Faithlife Sermons

The Sword of the Spirit

The Real War We Wage  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:42
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Memorizing Ephesians 6:10-18

Let’s test our memory (put some blanks in)
Ephesians 6:10–18 ESV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Over the last few weeks we’ve been taking a quick look Spiritual Warfare and the Armor of God. We began by thinking about the fact that...
We are in a war and our enemies are unseen
God has given us what we need to engage in this spiritual war
God is a God of truth and encourages us to encircle ourselves in truth
When we wear the breastplate of righteousness, we seek to live upright and godly lives - leaving no room for our character to be attacked because of inconsistencies or willful sin...
Gospel of peace - we learned that we must be ready defensively to respond to a works based accusation and must be ready offensively to share the gospel at any time - the good news of God’s redemption.
helmet of salvation - here we learned what salvation is - that we because God is the standard and is holy and just, that we are saved from God’s wrath, by God’s grace, because of God’s love, into God’s family, for God’s glory, eternally - because he chose us. If you’ve not yet responded to God’s free gift of salvation or don’t understand what that is all about then let’s connect after the service or sometime this week and I’d love to open the Word of God with you.
Next week Andrew Mugo is going to wrap up this series with the a discussion on the topic of prayer. He’ll be looking at verse 18-20. Feel free to add those to your memory plans.
Today, however, we are looking at the Sword of the Spirit.
Let’s pray.
As we begin, let’s consider...

A Word (or two) on the Word

Have you ever noticed that language is a fickle thing? We can see this in a variety of ways in English. We have words that sound the same - for example - through (as in “he walked through the door”) and threw (as in “she threw the ball”)- but mean completely different things.
Last week, we were having dinner with Eric and Lynn Bass and this came up in conversation as we reflected on the difficulty of languages. English is filled with words that sound the same but are completely different. For example,
We wouldn’t beet a drum or eat a beat.
We also would say “nice to meat you” or “let’s have some meet
In our language, context is key.
We also have words that generally mean the same thing, but are used in different ways or are simply there for variety. For example - we use “word” as a basic unit of language. We could also use the word “term” to describe a basic unit of language. One is more common - the other can be used as a replacement or an extension. They both have a ranges of meaning that largely overlap.
We see this in Greek as well. In the New Testament - there are a couple of different words that get translated as “word” in English. The most common term for “word” in Greek is..

Logos (λόγος)

This Greek work is used over 400 times in the New Testament. It’s commonly used to describe something. It can be used as a means of referring to something said or even a general thought or speech.
According to the Lexham Theological Wordbook:
“logos has quite a large semantic range. In some cases, it simply means a word or a spoken word (e.g., Matt 22:46). At other times, it expresses the related meanings of a saying (e.g., John 12:38, 48) or an account (e.g., Rom 14:12; Heb 13:17). In a number of cases in the nt, logos is used to express the idea of divine revelation. Most important for such a discussion are its uses in John 1. In John 1:1, the logos is identified with God; later in that chapter, the logos takes on flesh (John 1:14). The Gospel shows that Jesus is this logos, and is, therefore, the ultimate divine revelation.”
So, most of the time when we read about something being spoken or read the word “word” in English - the Greek term logos is used.
But there is another term that we find in Greek, that is...

Rhema (ῥῆμα)

This is the word used here in Ephesians 6:17 - when it refers to the sword of the Spirit as the “word” or rhema of God.
Where logos is used over 400 times, rhema is only used 70 time in the NT (Richards)
Some commentators note that rhema and logos are used almost interchangeably - in many ways based on the preference of the author or based on the context. But there are some nuanced differences.
Let me share with you a few things from some people who are a whole lot smarter than I am when it comes to Greek.
Lawrence Richards notes:
“rhema.... typically focuses attention on a specific word or utterance. In contrast, logos is a broad term, sometimes including the entire Christian message and often used in technical theological senses.”
So we might think of rhema as a word that is appropriate for a specific situation.
According to Vines Dictionary...

The significance of rhema (as distinct from logos) is exemplified in the injunction to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Eph. 6:17; here the reference is not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture.

Vines is commenting specifically on the verse we are considering today.
As I was initially thinking about “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God”, I began to assume that “the word” referred to the whole Bible - and in some ways it might. However, when Paul wrote Ephesians, few if any of the Gospels would have been written and may not have been in circulation - so the only “word of God” the Paul and his readers would have had was the Old Testament.
So, Paul’s use of the word rhema refers to something less than the whole of scripture.
Klyne Snodgrass (p, 343-344) notes that it is the Spirit which “empowers” the sword.
He goes on to take a little different view on what exactly is the “word of God.” He says...
“Word of God’ does not refer to the Bible but to the gospel message. The Greek word used here (rhema) usually refers to a teaching or prophetic utterance or, more specifically, to the gospel..... The gospel empowered by the Spirit is the means by which the well-armed Christian is protected and empowered for life. That includes sharing the good news, but is much more comprehensive.”
In case you’d like to look at this a little more closely, I’ve included a couple of references in your notes where the phrase “word of God” uses the word rhema (Lk. 3:2; Heb. 6:5; Heb. 11:3)
I realize that taking this little turn into the original language may be interesting to some and academic minutia to others - but I think it’s helpful for us to make sure that we’re thinking about applying the Word of God accurately.
The great thing is, we can...

Follow Jesus’ Example (Mt. 4:1-10)

The very first use of the Greek word rhema is found in the book of Matthew - in Jesus encounter in the wilderness with Satan as He is being tempted. Let’s consider this briefly.
Matthew 4:1–3 ESV
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Jesus then responds
Matthew 4:4 ESV
But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
when he quotes from the book of Deuteronomy about every word from the mouth of God, he is using the word “rhema.” (Richards)
Over the next several verses, Jesus continues to respond to the Satan’s temptations with specific references from the Old Testament. In fact, Satan even tries to use Scripture - but out of context.
Matthew 4:5–10 ESV
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again 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 I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”
Each time, Jesus responds with a specific rhema from scripture that is appropriate for Satan’s attack.
Now, we could easily discount this by stating that “well Jesus is God so he is at a distinct advantage.” That may be true, but he has given us access to the word and to the Spirit which gives us remembrance and utterance.
So, how do we put this into practice?
I think there are two grand ways. First of all...

Be ready with the Word

We can’t have recollection or remembrance of something that we’re not familiar with. One of the best ways to do this is...

Have regular habit of reading the Bible

There is no substitute for reading scripture. Whether we are reading it or listening to it, having the logos of God on our minds helps us to be ready for when the Spirit leads us to the rhema of God for a specific circumstance.
There are a variety of Bible reading plans and programs. I know of several people who are in the habit of reading through the Bible each year. Some people might take a couple of years to get through it. Others might want to just read small sections. No matter the plan that you choose, create a habit.
As you know, some men are virtually gathering on Tuesday nights to discuss the book Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughs. A few weeks ago, we were discussing the a chapter entitled the “Discipline of Mind.” In this chapter, he tells this story about a man who was disciplined in his reading of God’s word. He wrote...
“Lt. Gen. William K Harrison was the most decorated soldier in the 30th Infantry Division, rated by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower as the number one infantry division in World War II. Harrison was the first American to enter Belgium, which he did at the head of the Allied forces. He received every decoration for valor except the Congressional Medal of Honor - the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart (he was one of the few generals to be wounded in action). When the Korean War began, he served as chief of staff in the United Nations Command and because of his character and self-control, was ultimately President Eisenhower’s choice to head the long and tedious negotiations to end the war.
“Harrison was a soldier’s soldier who led a busy, ultra-kinetic life, but he was also an amazing man of the Word. When he was a twenty two year-old West Point Cadet, he began reading the Old Testament through once a year and the New Testament four times. Harrison did this until the end of his life. Even in the thick of war he maintained his commitment by catching up during the two- and three-day respites for replacement and refitting that followed battles. Thus, when the war ended, he was right on schedule.
“When, at the age of ninety, his failing eyesight no longer permitted the discipline, he had read the Old Testament seventy times and the New Testament 280 times! No wonder his godliness and wisdom were proverbial, and that the Lord used him for eighteen fruitful years to lead Officers Christian Fellowship (OCF).” (Hughs, 98-99)
Reading or even listening to that much scripture might take 20-30 minutes a day. In some ways, it’s a small investment for an eternal return!
But in addition to reading in order to have God’s word (logos) on our minds, another thing we can do is to...

Choose something to chew on - meditate!

In many places throughout the Old Testament we run across the concept of meditation. Now this is not like some new age, mindlessness or emptying, but rather is more like chewing, taking something and thinking about it, pondering, mentally mulling over something.
When God commissioned Joshua with the leadership of the people of Israel - he gave him this charge: (Joshua 1:6b-9)

Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua was about to lead the people into the promised land. He was about to lead them into months of military campaigns in order to give the Israelites a strong geographic land in which they could worship and serve God. He would be up against difficulties and challenges and would need the law of God as his guide.
God’s charge to Joshua was to be strong and courageous - something we must to in the face of spiritual warfare. He also charged him to chew or meditate on the law - day and night - keeping his mind fixed upon God’s ways.
The Psalmist also communicates about chewing on things of God...
Psalm 63:5–8 ESV
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Here, the Psalmist is not so much meditating on the things that God has said, but on what God has done.
In fact, there is an entire Psalm that is a meditation or reflection on the law of God. Psalm 119 is 176 verses of reflections on the word, precepts, promises, and works of God. He is using each letter of the Hebrew Alphabet as a tool for meditation - as each stanza of the psalm begins with the successive letters.
As you read or listen to the word, choose something upon which to reflect. Maybe it’s a verse, maybe it’s a concept - but make time throughout the day to think through that.
For those of you who are on social media, maybe even post something about that on your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed - so that others might be able to be encouraged or join in.
So reading large sections of scripture may lead us to meditate or chew on shorter sections or concepts. That meditation may lead us to...

Memorize Scripture

As you know, over the last several weeks we’ve been working on memorizing Ephesians 6:10-18 in order to help us keep our minds aware of how God is working and what God has given us for tools in which to engage in this spiritual battle on God’s terms and not on the worlds terms.
Memorizing the Word of God allows us to put sections of scripture into our minds in long term memory. We get to come back to it and recall it.
Memorizing Scripture also helps us to keep from sin:
Psalm 119:11 ESV
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
So as you read, as you hear something in corporate worship, as you run across a verse or passage in your Bible Study class or discipleship group - pay attention to certain verses or concepts and consider memorizing that. Maybe take one verse each week or one verse each month and commit it to memory.
One of the great things about the technological world in which we live is that we have access to God’s word in an instant. You can open it on your phone or tablet or computer and search things instantly.
But storing God’s word on your mind is way faster and more accessible than even the latest and greatest smart phone.
Many Sunday School lessons have a recommended verse to memorize. Consider reflecting on that verse with your family or friends or classmates.
Once we’ve completed this series, I’ll try to include a possible verse to memorize as a means of inputing a concept into our minds. But don’t depend on my ability to remember to do that. Pay attention to how the Spirit of God might be prompting you to memorize something.
You see, memorizing God’s word not only puts it in our minds to keep us from sinning, it also can become a tool for prayer - lifting up requests to God based on promises He has made or truths that we find in His word. We get to see a beautiful example of this in Nehemiah as he is praying:
Nehemiah 1:8–11 ESV
Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.
Here, he is praying to God and remembering what God had promised and calling on God to fulfill that promise. It appears that he had memorized some part of the law in order to bring it back to mind to pray it back to God.
These three actions - reading, meditating, and memorizing scripture become powerful tools for this final thing to consider...

Listen to the Spirit

This part of the armor of God is after all the sword of the Spirit.
Francis Folkes wrote...
“The word is the Spirit’s sword, because it is given by the Spirit (cf. Eph. 3:5; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 3:7; Heb. 9:8; Heb. 10:15; 1 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:21), and it is ‘as He works in the believer as the Spirit of truth (John 14:7) and faith (2 Cor. 4:13) He puts the sword into his grasp and enables him to use it.
It is the Holy Spirit who gives the inspiration and insight into how to use the rhema.
The night before Jesus was crucified, He spent a great deal of time talking to his disciples about what would follow and told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit - the counselor. You can read about it in John 13-16.
John 14:26 ESV
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
So here, Jesus is telling his disciples that the Spirit will provide some new information but will also remind them of the things that Jesus said.
Later on he says...
John 16:13 ESV
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
So the Spirit will be granting some insight and understanding.
But we also see that in our time of need, the Spirit will even give us what to say - a word for the moment.
Luke 12:11–12 ESV
And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
In a parallel passage, Jesus said...
Matthew 10:19–20 ESV
When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
So, in a moment of need, we can trust not only that the Spirit will give us what to say, but will be speaking through us.

Putting this all together

So God has given us His logos, His Word. We have access to it. In a moment of need, the Spirit of God will give us His rhema - a specific word for that moment.
As we read God’s word (logos)- we remind ourselves of how God has worked in the past, truths about God, promises that He has made. Regularly reading scripture keeps our memory tank full so that in a time of crisis, the Spirit of God can bring back to our minds a specific rhema for that moment. For example, when facing temptation - the Spirit might remind you of how Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife in order to maintain his integrity (Gen. 39) or how when David fell into temptation it marked a major change in his reign and family (2 Sam. 11ff). By reading large sections of scripture, we have have these big themes on our minds and the Spirit has access to it.
Or, in a moment of crisis, we might be both reminded of what Jesus said in the Gospels about how the Spirit would work and then also be reminded of how Nehemiah, when he was sharing with the King about his burden for Jerusalem prayed a sort of emergency prayer and was given favor with the King (Neh. 2:4-5).

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king,

And God granted him favor with the King.
I think Jesus had read, meditated, and memorized the logos of God as a major part of his upbringing - we even see evidence of that as He engaged with the religious leaders as a child (Luke 2:43ff) and as He reflected on the religious teachings based on the Old Testament in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). Because He had done that, in the moment of need he had a rhema with which to respond.
We should do the same:
read the logos - so that the Spirit can bring us a rhema as the sword in time of need
meditate on the logos - so that the Spirit can bring us a rhema as a sword in time of need.
memorize the logos - so that the Spirit can bring us a rhema as a sword in time of need.
Will you read this with me as we close?
Ephesians 6:14–17 ESV
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,


Foulkes, Francis: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, Erdmans, Grand Rapids, 1974.
O’Brien, Peter Thomas. The Letter to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.
Richards, Lawrence O. Zondervan Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1991.
Robertson, Michael Scott. “Divine Revelation.” Ed. Douglas Mangum et al. Lexham Theological Wordbook 2014 : n. pag. Print. Lexham Bible Reference Series.
Snodgrass, Klyne: The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1996, p. 343-344.
Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 45. Print.
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