Prize for international reporting on her coverage of the Korean War. She wrote about an account of the fifth company of Marines, originally 18,000, in their combat with 100,000 Chinese communists. This is a quote. “It was particularly cold, 42 below. The weary soldiers, half frozen, stood by their dirty trucks eating from their tin cans. A huge marine was eating cold beans with a trench knife. His clothes were stiff as a board, his face covered with a heavy beard crusted with mud. A correspondent asked him, ‘If I were God and could grant you anything you wished, what would that be most of all?’ He stood motionless, raised his head and replied, ‘Give me tomorrow.'”
Isn’t that the soldier’s prayer? Isn’t that the soldier’s hope? “Just give me tomorrow.” We have a hope of a everlasting bright tomorrow, and we got to wear it like a helmet. Because what you put into your mind and where you put your mind is a deal breaker, so set your affection on things to come. The seventh cavalry are coming over the hill according to Revelation 19.
Let’s get to the last point, and wrap this section up and this sermon up. The sword of the Spirit. The sixth and final piece is the sword of the Spirit. There’s a Greek word used here that speaks of a short sword. There were different swords a Roman soldier could use. This was the short one, about 18 inches long, almost like a long dagger or knife, and it was used for defensive and offensive purposes.
If you read your Bible, you’re going to see that the Bible is described in many ways, right? It’s bread, it’s a lamp. Here, it’s a sword. You got that same image in Hebrews 4:12-13. The sword of the Spirit, the sword of God’s word is living and powerful. Remember those days in Sunday School, I don’t know if we do it anymore, where you did sword drill? We did that in our church back in Belfast. You’d come to Sunday School with your Bible, you’d close it, and we’re going to do sword drill, who could get to a particular verse. It became very unChrist-like after a while. We all became very competitive and angry when the guy beat us to the verse on loving everybody.
But I love that little image, the sword drill. That’s what it is. This is a sword. You better know how to wield it, because it equips us to fight the fight of faith. We need to study it, we need to understand it, we need to believe it, we need to live it. Or to put it another way, we need to read it, heed it, and bleed it because it empowers us in the face of the enemy. How did they overcome? How will they overcome in a future day? Revelation 12:11, “By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” What’s the word of their testimony? Testifying to the gospel, the word. I John 2:12-14 talks about young men who through the word have overcome the evil one.
As we wrap this up, the truth of this is to be seen best and clearest in the temptation of Jesus, isn’t it? It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the word of God. It is written you’ll not task the larger God. It’s written that you should only worship Him.” Jesus thrusts the sword of the Spirit and fights Satan off.
Remember, this is the short sword. It’s for close quarters and in Jesus’s close quarter fight with Satan, He uses the Bible. Not only does He just use the Bible, he uses specific text applied correctly to a situation to ward off the evil one. As old Howard Hendricks said at Dallas Theological Seminary, how well do you know the book of Deuteronomy? Because all of Jesus quotes are right in the Book of Deuteronomy, and if your spiritual life depended on your knowledge of the Book of Deuteronomy, how would you be doing?
Quoting scripture provides us authority. Quoting scripture clears our mind. Quoting scripture breeds assurance. As one old writer said, “When you carry the Bible, Satan gets a headache. When you open the Bible, he collapses. When he sees you reading it, he faints. When he sees you living it, he flees.”
As the thing comes up, when I was down at Shadow Mountain last weekend, we had a blast. I picked up one of Dr. Jeremiah’s latest books, Christ Above All on the Book of Colossians, and I’ve been reading it a little this week. He tells a story I’m going to finish with. He tells a story about a young man who suffered a crippling form of arthritis. After he became a Christian, he met a doctor that put him on this very strict diet that turned out to be incredible. It brought healing to his body.
The basic philosophy behind the diet was simply this, never mix proteins and carbohydrates in the same meal. Given his experience, the young man swore by this diet and believed it was the path to healing. He was so enthusiastic, he began to kind of press that on other people, and he pushed it within the church that the church should embrace this idea. “I mean, God wants us healthy and this has worked for me and it can work for you.”
It all came to head one day in a business meeting. While he was pushing this diet that you don’t mix your proteins in your carbohydrates, another young Christian said to him, “I got a question. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus is God?” “Yes.” The young man replied, “Would you agree that since the Lord Jesus Christ is the creator, God, and the one who made our bodies, He would know what’s best for us?” And he said, “Yes.” “Then if your diet is right, why did Jesus feed his disciples with loaves and fish? He mixed protein and carbohydrates in the same meal.” End of story. Shut up. Shut up and sit down. Jeremiah tells that story. I enjoyed reading it, and he has this little statement, “It’s so fun to know your Bible.” It’s so fun to know your Bible because it will help you evaluate fads and the quirks of this present culture, and it will help you fend off the attacks of the culture, the flesh, the world, and the devil.
Lord, we thank you for our time in the Word this morning. We thank you for the equipment that you have provided for us. There are armies within history that were ill-equipped. We hear almost every day or two the needs for better equipment in Ukraine in their fight against Russia. I know from my own personal experience that as police officers in Northern Ireland, we often felt that the IRA had better weapons than we did.
But we thank you we’ve learned this morning that we are not ill-equipped for the fight. We thank you for these six pieces of armor. Lord, help us to guard our lives through integrity. Help us to behave ourselves morally. Help us to, in our going about life, look for gospel opportunities, and take the fight to the enemy, and punch holes in the darkness, and bring liberty to the captive.
Lord, help us to take up the shield of faith. May we tighten our grip on Christ, our understanding of who He is and what He’s done and what He promises never to do, leave us or forsake us. Lord, help us to endure, knowing that in the end we win, and we’re going to come out on the right side in that final act of salvation. Lord, help us to be good swordsmen. Help us to wield our Bibles effectively. Help us to stand in this evil day, having done all to stand, having put on the whole armor of God. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.