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The Soldier’s Weapons (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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July 23, 2022 4:00 am

The Soldier’s Weapons (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 23, 2022 4:00 am

God’s armor protects us in spiritual warfare—but we don’t just put it on and stand. It’s important to prepare to defend ourselves with the right weapons as well. Find out what we need to fight in the battle. Listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Alistair Begg

The Armor of God is what protects us in the midst of spiritual warfare.

But a soldier doesn't just put on armor and then stand still. It's important that we are equipped to defend ourselves with the right weapons as well. Today on Truth for Life Weekend, we'll find out what we need to fight in the battle. Alistair Begg is teaching from Ephesians chapter 6. We'll be focusing on verses 17 and 18. Most of the treatments of this particular section of Scripture that you find in books, namely in commentaries, follow along from verse 17a into the remaining part of 17 and into 18 and deal with both the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer under the same heading of the armor for the Christian. But in actual fact, there is a difference between the helmet and all that has preceded it and the sword which is now brought to our attention. Because when we come to the sword of the Spirit and to prayer, we actually leave the armor behind, and we come to the matter of our weaponry. And here we are given to us the offensive elements of our Christian warfare.

There has been provided for us all that is necessary to be able to stand in the evil day, with little emphasis made on a consideration of our backs, as it were. It would seem that we are standing face on to the antagonism and warfare that is ours to engage in. And then, having concluded that, Paul says, And I want to identify for you your weapons so that you make sure that you're using the right weapons in engaging in the right warfare.

And of these he mentions two. First of all, the sword of the Spirit. Some of you, I know, are particularly interested in military battles and skirmishes and warfare from particular periods of history. And some of you, I know, have actually visited in Scotland and have been enthralled by the massive and wonderful display in Edinburgh Castle—the capital of Scotland—of weaponry that goes right back down through the years into the ninth and tenth century, as it turns out. And when you go through those particular pieces of the museum, you come across these incredible swords—the two-handed or double-handed swords, many of which are hanging on the wall.

And it becomes apparent very quickly that one had to be particularly strong to be able to wield one of these things, and most of the swords that I have seen were actually considerably larger than myself and may even have been almost as heavy as myself. And so I admire them. I am struck by the fact of their historicity and their interest. But while I find them historically interesting, I'm forced to conclude that they are, at the present point in history, practically useless.

Because although they are marked by these historical qualities, they are practically useless. Now, that is largely the picture which many people take in relationship to the Word of God—that somehow or another the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is in the minds of many people historically interesting and yet practically useless. Now, we would not or should not be surprised by that. The foremost attack of the evil one from the very beginning was an attack on the Word of God. If you look, for example, in Genesis 3—just to pinpoint this in our minds—we read in verse 1, Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden? So the first attack of the evil one was an attack on the authenticity of the Word of God. Are you sure that God really said that? And of course, his insinuation was, he didn't.

And down through the corridors of time, his strategy has changed very little. And there has been forthright and subtle and circuitous attacks on the Word of God to devalue in the minds of men and women the priority and place of the Word of God, in order that the evil one engaging in warfare against the people of God may be far more successful than he might otherwise be. If he can get the people of God to doubt the weapons of their warfare, to set aside the weapons of their warfare, then of course it is going to be very easy for him to gain great victories. Now, part of the problem has been that in the attack of the evil one over time, he has been successful in suggesting to men and women that somehow or another the historical claims for the Bible are fatuous. Karl Marx was at the forefront of much of this, suggesting to men and women writing about the idea that Christianity arose in the second century, and that Jesus was actually a mythological figure, that he had been invented about two hundred years after he didn't exist, and that he was then made much of in the various documents which these people had conjured up. And when the New Testament was said to be written, it was actually a historically worthless document. And many people at the turn of the century in America as well as in Britain grew up in churches where that was actually taught from the pulpit. And consequently, they grew up without any notion of confidence in the Bible itself.

And they were always surprised that anybody would be particularly concerned about the Bible in terms of its practical usefulness rather than simply acknowledging its historical interest. Now, I want to say to you tonight for some who are wondering about this, that the authority and the authenticity of the Bible, particularly the New Testament documents, has far more to substantiate it than most other historical literature. Indeed, no ancient document or selection of documents have come down to us with such a wealth of manuscript tradition as have the Gospels. We have copies of the Gospels—when I say we, the church does, in various places throughout the world—that go back to well within a century of their compilation. That is, in the latter part of the first century AD. And when I say we have them, we don't have them extant or intact.

We have pieces, so that they are there within a relatively short time after the events taking place. Consider that in contrast to the gap which exists between the time when Tacitus wrote, which is about fifty years after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the earliest surviving manuscript of Tacitus's work, which is found eight hundred years later. Eight hundred years after he wrote it, you get the first document, and nobody asks whether Tacitus wrote the truth. No one asks whether Tacitus was a good historian.

No one spends their time calling in question the veracity of his word. But here we have the New Testament documents within sixty or a hundred years of the time, and everybody's up in arms to say, Oh, you surely can't believe that that is historical stuff. Livy, who was a contemporary of the evangelists, writing at the same time as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there is a gap between his writing and the earliest manuscript which we have from him is eleven hundred years after he was there. When you take the secular writers of ancient history, you have about two or three pieces of manuscript which attest to the text of those writers. When you take the text of the New Testament, you have literally hundreds of documents.

Now, if you doubt this, you need only to begin to study, begin to go to the university, begin to read with an open heart and an open mind. In Manchester University, for example, we have a fragment of John's Gospel, which is dated between AD 100 and AD 125. Also a Qumran fragment of Mark's Gospel, which dates to before AD 68. And that is when the Qumran community was overrun by the Romans and the caves were sealed. So by the time the Romans overran the Qumran community, they had already copies of the Gospel marked down within immediate proximity of the events described in the Gospel.

Now, what should that tell you? Well, there ought to tell you this—that by the matter of a passing of less than hardly a generation, the New Testament was not only written, it was on its way to being compiled. And if the Gospel writers had been coming up with wild and wonderful stories about Jesus and his deeds, there were still plenty of people around to say, That's a lot of nonsense. Because it wasn't eleven hundred years afterwards. And eleven hundred years afterwards, there ain't nobody around who can call and question what you're saying.

But fifty or sixty years afterwards, somebody's gonna say, Now, now, don't be making that stuff up. The Roman historians Tacitus and Pliny, along with the Jewish historian Josephus—and you can read these guys—attest to what archaeological sources confirm. In other words, if you read two Roman and one Jewish historian about this person Jesus, this is what you'll discover. They attest within a matter of a short period of time after the time of Christ. In their writings, you may discover this without a Bible.

Without reading a Bible, you may find from two Roman and one Jewish historians these truths concerning Christ. One, he was born of a virgin. Two, he performed miracles. Three, he was executed by Pilate.

Four, it took place in thick darkness. Five, at the time of the Passover. Six, he claimed to be God. Seven, he said that he'd leave and come back. Eight, that he was the Messiah. Nine, that he rose from the tomb. Ten, that he had disciples.

And eleven, these disciples worshiped him as God. So the secular Jewish and Roman historians, with no axe to grind, simply chronicling the events of this Jesus of Nazareth, affirm the veracity of the New Testament documents themselves. So you see, behind all of that—and I commend to you, for example, F. F. Bruce's marvelous little book, The Evidence for the New Testament Documents. Behind the affirmations of the Bible concerning the sword of the Spirit, there is authentic, historical, secular evidence—not that we need it to be compelled to believe, but in order that we may be able to address our pagan neighbors and friends who trot out the classic cliches, Oh, you surely don't believe that stuff! That was made up in the second century. And we often find ourselves struck dumb, saying, Well, oh, no, it wasn't. And they say, Oh, yes, it was.

And then we go into one of those things, which leads to absolutely nowhere. But with a little bit of homework and a little bit of work and a little bit of reading on the side, we can be well prepared to draw the sting of the foolish assertions of our pagan neighbors and friends and begin to make them consider the possibilities of the wonder of this sword—be able to say to them, It is not only historically interesting, but it is practically useful. How useful is it? Paul tells us when he writes in 2 Timothy 3 and in verse 16. What is the work of the Word of God? What does this Scripture do?

What does this sword affect in people's lives? To Timothy 3 16, all Scripture is God-breathed. And it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Jesus used the sword of the Spirit in counteracting the attacks of the evil one in his temptation, recorded, for example, in Matthew chapter 4. And if you turn to Matthew 4 for just a minute, you will see how the priority of the Scriptures was there for Jesus himself. The tempter in Matthew 4 came to Jesus and said, If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. How does Jesus reply? He replies with the Scriptures.

It is written, he says, Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. So the devil comes at him a second time and took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, Throw yourself down, for it is written… Now he starts to use the Bible against Jesus. He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Now, let me just pause there for a moment and tell you that everybody who uses the Bible—there are people who use the Bible, the cults use the Bible with great skill.

It is a sword on which they will fall. That is why the Christian science reading rooms are so attractive. They are neither Christian nor scientific, and they always have the Bible there. But the key to understanding the Bible in the mind of a Christian scientist is not the enabling power of the Spirit of God who illumines the printed page, but it is the key to it all, namely the work of the Lady Mary, whatever her name was, Baker Eddy, or whatever her name was. In the same way, those magnificent advertisements by the Mormons on television make much of the Bible. I haven't seen one yet that doesn't have the Bible in it.

Why is that? It's the same strategy as the devil in Matthew 4. Well, you want to use the Bible? I'll use the Bible then. I'll show you how we can use the Bible.

It is the sword on which they will fall. And Jesus replied, It is also written, Do not put the LORD your God to the test. And a third time the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, etc., and said, All this I will give you if you'll bow down and worship me. And Jesus said to him, Away from me, Satan!

For it is written, Worship the LORD your God, and serve him only. Then the devil left him. You want to know how to get the devil to leave you? Use your Bible. Read your Bible. Learn your Bible. Quote your Bible. Understand your Bible. Get to grips with the Bible.

It's all in this book. Christianity is Christ, and Christ is revealed in all the Scriptures. And for that reason, we want always to affirm our commitment in this way. Jesus, not only in Matthew 4, makes much of this, but when we view him in his high priestly prayer in John chapter 17, we find a similar emphasis. John chapter 17 and verse 8, For I gave them, he says to his father, the words you gave me, and they accepted them.

What was Jesus doing when he was walking and he was talking? He was giving the very words that the Father knew his children needed to have here in this book, the Bible. The psalmist in Psalm 119 and verse 11 speaks to us concerning the way the Scriptures work for us in defense. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

The same truth in Psalm 119 and verse 89 and following. Your word, O LORD, is eternal. It stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations.

You establish the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Save me, for I am yours.

I have sought out your precepts. I remember working my way through the 119th Psalm in our Bible study on a Wednesday night in my previous church in Scotland years ago. There was a young man there, a civil engineer, who was working on the oil pipelines that were coming in and going out to various rig mechanisms that were established largely by American oil companies in the North Sea and off the shores from Aberdeen. And this fellow, Tommy, who prior to my arrival there had had a massive heart attack as a young man in his twenties—it was a very strange thing. But I'll never forget, he was home on this particular Wednesday night, and he would fly back up to Aberdeen, and then he would go out onto these rigs, etc. And he would stay in the Holiday Inn in Aberdeen. And the Holiday Inn in Aberdeen, as some of you know if you've been there, is a little bit more upmarket than the average Holiday Inn here.

At least, it's a little more expensive than the average Holiday Inn here. And the stewardesses from British Airways would stay there. And the stewardesses from British Airways would in the evening sit around and talk and, depending on their mood and sense of fascination, be perhaps interested in the camaraderie and the companionship of a young, eligible bachelor like Tommy—intelligent, well-versed, a civil engineer, and with a fat wad of money from these American oil companies in his hip pocket. And I'll never forget him coming back some couple of weeks later and telling me, Pastor, I came awful close to disaster the other night in Aberdeen. But do you know what kept me?

No, what kept you, Tommy? It was that thing you did in Psalm 119. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Tommy tonight is in heaven.

He had another massive heart attack, and as a young man in his thirties went to heaven. But it was a wonderful reminder to me of the power of the Word of God to keep. If you will store the Word of God in your heart, a wee bit every day, it will stand you in great stead.

If at the age of eighteen you save a buck a day, with compound interest you'll have a million dollars before you're retired. And if, from the age of eighteen, you would store up a verse a day, you would have such a wealth and working knowledge of the Bible that people would be sitting at your feet in years to come as you wielded the sword of the Spirit. But may I say this to you? Nobody ever became a Bible scholar on one sermon a week. Nobody ever became agile with the sword of the Spirit simply by listening to somebody talk about it. Nobody will ever become useful with the Scriptures minus a real desire to know the Word of God.

That's what it takes. It takes a desire to know the Word of God. And that desire is not a natural thing. It is a supernatural thing. And even the supernatural desire is waged war against by all the activities of the evil one, who says to us, you know, don't become so concerned about that. Don't spend your time on that.

There are far too many other things. If you're going to become a student of the Word of God, we need to becoming submissive to his Spirit, and we need to be committed to the study. It demands constant diligence. We never become a Bible scholar lying in front of the television or playing in the park. Laziness and indiscipline will mar our ability with the sword. We need to be like the Bereans in Acts 17 and 11, always searching the Scriptures on a daily basis to see if these things are so. The more we know and the better we understand God's Word, the sharper and more effective our swords will be.

You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life Weekend. One good way to sharpen your sword is by using a daily devotional to reflect on God's Word. And if you don't currently subscribe to the Truth for Life daily devotional, you can sign up for it today. It's free. When you sign up each day, you'll receive an email with a passage of Scripture and a corresponding commentary from Alistair. Again, it's free.

You can subscribe. Just go to truthforlife.org slash lists. As you've listened to today's teaching on the reality of spiritual warfare, you may have been saying to yourself that the battle has never been more obvious. Well, if you'd like a healthy dose of encouragement, you'll want to read a book titled Being the Bad Guys, How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn't. Now, that may not sound like much of an encouraging title, but the book will help you take a big step back and do a little bit of recalibrating. Even though we may find ourselves in the minority when it comes to a variety of issues, things like sex and gender, the author of this book reminds us, God is in control.

He is sovereign over all things, just as He has been throughout all of history. If you're uneasy about the state of our world, read the book Being the Bad Guys. You'll learn how to adopt a renewed sense of peace and joy, even in the midst of a culture that opposes your views.

Find out more about the book Being the Bad Guys when you visit our website at truthforlife.org. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening this weekend. Did you know the devil is unafraid of prayerless preaching? Join us next weekend. You'll learn why believing prayer is so powerful. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-20 09:39:20 / 2023-03-20 09:47:53 / 9

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