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At the present time we are studying together the various spiritual weapons which God has made available to His people at this time for the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. In 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 the apostle Paul tells us that we are engaged in a warfare that is not in the carnal or fleshly realm. And that God has given us the appropriate weapons, spiritual weapons, which are mighty through God to the casting down of Satan’s strongholds. And we are attempting to deal with each of the main weapons that God has committed to His people, to study them, to see how they are used and how they can be made effective in our lives.
In the previous study we dealt with the Scripture in Revelation 12:11 where it says:
“They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (KJV)
We saw that this means that we overcome Satan when we testify personally to what the Word of God says that the blood of Jesus does for us.
Now in the present study I want to take one of those weapons that’s referred to in Revelation 12:11 and deal with it in particular. And the weapon that I want to deal with this morning is the Word of God. Let’s turn, by way of introduction, to Ephesians 6 and read verses 10–17. Ephesians 6:10–17:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (KJV)
You will see that the apostle Paul assumes here, without any question, that all Christians are involved in a direct personal conflict with Satan. He is not writing to special categories of Christians such as evangelists or missionaries, but he says “my brethren” in verse 10. All believers. And in verse 11 he says because of the nature of the conflict, we have to put on the whole armor of God. This is an obligation imposed upon every believing Christian.
And in verse 12 he specifies the nature of the warfare; our wrestling match. I’m going to give you my own particular version of this verse:
“Our wrestling match is not against flesh and blood, but against rulerships and the areas of their authority, against the world rulers of the present darkness, against spirits of wickedness in the heavenlies.”
And then in verse 13 because of the nature of this tremendous conflict which is compared to a wrestling match, Paul says again, “wherefore,” in the light of this, “take unto you the whole armor of God.” It’s our obligation to take it, God does not drop it into our hands, we have to take it by a definite, decisive act of our will. “That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day”—every one of us is going to pass through times which would be called the evil day. And having done all, to remain standing. And then the emphasis again is on the word stand. Stand therefore, and then Paul enumerates six items of armor which every believer should have on. These are borrowed from the pattern of the Roman soldier of his day. It’s not my purpose to deal with them in detail, I want to deal with one specific item of armor, but let us look at them quickly and see them as they come.
In verse 14 we have two pieces of armor. Your loins gird about with truth—the girdle of truth. The girdle is that which lifts up the garments that hang down and get them out of our way so that we’re able to move our limbs without being frustrated by long garments that would impede our movements and maybe even trip us up. And this, in the Christian light, is truth. The first thing we’ve got to do is be honest. We can’t really begin to do anything for God until we come to the point of honesty. Pretense, hypocrisy are labels that have got to be taken out of the way because they’ll just trip us up, they’ll interfere with our movements. This is the basic requirement of God, it’s to come to the point of truth where we’re real, where we say what we really mean, we do the things that we do with real honest, genuine motives, we speak the truth, we don’t cover up, we don’t put on a religious face. All this is like these long hanging garments that will hinder us and frustrate our movement. So the first thing we put on is the girdle of truth.
Then the second thing in the same 14th verse—the breastplate of righteousness. That which covers the area of the breast, the heart. And in Romans 10 Paul says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This is faith in the heart, not faith in the mind, that produces a life of righteousness.
In verse 15 we have the third item which is the shoes, or I prefer to say the boots, of the preparation of the gospel of peace. The Roman soldier had leather boots which were strapped right up the calf and were very firmly fixed on. And Paul says you’ve got to have your boots on, you’ve got to be prepared to bring the message of the gospel of peace. If you don’t have peace in your own heart, you really don’t have much to transmit to others. And you’ve got to know the Scriptures, you’ve got to be able to know how to point people to the truth of God’s Word. This is the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Rather reluctantly I served as a soldier in the British Army for five and a half years and I remember in situations in the North African desert when we were at close quarters with the enemy, especially at nighttime, we were never allowed to take our boots off. We had to sleep with them on because if there was a sudden emergency in the dark and you had to sort of wake up and open your eyes and grope around for your boots, by the time you’d found your boots and got them on, the emergency would have passed you’d probably been left dead. So we had to sleep with our boots on and I think this is true of Christian warfare. You’ve got to have your boots on. You’ve got to be prepared any time for any opportunity that comes to testify and to spread the gospel of peace. And so the boots are the preparation. The Roman soldiers could march amazingly long distances and at high speed because of these boots that they wore. And this is an essential part of the equipment of the Christian.
Verse 16 we have one further piece of armor in that verse—the shield of faith. There are two kinds of shields spoken of in the New Testament, one is a small round shield, the other is a long, oval shield which really could cover the whole person. And the one spoken of here is the long, oval shield behind which a man could really be totally covered. And the shield is faith.
And then in verse 17 we have the last two items of armor—the helmet of salvation. Of course, the helmet is to protect the head, which is typical of the thought life. And I have seen how many times Christians are armed in every point except that which relates to their minds, their thought life, because they do not know how to cover their thoughts. And the person wounded in the head cannot really use effectively the other items of armor. I’ve seen this so many times amongst missionaries and consecrated servants of the Lord. They have everything except the helmet. They do not know how to protect their minds against doubt, and fear and depression and unbelief. And there is a helmet provided, I’ve learnt this by very definite personal experience. In Ephesians Paul does not tell us the exact nature of the helmet but if you want to turn, we won’t do it now, to 1 Thessalonians 5:8, it says:
“... and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” (KJV)
And the thing that protects the mind of the believer is hope. It’s an attitude of optimism. Every believer is obligated to be an optimist. To be a pessimist is to deny your faith. And we have to cultivate a positive mental attitude. A confident expectation of good in every situation and circumstance. This is the protection of the mind. This is the helmet that protects the mind. I learned this the hard way, by not having it on and suffering for years by all sorts of dark, negative moods and thoughts that assailed my mind. Eventually I became desperate and went to God for help, and God showed me first out of Ephesians 6:17 and then out of 1 Thessalonians 5:8 what I had to do. I had to change my mental pattern. I had to cultivate being an optimist. Without a doubt, I was born and brought up a pessimist. If ever there was a pessimist, I was one. In my family it was considered rash and foolish to be anything but a pessimist. Even if things were going well, you were expected to be on the lookout for what would happen next. And I found that this was deeply ingrained in me and I had to change it. It demanded a mental revolution. It was precipitated by deliverance from a spirit of depression, but after I had received the deliverance, God showed me “It’s your responsibility to cultivate new mental patterns. Deliverance has made it possible, but it’s your responsibility to do it.” So that is the helmet that protects the mind, the helmet of salvation.
And then we come to the sixth weapon, which is the one that I really desire to speak about in this study—the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. However, we should not really stop there because verse 18 is an integral part of the total picture where it says:
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit ...” (KJV)
The power, the skill, the wisdom to use these weapons is provided by praying in the Spirit. This is the supernatural realm of prayer, praying in an unknown tongue which is what Paul calls praying in, or with, the Spirit. So the power, the direction, the skill and the wisdom that are needed to make the effective use of the six pieces of armor are provided by this seventh item which is praying in the Spirit. Charles Wesley in one of his great hymns calls it the weapon of “all prayer.”
So we have here then, let’s just go through them quickly, the six weapons plus the seventh thing that makes them effective.
The first, the girdle of truth. You really couldn’t call that a weapon, let’s call it an item of equipment, military equipment. First, the girdle of truth.
Second, the breastplate of righteousness.
Third, the boots of the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Fourth, the shield of faith.
Fifth, the helmet of salvation.
And sixth, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
And these are made effective through the seventh feature, praying in the Spirit.
Now I want you to notice two things about these items of equipment, or armor. First of all, provided you put them all on, you have complete protection, from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. On one condition, which is that you do not turn your back. God has provided no protection for the back. You have to keep facing the enemy. If you give up, turn around, say “It’s no good,” you’ve exposed an unprotected back to your enemies. And believe me, he will strike you there.
The second very important fact about this equipment is that in all these pieces of armor, there’s only one weapon of attack. That’s the sword. Everything else is defensive. You can’t injure anybody with a helmet, or a breastplate, or with boots, or a girdle or even with a shield. The only weapon of attack is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Consequently, if you were to have on all the other five items of armor, maybe you could keep yourself from being harmed, but you certainly could do no harm to your enemy. And believe me, the devil, who is your enemy, knows this. And if there’s one thing he’s interested in, it’s keeping you from taking and wielding the sword of the Spirit because that’s when you’re going to become a danger to him.
Now in the rest of this study I want to speak about this particular weapon, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
First of all, I want to say something generally about the nature of God’s Word without going into this at great length. Turn to John 10:35 which is part of a discourse of Jesus and I do not want to go into the background because it will take too long. But just notice what Jesus says in this one verse:
“If he [God] called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken ...” (KJV)
I believe among God’s believing people, for many generations, I would not dare to say how long, there have been two titles which above all others are regularly used to describe the Bible. One is the Word of God, and the other is the Scripture. And I want to point out to you that we have a very good example set in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He used both these titles, the Word of God and the Scripture. And He used them as being synonymous. The Scripture is the Word of God, the Word of God is the Scripture. This is very important to understand. The entire Scripture is the Word of God.
And then with regard to the authority, or power of the Word of God, notice this one simple statement: “the Scripture cannot be broken.” People may argue as long as they please for or against the inspiration or authority of Scripture, but as far as I’m concerned, Jesus said it all in one short phrase: the Scripture cannot be broken. And the Scripture is the Word of God. And that’s where I stand and that’s what I believe.
Now let’s notice what Paul says in line with this in 2 Timothy 3:16, and I’m going to read through the first part of chapter 4, verse 2. Remember that that chapter divisions were put in much later. And sometimes they obscure connections of thought which are important. So I’ll read from 2 Timothy 3:16 through 4:2:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [was God breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness ...” (KJV)
Let me point out that all Scripture is profitable. That means the book of Ezra, the book of Nehemiah, the book of Ecclesiastes, the book of Amos, the book of Micah, the book of Obadiah, lots of books that some Christians consider almost irrelevant and many would not know where to find. They are Scripture, and they are profitable. There’s nothing unprofitable in the entire Scripture. The purpose for which they’re given is stated in verse 17:
“That the man of God may be perfect [all complete], thoroughly furnished [equipped] unto all good works.” (KJV)
Notice it’s the same thought as in Ephesians 6, it’s the equipment of the man of God. And I believe that the Christian who is not acquainted with the whole Scripture cannot be thoroughly equipped because it’s all there for his thorough equipment. There are no unimportant books of the Bible. Sometimes we’re misled by a phrase such as “the minor prophets” to think that they’re of minor importance. But this is completely incorrect. Actually, as a matter of interest, the entire doctrine of justification by faith, which is one of the most outstanding revelations of the Scripture, one of the most powerful revelations in the whole Word of God, is based by the apostle Paul on half a verse in Habakkuk 2:4. And yet from that half verse, Paul really draws the entire doctrine of justification by faith. So that shows that Habakkuk is minor in length but not in context. There isn’t anything unimportant in the Scripture. Not one jot nor one tittle shall pass away. A jot is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the ?yood? in Modern Hebrew. The tittle is the little horn in the corner that distinguishes one letter from another. Hebrew letters are very hard to distinguish sometimes because they’re so close. But one little curve on the top of a letter will distinguish one from another. And Jesus said, “So complete is the inspiration of Scripture that not one of the smallest letters, not even one of the little horns on the corner of a letter shall pass away till all be fulfilled.” This is the authority of Scripture.
Now in the light of this, notice the charge that Paul goes on to give to Timothy. And again notice the word therefore at the beginning of verse 4. I’ve said several times, probably even in this series, but I’ll say it once again. When you find a therefore in the Bible, you want to find out what it’s there for. The therefore at the beginning of chapter 4 is in direct relationship to the word conclude chapter 3.
“I charge thee therefore ...” (KJV)
Why? Because all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, all Scripture is profitable, all Scripture is needed to make the man of God complete.
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom ...” (KJV)
Notice the solemnity of this charge. In view of the fact that we are all going to have to give account of ourselves, our ministry and our service to God one day, because of this, what is the message? “Preach the word.” Don’t add to it, don’t take from it, don’t edit it, you’re not required to do that. All you’re required to do is preach it the way it is.
Turn to Hebrews 4:12 and notice what the writer of Hebrews says about the nature of God’s Word.
Some remarkable statements. Hebrews 4:12:
“For the word of God is quick [in modern English alive], and powerful [the same Greek word gives us the modern English word energetic], and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (KJV)
The Word of God is alive, it’s energetic, and it’s sharper than any carnal, material sword with two edges.
It is the two-edged sword of the spiritual warfare.
“... piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow ...” (KJV)
It pierces to the innermost parts of human nature. When Jesus was here on earth, He used this sword in conflict with Satan. Turn to Matthew the 4th chapter, and notice the account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Where Jesus was brought face to face with Satan in direct temptation and conflict. Jesus had had a glorious revelation and glorious attestation from heaven. The Spirit of God had descended upon Him in bodily form, God the Father had spoken from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And immediately after this glorious revelation, Jesus found Himself in the wilderness for forty days in direct, face-to-face contact with the devil. And notice in this conflict Jesus did not use any weapons except the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the Scripture. And if you will look, without going into detail, verse 4, verse 7 and verse 10. Verse 4:
“But he answered and said, It is written ...” (KJV)
He quoted the Scripture. Verse 7:
“Jesus said unto him, It is written again ...” (KJV)
The devil quoted the Scripture to Jesus and Jesus quoted the Scripture back to the devil. And verse 10:
“Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written ...” (KJV)
What weapon did He use? The written Word of God, the Scripture. And He is our perfect pattern. There is no other weapon with which we can put the devil to flight but the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, which is the Scripture.
Now that was while Jesus was on earth. Now let us look at the picture of Jesus in His glory which is given in the book of Revelation 1:16. Here’s the description of the glorified Christ as He appeared to the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. One of the most beautiful descriptions of the Lord found anywhere in Scripture. I’d like to read from verse 13 through verse 16:
“And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” (KJV)
The sharp two-edged sword that went out of the mouth of Jesus is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Notice it goes forth out of His mouth brought forth by the Spirit of God. And if you look at those other references in Revelation that are given in your outline, we do not need to turn to them, you’ll find in every one of them it speaks about the sword that goes forth out of the mouth of the glorified Lord.
Now in this present period of time the sword is in the mouth of the Lord but it goes forth through the mouth of His ministers, servants and witnesses here on earth. But it’s the same sword, the same weapon that Jesus used in His earthly ministry to defeat the devil is now committed to you and me as believers for the same purpose. It is the only weapon that will defeat and drive back the devil out of our lives, and out of his strongholds.
Isaiah 40 we have a further glorious revelation of the nature, the authority and the glory of God’s Word.
“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? [And this is the message that the prophet is given to cry:] All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (KJV)
Forever. Everything that is carnal, material, fleshly will wither. But there’s one permanent, abiding, unchangeable reality which is the Word of our God, and that will abide forever. It is important that we learn this lesson for ourselves individually. There’s only one thing that’s permanent in our lives, and that’s the word of God. Our emotions, our feelings, our ideas, they’re all transient and impermanent. But there’s one thing that’s eternal within each one of us that cannot change, that joins us to God, that is the Word of God. The flesh will wither and die, cut down like the grass of the fields, but in each one of us that believes and obeys the Word of God there is something eternal. And it is the Word of God.
Let’s look also at Isaiah 55:11 and see the tremendous effectiveness of the Word of God. Isaiah 55:11, God is speaking, He says, and we do not need to go into the comparison, though it’s beautiful, time does not permit:
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [or ineffective], but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (KJV)
God’s Word cannot fail. It always accomplishes the purpose of God. But there’s a very important qualification in that verse which a lot of preachers have not noticed. God says “so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth.” It is not just God’s Word, it’s God’s Word out of God’s mouth that cannot fail. I’ve heard a lot of dry, dusty sermons preached out of somebody’s notes from years back and nothing happened. No one was blessed, no one was stirred, no one was convicted, but they folded their hands prayerfully at the end and then said, “Well then, never mind, God’s Word will never return to Him void.” But they misquoted it because it doesn’t say God’s Word will never return to Him void, it says God’s Word out of God’s mouth will never return to Him void. You can never separate the word from the mouth that it comes out of. And why is it out of God’s mouth? Because when God’s mouth speaks, it’s God’s breath that goes with it. And God’s breath is the Spirit. It’s the Word with the Spirit in it that will never return void. The word without the Spirit Scripture says, is just dead. The letter killeth, Second Corinthians 3:6, but the Spirit giveth life.
Turn for a moment to Psalm 33:6 and see how effective the Word with the Spirit is and how essential it is that the Spirit always be with the Word and the Word with the Spirit. Psalm 33:6:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (KJV)
This is Hebrew poetry and one of the principles of Hebrew poetry is you get two parallel statements which tell us two different aspects of the same thing, not two different things. So by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the hosts of them by the breath of His mouth. We can put it this way. By the Word of the Lord and by the breath of His mouth were the heavens and all their hosts made. It’s not the Word alone, but it’s the Word when it’s breathed with the breath of God. And the word that’s there translated breath is actually spirit. In other words, when God’s Word goes out by God’s Spirit then it is created. It is authoritative, it is effective, it will never return void. But the Word without the Spirit is just dead. “The letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life.” So it must be God’s Word out of God’s mouth which means breathed forth by God’s Spirit.
See, this is a very interesting thing. I had to teach language in Africa for a little while and I had to learn certain simple facts about phonetics and so on. And really I discovered that speech is one of the most fascinating things in human experience. And of course, probably some of you know this but I had to learn this, though really, in fact, it’s obvious—you cannot speak without breath. Essentially speech is breath being squeezed out of your lungs through your vocal apparatus and being modified by the position of your tongue and your lips until it produces the appropriate sound. But the basic force in all speech is breath. No breath, no speech. And this is true of the Word of God. The motivating power that brings forth the Word of God is the breath of God. No breath, no speech. Just letters, something dead. And this is how we have to understand the Word of God. It is not effective. It does not accomplish the things that God has promised, there is no life in it unless there’s God’s breath in it. But when God’s Spirit is in it, when it comes forth breathed by the Spirit of God out of the mouth of God, then it is totally effective. Nothing can stand against it, it is creative, effective, authoritative.
Now, God does not speak only out of His own mouth, but He speaks through the mouths of human beings. And He desires that every servant and minister of His shall offer Him a mouth that He can speak through, that every believer should be a mouthpiece of God. So that when God’s Word goes forth through that believer, it is as authoritative and as effective as if God had spoken it Himself. But this can only be if it’s God’s Spirit that goes through that mouth with the Word. Now I’d like to choose and illustrate this by an example from the prophet Jeremiah which to me has always been a fascinating example of the authority of God’s Word through human lips. This in the first chapter of Jeremiah, is an account of the call of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1, commencing at verse 4 and reading through verse 10:
“Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” (KJV)
What a dramatic confirmation in one person, in a short space of time. When God first spoke to Jeremiah he said, “LORD, I can’t speak, don’t ask me to be a prophet, I’m too young. I’m just a child.” Of course, by the standards of that day, quite likely he was a young man in his twenties and the word would be applicable. But anyway, he felt that he did not have the age, the maturity, the experience, the authority that was needed to be a prophet of God. God said don’t tell me you’re a child, because you’re going to go to everyone that I send you, you’re going to speak exactly what I command you. And God said, “I’m going to put you over the nations and over the kingdoms, and you can root out and pull down, destroy, throw down, and you can build and plant.” Both the negative and the positive.
Now I don’t suppose that any human being really could have greater authority than that. To be over the nations and over their rulers. To pull them down, to build them up. To set them aside, to restore them. And this was committed to a young man who felt that he wasn’t even old enough to be a prophet. What caused the change? The answer is in verse 9.
“Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” (KJV)
And the Word of God in the mouth of Jeremiah was just as authoritative as it would have been in the mouth of God Himself. “I have put My words in thy mouth and through My word in thy mouth I have set thee over the nations, over the kingdoms. You can root out, you can pull down, you can build and you can plant.” Where was the secret of the authority? Not in Jeremiah—he felt he was too young, too immature even to be a prophet. Where was the authority? In the Word in Jeremiah—God’s Word in Jeremiah was just as effective as if God Almighty had spoken it directly Himself.
But you see that it cost Jeremiah something to be in this relationship to God. I’d like you to turn with me to Jeremiah 15, and read verses 16 through 19. Jeremiah 15:16–19, and remember the theme is what it means to be a mouthpiece of God. First of all, Jeremiah says in verse 16:
“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.” (KJV)
More literally in Hebrew, thy name is called upon me, O LORD God of hosts. And remember, as a Christian, you’re in their category because the name of Christ is called upon you and that’s what makes you a Christian. And the first qualification for delivering the Word of God is feeding upon the Word of God. Thy word was found and I did eat them. Spiritually you cannot give forth that which you have not first digested yourself. You can give it out of your mind, and it’s totally ineffective. But if you’ve absorbed it into your spirit, you can give it forth from your spirit and it’s effective. There’s a lot of preaching which is just given forth from the mind. Intellectual study, but it accomplishes nothing because the person has not first eaten the Word that he preaches. You have to eat it, and then you can give it forth. You have to digest it, and then you can minister it. And Jeremiah said, as a result of feeding upon His Word, that the Word of God “became the joy and rejoicing” of his heart. And God’s name was called upon him. And I personally believe that this is a mark of being a child of God, that God’s Word is the joy and rejoicing of your heart. I have no real confidence in the faith of a Christian who does not love the Word of God. To me, it is out of the question that such a person can ever become an effective believer. Without the love of the Word of God, it is impossible to be an effective Christian.
Now there was a result in Jeremiah’s life and experience. Verse 17:
“I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced [with them]; I sat alone because of thy hand ...” (KJV)
And we don’t need to read further. There will come a time in the experience of every person called to serve God and called to the ministry where you’ll have to sit alone. You cannot go with the crowd, you cannot enjoy the things the crowd enjoys, you cannot laugh at their foolish jokes, you cannot enjoy their lightness because the Word of God is something sacred and solemn.
Personally, I went through this in the British Army. That’s why these verses are so particularly real to me. For years I sat alone. I was literally the only believer in the entire company. I could not go to the places they went to, I could not read the things they read, I couldn’t listen to the things they listened, I couldn’t talk the way they talked; I was isolated. Why? Because God had laid His hand on me. And there will always come, in every life that’s called into the ministry, the testing of loneliness. Maybe you’ll be the only person in your family that believes. No one else will understand you. You have to sit alone. Not permanently. As far as young people are concerned, I have discovered this is one of the greatest tests. Are you prepared to be an oddball? Are you prepared to be different? Are you prepared to swim against the stream? Because that’s what’s required.
Now let’s look in verse 19:
“Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return [unto me], then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me ...” (KJV)
God wants men and women that will stand before Him. Not before men, or human counsel, or institutions, or denominations.
“... and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth ...” (KJV)
There’s what’s required to become a mouthpiece. You’ve got to separate the chaff from the wheat. You’ve got to separate the precious from the vile. You cannot fill your mouth with cheap, foolish conversation. Gossip, empty talk. I’ve discovered this in preaching. If I don’t mean what I say in daily life as much as what I mean when I stand behind the pulpit, then my words behind the pulpit have no effect. If I only put on a religious act behind the pulpit, all it is is a religious act.
I was deeply impressed as a young man by a word that I read from Charles Finney. “God never uses a jester to search consciences.” You can be popular and get people to laugh and to smile at you, get the crowd with you, but you’ll never do them any permanent spiritual good. God’s Word is a solemn thing. The apostle Paul said of his ministry in Ephesus, “I want to remind you that for two years night and day, I ceased not to warn every one of you with tears.” Paul didn’t go around trying to make people happy. To me, this is a caricature of the gospel. The early church aimed to do one thing, get man rightly related to God, and that’s all that mattered. Happiness will follow. Don’t pursue happiness. Get right with God and right with your neighbor and happiness will be there. In abundant measure. But the ministry of the Word of God is not an attempt to make people feel good. And the ones that minister that way will never be a mouthpiece for God. Don’t return to them, God said, let them come back to you. Hew the line, and stand on it. I don’t change my standards generation by generation. “What I said nineteen centuries ago,” God says, “is just as true today. If I required purity and modesty in women nineteen centuries ago, I require it today.” The Bible doesn’t give a lot of fashion for dress, but it gives the basic principles which decide the way we live. And God has not changed.
This is what was required of Jeremiah, to be a mouthpiece of the Lord. That’s why his word stood. And it’s very, very interesting, you read the prophet Jeremiah which is something over fifty chapters and you’ll find he pronounced the destiny of every nation in the entire Middle East. And for something like two thousand five hundred years the course of history in those nations has been directed by the words that Jeremiah spoke. He wasn’t an influential political figure, he was a prisoner most of the time in a dungeon. But God’s Word in his mouth decided the destiny of the kings and the nations that persecuted him. And so it will be today. God’s Word in God’s mouth will make you as authoritative and as effective as it made Jeremiah if you’ll meet the conditions. First Peter 4:11, the apostle Peter speaks about this.
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God ...” (KJV)
That’s the word that means “the mouthpiece.” In ministering, we have to provide God a mouth through which He can speak. This is the standard that is set for us in the Word of God.
Now I want to point out to you the absolute prohibition of Scripture; to add to or take away from the word of God. When you do that, you blunt the edge of the sword. You make it ineffective. Just follow with me through the Scriptures outlined there. In Deuteronomy 4:2, Moses is speaking, the mouthpiece of God to his generation.
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (KJV)
You shall not add to it, you shall not diminish or take away anything from it. And in the 12th chapter and 32nd verse:
“What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (KJV)
Do not add to it, do not take from it. Proverbs 30:5–6:
“Every word of God is pure ...” (KJV)
In the margin in my Bible it says “refined.” Elsewhere in the twelfth Psalm it says it is refined as silver in a furnace of earth seven times. It’s totally pure, you don’t have to purify, you don’t have to edit, you don’t have to explicate the word of God. It’s already pure.
“... he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (KJV)
We are not required to preach more than God says in His Word. That is sufficient. And in Jeremiah again, let’s turn back to the example of Jeremiah for another glimpse at this ministry of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 1:17–19:
“Thou therefore gird up thy loins ...” (KJV)
Notice the girdle. Gird up thy loins, put on the girdle of truth. Lay aside frivolity, foolishness, empty talk.
“... speak unto them all that I command thee [all of it]: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.” (KJV)
God has shown me this personally. That is, if I am afraid of what men say or think about the message that God gives me, God will confound me. I’ll be put to shame. But if I’m faithful in delivering the message that God has given me, God takes care of the consequences. You’ll find in my own country of Britain today basically the ministry the professing clergy are despised. People don’t reckon with them. There are a few exceptions, but basically they are not of any significance or consequence. You know why? Because they were afraid of people. And God confounded them. A tremendous lesson. I don’t know how many of you are preachers or are going to be preachers, but let me say this: You cannot afford to compromise if you want God to honor what you say. If you deliver the message God gives, God takes care of the consequences. But if you compromise for the fear of man, God will put you to shame before those people. You’ll lose your authority. This has happened again and again in the history of the church. Turn on to one other passage in Jeremiah 26:2:
“Thus saith the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’S house [that’s the hardest place to preach, believe me. That’s where it really costs something.], and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word.” (KJV)
Don’t take one thing away. God knows what He’s doing when He gives a message. Revelation 22, let us notice right at the end of the Scripture, the same warning again, the last chapter of the Bible, particularly concerning the message of the book of Revelation 22:18–19:
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (KJV)
Notice, there’s a curse pronounced on anyone that will either add to or take away from the book of Revelation.
Let’s look at a pattern in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. A very, very interesting one. Leviticus 19.
Now you understand that this is stated in the natural realm, but it has an application in the spiritual.
“Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shall not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind [that’s a type of believer marrying the unbeliever]; thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed ...” (KJV)
Don’t sow two different kinds of seed at the same time in your field. Why? Because you’ll get two different kinds of plants. You see, the nature of the seed determines the nature of what will come up in the field. God says don’t mix the seed.
Now in the New Testament we have a very clear application of this. Matthew 13:38. Speaking and interpreting the parable of the wheat and the tares Jesus says:
“The field is the world ...” (KJV)
And in Luke 8:11 interpreting the parable of the sower Jesus says, the parable is this:
“The seed is the word of God.” (KJV)
So we are to sow the field, which is the world, with the seed, which is the Word of God. And we are not to mix anything else in with that seed. Why? Because what we sow determines what we’ll reap. See? I’ve been greatly occupied lately by a statement which I think I’ll turn to. First Timothy. I remember rightly. It comes to me and I think the Lord wants me to bring it out. First Timothy 1:3–4, Paul is explaining in this epistle to Timothy the reason why he left him behind in Ephesus.
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister question, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” (KJV)
I cannot tell you how God has impressed upon me these Scriptures just in recent weeks. Stay there, Timothy, and see that they don’t start preaching anything but the Word of God. That they don’t preach any other gospel. And what’s the alternative? Fables and endless genealogies. Don’t get people off the Word of God into anything else that’s not true, not scriptural.
I’ve had two or three people come to me recently and ask me, “Brother Prince, what about the book of Nicodemus, or the book of Enoch?” And I don’t know whether you’re familiar with them, but they’re from the pseudo-apocrypha. They’re not apocryphal books, they’re from false apocrypha. And I would just have to say that as far as I am concerned, they come exactly under this heading of fables and endless genealogies. And the Scripture prohibits them from teaching these things. I have no authority from God as a preacher of the Word of God to preach anything but the Word of God. There’s enough in there. We are not to sow the field with mingled seed.
See, why do we have such a mingled version of Christianity today, you know why? Because we’ve sowed with such a lot of mingled seed. Partly Baptist seed, and partly Episcopal seed, and partly Presbyterian seed, and partly Catholic seed, and partly Assemblies of God seed and what have we got? A horrible mixture. You don’t know where truth ends and error begins. It’s because we sowed wrong.
Turn to Psalm 68:11:
“The LORD gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” (KJV)
See? It’s the Lord’s business to give the word, not ours. All we have to do is publish what the Lord gives. For you ladies that are here this morning, you may notice that the marginal version says the women that publish the tidings are a great host. And that really, is probably a more correct translation. So there is a place for women to publish the tidings. The first witnesses of the resurrection were all women. They were told to take the news to the men. But we are not entitled to preach anything God hasn’t given. The Lord gives the Word; we publish what He gives.
And in Acts chapter 6 and verse 4, I want you to notice a crucial decision reached by the apostles in the early stages of the Christian church in Jerusalem. Acts 6:4. When the question arose of ministering to the widows and there was a complaint that the widows of the Greeks were not receiving the same attention as the widows of the Hebrews, we read in verse 2, we might as well start there.
“Then the twelve [apostles] called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. [We haven’t got any business getting involved in this distribution of charity. It’s important, it’s necessary but it’s not our job.] wherefore brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we [the apostles] will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (KJV)
Now this is the primary ministry. Everything else is secondary. The tragedy is today in the church, you could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of men who are totally given to prayer and to the ministry of the word. And I’m not sure that you’re looking at one of them now. We have allowed so many material considerations to crowd in. I just wonder how many preachers spend anything like the time they ought to spend in prayer. Why? Because we’re busy with things that are important, but it isn’t our job to do them. And the church can never function the way it should until the people whose responsibility it is to minister the Word give themselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer. Tremendous statement there. We will give ourselves without reservation to two things: praying and the ministry of the word. Now I want to say something about that word ministry. It’s one of these words that’s become corrupted by a kind of ecclesiastical religious atmosphere. It sounds so good. I’m a minister. Call me reverend. But you see, we forget that the word minister means a servant. And when they said we will give ourselves to the ministry of the word, they said we will give ourselves to the service of the word. And notice what’s implied. The word is the master, we are the servants. The word has the authority, not we. And our business is just to make the word available after prayer, through the Holy Spirit. We aren’t lording it over the word of God. We’re not editing the Word of God, we’re not cutting it up. We’re its servants. It’s supreme, we’re under its authority. This is our business. See?
I think you have to acknowledge that the attitude of the majority of professing ministers is far from that. In most Protestant churches the average minister somehow has formed the impression that God has called him to edit the Scriptures. He couldn’t be more mistaken. The Bible doesn’t need editing and God has not called anybody to edit the Bible. All he’s called the ministers to do is to serve the Word of God.
In closing this part of this study let’s look at Colossians. Remarkable series of statements made by the apostle Paul. Colossians 1:23–25. Paul is speaking about the hope that is laid up before these people, the good things that lie ahead of them and he says it’s conditional. Don’t get me sidetracked on this condition now, but he says:
“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister [Notice. I am made a servant of what? The gospel.], who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Where of I am made a minister ...” (KJV)
Second, I am made a servant of the church, but first I’m a servant of the gospel. And he notes furthermore the way in which he is to serve the church, going back to verse 25:
“I am made a minister [or a servant of the church], according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God ...” (KJV)
Notice the order. First of all, I’m a minister or a servant of the Word. Secondly, having become a servant of the Word I become a servant of the church. But my service to the church is to fulfill, to fully minister, to completely declare the Word of God. Notice that the word is supreme, the minister is subordinate. The minister, the preacher, whatever you like to call him, the apostle is the servant of the Word. Our attitude in ministering is that we are servants, the Word is the master. And we can serve the church only insofar as we serve the Word to the church. This is the divine pattern.