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The Sword of the Spirit

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 6:17b

  • 2011-01-23 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


Well, last week we finished our study, a little break away from Ephesians, back to Deuteronomy where we looked at sort of a New Year's resolution that we all should make - the most important priority of life, and that is to love the Lord our God and we looked at how that plays out. By the way, I understand that I caused some families in our church a little less sleep this week as they tried to put some of those things into practice. I would say I'm sorry about that in the sense that I didn't mean to cost you sleep. On the other hand, I appreciate your desire to carry out the commands that Scripture gives us and to carry out your love for God by a love for His Word and showing that in your own life and the life of your family.

Today though, I'd like to take us back to finish up our study of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. As I thought about the passage that we come to today, I couldn't keep my mind from going back to my years at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. I've been here now, it's hard to believe but, seven and a half years. Before that, I was in L.A. for sixteen years there. And I need to say, first of all, that for those of you who haven't been, you hear my stories from time to time. There are thousands of wonderful Christian people who are a part of that church and congregation. But because we were in the middle of the San Fernando Valley there in Los Angeles, we also had more than our share of odd events and unusual people. For example, there was the Sunday morning when John was preaching and a lady who had been released, I think prematurely, from one of the area hospitals, came crawling up the center aisle in army fatigues doing the army crawl right up the center aisle. And it's a little disconcerting, you know, when you're, you're speaking.

But another event like that happened while I was there and responsible for the life of the church. A man came on campus, the large campus there, wearing a helmet, you know, like the kind you would expect to see on King Arthur's knights or at medieval times or something - wearing a helmet. Otherwise, he was normally dressed, had his Bible with him and he had on this helmet walking across the campus. Well, the security guys thought that was a little odd and so they sort of dropped in behind him and followed him across. He made his way into the back of the worship center and as he entered the back of the worship center, he sort of did sort of a genuflection of sorts toward the cross that's mounted up in the back of the auditorium, or the front of the auditorium. And then he took off his helmet and he went over to a pew and sat down and set the helmet on the pew there next to him.

Well at this point, a few of the security guys, off-duty L.A.P.D. officers, just wandered over to have a casual conversation. They introduced themselves and after a few seconds of small talk, they said, "So, you know, what's, what's the helmet about?" At which time, he looked at them like they were stupid. He said, "That's the helmet of salvation." Later when the security guys were giving me a report on the incident, they said, "Yeah, we just wanted to make sure he wasn't carrying the sword of the Spirit."

Well in the verse we come today, that is exactly what Paul wants to make sure that we are doing. We must have the sword of the Spirit. Not a piece of metal, not a literal piece of armor, but rather a piece of spiritual armor that is absolutely essential to our existence spiritually. If you and I are going to successfully stand against Satan's tactics in our lives, his tactics to destroy our souls, then we must always be wearing and using the sword of the Spirit.

Over the past several months, we've been working our way through this passage with some interruptions for the Christmas holidays and some other things, the Deuteronomy passage. We're looking at the armor that is Christ's own armor that He has made available to us to wear to protect us. Let me read for you again this passage, Ephesians 6. And I'll just read the verses that have to do with the pieces of armor starting in Verse 14, "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."

Paul began this paragraph back up in Verse 10 by telling us that if we're going to be spiritually successful, we have to have someone else's strength. We can't do it alone. We have to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. How does that happen? Verse 11, by putting on the full armor of God. And if we do that, we'll be able to stand against the schemes or tactics of the devil. In Verse 12, he reminds us that Satan and his supernatural forces are arrayed against us to destroy our souls. We talked about the fact that Satan comes against us by attacking the truth, by bringing fear, intimidation and persecution and by bringing personally tailored temptations intended to cause us to sin. And he's very, very adept at it. Paul's point is that the enemy you and I face every day, whether we realize it or not, the enemy we face that's trying to destroy us is too powerful for us. We can only stand strong in Christ's own strength. The question is how.

Paul answers that question with an extended metaphor describing a soldier's armor. His point is we can only be strong with Christ's strength when we put on the full armor of God. And the armor, we've discovered, is not something we do. Our armor, our protection against Satan, is not something we do. Rather, it is something we think. You see, the armor is understanding and applying the truth of God to our lives. That's the armor. It's preaching the truths of the gospel to ourselves instead of listening to ourselves, listening to others and listening to Satan and his lies. If we're gonna survive spiritually, we must think rightly. We must think through the lens of the gospel. We must put on God's armor.

So far, we've examined five of the six pieces. Let me just briefly remind you of what they are and what they mean. The first is the belt of truth. We said the belt is a growing knowledge of Biblical truth. If you're going to stand firm against Satan's tactics, you have to have an increasing knowledge of the truth of God – the Bible. You have to be growing in your understanding so that you can ward off Satan's attacks. That's the belt, the anchor point for everything else in the Christian life and experience. It must be an increasing knowledge of the truth.

Secondly, the breastplate of righteousness – our breastplate that protects our vital organs, that protects our life, is the breastplate which is righteousness – not our own righteousness, but an understanding of the righteousness we have in Christ. The breastplate is the practical application of the doctrine of justification - the truth that the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been credited to me. That protects me when Satan brings doubts and fears into my life. I remind myself that I don't deserve to be heard by God. I don't deserve anything from God, but I wear the righteousness of Jesus Christ and that's why He accepts me.

The third piece of armor is the shoes of the gospel - the sandals that provided stability for the soldier. And what are the shoes or sandals that provide stability for the Christian soldier? A growing confidence in the personal implications of the gospel of peace. The gospel pronounces peace. If you're a believer, you have peace with God. The war is over. And that provides stability as we understand that. Whatever comes, when temptation comes, God forbid when we give in to that temptation and sin, when Satan brings those doubts and fears, the stability comes that we have peace with God.

The fourth piece is the shield of faith, which is an unwavering trust in God and in His Word, an unwavering trust in God and in His promises. That protects us from all those arrows Satan shoots, Paul says, intended to destroy us. Trials, difficulties come into our lives, hard times. The shield of faith, believing God, believing what He said, believing that He'll use them for good, believing that He's in control, believing that He's wise and all of those things shield us.

The fifth piece is the helmet of salvation. The helmet of salvation is a settled confidence in our own salvation, a settled confidence in our spiritual rescue, that in the past God rescued us from the penalty of sin, that in the present God is rescuing us from the power of sin in our lives and in the future God has promised that He will rescue us from even the presence of sin or the possibility of sinning when He returns. We find our confidence there and that protects us from Satan's attacks.

Today, we come to the sixth and final piece of armor. It's the sword of the Spirit, the sword of the Spirit. Look at Verse 17: "and (take) the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Again, Paul is here alluding to the first century Roman soldier's equipment. Before the battle, a Roman soldier would have already put on the other pieces of armor on his body, the sandals on his feet, the belt, the breastplate. And when it came time for the battle, he would take and put on his helmet and then he would with his left hand, typically the Roman soldier would with his left hand pick up that door-shaped, full-body shield. And then with his right hand, he would pull his sword from its sheath and that's how he would go prepared into the battle.

There were two types of swords used in the Roman army. One of them was a long, broad sword. It was often used by those mounted on horseback because they needed a longer reaching sword because of their elevation. That long, broad sword was called the rhomphaia in Greek and in Latin it was called the spatha. The other kind of sword and the kind that Paul uses here or mentions here was called in Latin the gladius. From gladius, the Latin word for this sword, we get the word gladiators because it was typically the kind of sword they used as well, but it was the standard issue sword for the Roman soldier. The Greek New Testament word for the gladius is makhaira. This was the standard sword a Roman soldier carried.

It was kept in a wooden sheath, sometimes ornately decorated with, with metal of various kinds. And it was attached usually to the belt, but it would have been attached high so that the point wouldn't hang too low and, and trip him or become tangled in his legs when he was running or doing other things, marching, etc. Sometimes, but only occasionally, it was slung on a separate strap over his shoulder and hung on his side.

Through the centuries, this sword slightly changed in shape and size, but the sword that Paul would have been referring to, the sword of this type that was used in the first century, is generally referred to by historians as the Pompeii gladius sword. It's called a Pompeii sword because you'll remember that in 79 A.D., the Italian city of Pompeii was buried in ash from the Vesuvius volcano. And in that ash, archaeologists have found so many things that help us understand the culture of the times. They had found in, buried there in Pompeii, which I've had the chance to visit and I'm sure some of you have as well. They found four of these swords that Paul is referring to here, contemporary with the apostle's time. They probably were fashioned, they, historians estimate the swords they discovered at Pompeii were probably fashioned in the 60's A.D.

Let me describe it for you. The blade of this sword was about two inches wide. And typically, its length varied some, but essentially it was, the blade was somewhere between eighteen and twenty-two inches long. So, the total sword was about two feet in length. The blade itself was sharpened on both sides so that in either motion, it would cut. And the blade also had a very sharp, pointed tip in the shape of a V. And that tip was often, they've found, archaeologists have, was strengthened or reinforced with pieces of metal on each side so that the point wouldn't bend even as it pierced into armor. The hilt of the sword was typically made of wood covered with leather. There was usually a large top to that hilt. Sometimes the handle was made of bone.

How was it used? Well, to really understand how the sword was used by the Roman army, you first need to know a little bit about Roman military tactics. And I'm not gonna belabor this, but I think this is important. The basic flow of Roman military tactics when two armies came together on the field went something like this. From a distance, they would launch their long-range weapons. We talked about those a few weeks ago. Their long-range weapons were typically the arrows that were covered with tow and pitch, lighted on fire and then, all at once from a distance, the arrows were released and literally hundreds to thousands of flaming arrows would come down upon the enemy's lines. This was absolutely crucial. This air assault was intended to weaken the enemy's resolve to fight. It was intended to obviously inflict many casualties and also to disrupt the command structure, to kill some of the commanding officers. Only after that intense barrage of arrows did Roman commanders send in the ground troops.

So, the armies would begin marching toward each other after the barrage of arrows and when they got about twenty to thirty yards away from the enemy (that would be about from here to the back of the worship center) came the next line of defense. Each Roman soldier, historians tell us, carried two javelins. In Latin, they're called a pilum (singular) or pila in plural, but two of them. They were not, they were like a spear, but not like a spear because the point, the metal point, wasn't short like we think of a spear. Normally, we think of a long stick with a little piece of metal on the end. Instead, the Roman javelins were as much as a third to a half metal tip and the balance would have been wood. In addition to that, near the front, near the, the point of this, of this javelin, they would mount a lead spherical ball, and usually two to five pounds, so that it would add distance and velocity to this javelin. So about twenty to thirty yards away from the army, all of the soldiers would launch their first javelin. And then on command, they would launch their second javelin.

Now the javelin served a very important purpose. Not only obviously did they try to find anyone who was unprotected and actually kill enemy soldiers, and sometimes they would pierce through whatever shields or armor they had. They also served another important purpose because even if they didn't kill the other soldiers, the other soldiers usually had shields just as the Roman soldiers did. Those long javelins would pierce into the shield and because there was a long, soft iron point, on point of impact, it would bend just a little – enough that later it could be retrieved and bent back for the next battle, but enough so that the enemy soldier couldn't take it and throw it back. And often, it would find itself in that wood completely captured by the wood unable to be pulled out. Now the soldier has his shield, a full-body shield, with a javelin or two hanging off of it some seven or, six or seven feet. It's completely unwieldy. He cannot use it. He has now lost his protection. All he can do is throw his shield on the ground. So, the Roman soldier has gained a great advantage. The soldier is now unprotected in hand-to-hand combat. After the javelins had been thrown, the signal would be given and the Roman army would run at the enemy with their shields, that full-body shield in their left hand and their makhaira, their sword, in their right, the gladius.

As far as how the sword was used, primarily it was not a slashing weapon. Even though it had very sharp edges on both sides and could be used that way, and I'll tell you more about that in just a second, primarily though it was a stabbing weapon and that's because that was the most effective way to dispose of your enemy. Flavius Vegetius, writing about the training of Roman soldiers back a couple of hundred years after Christ, said this: "The soldiers were likewise taught not to cut, but to thrust with their swords. For the Romans not only made a jest of those who fought with the edge of that weapon, but always found them an easy conquest. A stroke with the edges, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills as the vital parts of the body are defended both by the bones and armor. On the contrary, a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal." In the days of that kind of medicine, a simple abdominal stab was almost always fatal.

The Greek historian describes Roman tactics with swords in this way. He says, "Holding their sword straight out, they would strike their opponents, pierce their sides, drive their blows through their breasts into their vitals. And if they saw any of them keeping these parts of the body protected, they would cut the tendons of their knees or ankles and topple them to the ground, roaring and biting their shields and uttering cries resembling the howling of wild beasts."

It was an awesome weapon, but it wasn't merely an offensive weapon. It was also a defensive weapon. It was intended to ward off the blows, along with the shield, that came from the enemy. And that's the primary idea behind Paul's injunction here.

Now with that understanding of the Roman soldier's sword, let's look at our spiritual sword. Look at Verse 17. Paul says, "and (take) the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Now before we look at what Paul means by this; I first want to tell you and identify for you some of the wrong ways we respond to Satan's attacks in our lives. Sometimes we don't use the sword of the Spirit. Sometimes we come at Satan with terribly ineffective weapons. Let me tell you what some of those are.

One is when Satan attacks you, don't reason with yourself about the illogical, hurtful nature of sin. You ever done this? Temptation comes and your response in your mind is, "You know, that'd be stupid. I really shouldn't do that. It's stupid. That's illogical. It's not gonna work out for me. It's gonna hurt other people." We start reasoning with ourselves as if the power of our reason is gonna somehow protect us from those attacks.

Another ineffective weapon is to use some form of self-love or self-respect as the motivation not to give in. "You know, I just, you know I care too much about myself to do that." That's not gonna protect you from Satan's attacks. It's not gonna protect you from temptation.

Another flawed approach is human techniques of various kinds. For example, a lot of people think you know, okay, if I'm facing temptation, the best thing I can do is just distract myself. So, I'll distract myself with music or food or exercise or I'll do something. I'll just do something else and that'll distract me. You think Satan can be turned aside with that? That's using a pea shooter.

Another flawed attempt to resist Satan is to resist through the mere power of your will alone. You ever done this? Temptation comes and you say to yourself, "I'm not gonna do it. I will not do it. I will not do that again!" That's a flawed weapon for fighting Satan.

Another flawed weapon is using some formula spoken to Satan. This is very popular among charismatic Christians. They use expressions like this one from the website of a local charismatic church over here across the freeway: "We want to help people break free from strongholds and demonic oppression in their lives." And for many in that, in the charismatic movement, that involves commanding Satan, things like this. "Satan, I bind you" or "Satan, I command you to do this or that in the name of Jesus" - these formulas spoken to Satan. You remember the words of Jude? You remember what he said about Michael, the archangel? Jude writes: "Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" We're talking about the most powerful being in the angelic host, didn't take on Satan directly.

Those are wrong ways. So, if those are some of the wrong ways to deal with Satan, what's the right way? It's to take up and use the sword of the Spirit. So, let's look at this sword. First of all, consider the source of the sword. Paul calls it the sword of the Spirit. That is a change from the other pieces of armor because in the other cases, the second noun explains what the piece of armor is. For example, the breastplate of righteousness means the breastplate, which is righteousness, the shield of faith – the shield which is faith, the helmet of salvation – the helmet which is salvation. But the sword of the Spirit does not mean the sword which is the Spirit. How do I know that? Because Paul defines the sword – he says the sword is the Word of God. So, "of the Spirit" is not describing what the sword is but is instead describing the source or origin of this sword. The Spirit gives us the sword. He inspired the sword. He gave us the sword. He is the one who illumines our minds to interpret and understand the sword which is the Word of God.

In fact, turn over for a moment to 1 Corinthians. Paul makes this so clear in 1 Corinthians 2. 1 Corinthians 2, beginning in Verse 6 down through the end of the chapter, is really a somewhat complicated passage, but let me just clarify it for you. Look at Verse 9. In Verse 9, Paul says that when I proclaim Christ crucified, I am speaking God's secret wisdom - that's Verse 8, I'm sorry. Verse 8, I'm speaking God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that none of the earthly wise knew. So how did Paul come to know that wisdom? Verses 9 and 10, he came to know it by the Spirit revealing it to him. Verse 10: "For to us God has revealed them through the Spirit." Paul says I came to know the mind of God through the work of the Spirit of God. And Verse 11, the reason the Spirit can reveal the mind of God is because He is God, He knows the thoughts of God. But notice Verses 12 and 13. So we have received, Paul says, I as an apostle have received, "not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God (in other words, God's revealed them to us), which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts and spiritual words." What Paul is saying here is that not only did the Spirit reveal his truth, but He even revealed the words through which to communicate that truth. Paul's point is that the thoughts and the words the human authors of Scripture used were ultimately the Spirit's thoughts and words. Now look at Verse 14. You have to have the Spirit to understand what the Spirit has revealed. So, from beginning to end then, the Word of God is all about the Spirit. He inspired it. He revealed the truth. He gave the authors the words to put that truth in and He's the One that helps us understand the truth.

Now go back to Ephesians 6. Now you understand why it's called the sword of the Spirit because He's the One who gives us the sword and He's the One who teaches us what it means and He's the one who teaches us how to use it or makes it effective. As one author said, "He's the One who gives it its cutting edge and its sharp point." This is so important, you know, to understand the relationship of the Word and the Spirit of God. I think Lloyd-Jones was right when he says that "understanding that relationship (the relationship between the Word of God and the Spirit of God) is absolutely essential to your Christian life" because invariably, Christians fall off on one side or the other. They either overemphasize the Spirit and downplay the Word in which case they end up in mysticism and God speaking to them all the time and private revelations and they end up in a muddle of confusion and emotionalism or the other extreme is to just say "I've got the Bible, that's all I need." And I, under my own steam, with my own brain cells, can understand everything I need to know about the Bible and to discount the Spirit. The truth is in the middle. We have the Word of God, yes, but the only way I can really come to adequately understand the Word of God is by the illumination of the Spirit. That's why Paul said, "I pray (Ephesians 1) that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened (to understand)." That's what we need. We need the Word of God and the Spirit of God to help us understand it. And the two work together. The Spirit of God never works separate from His Word. That's the source of the sword.

Now what is the sword? Look at Verse 17 again: "and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." We understand that in many places in Scripture, God's Word is compared to a sword. I could take you back to Isaiah 49:2 where the Messiah is said to have a tongue like a sword that cuts and pierces. Hebrews 4:12 of course, the famous verse that describes the reality that the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts and it pierces us to the heart. It discerns what we're thinking, discerns our intentions and our motives.

It's true of the Word of God, but that's not Paul's point here in Ephesians 6. Here Paul isn't making a point about the importance of all of Scripture. He already made that point, you remember, back with the first piece of armor - the belt of truth. You remember the belt of truth is a growing knowledge of all Biblical truth, of all of God's Word. That's where it starts. With the sword, he's not talking about all truth. We can know this because of the word Paul chooses. In the Greek text, there are two common words that are translated as word, in our English text. The first of those is the word logos. You remember John 1? "The Word was God." That's the word logos. That word, that Greek word, literally refers to a, the whole message, the message of a person that they're bringing, the overarching truth, the package, if you will, of truth. That's not the word used here. In Verse 17, Paul uses another less familiar Greek word. It's the word rhema. It means word, but it means word in a sense, in the sense of a saying or a statement or a proposition. A rhema is a particular statement of God's Word. It's not all of God's Word. He's not saying this is the sword. He's saying individual statements are the sword.

For example, sometimes, when we find ourselves in the middle of temptation. We'll remind our self of a verse like First Corinthians 10:13, "There's no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond that you are able, but will with the temptation also provide the way to escape, so that you may be able to bear it." When we take that passage and we legitimately apply it to our lives, but we take it alone to do that, that is a rhema. That is a propositional statement from Scripture. That's what Paul's talking about here. The belt of truth in Verse 14 has to do with the full revelation of God, the full Scripture, all the Word of God, the entire Bible. We need to put on a growing knowledge of all truth. But the sword in Verse 17 has to do with specific individual statements or propositions of Scripture.

So, let's define it as we have the other pieces of armor. Let me give you a definition. The sword of the Spirit is the knowledgeable use of the propositions of Scripture to defend against Satan, his lies and temptations; the knowledgeable use of the propositions of Scripture to defend against Satan's lies and temptations. Lloyd-Jones put it this way: "Paul means (by sword of the Spirit here) our knowledge of particular Scriptures and our ability to select and to use the appropriate word or passage at any given point."

You see, when we get into battle with Satan figuratively speaking, into hand-to-hand combat, when the temptation comes, you're sitting at your desk and out of nowhere the temptation comes. You can't use the whole Bible. That's not going to help you at that moment. So, what do you do? You pull out the makhaira, the short, little, pointed sword – one propositional statement from the Word of God that defends you against that temptation or against that attack. And we use those statements of God to stand firm. In the words of James, we resist the devil. James 4:7, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." You do that with the makhaira.

James Montgomery Boyce makes the point that using this sword is how we resist Satan, specifically as a liar. You remember John 8:44 says, "(Satan) he is a liar and the father of all lies." Well, whenever we're tempted, guess what? We are being tempted ultimately to believe an untruth. We're being tempted to believe that that sin will bring us joy and satisfaction. We're being tempted to believe that there is true happiness found outside of God. We're being tempted to believe that God is withholding something from us that really will be helpful. We're being tempted to believe some untruth. That's how Satan works. So how do we defend ourselves against those attacks on truth? Boyce writes: "There is only one weapon and that is the truths of God embodied in the Bible which is God's Word. Satan will not flee from us simply because we tell him to. He will retreat only before the power of God as God Himself speaks through His words into the midst of the temptation. There is nothing in all of life more powerful than the specific words of God."

And remember, this is Christ's own armor that we're putting on and using. And to use Christ's sword is to respond to Satan's lies and attacks and temptations in the same way Jesus Himself did, and that is with specific propositional statements of Scripture. Jesus teaches us how. I want to show you this. I want to show you how Jesus used the short sword of the propositional statements of Scripture to defend against error, and He was surrounded by it, and to defend against temptation.

Let me show you first of all error. Turn to Mark 7. We studied this a number of weeks ago now, months ago, in our study of this book. Mark 7, and I'm not gonna exegete my way through it because we did that at length. If you want to, you can catch up on the website and listen to this, but basically, I want you to just notice one big thing with me, one large overarching truth here. Jesus is being attacked by error coming from the Pharisees. Verse 5 sort of summarizes it. "The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, 'Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?'" They're basically saying, "Wait a minute. We have the right and authority to interpret the Bible and we interpreted it this way. Why aren't you following that?" That's error. That's untruth. Notice how Jesus responds. Verse 6, he pulls out the short sword of propositional statements from Scripture. "He said to them, 'Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'" He quotes the Bible into error. And then He gives His own summation. Verse 8: "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He just stabs back with the truth.

That's how you and I ought to respond to error. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses come to your door, somebody teaching some abhorrent theology at the office - kindly, graciously, you pull out the short sword of propositional statements from Scripture that answer that. Don't use your own amazing reason. Okay? That'll get you lost. It gets me lost. But God's Word is powerful. Find the right text that cuts back. He also did it not only with - by the way, before I leave that, let me just say this. Let me challenge you. Read through the gospels and note how many times Jesus does that, in responding to error, He brings out a propositional statement of Scripture.

But let's take temptation because frankly that's where most of us live more often, right? I mean we're not always facing everyday attacks on the Word of God and error, but we always are facing temptation. Jesus did the same thing with temptation. Turn back to Matthew 4. In Matthew 4, and again, we spent several weeks going through this, and you can listen online if you want. There's so much truth here, but let me just give you the, the basic context. "Then Jesus (after the baptism) was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness (Verse 1) to be tempted by the devil." For forty days and forty nights, He ate nothing. And this is an understatement "He became hungry." It's in that context that He's tempted. And by the way, I love this. You know, Adam had absolutely everything he could want. He was only forbidden to touch one tree and he fell. The second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, went for forty days without everything He needed, and He stood up to the temptation.

But notice: "And the tempter came (to Him, Verse 3) and said to Him, 'If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." By the way, He was tempted throughout the forty days. These are merely three representative temptations probably near the end of that period that give us an idea of the onslaughts that were brought against Him. And these three temptations are categories outside of which there are no human temptations. Jesus is tempted in these three temptations with the wrongful pursuit of personal pleasure, the satisfaction of His body's appetites, the wrongful pursuit of personal prosperity and the wrongful pursuit of personal glory. That's all here. That's where our temptations fall, and these are representative of the things we face.

But notice in response to that temptation to turn the stones into bread, Verse 4: "But He answered and said, 'It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.''" Notice that is a quotation from the Old Testament. Verse 5, the devil takes Him to the holy city, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down (now the devil quotes Scripture); for it is written, 'He will command His angels concerning you' and 'On their hands they will bear You up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" By the way, that's evidence that it's not enough just to know what the Bible says. You have to know what it means. The devil quotes the Scripture as a source of temptation. Jesus responds, Verse 7. "Jesus said to him, 'On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.''"

"Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.'" All it takes is just one momentary bow and you can forego the cross and all of that and You can have the kingdom that God's promised You. "Then Jesus said to him, 'Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.''"

Wow. Did you notice Jesus' response to all the different categories of temptation was (to do what?) to quote the Scripture. All of His responses come from Deuteronomy 6-8. Verse 4, He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. Verse 7, He quotes Deuteronomy 6:16. Verse 10, He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13. Jesus knew the Bible and He knew the appropriate response, the propositional statement that would come back at that temptation. As John Calvin writes, "Christ uses Scripture as His defense. Those who voluntarily throw away that armor and do not laboriously exercise themselves in the school of God deserve to be strangled at every instant by Satan into whose hands they give themselves up unarmed."

When Jesus used the sword of the Spirit, look at the results. Verse 11: "Then the devil left Him." He resisted Satan. Oh, Satan would come again. This wasn't the only time Jesus was tempted. He was tempted throughout His life in different ways. Sometimes the temptation came through his disciples. You remember? "Get behind Me, Satan!" because you're encouraging me not to follow God. But in this temptation, Jesus was able to resist the devil, to stand against him, with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

And folks, this is exactly how you and I are to respond in the moment we're attacked. Resist Satan, resist the temptation with specific propositions of Scripture that are appropriate for the nature of that attack. That's how we're to do it. That implies, by the way, that like Jesus, we have to know the Bible. We even have to have committed some of it to memory as He obviously did. That's why Psalm 119, verse 11 says: "Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Or in 1 John 2 when he's talking about spiritual young men who are able to resist Satan - he says it's because the Word of God abides in you and therefore, you're strong.

Listen, if you want to consistently be able to respond to temptation the way Jesus did, the way Paul's teaching us, you've got to know appropriate, short propositional statements from the Bible that are a response to the very temptations you face. Ask yourself right now what are the three main areas through which temptation comes at me. And you better know that, and you know better that pre-arm yourself and your mind. Find what Scriptures come to bear on that and don't just memorize them. You need to memorize them, but don't just memorize them. Study them. Meditate on them. Think about them. Understand what they mean and how they apply to life and then when the temptation comes, all you can do is reach for that short sword and defend yourself with that propositional statement. Remind yourself of the truth of God. Remind yourself of what that means, that text.

I want you to think about this. Jesus Christ our Lord, the unique Son of the living God, during His earthly life, had to both know and use the Scripture in order to successfully fight off Satan's attacks in His life. If Jesus our Lord needed to do that, what for a moment makes us think we can resist those attacks with anything less? "(Take) the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." And Paul says with it, you will be able to stand firm. Let's pray together.

Our Father, thank You for our Lord. Thank You for His perfect obedience to You that becomes ours in salvation. Thank You, O God, that when You see us, you see us through Him. You see us as having done exactly what He did in response to temptation. You treat us as if we had lived that life. But Father, we thank You as well for the pattern He sets for us, for the reality that we too can be successful – not perfectly successful as He was, but increasingly successful.

O Father, give us the desire to know and to think about and to meditate on, to choose passages that are appropriate for the temptations we face, and in the moment of temptation to pull out that short sword, defend ourselves – not with our own reason or our own techniques, but with Your powerful Word applied and understood. Father, we pray that You would enable us to do that not for our sakes alone, but so that our Lord might be glorified in us. And we pray it in His name. Amen.