A LESSON IN SWORDSMANSHIP
Extra from Volume 6#3 by Brianna H.
Ever since I learned about the “armor of God” in Sunday school as a child, I have always pictured the “sword of the Spirit” as a gleaming broadsword one must swing at God’s dark and diabolical enemies. However, upon recent study I discovered the “sword” spoken of in Ephesians 6:17 is not an actual sword at all because the Greek word used in that passage is machaira, which refers to a short dagger between 6 to 18 inches long used in hand-to-hand combat. Therefore, the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) is not a huge blade one flails around in hopes of whacking temptation’s head off. Rather, it is a powerful weapon that must be used with precision in order to hit a vulnerable spot and effectively thwart Satan’s attacks (Hebrews 4:12). Furthermore, the Greek word translated “word” in Ephesians 6:17 is not a general Greek term for “word” and speaks of a specific statement instead of a broad reference to God’s Word as a whole. Thus, proper usage of the sword of the Spirit means being able to cite a specific principle from the Bible that applies to the specific temptation. It is not enough to own a Bible, read your Bible, or even to memorize a gazillion Scripture passages if you aren’t absorbing, applying, obeying, believing, proclaiming, loving, or defending the truths you are studying.
Some might respond to being asked about their daily devotions with, “Yes, I read one chapter of the Bible every day,” as if “a chapter a day keeps the devil away.” I’m afraid it isn’t that simple. One could be reading five chapters a day and have a memory overloaded with Bible verses and still be spiritually fallow. A big difference exists between knowing something intellectually and knowing something by heart. If you aren’t taking Scripture to heart and reading with a desire to obey, memorizing Bible verses will quickly become a dry effort at hiding God’s Word in your heart. I fell into just such a shallow routine during my childhood. At the close of every Sunday school class I attended, the students were required to memorize that week’s Bible verse. I was able to recite the verse to the teacher without hesitating or needing any prompting. I regularly memorized Scripture for school and I memorized the order of both the New and Old Testament books. The trouble was that I did it more out of a sense of duty and pride for what I was capable of doing, than because I desired to hide God’s Word in my heart. My theological knowledge may have been substantial, but it wasn’t until years later after God had worked on my heart and made me ashamed of my perspective that He opened my eyes to see His Word in a whole new way and made it no longer dry to me. The hunger for the knowledge I suddenly realized I lacked was aroused and I could say with the prophet Jeremiah, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).
To an extent, sometimes it is more important to know your Bible than to memorize whole sections of the text (though memorization is certainly a valuable practice as well—especially when witnessing to unbelievers without a Bible handy). Two of my favorite passages on the sufficiency of Scripture are Psalms 119:9-16 and 105-108. Both passages convey the importance of etching God’s Word on our heart. Whether that may or may not entail actually memorizing entire passages is completely up to the individual. If you are familiar with your Bible, the Holy Spirit will bring to mind specific passages that can comfort, encourage, convict, or help you to battle temptation as the need arises and often without requiring you to memorize verses word-for-word (John 14:26). Frequently, the Bible verses I recall best are not ones I intentionally memorized, but those that I have deeply studied, heard quoted numerous times, or passages of special meaning to me.
When we study or memorize God’s Word, we must be careful not to let it become a dry, daily routine that means little more than a sense of obligation. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22-25). We must view God’s Word as a treasure more precious than gold. “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psalms 19:9-11). We must have an intense desire to love, honor, and obey the letter our Master, who lived and died for us, has written to nourish our souls and cause us to grow. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). We must equip ourselves to use the sword of the Spirit effectively and with the precision is requires. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Let us grasp the powerful weapon God has given us and vanquish the darkness!