Key verses – Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
The Word of God is extremely important, as Paul points out in this letter to the saints at Ephesus. He refers to the word of God as the sword of the Holy Spirit. The word of God is an instrument of attack, according to Paul. It can be used in defense, but it is not defensive; it can be used in offense, but it is not offensive. The sword of the Spirit signals to the forces of evil that we have a means to defeat them.
This brings me to a conversation I had on this very blog with a gentleman who does not much care for Paul. I don’t think I handled the argument very well, losing my patience, and I hope this man is reading this post, as I’d like to apologize for the way I ended our conversation. However, I stand by my convictions, and would like to give a public explanation for all to read and analyze.
The premise of the conversation started with the gentleman mentioning that Paul’s description of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 goes against Jesus’ description of “love” in Matthew 22. The gentleman, in my opinion, made two logical fallacies:
- That Paul was talking about brotherly love
- That Paul was talking about a commandment
Basically, the argument went like this: Paul said that love is the greatest (presumably love thy neighbor), while Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God, therefore Paul’s message to the Corinthians goes against Jesus’ teachings.
In response, I presented what I thought to be logical arguments for the two points mentioned above. Namely, I addressed point #1 by looking at Paul’s use of words. In his letter, when referring to “love”, or “charity” in KJV, Paul uses the Greek word “agape” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape). Translated, this word means “the love of God for man and of man for God”. Paul was telling the saints that between faith, hope, and love (agape), love is the greatest. That is, love of God is the greatest of these three concepts. This explanation shows us that Paul was in complete agreement with Jesus, who said the greatest commandment is “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”. It also shows that Paul was not talking about brotherly love, which in Greek is “philia”.
Jesus also uses a form of the word “agape” In Matthew 22, namely “agapao”, to explain the love for God. Later, Jesus also uses “agapao” when talking about love for our neighbors. To Jesus, these two concepts are inseparable, you cannot love God but hate your neighbor. The apostle John also mentions a variation of this concept in 1 John 4:20. Paul understood the words of Jesus, and related a similar concept to the saints at Corinth, but Paul was not talking about God’s commandments.
This brings us to point #2. As a Pharisee, Paul knew that God’s commandments number 10, not 2 or 1. Found in Exodus 20, God’s Law is immutable. Written by Jesus on tablets of stone, it is no wonder that our Saviour has intimate knowledge of its precepts. Jesus did not literally mean that there are two commandments. Jesus condensed the first four commandments into his statement that loving God is the greatest commandment.
The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. Paraphrasing:
- You shall have no other gods before Me
- You shall not practice idolatry
- You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain
- Keep the Sabbath holy (this refers to the seventh-day Sabbath by the way)
The rest of the commandments deal with our relationship with our neighbours, and Jesus included them in his response to the scribes, even though they only asked for the greatest commandment, referencing Deuteronomy 6:4. The scribes thought they could trap Jesus by asking him to rate the 10 commandments and accuse him of blasphemy. However, Jesus was the one who wrote the Law, and he could not be trapped by these so-called enlightened ones.
Jesus presents the whole of the law in two simple concepts, using the word “agape”. Paul presents a hierarchy of three concepts (faith, hope, and love), also using “agape” to describe love. Paul is in complete synchronicity with Jesus on this subject, any other claim is extremely ignorant of the context of Paul’s letters, which are inspired writings.
The point I’m trying to make with this post is not that I’m right and the gentleman I spoke with is wrong about this particular doctrine. I’m trying to show that the word of God is an integral part of the Christian faith. Without it, we don’t have a sword. When we start picking and choosing which parts of the Bible we like, and which ones we don’t, we are throwing away our swords. In this world full of principalities and powers, we cannot stand without a sword. A shield and a helmet are not enough, we must be able to pierce the darkness with the sword of the Spirit. The word of God is eternal, true, and good. We must either take it as a whole, or not take it at all. Let us remember to always have that as the starting point of any doctrinal conversation with believers and non-believers alike.