The Sword of the Spirit; Pastor Pat Nemmers; February 19, 2023
If you brought a copy of Scripture with you today, you can find Ephesians chapter 6 as we continue in our series, the Church at War.
And as we do, let’s just pause and quiet our hearts and talk to God. Shall we do that? Our Father in heaven, we thank you that we can come before you. And having just sung our praises to you with this desire expressed in your presence that we might become less of ourselves and more like your Son, more like Jesus. What great aspiration. And I pray that would be the desire of every heart in this room and watching online. There are many burdens that we carried into this room today, Lord. I’m sure some of us are just aching in some way physically, spiritually, emotionally. And I pray, Lord, that you would help us to set these things aside and focus on You right now and on Your Word. We pray, Lord, for the churches of the Engage Network today, for Lakeside Fellowship and Pastor Dave, for Living Waters and Pastor Josh, for High Point Church and Pastor Greg, for Redeemer Church and Pastor Jason, for New City Church and Adam as John Nemmers preaches there today representing Eden Church, and finally, Ballard Creek Church and Pastor Steve. And Lord, bless these men of God, leading these churches with other elders. There’s thousands of people worshiping in our fellowship today, Lord. Right here, would You do Your mighty work by Your mighty Word through Your mighty Spirit to exalt your mighty Son? We ask in Jesus name. Amen.
Ephesians 6… That’s where we’re at here. Jesus said, “He who is of God hears God’s words.” (John 8:47) Have you ever read that? Are you of God, because if you are, He told us you hear. And whenever Jesus said ‘hear’, He means more than just listen, right? You take in, you believe God’s Words.
My goal for you today, as we come to the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, my goal for you today, is that you would be like the warrior, David, on the run from Saul. He sort of doubles back to the tabernacle… finds the high priest. And he comes and he says, ‘You got any weapons here?’ And the high priest’s says, ‘Well, we’ve got the sword of Goliath, you know, the guy you killed off.’ Do you remember how David responded to that? He said, ‘There’s nothing like it. Give it to me.’ That’s what I hope you have, your spirit is toward the Word of God today.
And just to review, we are talking about the armament of God in our battles that we have with Satan, the Church at War. And here’s the context. We give it to you every week, beginning in verse 10…
Ephesians 6:10-17; 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. 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 and 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, 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 in 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.
Mark Twain once said that a classic is a book that everybody has on their bookshelf, but nobody reads. Unfortunately, that’s the way a lot of us treat our Bibles. We consider it a classic. It’s a good book. I like it. Glad I got one. And it just sits there.
Just the other day, I met a new friend at the gym. He actually addressed me. He said, “Hey, did you go to the high school that I went to?” And I said, “I don’t know. It depends on what high school you went to.” And he didn’t go to the same high school. We didn’t really know each other. We know each other now! A conversation took place. We went back and forth, talked about our upbringing, and as it turned out, he was from my home town! And he was a wrestler! (Greatest sport of all time!) So we talked about our growing up years, and we got into a spiritual conversation. I talked about the Bible. He said, “You know, I had a Bible too.” I said, “Well, I had a Bible. Our family had one of those big accordion versions of the Bible that sat on the banister going up our steps. And we dusted it once a week whether it needed it or not. It was always there. It was always visible. It was always prominent. But I never read it, and as far as I can tell, no one in my family ever did either.
Listen, if you’re not armed with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, you’re not ready for battle. The Apostle Paul did not say to the Ephesians, ‘Take up the sword of Aristotle or Socrates or Plato or Cicero.’ And if he were living today, he would not say, ‘Take up the sword of Keller or Piper or MacArthur or half a dozen other favorites of yours.’ He would say the same thing he said to them. Take up the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
And you’ll notice I have two words that I’m going to be focusing in on there. The
Sword of the Spirit… the Roman sword referred to was not that long, broad sword that we picture, because this was hand-to-hand fighting. This sword was more like something somewhere between 6 – 18 inches long. It was short. It was light, it was easy to draw and with deadly precision in hand-to-hand combat. And it was double edged, which is surely what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he said, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12) cuts up, cuts down, cuts in, up down. It’s like a surgical scalpel.
If the armor was a soldier’s protection, the sword was his power. And the two words I alluded to earlier in this verse, carry a sense of, and here’s the key word here, “precise-ness.” Both words I alluded to earlier, sword and the word “word,” illustrate our need to be precise in our battle against Satan and in our struggle to win others from his side to ours.
The first word is the word “ sword.” We’ve already mentioned it. It’s a short sword. It’s not the long sword. A short sword… very precise. The other word is the word “Word,”and it’s the word “Rhema.” There are two words specifically in the New Testament that we’re familiar with that refer to the word “Word.” The one is “Logos.” That’s the one you’re more familiar with, right? “Logos.” That word is used repeatedly, some 300 plus times. And John describes Jesus with it when he says, “In the beginning was the Logos. And the Logos was with God. And the Logos was God.” (John 1:1) Jesus, we’re told, is the personification of the Word of God. God’s ultimate communication to you and I is through His Son Jesus. Amen?!
And you, Awana-ians, or former… you memorized 2 Timothy 2:15, “study to show yourselves… what… approved on the God a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Logos of truth.”
And the one we just alluded to earlier, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The word of God, the Logos of God. …It just means “word”, but it is conveying the idea of the entirety of scripture, the entirety of God’s word: Logos.
The other word is the word used here. This word, where Paul says, “…take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”. He does not use the word “Logos.” He uses the word, “Rhema.” This is a powerful word. It’s not a rare word. It’s used over 70 times in the New Testament. It’s not as familiar as Logos. This word is used in places like “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church, gave himself for it, that you might sanctify it through the washing of water, through the… Rhema.” (Ephesians 5:25-26). It’s a specific precise word. In other words, husbands, with your specific words, you either build up or you tear down your wives.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a word of truth that I gave my wife. It was a word of truth, but it was not the kind of Rhema she needed. And she let me know about that, by the way, which I had to ask her forgiveness for.
But here, Paul is telling us that there’s a time that Rhemas are to be weaponized, especially in our fight with Satan. Jesus did, we’ll see that. And he’s telling us here, we never weaponize it in our relationship men to their women, husbands to wives. But the Rhema is a powerful, precise, piercing moment. It also means “word” or “utterance.” That’s all it means. It means a word or an utterance, and it’s conveying something very precise, a specific well-driven word.
I just thought of it. Remember Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, the words of the shepherd are like well-driven nails. A well-driven nail finds the stud behind the wall. That’s what a Rhema is. It’s where the gospel becomes… It’s where the light comes on. You hear the Logos, you hear the general truth of God, the revelation of God, you’re drawn near to God, and then there’s a Rhema, a specific word that Christ died for YOU, rose again for YOU. It makes sense to YOU. You personalize it, and the light comes on. Like Wesley said, “The light, dine, I defused a quickening ray. I woke. The chains fell off!” Amen?! That’s the Rhema of God right there. That’s what that is.
When Peter was retelling the salvation of Cornelius who he had just led to Christ to a group of believers, Peter says [they were told], ‘Peter will declare to you a message.’ The word “message” is the word Rhema… ‘a Rhema by which you will be…Saved.’ You don’t get saved by general words. You get saved by the Rhema of God, the specific word of God to you. Let me illustrate.
… My very first pastorate, was a country church near Clarion, Iowa. There were only about 30 some people. They were all 114 years old and older. So we had some work to do if we were going to reach our community. So we decided, I was a younger guy then. We decided we’re just going to get in that community and we’re going to do Walk Through the Bible bible study. Some of you have seen me do that on the platform a few times over the years where we just you cover for several weeks time the entire Old Testament and the New Testament. It’s very informative. It’s very inspirational. It’s very… it’s even fun. And you can tell everyone’s you’re putting taste in the mouths of these individuals. They want more. They want more. And we kept giving them more. Kept giving them more until… that’s the Logos, that’s the Logos of truth. But there was a moment in every one of those studies… we did lots of them… where you could see
the light coming on and that’s when we give a precise piercing gospel truth, and say “Christ died for YOU! You have to personalize it. It’s not enough for you to say that you go to church. It’s not enough for you to say that you know about God. You need to KNOW God. You need REPENT of your sin. You need to PLACE YOUR FAITH IN JESUS,” which, by the way, is what some of you need to do right here. But that’s what we would do. And that was the Rhema of God. And that’s when many of them would come to trust Christ. The walkthrough was the Logos. The gospel, the Rhema.
And it is the Sword of the Spirit. It’s a sword, and a sword by definition cuts, right? And this is illustrated in Acts 2 when the church begins. Peter is standing before multiple thousands, maybe 10,000 or more, and he’s declaring the truth. What he does, he takes the composite of the prophet Joel, Joel chapter 2, and then he goes to Psalm 16, sort of weaves them together. And you can tell, the people are just… you can see the emotion just sort of percolating. And then, he articulates the gospel itself and says, “This is Jesus! This is the one the Psalmist was talking about! Repent!” That’s the Rhema right there. And you know, 3000 people were saved, so we want to be able to take the Logos and make the Rhema, right?… when we’re preaching.
And how does the Bible describe that “Rhema Moment” in Acts 2?… With surgical precision. They were cut to the heart. Have you ever read that? Just like some of you are, maybe right now.
My wife, a few days ago, …experienced a very intense surgery requiring precise cuts to go through membrane and muscle and sinew and bone. You didn’t want some shmuck doing the surgery, okay?
The word of God acts like a spiritual scalpel, cutting through spiritual membrane and muscle and sinew, right down to the most important muscle of all… your heart. And this is what, this is exactly what the writer Hebrews meant. And I’ll give it, according again, the word of God is living. It’s active. It’s sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. By the way, the only thing that can differentiate between soul and spirit is the word of God. And joints and marrow. It’s a discerner of your thoughts and the very intentions of your heart. That’s a surgical procedure there, right?
So why trust the Sword of the Spirit? This is my question to you this morning. I could give you many, many a plethora of reasons, but let me give you three.
1. Because Rhemas are truths and truths set people free. That’s what Jesus said. I didn’t.
The late historian Rodney Stark noted that of the 52 individuals who are recognized in the science community as giving us the very foundation of modern science, one was an atheist. That means 51 of the 52 were believers in God… feared God, not necessarily Christians, mind you. But they believed in a deity. They couldn’t see any other reason why you wouldn’t do this. This is the reason why John Lennox said that it is atheism that is incompatible with science, not the other way around. Our world, and you’re hearing it, our world speaks of your truth and I have a truth and we all have our own truth. This is ridiculous! God has given us a twofold truth; the truth personified and the truth inscripted. Jesus said, “I am the way and the [TRUTH],” (John 14:6) That’s the personified truth, the Lord Jesus Christ. And inscripted. When he prayed the night before He died, He said, “Father, sanctify them through Your Truth. Your Word is Truth.” (John 17:17) Specific, Rhema truth sets people free. Jesus said, “If you know the truth, the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) That’s the only thing that’ll set you free. This is it. That’s the power of this Rhema. If somebody ever asked me what’s the secret sauce, if there is such a thing in my life, this is it right here. This is it.
I agree with Spurgeon who said when asked, “How do you defend the truth of God?” He said, “You don’t have to defend it anymore than you have to defend a lion. Let the lion out of the cage. It’ll defend itself.”
That’s what you do. You give specific truth, Rhema truth. Not just general truth, but Rhema truth. That’s what you need, that’s what I need. The Rhemas are those explosive truths that come at you as you read the Word of God and then you share them with others.
So why should you trust the Sword of the Spirit? Because they’re truths. and truth sets people free.
2. Because Rhemas are facts, and facts are stubborn things.
Ever heard of the Boston massacre? Yeah, sure, you read about it when you were in seventh grade. … People made a big deal out of this historical event in 1770, but only five colonists died as British soldiers leveled their guns at them. Five. and they stood trial for that. And guess who defended them in 1770? None other than the coming second president of the United States, John Adams. And he did it at the risk of his own work as a lawyer, his profession. He defended the soldiers. And in his defense, because these colonists were threatening these British, they thought they were gonna die! So they lowered their weapons, leveled them and fired. Killed five of them. In the trial, John Adams said these words. Listen to them. He said, “Facts are stubborn things. And whatever may be our wishes”… now listen to this…. “Whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations and the dictates of our passions…”, you know, your truth, your truth, my truth… that’s what he’s talking about here. “They cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. If an assault was made to endanger the soldier’s lives, the law is clear. They had a right to kill in their own defense.” And he won the case.
We are talking about the Rhema of God, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Rhema of God.
John MacArthur said, “When the Bible speaks, the argument is over.” And I agree.
It was F.W. Boram who said, “You can always show a stick to be crooked by simply laying a straight one beside it.” Scripture is that straight stick, but too many of us are fighting spiritual battles with crooked sticks.
I once worked with a very bright young man, very bright. He was a voracious reader. But he was way more apt to quote the authors of the books he was reading than he was to quote the word of God. And so I literally made him fast from reading other books for a month. All he could do was read the Bible. It about killed him! But it helped him. And here is my argument. I said, “Every thought outside of the Bible is one click away from the Bible. And one click away from the Bible is a potentially dangerous place to be.” Even Jesus, when He was confronted by Satan in the wilderness, when he started his ministry… Remember that? Satan said, “…It’s been a month and a half since you’ve eaten, so there’s some rocks over here. Turn one into bread. You’re the son of God.” You remember how Jesus responded? Jesus responded from an obscure passage in the book of Deuteronomy of all books. He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Rhema, by every Rhema that proceeds from the mouth of God.”(Deuteronomy 8:3) That’s how He lives. The Rhemas of God… He did that repeatedly. If Jesus used the word of God to do battle with Satan, how much more us? FIGHT with the facts, the Rhemas of God.
3. And finally, you should trust the Sword of the Spirit because the Rhemas are living words that make dead men come alive.
The late J.I. Packer told the story of an evangelist that was in some town in England. There were people all around him. He had a hat [on the floor]. He was running around the hat and he goes,”It’s alive! It’s alive!” He kept saying, “It’s alive!” And a huge crowd amassed around him, because they wanted to know “What’s alive?” He picked up the hat and there was a Bible underneath it! Picked it up and preached the gospel. That was clever. You wouldn’t get away with that twice in town.
Most of us have read dead words from dead men or soon will be. They inspire you, but they can’t give you life. I wrote a book. Somebody just told me one hour ago that they were, that their relative was just a few pages in it, and they were already shedding tears. Ahh, I mean, that did my heart good! They were inspired, but my book can’t give anybody life. I’ll be dead just like the rest of the authors that half of you are reading right now. This Book gives Life. Peter put it this way, “You are not born again by corruptible seed but by incorruptible, by the Word of God that lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:23) Jesus says essentially the same thing in John 6. After he fed the 5,000, they all bugged out when he said, ‘I’m the bread of life. You got to eat my flesh, drink my blood.’ They went, ‘What?!’ They bugged out. And remember, he looks at his disciples and he said, ‘Are you gonna bug out too?’ And it was Peter, he said, ‘Why would we do that? You have the words. You have the words! You have the Rhemas of eternal life.’
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing… what? By the word of Christ, by the word of God. Have you ever heard of somebody being stabbed to death? Here is a word that can stab dead people to life. So read it. Meditate upon it. Memorize it and speak it.
Chuck Swindle said, “The word of God is like milk. If you keep it, it’ll get sour. But if you give it out, it’ll stay fresh.” And if you You take the Rhemas of God that you learn, you meditate upon and you memorize and share them with others, guess what? They stick. You never lose them. And fight with them. Remember, this is warfare! Jesus said, ‘He who is of God hears God’s’… what? ‘hears His Rhemas.’
Are you of God? Because I’m thinking there might be many here that are out of God. You know of God, but you’re not of God. You’re not His. You know about Him, but you don’t know Him. You’ve never submitted in humility and repentance to the gospel. You’ve never believed that Jesus died personally for YOU, and that as many as received Him to them, God gives the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name. That’s a Rhema. That’s the truth some of you need to receive this morning. Would you do that? Because Jesus said, “He who is of God hears God’s words.” (John 8:47) I start off many sermons with that line.
But you should know that was not how He ended that statement. In fact, he was actually talking to his enemies. And He concluded that statement [saying], ‘Therefore you don’t hear. You want to know why you don’t hear? Because you’re not of God.’ And some of you will leave this room or turn off your device watching online, and you’ll be completely un-impacted because you’re not of God. But if a Rhema of God, if the Spirit of God… remember, this is the Holy Spirit. And by the way, He’s the author of Scripture… Amen? He’s the one who guided the writers of Scripture. If he is speaking to your heart right now, respond to Him. Respond to Him!
So you wake up in the morning, you wipe the sleep from your eye, you pour yourself a cup of coffee or whatever you drink. And you say, ‘Ah, let’s see. New apps. Favorite blog. Good book I want to read. Ah, the Bible! The Bible! There’s nothing like it… Give it to me!’ That’s what I want for all of you.
Oh, how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day. That we might be like Jeremiah who said, “Your word I did find and I did eat it. And it was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16) And Job said, “I have treasured the words of your mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12)
Warriors for Jesus, strap on your Sword. If the armor is your protection, the Sword is your power.
Let’s pray. Our Father with gratitude, we come before you and thank you for your Word. We love this book. Oh God, make your people love this book. And then metabolize it. Take it in. Drink from it. Memorize it. Meditate upon it, and then give it out. And may they be– may the Logos of your word become specific Rhemas to them and to those they communicate with and make them effective for your glory. And I pray, dear God, for those who are here who are not of you. because he who is of God hears your words, God. And Holy Spirit, I know you’re referenced in this verse, I didn’t spend a lot of time on you. Forgive me for that. Thank you for giving us this book. Thank you for guiding those 40 writers or so and doing it so that what dried on the paper was nothing short of the very Words of God. May we love you more because we know this book as a result of our time here today. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. Let’s stand. [Music]