by David Buffaloe
In ancient Rome, the gladiator was a slave who lived for the entertainment of others. He had no rights, other than the right to die a bloody death to the cheers or jeers of the decadent crowd. If a gladiator was quick enough and skilled enough and defended his life long enough, in time the emperor might grant him his freedom. In such a case, the gladiator would be brought before the caesar with great pomp. He would then kneel and be touched on his shoulders with a beautifully ornate wooden sword. The gladiator would then receive the wooden sword as a sign to all that he was now a freeman. The wooden sword was useless in battle. It was pretty, it was symbolic, but it had no function other than to point to the decree of caesar. It was his decree and not the wooden sword that freed the gladiator from the arena of fighting and death.
Too many Christians today treat their Bibles-the written Word of God-as if it were the gladiator's wooden sword. Many have been freed from the slave market of sin by the preaching of justification by faith. Yet Christians freed from sin are not, like the gladiator of old, given a useless wooden sword. The Bible you possess is not a talisman to be carried around. The Bible is the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17-18). It is both our offensive and our defensive weapon-we must learn to use it.
Please note that the Word of God is the Spirit's Sword. Preachers may be eloquent. We may copy past masters of the pulpit in our sermon preparation. We may borrow great swelling words from Spurgeon, Stanley, Whitefield, Wesley, Rogers, and the like, but if the Spirit of God is not in our preaching, nothing will happen. God the Holy Spirit inspired this precious Word, He gave us this precious Book, and He alone has the ability to energize that which we preach. He wields the Word through every preacher, through every Christian, to pierce even to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit (Heb. 4:12).
God has promised us in Isaiah 55:11 that the word which comes out of His mouth "shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please." It has the power to pierce the hard heart of man and bring forth the "new creature."
Each believer in America is blessed with his or her own Bible. This is not so in many of the Third World countries, but it is so here. Cherish the Sword of the Spirit, read it, prayerfully consider its content, apply it to your life.
One day each one of us will meet an enemy that will require skillful use of the Sword. Perhaps the enemy will be betrayal-a dear friend or loved one will play the role of Judas Iscariot. When sacrificed through the greed of another, you will not be able to stand unless you are skilled in wielding that Sword. Perhaps your enemy will be disease-cancer, Alzheimer's, or perhaps something even more terrifying. Can you, like the apostle, say "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21)? Even if the enemy is death, the one skilled in using the Sword of the Lord has nothing to fear. If I die, I am better off, but if I live I live for Christ. There is no fear in the warrior who trusts the two-edged Blade of God. God is in control, and I am His-let come what may I will trust Him.
David Buffaloe pastors Rock Hill Baptist Church in Lexington, Tenn.
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