April 23, 2020

The Final Cut (The Armor, part 18)

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…

And so we arrive at the final lesson in this series. Not that we have uncovered all that there is to learn from the Whole Armor of God, but all projects must come to an end. It is fitting that the Sword of the Spirit represents the Word of God, for we are able to finish this study where it began: with Jesus Christ.

Photo by Søren Niedziella, edited for use here.
You may recall that the first item of the armor, the Belt of Truth, works to reveal the truth of Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. As mentioned previously, the Sword of the Spirit, as the Word of God, also represents Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Whether by intent or serendipity (or by divine intervention), Paul frames this entire list of items in a way which echoes the following words recorded by John…

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

How do we use this final piece of the Armor of God? What would it mean to put on the Sword of the Spirit? Can one wield Jesus Christ as a weapon? Could we turn the Messiah into an implement of war?

Sadly, our own clumsy efforts to wield the Sword of the Spirit often result in such a situation. It’s all too easy to draw a target on the evil which we see openly on display in the world that surrounds us and then go on the attack. We feel (self-) righteous and justified in condemning people who do not live the way we live - or the way we say that we live. If non-believers accuse us of hypocrisy (and they do), they often have good reason to do so.

The Law recorded in the Bible is typically very easy to understand: do this, don’t do that. The problem is that we tend to choose to obey our favorite parts of the Law and overlook the parts which are inconvenient. We say we are forgiven when we repent from our inadvertent forays into error, and that’s true, but there is only One who is fit to both forgive us and to judge others, and we are not Him. We must be very careful with our application of the Word of God that we do not stray into judgment of other people. Judging an action as right or wrong is one thing; condemning another human being for committing such an act is something else entirely. A non-believer who feels judged will be quick to point out that the sword you are wielding is double-edged, and it cuts both ways. They’re not wrong.

When it comes to putting on the Sword of the Spirit, you don’t ever actually wield the sword at all…

You allow the sword to wield you.

This paradox is not without Biblical precedent. Time and time again, scripture tells us that our own efforts are insufficient, and that we need to step out of the way and let God do the work for us…

…the Lord your God will be with you, fighting on your behalf against your enemies in order to grant you victory.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.

…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
~John 16:33 (ESV)

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is perhaps no greater application of the Sword of the Spirit than to live each day by the Word of God.

…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

… It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…

Every time we surrender our own will to the will of God, we are putting on the Sword of the Spirit. That’s the essence of spiritual warfare: to withstand any attacks from the enemy by following the leading of the Holy Spirit and allowing God to act on our behalf. We are not the ones who win spiritual victories; all victory belongs to the Lord. We win our spiritual battles only by the extent to which we allow the Holy Spirit to live within us and guide us through each moment.

Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The Whole Armor of God paints a stunningly accurate picture of the Christian Life. One must begin by acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that His death on the cross is the only sufficient sacrifice to pay the debt of sin in each of our lives. By doing so, one puts on the Belt of Truth.

After the initial statement of faith, one must begin to learn the ways of God. We typically begin by identifying right and wrong behaviors. This is the essence of putting on the Breastplate of Righteousness. We learn that sin is harmful to ourselves and others, and we do everything we can to correct our own behavior and practice self-control.

Further growth as a Christian comes through diligent study of the Bible and a willingness to follow God’s lead. We put on the Boots of Preparation and Readiness whenever we take time to read the Bible or pray. The maturing Christian accepts the mission to spread the gospel of peace to others in this often cruel and violent world.

We know that doing so may expose us to many dangers both physical and spiritual. We choose to accept the risk and step out in faith to answer God’s call. We believe that God will guide us through whatever hardships may come. We learn that we are stronger when we work with other Christians to face challenges. By our commitment to stand with God in the face of whatever may come, we put on the Shield of Faith.

We begin to view the world differently than we did before, with our focus narrowed according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We put on the Helmet of Salvation and allow God to mold our thoughts and influence our motivations. We allow God to change the way we think, act, and speak.

In the final stage of maturity, the Christian is able to set himself aside and live for God alone. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices, fully intent upon fulfilling the will of God rather than our own. We surrender fully to the leadership of our Lord, and in so doing, we finally put on the Sword of the Spirit.

I pray that this study has been a blessing to you. I firmly believe that understanding the symbolism used in the Bible is a key to learning how to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives. May the Lord bless you, and may you truly experience the power of living in the Armor of God.



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