God’s Best Gifts, Part 3

God gives His people numerous gifts for a variety of reasons. God sent Jesus – His gift of love to sinful man – to catch their attention. In a world filled with condemnation, Jesus came in love to save. God also gave His people that kind exact same kind of love – a divine, unconditional love – so that they could love the Body of Christ as God does.

Another gift God gives His people is peace. God is able to make His people completely sound in mind and spirit. Instead of anxiety, frustration, and anger, God’s people can be at complete peace.

Perhaps the most under appreciated gift from God to man is the gift of His Word. The Bible is a gift from God. Through the pages the Bible, God’s heart and mind are revealed to man in such a way as make plain His thoughts, His feelings, and His will. Even the unredeemed man is able to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, grasp the elemental spiritual truths contained in the Word of God. Of the Bible, the book of Hebrews declares:

For the word of God is alive 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 | TNIV)

There is nothing ordinary about the Bible. Some people think that it’s a boring old book that’s largely irrelevant today. Other people consider the Bible to be a masterpiece of literature. Some very influential people have said some very profound, and sometimes some very stupid things about the Bible. For example, no less an influential person as Mahatma Gandhi once remarked:

You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.

Mark Twain was utterly confused about the Bible. On the one hand, he said this:

It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.

But then said this:

The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.

Richard Dawkins, who some people think is very smart, wrote something very dumb about the Bible:

To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.

Søren Kierkegaard once wrote:

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.

And President Ronald Reagan said this about the Scriptures:

Within the covers of the Bible are all the answers for all the problems man faces.

With so many opinions about the Bible, we should go right to the source itself. As far as the Bible is concerned, it is indispensable, and here’s why you, if you are a Christian, can’t do without it:

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17 | TNIV)

The Word of God is the “sword of the Spirit.” Let’s take a look what that means within the context of Ephesians 6.

It’s war

Verse 16 of Ephesians 6 occurs in the midst of Paul’s discussion of the spiritual warfare every Christian faces. This whole section seems oddly out of place in a letter largely devoted to peace, and yet it isn’t really. One of the great blessings of the Gospel is that it produces peace between members of the Body of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:14 – 17 | TNIV)

One of the great themes of Ephesians is the peace of Christ that resulted from His work on the Cross. And Paul spent considerable time writing about peaceful relationships between each other in the context of the family, at work, and out in the community. Being a Christian should result in a person treating others, especially other Christians, with respect, honor, and dignity.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2, 3 | TNIV)

And then suddenly, along comes these famous verses in chapter 6:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10, 11 | TNIV)

Peace is important, but peace between members of the Body of Christ is absolutely essential indispensable; it’s a powerful witness to the world of what the presence of Christ can do between people. And there are some immensely practical steps Christians can take to encourage the growth of that peace. But at the same time we know that of all the struggles we face on earth, the greatest threat to our survival as believers takes place in the spiritual world. No matter how diligent we may be in trying to live righteous lives that result in peace in all our earthly relationships, if we ignore the spiritual battles raging all around us, we risk losing it all.

In that sense, this section may not be “oddly out of place,” after all!

The need for armor

Of all things a believer can do to live at peace with the world around him, the key is to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” The phrase “be strong” really means be to be “continually empowered” by the power of God. You need that. Just think about how hard it is to live at peace with your spouse. All kidding aside, sometimes it seems like what’s needed is supernatural power to keep you from losing your temper or whatever. That’s a simple (or funny) illustration of what Paul is getting at here. Part of what he calls “the devil’s schemes” is sowing seeds of strife and contention between spouses or between siblings or between friends. We all need God’s power so as not to let those things get out of control. You see, even though the struggle takes place in the spirit world, there are real-world consequences to what’s happening there. No human being has it within himself to face the devil alone; we all need God’s presence and God’s resources – the armor He gives us.

Just how great is God’s power? Paul touched on that subject at the beginning of this letter.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:18 – 21 | TNIV)

That’s the power Paul is writing about – the power that is available for you to do this:

you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13b | TNIV)

The struggle is real, but then so is the power of God. It is up to whatever struggle you as a believer may be facing. Shakespeare’s Hamlet felt something of that struggle. He felt that life was so bad it might better to just end it all and miss all that suffering. That was why he said this:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing, end them?

“Slings and arrows” are a good way to describe the devil’s weapons. Those “slings and arrows of outrageous (or cruel) fortune (fate)” may be able to harm you, but they can’t kill you. They’re a “scheme” of the devil’s to mess with your mind. You need the power of God to rise above those “slings and arrows.”

Parts of the armor

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14 – 17 | TNIV)

The concept of “standing firm” is so imperative for the believer that Paul wrote it in the imperative! A Christian MUST always stand firm, and in order to do that, he must wear the armor God provides him with.

Belt of truth.

The belt is important because it keeps your pants up and shirt tucked in. Truth is important, of course, but not just any truth: It must be God’s truth, or the truth of His Word. Of primary importance is for the believer to be armed with the truth of the Scriptures at all times. It’s easy to get so discouraged in our daily lives that we forget the Word and be tempted to buy into the devil’s lies. When the devil tempted our Lord in the wilderness, what did He do? He quoted the Word of God!

Breastplate of righteousness

Sharp-eyed Bible readers will recognize this piece of armor because it’s been mentioned before – long before in the book of Isaiah!

He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Isaiah 59:17 | TNIV)

That’s the Lord putting on His armor as He is seen preparing to fight the enemy. The Christian is to emulate their Lord by doing the same thing. When the devil beats down the believer, the temptation will be to fight him using his weapons. That won’t work with the devil; the believer needs to maintain his integrity and to remember that he is wearing the righteousness that comes from Christ. So no matter who’s hassling you or coming against you, because you are a Christian, you can’t retaliate in kind. Guard your heart with the breastplate of righteousness. One Bible scholar remarked:

Cowardice and hesitancy are by-products of the unrighteous heart, while bravery and courage flow from right thinking and acting.

“Right thinking and acting” flow from a pure heart, guarded by the breastplate of righteousness.

Gospel of peace

Believers are to literally walk in peace, that is, the peace of their salvation. Metaphorically speaking, then, it makes sense to wear shoes made out of the good news (Gospel) of peace. Again, Paul may have had in mind something the prophet Isaiah wrote long before:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 | TNIV)

Believers possess what everybody wants: Peace. That peace is the Gospel – the good news of the Gospel, which is the good news of Jesus Christ. Wherever the believer goes, he is a walking testimony of that good news. That’s why when everything at work is upside down or life throws you a curve ball, you remain calm, cool, and collected. You’ll feel better because you’ll be enjoying God’s peace through Jesus Christ, but you’ll also be noticed by those who are losing their minds to stress and anxiety. What a marvelous tool of evangelism: God’s peace!

Shield of faith

Christians are to “take up” this shield. This is the only time this Greek word for shield is used in the New Testament. It refers to the kind of shield a Roman soldier would carry into battle. It was large and oblong and would extinguish fiery arrows that got stuck in it. When Paul says to “take up” their shield of faith, he’s not referring to getting more faith. As a Christian, you already possess buckets full of faith. Paul is talking about using that faith – accessing it’s power to defend yourself against whatever the devil may throw at you. Your trust in God and in His Word will go a long way in keeping you alive during a spiritual battle!

Helmet of salvation

This isn’t the first church Paul wrote to about this. He wrote a similar thing to the Thessalonians:

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:8 | TNIV)

“The hope of salvation as a helmet.” Is that also what Paul was referring to here? In Ephesians, Paul is not suggesting that believers obtain salvation since they obviously already possess it. But rather, the idea is for the believer to remember that he is saved; he is already seated with Christ in Heaven; he has already won the battle. In other words, we might say something like this: When the devil is attacking, keep your head! Remember whose you are!

Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God

Lastly, Christians are to wield the “sword of the Spirit.” Paul tells us what this weapon is: The Word of God. Exactly what Paul meant here is unknown. We wish he had expanded on it slightly. It may be that Paul is suggesting that at a crucial moment during a crisis, God will being back to your mind – and possibly to your mouth – an appropriate Scripture. Jesus said this would happen:

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19, 20 | TNIV)

The Spirit is able to do just that. When Jesus was explaining this to his disciples, He was referring to persecution because of their faith; definitely a crisis! But there are other crises in life that may arise where a believer needs counsel from the Word. The mind is an amazing thing. It remembers everything yet recalls nothing sometimes. With the help of the Spirit, Bible verses and stories can be brought back to remembrance, thereby comforting or empowering the believer or even somebody else.

This amazing Word of God is truly a gift. It’s literally the gift that keeps on giving, making it possible for every child of God to live victoriously over the the devil and all the circumstances of life.


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