The believer has a mighty weapon in the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). The Word of God was written on parchments with black ink and quill pens and was later translated into numerous languages, being printed on paper using the printing presses. God's Word, however, is not just to be read but spoken, and not just spoken but believed and acted upon. The fact that the Word of God is called a "two-edged sword" is not just for creating the image of a Roman soldier's weapon, but also to emphasize the fact that the Word has two sharp edges. One edge was formed when the Word was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the prophets who wrote the Scripture on the parchments. The other side of the blade is forged when a believer begins to speak out of his or her mouth the words that are written on paper.
Just as a sharp two-edged sword must be properly handled by the owner, lest he unintentionally cut himself or harm the innocent, the Word of God must be properly interpreted, clearly spoken, and taught with the same care as a man brandishing a sharp sword in a crowd of people.
Mishandling the Scriptures
You would never ask an untrained soldier to join a front-line battle, or a student driver to drive in a NASCAR race, or a ministry novice to present a theological discourse at a seminary. Yet men and women continually misquote, misuse and abuse others by mishandling the Scriptures. Here are a few examples:
Using Scripture Out of Context
When scriptures are taken out of their context, meaning out of the historical or contextual setting in which they were written, then a person can become confused and think the Bible is contradicting itself. For example, several years ago I saw a photograph that was taken in the Greenbush Cemetery near Lafayette, Indiana.
Near the granite grave maker was the tombstone of a Christian soldier who had died in a war. The marker had the image of the Good Shepherd, Christ, on it and was facing toward the east, which is the direction of a traditional Christian burial, since Matt. 24:27 states that the coming of the Lord is as lightning coming from the east. Near this marker was an older marker with these words inscribed:
Martin P. Jenners
Was born August 21, 1832, in a log cabin on the Northwest corner of Ferry and Fourth Streets
Died December 22, 1919
My only objection to religion is that it is not true.
1 Corinthians 15:52, Isaiah 26:14
No preaching, no praying, no psalm reading permitted on this lot.
Below are the two verses that were embedded in the granite marker that caused Mr. Jenners to believe that religion was not true:
- "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor. 15:52, KJV).
- "They are dead, they will not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore thou hast visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish" (Is. 26:14, KJV).
It appears that this man fell for one of the oldest tricks in the adversary's playbook—that the Bible is full of contradictions and therefore cannot be trusted. Mr. Jenners read each verse by itself, without ever following one of the first laws of biblical interpretation, which is, "What is the context of what is being spoken, and to whom was it spoken?"
The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 is where Paul is revealing the mystery of the resurrection of the dead and how in the "twinkling of an eye" the dead in Christ will be raised. Is. 26:14 appears to contradict this promise, as it says they are dead and will not rise. However, in the context of this chapter the prophet was dealing with nations that had risen up against Israel and were no longer in existence—yet Israel still endured. This death had no reference to individual people but to empires and nations in the past that mistreated the Jews and no longer existed. Thus one verse deals with the bodily resurrection of the dead in Christ and the other with nations who ceased to exist and had no chance of being raised again in the future.
Satan actually attempted this "bait-and-switch" strategy during the temptation of Christ (Matt. 4:5-6) when he suggested that Jesus could throw Himself from the top of the pinnacle of the temple and would never be harmed, because if He were God's Son, then God would gladly provide angels to swoop down to prevent His premature death. Satan based his suggestion (temptation) on Psalm 91:11-12 (KJV): "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all they ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash they foot against a stone."
In Matt. 4:6 (KJV) the phrase, "lest at any time" was added to this passage, not by the translators but by Satan himself when quoting the passage—suggesting that if Jesus ever felt like jumping from a high place, the angels would always be there. This was taking the passage out of context, as the verses before this in Psalm 91 deal with God protecting His people from evil; it has nothing to do with willfully falling from a high place or jumping from a mountain to prove some point to a skeptic. Guard against someone taking the Word of God out of the context that was intended.
Using Scripture for Personal Gain
One of the great dangers in our generation is unscrupulous ministers who have been successful at using what I call the "prosperity lottery" for personal gain. The message is that if you will read it right, believe it right, speak it right, think it right, and "send me a check with your largest offering," then your name is entered by the Lord Himself into His special "prosperity lottery," where God will eventually call your name out for free money, a new house and a new car, and you won't have to work for it or pay for it. These types of ministers are those whom Peter warned about: "By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber" (2 Pet. 2:3).
I have heard some of the most unbiblical claims made and promises and blessings pronounced when ministers have been seeking money to expand their ministry. For your "best gift," you can be guaranteed to be debt-free the rest of your life. Folks, the only way you will never have debt is if you never purchase anything on credit again for the rest of your life, or if you die—then you have no debts to pay on Earth.
The Proper Way to Use the Sword of the Spirit
Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy and said: "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2).
We think of the word "preach" as a minister standing behind a pulpit giving a sermon or message. Among the ancient Greeks this Greek word, kerusso, pictured the herald of the emperor standing before the masses in a city giving an important, even a life-and-death message to the people. The herald was the voice for the emperor and spoke with the same authority of the emperor. The minister is to "rebuke" when needed, meaning to rebuke sin in the lives of the people to bring them to repentance.
Paul warned Timothy of two men who were spiritually dangerous in the church: Hymenaeus and Philetus. These false teachers had taught the resurrection was past and had overthrown the faith of some weak believers in the church (2 Tim. 2:18). Paul said this false teaching corrupted the faith of some and "will eat as doth a canker" (v. 17, KJV). The Greek word for "canker" here is gaggraina, which alluded to an ulcer that gnaws on the physical body.
This is where we derive the English word "gangrene"—an infection that eats away at the tissue of the body and, if untreated, eventually can cause death. A severely diseased limb with gangrene must be amputated. Here, Paul is instructing the church to shun (separate from) Hymenaeus and Philetus, as their teaching was corrupting and spreading throughout the church like gangrene!
This reveals the proper way to use the sword of the Spirit, in the sense of cutting away false teaching or exposing dangerous heretical doctrine, contrary to the revelation of the Scriptures. The Word of God has a piercing power and divides the soul and spirit, meaning the thoughts of man from the thoughts of God (Heb. 4:12). Christ, Paul and all of the apostles wielded the Old Testament into a powerful weapon of war to defend the Christ as the Messiah, using the Torah and the Prophets, and building their doctrine on the words of Christ and revelation from God Himself (Gal. 1:12; 2:2). Let me point out it is for the purpose of cutting away false doctrine and not cutting to the ground someone who has a difference of opinion or a different method of ministry than you do.
Some of the false teaching spreading like gangrene in the body of Christ is:
- Hell does not exist.
- All men will end up in heaven no matter what religion they are (universalism).
- God approves of same-sex relations.
- Abortion is only a surgical procedure, as the fetus is not a human until the umbilical cord is cut.
- The Bible cannot be trusted, is outdated, and not relevant for the culture.
Instead of rebuking Christian youth groups for being "of the devil" because of the "contemporary music" they listen to or saying that viewing home Bible studies is "not of God," ministers should be taking the two-edged sword and forging another reformation—a return to the sound doctrine of the prophets and apostles of the Christian faith. Never use the message of the cross to crucify those you don't like or the sword of the Spirit to attack other believers. The body of Christ needs unity not more division.
Instead of using our biblical knowledge to assault other believers who may differ occasionally with us on minor issues, we should minimize the impact of the enemy's weapons by exploding the knowledge of the truth on the world scene, as the gospel must be preached around the world before the end will come (Matt. 24:14). Your enemy is not a Baptist, Pentecostal or charismatic—your enemy is a destroyer of souls called Satan and his spirit rebels (Eph. 6:12). You can't fight right unless you're in the light—and the light is the Word of God.
Perry Stone is the best-selling author of numerous books, including The Code of the Holy Spirit and How to Interpret Dreams and Visions. He directs one of America's fastest-growing ministries, The Voice of Evangelism.
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