In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17) Dear friends, every other piece which we are given as Christians to wear and carry with us are all defensive. They simply make us able to stand (Eph. 6:11b) and do sentry duty to guard holy ground. To withstand the assaults of the evil one. (Eph. 6:11b-13, 16) The armour of God protects you from the evil one’s attacks. It acts as a shield to you that puts out the flaming arrows of evil one. (Eph. 6:16) The temptations that burn like fire when they find purchase in your flesh. The armour of God is like a shield that blocks you from attack because Jesus has taken those things on Himself. He has taken those accusations that belong to your sin on Himself. (Rom. 8:1) He who knew no sin became sin for you (2 Cor. 5:21), shielding you from Satan’s attacks, delivering you from evil, leading you not into the time of trial and temptation. (Matt. 6:13)
The belt of truth (Eph. 6:14a) helps you gird up your loins. We’ve all heard that phrase, “Gird up your loins,” but you’ve never given it much thought. We all take it these days as a phrase that simply means to “be a man,” to gather you courage together. But what you would do in those days—in the ancient middle east—is that you would gather up your robes and tie them together almost like a sort of sumo-wrestler diaper. And then you might tie them in place with a belt so that you would be able to move quickly. So that your robes would not block you or trip you. And the belt of truth would help you cinch everything in place so that all the other armour could go in its proper place. Truth, then, is the thing that keeps all things in place. It keeps you well protected. Well guarded. Guarded from falsehood and mis-belief that might attack you at any moment and trip you up. Especially when you least expect it. So you have to speak the truth in own household. In your workplace. In your church. For if you are not speaking the truth you will fall. You must do this.
And you know what happened under communist regimes? They wouldn’t speak the truth. They knew that it was always a risk, that something like 1 in 5 or even 1 in 3 people was an informant to the government. So the whole society learned to not speak the truth. They learned to constantly lie to each other. To think one thing, but say another. And once you get used to that, you begin to not be able to speak the truth at all. You can’t get your own thinking straight. You can’t distinguish the truth from lies anymore. And the foundation for all reality disappears. So that everything around you—the whole world—everyone is lying. Which means you can’t trust what own eyes see, or what ears hear any longer. No one will tell the truth. You need to practice telling the truth. Or at the very least not lying to yourself and others.
So that being properly put together, properly girded by the truth, you can put on the breastplate of righteousness. (Eph. 6:14b) Not your own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ, which has been granted to you in Holy Baptism (Gal. 3:27; Tit. 3:5-7), renewed in you regularly by Holy Absolution (John 20:22-23) when the cleansing of baptism is drizzled over you again and you are made clean. Righteous. Again. (John 13:10) His righteousness granted to you on account of what Jesus did on the cross. (Rom. 3:23-26) His righteousness is given to you. And it guards your heart. It protects your chest. The core of who you are—a saint of God. His child. It guards the core of your being. The place where faith resides. Where His righteousness takes up its place, guarding and shielding your heart. (Eph. 6:14b)
And as shoes on your feet you have the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. (Eph. 6:15) You see, even in the midst of the fray of this world, Jesus Christ gives you peace. As though you are standing in the best footwear possible. So that you have no doubts in the midst of the battle. In the muck and mire of this world. When blood is flying and horses are crying and the field is being churned up into muddy mush. As infantry tear up the ground and bodily fluids mix in as people lose control of their bowels and the muck and mire of battle is everywhere and you don’t know where you are at. In the midst of that you have your feet shod with the readiness of the Gospel of peace. Ready to stand when you need to stand. Bold, sure footed, on a firm foundation, on the Gospel. Ready to move when need to move. To advance.
Guarded all the while by the shield of faith. (Eph. 6:16) So take it up. For it can extinguish all attacks of the evil one. For Jesus Himself has defeated all the attacks of the Accuser and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. (1 Cor. 10:13) Which means, that not only will He protect you from sin—which He does—but moreover, when you have sinned, and the devil gets his chance to attack you the way he really wants to by causing you to despair over your sin and to doubt your faith. When he is able to attack you and get behind the shield and get right into your heart whispering there into the core of your being that you are not a Christian because no Christian would do that. When the guilt or shame cause you to start tearing off the armour of light (Rom. 13:12) which you have been granted in your baptism and which you are clothed with each day when you turn to the Lord in prayer, in confession, in conversation with Him. When you peel it off out of shame and hang your head, and are not able to lift your head to the Lord because you are so ashamed of what you have done, of what has been done to you, of what you have done to others—that’s when Satan has you right where he wants you! That’s when Jesus will put out the flaming darts of the evil one. (Eph. 6:16) Because that’s the real attack of Satan. The real attack is that you let down your guard. You put down your shield of faith so that faith is no longer in you, no longer on you, no longer part of you. So that you despair and think that if there is a God how can He love you? That’s Satan’s real attack. Getting you to sin, he does that to us day by day, moment by moment in large and small ways. The real attack is to cause you to despair. That’s why we pray, “lead us not into temptation” The real temptation is to despair, to depart from the faith (Luke 22:31-32), to not hang onto that shield which you have been given in your baptism.
Not only that, you’ve been given protection for your noggin. For your mind. You have a helmet of salvation. (Eph. 6:17a) Salvation which renews your mind. (Rom. 12:2) Which causes you to think differently. This protects you from the evil one. For the forces we are waging against are not flesh and blood. (Eph. 6:12) Not fellow human beings. Even if you think there are all kinds of nefarious things going on in politics these days, even if you are concerned about such things, your enemies are not fellow human beings whom Christ Jesus died for. (John 3:16) Your enemies are the spiritual forces behind some of those vile ways of thinking that are in our world. That are behind the hatred and lies, behind the anger, and the addiction to rage. That’s our real enemy. Those spiritual forces which want to kill our love for one another (Matt. 24:12)—for your fellow man whom Jesus counted worthy of suffering and dying on behalf of. Those spiritual forces want to destroy you and make you impotent as a Christian. Unable to live as a Christian. If they can’t attack your heart and destroy your love, they will attack you thinking and pervert your mind so that your love gets misdirected.
And our only offensive weapon to attack these spiritual forces with is the sword of the Spirit. (Eph. 6:17b) Everything else is for defence. For guarding holy ground—which you are. You are a member of the Church. A saint. A holy one. The holy ground of the Lord. (1 Pet. 2:9-10, 5) The sword of the Spirit is the offensive weapon of the Spirit, by which the Spirit both slays and makes alive. (Deut. 32:39) Because a sword has two blades. (Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16; 2:12) One blade of the law which kills sin and the sinner within you and all people. (2 Cor. 3:6) And another blade which like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon (Heb. 4:12) ministers life, and healing and renewal. (2 Cor. 3:6) So that death and resurrection are yours through this sword of the Spirit which is word of God. The word of God gives this to us.
So be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. (Eph. 6:10) In those gifts that He has given to you. Put them on. Wear them proudly. That’s who you are. Because you are fighting against spiritual forces. And when you realize that, when you actually stand up and fight against those spiritual forces—first of all in your own life—so that you are changed in your thinking, clothed and protected in your heart and mind so that from your heart pours forth the light and love of the Lord, so that you are able to stand. (Eph. 6:10, 13) And merely your standing boldly and strongly has an impact on the world.
I was recently chanted Psalm 18 in which King David was thanking the Lord, praising the Lord for delivering him from his enemies. (Ps. 18:3) He talks about how the Lord caused his enemies to turn their backs on him. (Ps. 18:40) To turn their backs! So that David was easily able to slay them. And the Lord caused David’s name to be so lifted up that his enemies came cringing to him (Ps. 18:44), so that they abandoned their fortresses as soon as they heard that David, the mighty one, was coming! (Ps. 18:45)
This is what the Lord wants you to do. He wants you to stand. (Eph. 6:10, 13) To stand in faith, dear friends. Not to stand in self-righteousness. Not to stand in being angry at everything which is going on in the world. He wants you to stand in everything which is good and right and true. He wants your to stand in the peace of Gospel. In the knowledge that your sins are forgiven and that Jesus has accomplished all that needs be done so that sins of all might be forgiven and delivers that salvation through His Word. Just as we heard in Gospel this day. (John 4:46-54)
That man didn’t need a sign or miracle . (John 4:48-49) He simply needed the word of the Lord, “Go, your son will live.” (John 4:50) It was enough for him. That man believed. He didn’t need signs and wonders, just as you do not need signs and wonders. (John 20:29) You simply need the word of Lord. The forgiveness of your sins in Jesus’ name which you’ve already received this morning and which you are receiving again now. But important thing to know, dear friends, in that reading from Ephesians 6 which stopped at verse 17, it goes on to say take up the sword of the Spirit “praying at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18) “In the Spirit” which comes by the sword of the Word! This is why we need to read the word of God, not just here at church, but in our daily lives!
That’s why it is wonderful to take something like “Portals of Prayer,” or just the Bible itself, and read it daily so that you are fed. Because, guess what, you are only “in the Spirit” can only pray in the Spirit when the word of God is having its way with you. So when you hear, when you read, and meditate, and inwardly digest the word, when you consume the word of God and let it be digested in your being, it feeds you, it makes you strong. It causes you to stand up straight and be bold, to not fear the enemy. (Ps. 18:29-30) To not cringe away from him. Instead you rise up and gain several inches. And everyone else starts to notice and starts to cower—especially the enemies of the word of God. So we take the word of God. But don’t go out there swinging wildly at people with it. Attacking left and right. Don’t do that. We pray the word of God for them. That’s one of the primary ways to wield that sword. When you read it it causes you think of things which you should pray for. And the Lord chooses to respond to your prayers. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t bind Himself to that. But He works this way so that you, the saints of God, are the ones He listens to. And as we see Him respond to prayer it trains our hands for this warfare in which we engage. (Ps. 18:33-35) So dear friends, pray the word. Read the word. For in them is life and salvation. In them your son, your daughter, you yourself will live from the Word of God. (John 4:50) And the Gospel ended, “This was now the second sign that Jesus did when He came from Judea to Galilee.” (John 4:54) Apparently He had done this in the region of Cana of Galilee where He had turned water into wine (John 4:46)—the first sign He had done. (John 2:11) Here is Jesus showing that His Word causes things to happen. Because who is Jesus? He’s that word of God which was spoken in the beginning, by which all things were created. (Gen. 1:1, 3; John 1:1-3) He is that powerful word of God, which rises up and changes the reality in which you find yourself. His word changes your thinking. His word changes your heart. His word grants you salvation. His word gives you peace and a sure foundation to stand on. Because His word is powerful. His word saves you and your household.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.