Is our challenge to do as Jesus did? When tempted— either to prove himself, or to negotiate a settlement for the world— he responded three times with quotes of the Jewish Scriptures (Luke 4:1-13).
I’ve often thought about how skillfully Jesus used the Scriptures. Can be intimidating to say the least. Was our Lord indicating by his example that we need to be just as insightful in our ability to reach into the inspired volumes of the history of Israel to find just the right text for the moment?
If so, we can see why it’s so important to rely on the same Spirit our Lord was trusting. Who among us feels ready for such a challenge?
So for a long time I assumed that trusting God for such understanding and use of Scripture is what is needed for us to think clearly under fire. After all, the Apostle Paul later seemed to put the finishing touches on what it takes to win the battle for our minds and hearts when he said, “Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17). I took for granted that, in referring to the word of God, Paul was saying that we need to learn to use the Scriptures as Jesus did to avoid defeat.
What I have since found surprising is that many students of the Bible see more than a reference to Scripture when Paul refers to “the word.” Instead, many have noted that unless he specifically refers to “the written Scriptures” he usually is referring to what the Scriptures together point to—the message and good news of the Gospel of Christ. For example, in the first chapter of this same letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, of Christ, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13).
What’s the difference? Seems to me that if Paul is referring to the message of or about Christ, then “the sword of the Spirit” is not just a God-given ability to skillfully use the Scriptures. Instead, we wage war against our enemy by being able to rely on the message and good news of what Christ has won for us.
In my mind that has made a big difference in the way I read and use the Bible— under fire.
Note: For example, here is a suggested explanation on Ephesians 6:17 from the Word Biblical Commentary. “When the Christian soldier wields the sword of the word, it is not first of all the word of judgment but the good news of salvation. ῥῆμα here, not λόγος, refers to the gospel (cf. also 5:26; Rom 10:18; 1 Pet 1:25). This is “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (1:13), “the gospel of peace” (6:15).”