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The Power Of God’s Word In Overcoming The Adversary

By Mark I. Bubeck

    The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. In keeping with John 1:1, the Lord Jesus is often spoken of as "the living Word" just as the Bible is the written Word. We have to be careful, however, not to deify the written Word to the point that we worship it. We must worship not the Bible, but the God of the Bible. Yet, because it is the very Word of God and will never pass away, the Bible carries many of the attributes of God Himself.

    It is the eternal Word just as God Himself is eternal. As God is omnipotent, so does His Word have all power to defeat Satan and to accomplish God’s will. As God is immutable, so the Word of God will never change. As our Lord is omnipresent, so His Word is always there and ready to be used in every situation. As God is holy, so His Word is holy. The writer to the Hebrews says: "The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

The Inner Working of the Word

    The sword of the Word has the power to penetrate one’s life. It is meant to do corrective surgery within the soul, spirit, thoughts, and attitudes of the believer. That is perhaps the secret of its power against Satan. As the believer uses it, the Word can penetrate, cleanse, and change the believer’s life and in so doing, cut away Satan’s grip upon that life.

    Nothing is quite as important in spiritual warfare as getting the Word of God into the mind and heart of the believer. That one thing will accomplish more in setting a person free from Satan’s oppression and affliction than any other method I know.

    A Christian brother who had come under severe oppression from the enemy was for years unable to work or to attend church. He withdrew from life and duty. Fear, depression, and torment seemed to rule his life. Then victory began to come as he started memorizing large portions of God’s Word. Daily he meditated on Scripture portions and repeated their meaning. It was amazing to see the change that simple procedure effected in his life. Anyone who is serious about spiritual warfare must memorize the Word and meditate upon it daily, even hourly.

    There is no substitute for persistent, steady, consistent application of God’s Word against Satan. The Lord Jesus Christ used that approach in His dramatic encounter with Satan in the wilderness, recorded in Luke 4:1-3.

    He had fasted for forty days. At the end of that time Jesus was hungry, and food was many miles away. Satan tempted our Lord, saying: "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread" (Matthew 4:3). In reply, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3, "It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone’" (Luke 4:4).

    Next Satan tried to tempt the Lord Jesus to take a shortcut to the glory of His coming kingdom by worshiping him. Once again Christ quoted the Word: "It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only’" (Luke 4:8).

    The final temptation came at the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem, where Satan tried to get Jesus to "throw Yourself down from here." That time, Satan himself quoted the Scriptures, from Psalm 91:11-12. Once again the Lord Jesus Christ persistently used the weapon of the Word, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, "It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’" (Luke 4:12). At that point, the devil left Jesus "until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13). He was defeated by the Savior’s persistent use of the "sword" but was determined to try again.

    The servant of Christ will find Satan using the same pattern of attack against him. And Satan will leave only as the Word of God is persistently applied against him.

Guidelines for Using the Sword

    One of the most obvious requirements for using the "sword" is to know the Word of God. It was the accepted practice for devout Jewish boys of our Lord’s era to memorize the first five books of the Old Testament. For most of us, that would seem an impossible task, yet there are people living today who have committed the entire New Testament to memory. Others know large portions of both Testaments. It seems obvious that the Lord Jesus Christ’s ability to quickly quote from the book of Deuteronomy was a key to Satan’s defeat.

    Scripture memorization is one of the most urgently needed disciplines of the Christian home and the Christian church. If we are not equipping ourselves for battle by memorizing the Word, our best weapon will be just out of our reach when we most need it. Satan is waiting to find "an opportune time" in each of our lives. That opportune time will arise when we have no Bible nearby, and our weapon will be out of reach if we do not have it memorized.

    There are many ways to memorize. Some can memorize large sections of the Word by simply reading them many times. For many years, when calling on hospital patients, I read favorite passages of the Word that spoke of the Lord’s comfort. One day, having left my Bible in the car, I discovered to my surprise that I could quote those portions almost perfectly.

    Others find it helpful to write out verses or paragraphs on cards to carry with them, then work on memorizing them in spare moments. It is helpful to work with another person when memorizing, so you can check on each other. Most people work more effectively under the principle of accountability.

    It is equally important that you correctly understand the Word of God. One who memorizes the Word must also be one who "correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). When Satan quoted the Scriptures to Jesus during His temptation, he misinterpreted them. That is one of Satan’s most clever tricks. He wants us to misunderstand the Word or misuse it. Some of the most effective human instruments Satan has are people who use the Bible effusively, but incorrectly.

    When memorizing the Word of God, it is effective to express in your own words what the text is saying. If you have any doubt about the meaning, use a trustworthy Bible commentary to arrive at a correct understanding.

    Satan may use a wrong understanding of a passage of Scripture to paralyze a Christian’s effectiveness. I one day had a call from a Christian lady who was in severe distress. She was the wife of a prominent physician in a distant city and very active in a Bible-preaching church. She had got into a great deal of difficulty over two passages of Scripture in the book of Hebrews (6:4-6; 10:26-31). Satan kept tormenting her into believing that she had "fallen away" and that she had lost her salvation and could not be saved again. In trying to help, I asked her if she had ever prayed over those passages, repeatedly read them, and sought to understand what they really said. "Oh, no," was her reply. "They always frighten me too much, and I try not to read them."

    Her response was typical of how Satan tries to misuse the Word of God. By tormenting her, the enemy was able to keep her from mastering the Word. I urged her to make an exhaustive study of those passages. Admittedly, they are some of the most difficult texts to understand, and I assured her that she would find good Bible scholars differing in their approach to those texts. Yet the Word is the truth of God, and God wants us to know it.

    We must know the Scripture and insist that the enemy acknowledge our stand. We can only do this effectively as we build our lives upon God’s Word, "rooted and grounded" in the truth. We cannot build effective warfare upon anything else. Feelings will not do. Feelings are as changeable as the wind. Our own discipline and dedication will not do. One day we are up, and another day we are down. Only the Word of God effectively dispatches the enemy.

    Satan will not easily back off from you even when you use the Word against him. He will test you and try to get you to doubt the truth of the Word. He will challenge you. It is always important to establish your authority over him because of your union with Christ. The enemy may deny that Christ has authority over him. But if you know the Word and quote the Word, establishing Christ’s authority, you can always force him to admit that Christ has authority over all principalities and powers (Ephesians 1:19-22; Philippians 2:9-11).

The Person of the Spirit

    We must not fail to recognize that behind "the sword of the Spirit" is a Person, the Holy Spirit. He is the one who makes our sword effective in battle.

    Peter’s experience in the garden when men came to take Jesus is an example of a believer’s swinging the wrong sword (John 18:10). He used the wrong sword and was trusting in the wrong strength to be effective in battle. The only result was that Malchus lost an ear. If our Lord had not been there to heal the ear immediately, not only would Malchus have suffered injury, but the entire company of disciples could have been arrested, perhaps imprisoned, or even crucified with Jesus. Our Lord often has to rescue us when we go about swinging the wrong sword in spiritual battle. Later that same man, Peter swung the sword of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Instead of injuring one man’s ear, he captured and spiritually healed three thousand "ears." Three thousand people responded to the Word of salvation and were baptized as believers.

    We cannot effectively use the Word of God in warfare unless the Holy Spirit is controlling us. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). We cannot fight spiritual battles in a fleshly way.

    In the early years of my ministry, a member of the church I pastored was very difficult to work with. She had a sharp tongue, a quick temper, and she was somewhat overbearing. Through the years she had offended many people. It would have been fairly easy to have voted her out of the church, as some of the deacons wanted to do. After a couple of sharp encounters with her myself, I felt that might not be a bad idea.

    I went so far as to pray about it. Afterward, I remember thinking, If I do that, God will give me two more just like her. God had put her there for me to love, to nurture, to train, to feed, and to lead, not to kick out. How often we get into trouble when we resort to a method other than that "of the Spirit." Satan moves in on such situations even when we feel we are right and the other person is wrong. He indeed may be very wrong, but we can never do good things in a fleshly way.

    We must also remember not to resist the Holy Spirit in one area of life while trying to use the "sword of the Spirit" in another. Several years ago, a woman who was under severe assault from the powers of darkness came to me for counseling. I used all the methods of warfare I knew but was still not very successful. After several weeks of counseling, I could see no improvement. She was memorizing the Word, practicing aggressive resistance of the enemy, praying doctrinally-oriented prayers, but still seemed to be losing the battle. I finally concluded something was seriously wrong.

    In kindness I asked her if she was resisting the Holy Spirit in some area. She hung her head and finally told me she had a smoking problem. She did not smoke heavily, but she was aware that it was a habit she would not submit to the Holy Spirit. We dealt with that, and immediate improvement began. The intensity of the battle subsided, and the last I knew, she was walking tall in victory.

    It is the Holy Spirit who applies the power of the "sword" against our foe. If we are grieving or quenching His work in our lives in any area, Satan will take advantage of that opening.

    All spiritual victory is essentially bound to the Word of God. Satan retreats as the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, is used against him.

Taking Up the Sword

    In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I lay hold of the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. I embrace its inerrant message of truth and power. I humbly ask the Holy Spirit to guide me into true understanding of the message of the Word. Grant to me the discipline and dedication to memorize the Word and to saturate my mind with its truth and power.

    In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, grant to me the wisdom to always apply the Word against the enemy. May I use the Word to defeat Satan and to advance the cause of Christ into that very realm Satan claims. Amen.

    – Taken from Overcoming The Adversary by Mark I. Bubeck. Copyright 1984. Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Moody Press. Used by permission.