The Sword of the Spirit
“Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes...Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11,17b).
Two months ago, I reflected on the fact that this pandemic will inevitably bring out the best and/or worst in people. As I hear the news from around the globe, I am both encouraged and deeply saddened as reports of the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ are found in abundance. It is wonderful to see the sacrifices people are making for others, but it grieves me to also see how anxiety produced by uncertainty has boiled over, scalding many caught in the overflow. While there are examples of people coming alongside others, there are also growing divides between groups who choose to push back and away. The numbers of conflicts, protests, displacements and polarizations is growing and sweeping across the globe.
But all is not doom and gloom. I have also noticed a growing recognition among Christians from around the world of the need for unity. The buildings that were once used to define ‘church’ have been closed and many have rediscovered what it means to be The Church–the singular, worldwide body of Christ. Disciples of Christ belong to one family–God’s! The same Holy Spirit indwells each believer. We share a singular source of authority, God’s Word. Which brings me to the final piece of equipment we are told to take up in the spiritual battle we find ourselves in...the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Just as this pandemic has provided us, The Church, with the opportunity to rediscover that we are the church, not our buildings, it is my prayer that our realization that we are all one body, serving the same Lord, will retrain our thinking as pertains to the sword of the Spirit.
What is the purpose of a sword? To inflict injury to an opposing force. Unfortunately, not so very long ago and still in evidence today, we find the Word of God, being used not as a sword to strike at the enemy, but as a stiletto knife or improvised shiv being used against other believers in a never-ending turf war. We have allowed different interpretations of God’s Word to divide us just as viciously as we have seen ethnicity, skin colour and disparity between rich and poor spark conflict and the dehumanizing of others. Consider this for a moment if you will. Jesus has stated that He is preparing a place in heaven for His disciples, and that there are many rooms in His Father’s house (John 14:2-3). It does not say that we each get a mansion...we may not even get our own room. What if the rooms in God’s house are figuratively lined with rows of bunk beds? While varying interpretations of God’s Word can be problematic, anyone who believes in Jesus, has repented and received His forgiveness, then lives life as a disciple, will receive an eternal reward in heaven (John 3:16)...maybe even as your bunk mate! I have heard jokes about the different sections of heaven...one for the Baptists...one for the Catholics...one for the Non-denominational...etc. We laugh, but just as there are none of these nonsensical sub-divisions in heaven, there ought not to be on earth...and it begins with our use of the sword of the Spirit.
Jesus used God’s Word to repel Satan and demons, to correct errors, to demonstrate truth and yes, even to rebuke the Pharisees who refused to acknowledge His Lordship and the fact that He was the long promised Messiah. For us, God’s Word is a weapon against the enemy–our spiritual foes, not people–but much more so, it is a tool to be used in our inner refinement–it is literally a pruning tool for individual disciples in the hands of the Holy Spirit. The more we engage with the Bible–reading it, memorizing it, meditating on it and putting it to practice–the more our lives will come to resemble the kind of people who live in obedience to God’s plan, putting other’s needs before our own. We need to resist the temptation to use it against others–it is the Spirit’s sword and He is the one that can most effectively use it as a surgeon’s instrument. Properly used by The Church, the Bible can be used to direct us to do more and more good deeds, living our lives in obedience to God and in unity with one another. By following its instruction, together we can help those who are demonstrating the ‘worst’ behaviours find a better way.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes...Take the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:11,17a).
Ever have one of those days when you ‘just don’t feel like it’–don’t feel like getting out of bed, don’t feel like eating healthy, don’t feel like spending time with God? The truth is, we all have! Which is why the next piece of the armour Paul instructs us to put on is the helmet of salvation. There are many ways to understand this piece of the armour. Some understand it as the ‘seal of our salvation’ which is put on when we first become disciples of Christ–it is what identifies you as a believer. If that is so, then why would the Apostle Paul tell us to put it on? Our salvation–the forgiveness we have received through Jesus’ sacrifice–is not something we take off and put on depending on the day. Our ‘salvation’ is better represented by the our initial decision to begin the journey with Jesus as His disciples. So how are we to understand the ‘helmet of salvation?’ I believe it is multifaceted.
The helmet of salvation speaks of the need to protect our minds. When it comes to this life we need to understand that we live in two realms simultaneously–the physical and spiritual realms. The physical realm is easy to identify; it’s everything we experience through our physical senses–touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight. There is, however, also a sixth sense which is not physical. No, I am not referring to the ‘sixth sense’ which many psychological thrillers and spiritualists refer to; but, I do believe we have a spiritual sense as well. With it we become aware of the spiritual realm. Ever felt prompted to go and talk with someone? That may be the Holy Spirit prompting you, in your spirit, to do a special task, which after the fact we often recognize as His leading. Ever felt tempted to do something and had to rebuke the very idea? That may be the enemy attempting to sidetrack you. Our spiritual sense appears to have a very strong connection with our thought life, which is why Paul also encouraged believers to have a deliberate focus. In Philippians 4:8, he instructs the church to “fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Don’t give the enemy room to work in your life through your thought life. Put on the helmet of salvation!
The helmet of salvation is also a sign of whose authority we have chosen to come under–that of Jesus’ Christ, our Commander in Chief. What we know as a disciple comes by faith, not feelings. When a soldier is given instructions for engagement with the enemy, his feelings are not part of the equation. A battle plan is drawn up; troops are assigned their positions; when the word is given to ‘go’ no hesitation is permitted. The soldiers understand that they are under another’s authority and to question their superiors directions could be costly both to themselves and their unit. They must trust their commander. The same is true for the disciple of Jesus. God has given us directions for life–things we must do and things we are to avoid; behaviour contrary to His plan, or even hesitating to act, can put us and others in spiritual jeopardy. Putting on the helmet of salvation, on a daily basis, reminds us of the fact that we are no longer in charge. God is! For those who understand who God is and what He’s done for us, this does not pose a problem. We serve a God of love, justice and faithfulness; a God who transcends time and knows everything; a God who created the universe and can do anything; a God who does not want to see any human being suffer eternity in hell and so came to earth as the God-man, Jesus.
Feelings are important, but sometimes our feelings get in the way of obedience. It is important that we put on the helmet of salvation to help us move in the right direction based on God’s guidance and not feelings or even our own thinking. Allow God’s thoughts to become your thoughts. Focus on what is true, noble and pure. Do not give the enemy a means by which to attack you. Put on the helmet of salvation! ~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!