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Description: Holy Spirit is a Sword
The Holy Spirit is a Sword
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Ephesians 6:17 – “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word
of God.” The sword is both aggressive and defensive as you know. This is such a massive verse that
it’s hard to meet the challenge of it at all — “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.”
I don’t know how much this happens to you. I’m surprised in a way how much it happens to me — and
that is a vision in the night. It’s God that gives us “songs in the night” and things can seem so
clear to you in the middle of the night when you are undistracted by the world and undistracted by
what your eyes see and your ears hear. It’s remarkable how clearly God can speak to you at that
You may have had this experience that if you don’t write the thing down it can be gone by the
morning. You want to try and hold the truth that you saw, have it written down in a visible form so
that you can call it to your mind again. It’s a mystery because the thing itself is a revelation of
light through the Holy Spirit to your spirit and it often virtually bypasses your mind. So often you
can form the words to remember it but whether those words call it up or not is a different matter.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring back to our remembrance the things he has spoken to us.
And so most of us have probably some experience of that — either through the night we get a
revelation from God or we hear something that someone said or read something that someone wrote and
we write it down hoping that we will be able to reproduce that perception of reality again. Of
course it’s a tricky thing to do. You are very conscience that it’s not the words themselves,
however carefully you choose the words. It’s not the words themselves that bring to you the whole
feeling inside that that light from God originally brought you. It’s really His Spirit.
And that’s part of the mystery of “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God”. Part of the mystery of
this is that it is not what it appears. It’s not just a book of print. It isn’t. It’s not just a
book of written words. It somehow has a spirit about it. It has an ability to bring God’s spirit
into your own heart. And so when you talk about the “sword of the spirit, the word of God” you’re
not really just talking about the Bible. You are talking about a mysterious power that the book has
that even people like Coleridge (a poet) who wasn’t terribly Christian said, “The Bible finds me at
a deeper depth of my being than any other book.”
Again and again, people who aren’t particularly Godly people or Christians will admit there is some
kind of power in the words of this book that come to a deeper part of your being than any other
book. Many will say, “Books that are talked about as inspired get their inspiration from the one
book that is inspired.”
That inspiration is breathed into the writings by the breath of God. And so when we talk about the
“sword of the Spirit, the word of God” we are not just talking about the book itself. We are talking
about a factor that nobody can quite tie down. But thousands and thousands of writers tie their own
inspiration back to this book.
It is true when you open it and deal with it in your Bible study or you open it in your mind you
seem to be touching something more than words. It seems to put you in touch in some way with the
Spirit of God which originally breathed life into it. It seems to in some way to be a book of life.
So undoubtedly when they hand this book to Queen Elizabeth and say, “take though this the most
precious thing the world possesses….” they often mean something other than this “thing”. I would
have been the first to say that it’s just a book and nothing special about it — but there
undoubtedly is. Some of its ability is to be able to give you a position above your physical and
mental position. It’s something that enables the book to lift you into a place where you can see
things differently or you see them from a different angle. I don’t know why that is. Sometimes it
brings back to you the experience of the words of the man that you are reading. But often it’s
simply an ability it has to put you into a position of transcendence and to enable you to see things
you wouldn’t normally see yourself.
So there does seem to be a kind of magic in it. It is important therefore in Bible study, or when
you read it at any time, to glance up to the Spirit who is beginning to touch you through your
attending to this book. It is important in that way to lift up a prayer to the Holy Spirit that he
will enable you to see what he has for you here.
Often what you do is read words that you have read a thousand times before. But God’s Spirit makes
them real to you and brings them home to you. So in a real way you seem to stand in the presence of
God. If you say to me, “Do you mean any of the words?” Yes. Because I was such a skeptic of this
kind of thing, I thought of the Bible as primarily a literary creation. But for whatever reason it
seems that God brings home to my heart that even if the words are simple in a verse I have as much
obligation to expound on that verse as the deepest verse in the book. Again and again during the 30
years of expounding Romans I would feel a responsibility to take all the words of a simple verse as
carefully and respectfully as I possibly could. I trusted God’s Spirit to give me life from them and
of course he did without fail.
It is remarkable that even a verse like “Jesus wept” (which is pretty deep in its own way) and other
verses that describe a physical action — God is able to make those light to you. It is a
remarkable book that is inspired by the power of God’s Spirit. It is a book that enables you to see
things that you wouldn’t normally see. It is a book that enables you to sit on a mountain top that
you aren’t on and to see things that you haven’t seen before. It is in that way a magical book. It
is a sword of the Spirit.
You could go forever on the “sword of the Spirit”. I would just point out that a sword cuts, splits
and attacks but it also defends. It is sharp — the Bible says, “sharper than any two edged sword.”
When you are cutting with the front edge the back edge is cutting you too. So it is two-edged. It is
a sword that enables you to stand against the enemy but it is also a sword that cuts back and cuts a
little slice off you. And maybe splits between the soul and spirit in your own life.
Magical is not the right word to describe the Bible because it is really a godless word in a way.
But the Bible is a supernatural book. It is undoubtedly God’s own word living and alive and able to
touch you far deeper than your own mind and emotions. So when you go to it, even in an ordinary
daily Bible study, it seems to me vital to bow your head before the Father and ask Him for what he
has for you to hear in this apparently simple, shallow verse that you are reading. God will honor
that and will make it life to you. So that’s only part of what it does.
The word undoubtedly gives you wisdom and guidance. If you ask me if I do what John Wesley did (just
put his finger on a verse) — I’m afraid at an odd time I do although I know I shouldn’t. My
grandmother had a little box of promises. Desmond (my brother) and I loved to pick out a promise
from the box. So you can do that, but I don’t recommend it. The only way is to apply yourself to
his word with loving respect and discipline. Then trust Him to speak to you.
Now, in the receiving of it you have to be very open to God interpreting the verse to you
differently. Is that good practice? Well, normally we should love God will all our heart, soul,
strength and mind. It is better to use your mind to study the verse, see the context and see what it
meant in that historical situation. I think that’s by far the safest route to go. But there are some
times of difficulty, trouble, sadness and depression, as well as at times of joy and light when
God’s Spirit just takes a verse and applies it immediately to you. You just know that God means that
verse to apply to you. He may not mean it to be that to others but he means it for you.
Then it’s important to realize that God is gently, kindly and graciously speaking to you from his
own heart. That’s very important so that the book itself fades behind the living word that is right
besides you – Jesus himself. Undoubtedly there are times when God speaks to you directly despite the
context. But normally the wise thing is to see the context to which the words occur and to see what
their application was in that historical time.
I think there is virtually no sense in going to the Bible and reading it if you don’t end up with
the vital step of asking God personally, “Lord is there anything here that you have to say to me
personally through this piece.” Even after you’ve studied the verse in its context and after you’ve
analyzed and thought about it, it’s important to say at the very end, “Lord is there anything that
you have to say to me directly here that I have not seen myself.” It is finally the Lord that you go
to and not in a way the word. In a way it’s great to respect the word but really it is precious
because it’s God speaking to you. That is the most precious thing of all.
Now, can you know when God has spoken to you? Yes, undoubtedly you can. Whether it’s Him speaking to
you at the very beginning of reading the verse or whether it comes through the context or whether it
comes at the very end, it is his will that you would know what is said to you there in that
situation. And that’s why you go to it.
We could go on forever about the word of God, the sword of the Spirit. I just thought we ought to
introduce the whole subject this morning. Eph 6:17 – “And take the helmet of salvation, and the
sword of the Spirit.” I’d just point out to you that you don’t need anything more said about the
principalities and powers. You can see it when you look at the mess in Rome. It’s evidence that the
whole world is in trouble because of the principalities and powers who are workers of evil in the
darkness. That’s why we need to take unto ourselves the whole armor of God.
You have to say that the main part of that armor is the sword of the spirit or the word of God. Let