“TAKE . . . THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD” (EPH. 6:17).

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

All the armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6 is defensive, with one exception: the sword of the Spirit. That’s your offensive weapon for defeating Satan.

We’ve seen that Roman soldiers carried two swords: the large broadsword and the small dagger. The Greek word translated “sword” in verse 17 refers to the dagger, which was anywhere from six to eighteen inches in length and was carried in a sheath or scabbard at the soldier’s side.

The dagger was a common weapon. The Roman soldiers who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were each armed with one (Matt. 26:47). Peter used one to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Matt. 26:51). A dagger was used to kill James, the brother of John (Acts. 12:2). Hebrews 11:37 tells us that such a weapon was used against the heroes of the faith.

“The sword of the Spirit” isn’t a direct reference to the Holy Spirit as such. The implications is that since our enemy is spiritual, our weapons also must be spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). Our sword is spiritual because it is the Word given by the Holy Spirit. He inspired its writing and through it convicts and redeems sinners (John 16:8; Heb. 4:12-13). The Word abides in you and transforms you. It supplies everything you need for a godly, victorious life. It builds you up and produces holiness (Acts 20:32). And it equips you for good works by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training you in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible is a powerful and effective weapon. The question is, Do you know how to use it? Do you diligently study it and apply its principles to your life? Do you have a storehouse of biblical truth to draw from in the heat of battle?

The Roman dagger was a precision weapon aimed at a specific spot to produce a specific result. Similarly, the sword of the Spirit is most effective when you apply specific biblical principles to specific situations in your life. Do you do that?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word.
  • Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you’ll face today.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 Peter 1:22—2:3. How are believers to approach the Word?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“STAND FIRM THEREFORE . . . HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS” (EPH. 6:14).

A righteous life testifies to God’s transforming power and brings Him glory.

We’ve seen the importance of donning the breastplate of righteousness, but Scripture also discusses the consequences of failing to do so. These consequences serve as warnings to anyone who is prone to neglect righteousness.

If you’re not committed to righteousness, you not only make yourself spiritually vulnerable, but also forfeit some of God’s wonderful blessings. David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” (Ps. 51:13). His sin had robbed him of his joy and assurance. That’s true of us as well because joy is directly proportional to obedience. If you’re pursuing greater righteousness, you’ll know greater joy.

You might also forfeit some of your heavenly reward. John said, “Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (1 John 8). I believe that New Testament rewards are various capacities for service in heaven. The greater your reward, the greater your capacity to serve God. Somehow your current righteousness and faithfulness to God affect what you will do for all eternity. Don’t allow sin and negligence to diminish your reward!

Without righteousness you will also suffer loss of opportunity to glorify God. When thinking or behaving unrighteously, you violate your reason for existence, which is to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31). Instead of exalting Him, you bring reproach on His name. Instead of causing others to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16), you breed confusion and mockery.

Peter says to us, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that . . . they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:11). When unbelievers scrutinize your life, what do they see? Does your righteousness testify of God’s saving and sanctifying grace?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to give you an increased hunger and thirst for righteousness as you seek to live to His glory today.

For Further Study

  • Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:21 as a reminder of God’s marvelous grace to you.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL” (EPH. 6:11).

One of Satan’s most effective tactics is to challenge God’s credibility.

Paul’s exhortation to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11) refers to the various tactics Satan employs in spiritual warfare. One of his tactics is to call God’s character and motives into question by raising doubts about His Word.

He used that approach in the Garden of Eden, when he said to Eve, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). In one brief statement Satan disputed and distorted God’s Word. God didn’t forbid them to eat from any tree. They could eat freely from every tree except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17).

Satan followed his distortion with an outright denial of God’s Word: “You surely shall not die!” (3:4). He implied that God lied when He said that sin will result in death. Satan then went on to tell Eve that if she ate the fruit, she would in fact become like God Himself (v. 5). The implication is that God was withholding something good from Eve, and to keep her from seeking it, He intimidated her with empty threats of death and judgment.

Do you see the insidious nature of Satan’s approach? Tragically, Eve didn’t. Rather than trusting and obeying God, she believed Satan’s lies and concluded that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. Then “she took from its fruit and ate” (v. 6).

Satan deceives and spreads his lies from generation to generation (2 Cor. 11:14). Although he is subtle, his attempts to discredit God by disputing, distorting, and denying His Word should be obvious to discerning Christians.

Don’t be victimized by Satan’s attacks. Become strong in the Word through systematic Bible study. Yield to the Spirit’s control through prayer and obedience to biblical principles.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for the discernment to recognize Satanic deceptions, and the wisdom to pursue truth.
  • Pray for God’s enabling as you discipline yourself for diligent Bible study.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 John 2:12-14. How did John describe those who are strong in the Word?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“BE STRONG IN THE LORD, AND IN THE STRENGTH OF HIS MIGHT. PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD, THAT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL” (EPH. 6:10-11).

Adequate preparation is the key to spiritual victory.

The Gulf War introduced some highly sophisticated weapons that had never been proven under live battle conditions. Most of the troops hadn’t experienced war either. Yet troops and machinery combined in a display of military conquest unparalleled in history.

Thorough preparation proved to be an indispensible element in that overwhelming victory. That included developing and testing high-tech weaponry, recruiting and training troops, and engaging in mock battles. Generals know that if they dare enter a battlefield ill-prepared, they’re destined for defeat. Consequently, they do everything possible to prepare their troops for victory.

Similarly, your success in spiritual warfare is directly proportional to your preparedness. You must “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10), and also put on your armor (v. 11). God is your strength and source of victory, but you must trust Him and appropriate your spiritual resources. As Oliver Cromwell said, “Trust in God and keep your powder dry.”

If you delay preparation until the battle is upon you, then it’s too late. If your armor isn’t in place, you’re vulnerable to the arrows of the enemy. If you neglect prayer, worship, Bible study, accountability, and the other disciplines of faith, you can’t expect to prevail when spiritual skirmishes arise.

No soldier who values his own life would step onto a battlefield unprepared. How much more should soldiers of Christ prepare themselves to fight against Satan’s forces? Be diligent. Christ guarantees ultimate victory, but you can lose individual battles if you’re unprepared. It’s even possible to lapse into periods of spiritual lethargy, indifference, impotency, and ineffectiveness, but that’s utterly inconsistent with your mandate to fight the good fight (1 Tim. 1:18).

Don’t be caught off guard! Keep your armor on and remain alert to the advances of the enemy.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to keep you alert to the reality of spiritual warfare and the need to be prepared at all times for battle.
  • Thank Him for the times He protected you when your armor wasn’t as secure as it needed to be.

For Further Study

  • Memorize 2 Timothy 2:4 as a reminder to be spiritually prepared at all times.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“[LOVE] HOPES ALL THINGS” (1 COR. 13:7).

Love refuses to take human failure as final.

Even when faith falters, hope comes to the rescue. It is that long rope that keeps us linked to the sovereignty and power of God.

The apostle Peter wrote to believers who were experiencing severe trials. To encourage them he began, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

Our hope is a living hope because our God is a living God. No matter how bleak your situation might seem, God is at work to accomplish His purposes. As Christ hung on the cross, it seemed as if sin had finally triumphed over righteousness. But sin’s finest hour became its death knell when Christ arose from the grave as Lord of life and Redeemer of His people. Now “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal [body] through His Spirit who indwells you” (Rom. 8:11). Trials and death have no power over you. They simply bring you closer to Christ.

When ministering to others, hope gives you confidence that as long as there is life, human failure is never final. God refused to accept Israel’s failures; Jesus refused to accept Peter’s; and Paul refused to accept that of the Corinthians. When your attempts to cover the sins of others have failed or your righteous expectations have been shattered, hope says, “Don’t give up. God can still work this out for good.”

Hope is illustrated in the true story of a dog who was abandoned at the airport of a large city. He stayed there for over five years, waiting for his master to return. People at the airport fed and cared for him, but he refused to leave the spot where he last saw his master. If a dog’s love for his master can produce that kind of hope, how much more should your love for God produce abiding hope?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for His sovereignty and power, and for the hope that is yours in Christ.

For Further Study

  • Read Psalm 42, noting how the psalmist related the distressing circumstances of his life to his hope in God.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“[LOVE] DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN” (1 COR. 13:5).

Love transforms selfish people into self-sacrificing people.

From the time of Adam and Eve, replacing God with self has been at the root of all sin. Our first parents had only one restriction: “From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But Eve believed the serpent’s lie that God was trying to keep her from realizing her full potential (Gen. 3:5). She ate the forbidden fruit, gave some to Adam, and together they plunged the human race into sin and death.

Christ changed all that when He came, not “to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Unlike Adam and Eve, He didn’t seek His own comfort or gain, but made whatever sacrifices were necessary to redeem lost sinners.

It is reported that the inscription on a tombstone in a small English cemetery reads,

Here lies a miser who lived for himself, And cared for nothing but gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he fares, Nobody knows and nobody cares.

How tragic to spend your entire life enslaved to your selfishness. In contrast, a tombstone in the courtyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London reads, “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.” The first tombstone testifies to the futility of greed and selfishness; the second to the glory of generosity and self-sacrifice.

Christ is the perfect example of self-sacrifice. If you love Him, you should be characterized by the same quality. Then others will see your genuineness and commitment to them, and by God’s grace be drawn to your Lord.

What epitaph might your family and friends write about you? I pray it is one that glorifies God for the selfless love He demonstrated through you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for those who have made significant sacrifices toward your spiritual growth. Seek to imitate their love.

For Further Study

  • List the fifteen qualities of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, then determine how self-sacrifice relates to each one.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“LOVE IS PATIENT . . . KIND . . . NOT JEALOUS . . . DOES NOT BRAG . . . IS NOT ARROGANT, DOES NOT ACT UNBECOMINGLY . . . DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN, IS NOT PROVOKED, DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT A WRONG SUFFERED, DOES NOT REJOICE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH; BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS, HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS” (1 COR. 13:4-7).

Love is difficult to define, but it can be described by the behavior it produces.

Paul painted a portrait of the kind of love Jesus wants to produce in every believer. It is, in fact, a portrait of Christ Himself, who is love’s highest expression. Unlike most English translations, which include several adjectives, the Greek forms of all those properties are verbs. They do not focus on what love is so much as on what love does and does not do.

Set against the backdrop of the Corinthians’ self- promoting behavior, Paul’s words are a strong rebuke. He says in effect, “Love is patient, but you are impatient. Love is kind, but you are unkind toward those who disagree with you. Love is not jealous, but you envy those with certain spiritual gifts. Love does not brag, but you are proud of your theology. Love is not arrogant and does not act unbecomingly, but often you are rude and ill-mannered toward one another.

“Love does not seek its own, but you are self-centered. Love is not provoked, but you quarrel among yourselves. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered, but you hold grudges against each other. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but you delight in one another’s failures. Love rejoices with the truth, but you distort and disobey God’s Word.

“Love bears all things, but you are defensive and resentful. Love is eager to believe the best about someone, but you are quick to assume the worst. Love never gives up and can tolerate incredible opposition, but you are weak and intolerant.”

Paul wanted the Corinthians to see the deficiencies in their love in light of the truth and make the needed corrections. You and I must do the same. So as we explore each of love’s characteristics, ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart so others will clearly see Paul’s portrait of love on display in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, substituting “Jesus” for “love.” Then praise Him for all His excellencies.

For Further Study

  • What does 1 John 3:13-18 teach about love?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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