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
The Shield of Faith
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes...Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
The belt of truth protects us from the enemy’s lies, the breastplate of Jesus’ righteousness protects our hearts–maintaining our loyalty–and the proper footwear ensures our readiness to go into the battle in order that we may share the truth of the possibility of peace with God to others. These are all pieces that a Christian soldier uses in their own self-defense and to move into the enemy's territory. The shield of faith is special; not only is it intended to protect the one carrying it, but when used effectively, helps to protect our fellow-soldiers. We are not to attempt to fight this battle on our own–together we are stronger!
A very effective battleground strategy employed by ancient kingdoms as far back as the Greeks was known as the shield wall. Soldiers would typically fight in formation, interlocking their shields together thereby not only protecting individual soldiers, but protecting all behind the wall of shields. Our shield of faith can work much the same way in the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves. As disciples cooperate together, work in unity and diligently follow our Commander, we are made stronger in our defense against the enemy. But that’s not all the shield of faith does. It can actually “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v.6)!
A favourite offensive weapon during ancient warfare were arrows dipped into tar and set ablaze prior to releasing them onto an enemy force. A soldier who avoided being hit with an arrow, could still find himself in terrible danger as the fiery tar became dislodged on impact–he could find himself a victim of the ‘splatter.’ Armies devised a means of reducing the splatter and even extinguishing the flames. They soaked their wooden shields with their leather lining in water before the battle. This would have made the shields heavier, but well worth the weight for the added protection they would then provide. Faith is defined as a complete trust and confidence in God. Our shield of faith needs to soaked regularly in a vibrant relationship with God–spending time in His presence. The enemy’s fiery arrows of doubt will be entirely disabled, unable to pierce the bearer of the shield or spread its injury to those around.
Gospel of Peace
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes...Stand firm then...with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:11, 15).
Those of us who have chosen to become disciples of Jesus sometimes act as though we’ve been instructed to strap on the ‘seat cushion’ of ease or to slip into the ‘bunny slippers’ of comfort. The truth of the matter, however, is that we are to be ‘ready to move’ in order to share the peace we have come to experience. Once we’ve joined God’s army, our goal is not just to take a self-protective stance against the enemy, but to jump literally into the fray to rescue those who don’t know about how they can experience God’s forgiveness and join the winning side. The movie, “Hacksaw Ridge” provides a wonderful and yet disturbingly realistic analogy of what our work in the spiritual realm should look like.
The movie is based on the real life events of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector, who joined the military as a medic in World War II. He refused to carry any weapon of any kind. This notably made him a pariah with his fellow soldiers and attempts were made to have him quit the military before his training was complete. But Doss persevered. He was sent overseas with his unit and was part of an offensive that was tasked to take and secure the infamous ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ from the Japanese, who were brutally efficient in their defense of the Maeda Escarpment.
The Japanese launched an aggressive counterattack, resulting in heavy numbers of American casualties. In the midst of the offensive, Desmond runs through the enemy lines and arrives at a place of safety, only to discover that most of his unit has not. He could have scampered down the rope ladder to safety and thanked God for preserving his life. But that is not how Desmond responded to his rescue from the enemy. Throughout the long night, Desmond is heard praying over and over again, “Just one more, Lord...help me get just one more” as he returns repeatedly back into enemy territory searching for the members of his unit in order to carry them out one by one, hoist them over the cliff and let them down into the safety of friendly arms.
Repeatedly during that long night he put himself in harm’s way, with no weapon for protection, just his repeated prayer to God, “Just one more, Lord...help me get just one more!” Desmond Doss is the only conscientious objector to ever be awarded the “Medal of Honour” and for good reason. During the course of that one night, Desmond Doss’s heroic work to save his dying unit resulted in the rescue of 75 individuals who would have otherwise perished of their wounds or at the hands of the Japanese army.
If we could see the spiritual realm as we do the physical world around us, we might be surprised and horrified to find out how closely it resembles an active battle field. We need to open our ears to the cries of the dying and our eyes to the death and decay all around us. Rather than merely thanking God for our own rescue from an enemy who was intent on our eternal death, we need to be ready to run back into enemy territory with Desmond’s prayer on our lips, “Just one more, Lord...help me get just one more!”
~ Pastor Jane
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes...Stand firm then...with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Ephesians 6:11, 14b).
When someone chooses to join Jesus in His Great Commission, they aren’t handed a pair of fuzzy slippers, toasty house-coat and cup of hot cocoa before being instructed to go and take a seat in the lounge while they comfortably await their grand adventure with God...that begins with their departure for heaven. No. We are instructed to put on the full armour in preparation for the battle we have just signed up for! We have just entered a life and death struggle being waged over a most priceless treasure–human souls. No sane person would walk into the midst of an active battleground without protection. The same is true of the very real spiritual battle we find ourselves in the midst of daily. We need the armour of God!
The belt of truth, which we previously discussed, was the first of the armour listed because it is the first piece that a soldier made certain was in place. It was not intended to protect vital organs in and of itself, but without it the vital organs of a soldier could nonetheless be exposed to the enemies’ attacks. Not only did it serve to protect its own particular area of the body, but also to anchor the breastplate of righteousness firmly in place. A Roman soldier wore a breastplate of bronze or chain mail to protect his vital organs, but if the belt was missing or loosened the breastplate slipped right off.
Our breastplate is one of righteousness, but not our own. If our protection against the enemy depended on our own goodness, we would be left dangerously vulnerable. The righteousness of our breastplate has been explained this way,
“When Paul compares the armor of God with military gear, each piece represents a part of God’s strength that He extends to us when we become His children. The breastplate of righteousness refers to the righteousness purchased for us by Jesus at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). At salvation, a ‘breastplate’ is issued to each repentant sinner. It is specially designed by God to protect our heart and soul from evil and deception. Our own righteous acts are no match for Satan’s attacks (Isaiah 64:6). The breastplate of righteousness has Christ’s name stamped on it, as though He said, ‘Your righteousness isn’t sufficient to protect you. Wear mine.’” 1
Jesus’ righteousness is credited to us so we can walk into the battle with confidence. But just as we must daily pick up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23), we too must daily put on the breastplate that Christ offers to us for our protection. Becoming His follower does not remove from me my own freewill or ability to choose to follow in obedience or disobey. We ‘put on’ the breastplate by choosing to live our lives in obedience to the lordship of Jesus; if at any point we refuse God’s work in us, our ‘no’ opens up a crack that leaves us exposed. Our refusal of God works to remove His protection, not because He is punitive, but because we have removed it from His hands and deemed ourselves competent to protect ourselves.
Though it is Jesus’ righteousness that protects us, as we daily put on the breastplate we are transformed so that our lives begin to match up with His. “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). “As we wear Christ’s breastplate of righteousness, we begin to develop a purity of heart that translates into actions.” 2
Too many people, however, are tricked by Satan’s counterfeit breastplate. Rather than Christ’s righteousness, they work to create their own through strict adherence to a set of rules, in the false assurance that their own good works are what is required. “When we tolerate sin, refuse to forgive (2 Corinthians 2:10–11), rely on personal righteousness (Titus 3:5), or allow earthly concerns to crowd out time for an intimate relationship with God” 3 we have chosen to wear a counterfeit and will find ourselves poorly protected. There is no substitute to Jesus’ righteousness when it comes to protecting our hearts from the attacks of the enemy. We are to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2) and only then will we firmly affix the breastplate of righteousness to the belt of truth in place–with our hearts fully protected and prepared.
~ Pastor Jane
1 Retrieved May 20, 2020 from https://www.gotquestions.org/breastplate-of-righteousness.h…
The Belt of Truth
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes...Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:11,14a).
The Devil, Satan, is our great enemy who works tirelessly to undermine God’s plans, sow deception and diminish the Church’s effectiveness in completing the Great Commission. As a defeated enemy he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. His primary arsenal in the spiritual war we are all engaged in is to plant lies amidst God’s truth. He is the “father of lies” (John 8:44), yet often comes to us in a deceptive guise, masquerading as an ‘angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). When he approached Eve in the garden, he did not do so in his own true hideous form, but as a helpful serpent intent on shedding light on the real reason God had forbidden they eat from the Tree of Good and Evil, “you will become just like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). It wasn’t a complete lie, but he left out some very important details; and, as we know, Eve fell for the original conspiracy theory.
Is it any wonder then that the first piece of armour that Paul tells us to strap on is the ‘belt of truth?’ In order to fully understand the necessity of this belt, we must first understand the function of a belt in a Roman soldier’s armour–it was not something he used to keep his pants up or added as a fashion accessory. Every soldier knew that it was foolish to enter the battle without his belt securely in place. Unlike our use of belts, a Roman soldier’s belt functioned more like modern day athletic equipment used to protect a most vulnerable area of our bodies–it protected a soldier’s groin area much like an athlete is protected by a groin guard. This area of the body, though not containing any vital organs, is susceptible to immobilizing injury.
Truth protects us from Satan’s lies in much the same way. Though he does at times try, Satan often doesn’t attack us in a frontal assault determined to rip out our hearts or decapitate us; he specializes in watering down the truth, lulling us into complacency and when he has weakened our defenses sufficiently, comes in for the kill. He may not initially try to attack us outright, but his goal remains the same–weaken, immobilize and attack!
We have been assured that we can stand up against our enemy, but only if we pay careful attention to the armour we are to wear. If our belt of truth is frayed, missing pieces or is made of inferior quality, we give Satan an area to attack us through. The condition of our ‘belt of truth’ is also integral to the quality of the rest of our battle gear. Satan is a master at disguise and he is a dealer of counterfeit goods. He even has mass produced counterfeit armour for the Church! Only with the belt firmly in place can we discern God’s armour vs. Satan’s fakes. In the days to come, it is my plan to shed some light on the other pieces of God’s protective armour. We are in a war against a foe who knows no rules of war–he fights by no rule other than what achieves him greatest success against God and His children. We must be fully prepared!
~ Pastor Jane
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
I have been contemplating the life of the Christian and the mixed messages we sometimes receive. Mixed messages? Well, take for example, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12) and “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3). Or how about this one, “Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12) and “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). On one hand the Bible appears to guarantee protection from all hardship and the provision of all the good things life has to offer, while on the other hand warnings that life, even for the righteous, contains its share of troubles and trials. Which is it?
Are these truly mixed messages or have we subjected God’s truth to our own flavour of eisegesis? What do I mean? I think too often we read the Bible from a particular slant and sometimes mix the truth of God’s Word with untruth. When attempting to understand God’s Word to us, we need to pay particular attention to doing ‘exegesis’ which is the act of interpreting and understanding the truth as presented in the Bible; ‘eisegesis’ on the other hand is the attempt to interpret the Bible so as to fit our own biases. When the Bible appears to contradict itself, we need to pause, to take a step back and look again with fresh eyes and with the help of the Holy Spirit. If a contradiction exists, it is in all likelihood due to our own personal preconceived notions and unwillingness to hear anything that contradicts our beliefs.
When we choose to follow Christ, we need to recognize that we have an enemy who is intent on sowing confusion and throwing us off course. How many times have we as God’s children allowed Satan to create chaos in our midst. His question to Eve still reverberates through history to the present day, “Did God really say...?” (Genesis 3:1). It is worth remembering Paul’s admonish to his protégé, Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
~ 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!