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Description: The Word of God: a Sword
The Word of God: a Sword
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
“…And the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17c
Barth has one of his baffling parts of his church dogmatics. He often talks about things that we
can’t talk about because we lack the words to talk about it or we lack the context to talk about it.
Or, it’s so unusual that we’ve never thought of it because we think it’s too difficult to think. He
starts off by saying, “God had no need to make himself known.” And of course immediately your mind
is thrown in confusion because you think what would he have done? And then the next question would
be, “How would we know him?”
And so it’s one of these statements that stops you in your tracks and you wonder where is he going
to go with it? That’s always what surprises me about Barth. Not only did he say that God had no
need to make himself known, but that he might have chosen not to make himself known. So you’re left
wondering how to think.
Then of course he always plunges in and is like an old guy that finds the latch in a dark cave.
Suddenly some light comes in and then you can see. So he proceeds and then indicates that even then
Christ was God’s only begotten son – so they were together. You can guess that he gets that from
those early words, “Let us make man in our image.”
Obviously he was speaking to someone and obviously his son was with him. What we talk about in
theology is the eternal generation of the son. The son is eternally with God.
In other words you’re into a realm that you can’t talk about because you can’t talk about eternity.
We are in the midst of time and we can’t conceive of eternity. And so all one can say is that God
and Jesus were with each other forever. It’s beyond us to say, “Was there ever a time when he begot
his son?” Obviously there is some indication that he did beget him.
So then, Barth wades through from there. But one thing he says is, “God spoke.” God had no need to
speak and that’s what he means when he said God had no need to make himself known. Barth says that
God speaking is God pouring himself out and expressing himself. And he indicates that God had no
need to express himself for his own satisfaction. But he chose to express himself. He uses a word
that means he chose to come out. He chose to come out of himself. He chose to express himself
outside himself. He chose to do that. And he expressed himself outside of himself by his Son. He
expressed himself through his only begotten son who was with him from the very beginning.
That’s why John’s chapter there is so remarkable. John says that Jesus was the living word with God
from the beginning. Indeed he was God. So John is saying that Jesus was the only begotten son of
God. He was part of God, of the same substance as God. And so when God spoke the word he spoke his
Son forth. We only know God through the Son. No one has seen God at any time but the son has
revealed him. So the speaking of God’s own character and nature comes through his son Jesus. And
that’s why we talk about Jesus as the living word.
He is the living word of God. And he became flesh. He was the living word before he was flesh. He
was the living expression of God in eternity to the angels. Christ was the expression of God. That’s
the only way we know God through his son. That’s why we call Jesus the Word. In the beginning was
the word, the word was with God and the word was God. And then the word became flesh in the man
Jesus Christ – became a human being.
And so when Christ came forth he spoke his father. He was the one that spoke in Isaiah. He was the
one who spoke in Abraham. He was the one that spoke in Moses. When he walked with Shadrach, Meshach
and Abednego in the fiery furnace – he was the son of God that walked with them. It was Christ that
spoke through Isaiah and Jeremiah. He was the word coming forth through them. Anything that has come
as far as our knowledge of God is concerned has come through the living word who lived in everyone
in the Old Testament that spoke forth God’s word.
So Jesus was always speaking – at times through angels – like when one came to John the Baptist. Or
through a spirit such as the one that spoke to Moses in the bush on fire. But it was always Jesus
the word that spoke forth in all of those situations. And so it was Jesus that spoke in his own
human body as Jesus of Nazareth. As a little baby he spoke forth. Then as a growing son he spoke
forth. Then as a man who taught as a Rabbi he spoke forth and he did miracles and revealed himself
as close to himself as we could see him from our human experience.
And then he explained to us that the whole plan for his father that he would be in us and we would
be in him. And that we were in fact made through him and in him. And it was him that held us
altogether. And when he would go he would then send his own spirit back into us and he would live in
us and we would live in him and his Father would continue to express himself through us.
And so that’s why we all are here. We’re really a continuity of what started from the very beginning
when God chose to come out and make himself known. It’s all a continuation of his only begotten son.
So this is not a break we are experiencing. It’s not an unusual thing that we are part of the son.
That has been the situation from the very beginning. We were made in the son and we are part of
Jesus. It is him that is in us. That is why we are here on earth — to do what the apostles did or
rather what the Spirit of Jesus did through the apostles. So we are just a continuation of that
The Holy Spirit, Jesus and we are all part of the expression of our Father. One of the most
wonderful parts of this is that we are allowed to be conscience of ourselves and to know ourselves
in Him. We can know that we are actually a living expression of him and a living part of him. We are
a unique creation and expression of him. We are part of him and he is part of us.
When we talk about God’s word here, the sword of the Spirit, we are talking about a remarkable gift
that the Father has given us. This has delivered us from deception. This has delivered us from a man
such as me saying, “I am Christ!” Or, “I am a reincarnation of God.” Or, “I know what God really
thinks.” It delivers us from all kinds of unusual eloquence and really from con men and deceivers.
It delivers us from all uncertainty. You are part of Christ – well you certainly are. You say, “Does
Christ say this? Well, we can look here in this book. They can’t put one over on us – they can’t.
Because of this dear gift that he has given us. All we have to do is say, “That’s not what he says
here. That’s not the kind of person he was.”
That’s part of the reason it’s called the sword of the Spirit. It’s sharp and pointed, it’s useful
and Jesus himself used it in Matthew again and again. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every
word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Because of course when it says — ‘sword of the Spirit,
the word of God’ — it is rhema. The emphasis of rhema is not a written word but the utterance. The
best translation of the Greek is an utterance. The
Sword of the Spirit is the utterance of God.
We each are here to utter what God is revealing to us in our lives in all kinds of situations. We
are here to incarnate that, to express what God himself is thinking in all kinds of situations. When
it says that this book here is the sword of the Spirit, the rhema of God, the utterance of God –
it’s an inspired record of things that God has uttered through the apostles and through his son.
The Bible is just a wonderful way of checking out whether we ourselves are uttering the word of God
or not. All we have to do is examine the spirit of this book and the kinds of things he said here.
From that we can tell whether the kinds of things we are saying are from God or from some other
spirit. It is just an unusual and outstanding expression of God’s will, his words and his spirit so
that we are able to check our own words and expression of God with it. Are we really hearing God or
are we hearing some deception we have created ourselves or someone else has given to us?
The rhema of God is why we are here. Each one of us are unique ways in which Christ the living word
of God is able to express his Father’s will and thoughts and attitude here on earth. And that’s why
we are here and why such a sacrilege for somebody like me to be unkind or hard or be critical or
sarcastic. It is not simply wrong and a sin but a dastardly cruel thing to Christ within me who is
himself filled with thoughts of gentleness and kindness for each one of you.
And so for each of us it is a high and holy life that God has called us to – to be expressions of
his rhema – to speak what God speaks. You can see the connection that they are all tied together.
They are all part of Christ himself. And so this is a record of Christ’s words in this first century
of our era. It’s remarkable when you think it’s the last little part of the Bible and yet it is a
clear reliable expression of what our Father’s heart is – the kind of things he says and the ways he
That’s why it’s the sword of the Spirit. It’s sharp, clear and clean. You can cut through with it.
That’s why Jesus during the temptations quoted the word of God in answer to Satan, “You shalt not
live by bread alone but by every word….” “You shalt not tempt the Lord thy God for he gives his
angels charge over you….”
The word here is God’s clear expression of what he thinks and what he feels and the kinds of things
he would say. We ourselves are alive today to express that in our own day to day lives. It’s
wonderful and remarkable. Imagine the Father thinking of the thousands of ways in which just the
four of us even today will have opportunity to speak or admire the things he has already made or to
say something to each other that comes from his heart. It’s a remarkable plan he has to have the
possibility of his word and heart expressed in millions of actions and events everyday here in his
The sword of the spirit is the word of God is part of what we are and it’s invaluable for us to have
it. It lifts this from being an ordinary book. It just bewilders you that God would actually put it
into words that would go into ink and onto a page so that we could actually see the word God –G-O-D.
But the more remarkable thing is that this is not just the written word of God but that it carries
the living word in its spirit.
I joke about Wesley opening the Bible up anywhere and looking to see if God might be speaking to him
from that page. I of course being very intellectual would not dream of doing that but have done it
from time to time! But it comes from the sense that God is able to speak to you through this word in
ways that are miraculously appropriate to the situation that you’re in and I don’t know how many of
you have found how often a word from this book comes back to your mind at certain times and of
course it lifts your heart out of the doldrums and gives you an immediate sense that you are on the
That is the wonderful thing about this book —not only that it’s visible and something you can
touch and see but that it itself seems to have a living spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16-“All scripture is
inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in
righteousness.” The Greek means “God breathed”. All scripture is God breathed. It is breathed out
from God because it comes right from God’s inner heart. The greater wonder of this written word is
that it becomes God’s breath to you. God breathes through this book and makes the words of scripture
alive so that you sense God speaking to you and that it is true. So it is a wonderful gift.
This is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God and we ourselves are part of that expression in our
own life. Let us pray.
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