By Irven Lee
The sword of the Spirit is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). It is the only offensive weapon given to Christians in the battle for right, but there are several other pieces of equipment needed by every soldier who is fighting a good fight. These weapons are for his own protection and strength so that he can stand against the fiery darts of the wicked one. He must have on the shield of faith and the breastplate of righteousness, and he must have his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. He should know and practice the truth. If he fights error there will be contrary reactions, so he should not be one who lives in a glass house and throws stones.
The advice to Timothy and Titus did not include any comments on posture, gestures, enunciation, grammar, or volume in speaking. It is a matter of common judgment that a speaker should give thought to these things because the effectiveness of his lessons might be hindered by his lack of skill, but it is much more important that he be an example or pattern of good behavior (1 Tim. 4:12, 16; 2 Tim. 2:21-26). There are times when people put too much emphasis on the tone of voice, the smooth flow of words, and other physical attributes, while there is very little notice given to the message. It is the truth that can make men free; it is the gospel that is the power of God to salvation; it is the word that can save the soul (John 8:31, 32; Rom. 1:16-18; James 1:21-27).
A beautiful voice may be pleasant to the ear, but the beautiful voice cannot save the soul. We should speak so as to be heard and understood, and our earnestness of soul may be indicated by our manner of speech, but pure emotionalism will not reach the intellect with knowledge, or put strength in one’s will, or supply purity in one’s life. Emotionalism may bring tears to the eyes and cause some to come to the front during an invitation song, but this approach to the work will reach the shallow soil type which will wither when the sun appears.
Preachers are to encourage or exhort, but they are to instruct, warn, reprove, and rebuke as well. Lasting results come when the whole counsel is declared with boldness. Paul reminded the elders at Ephesus of his three years’ work among them. He said, “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:18-21, 26, 27).
Paul’s emotions are very evident in his preaching, but his boldness, hate for sin, love for souls, and love for God are also evident. He was fully aware of the sinfulness of sin and of the great need for repentance. He loved God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. His effort was to please God rather than men, so he had no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but he rather reproved them. The great Teacher said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Stephen asked his Jewish brethren, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” (Acts 7:52). They killed Stephen, but no pleasant answer has ever been found for his question.
We are not trying to teach brethren to be needlessly offensive or to forget kindness and wisdom. We are to be as harmless as doves and as wise as serpents (Matt. 10:16). We are to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke” as we shine as lights in a dark world. We may wisely adapt our lives to be more likely to accomplish the worthy work our Lord has assigned. Paul could say, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake” (I Cor. 9:22, 23). He used the milk of the word, and, at the proper time, he used the meat of the word.
Paul’s task was to pull down some mighty strongholds. It is amazing that the pagan gods and the Roman Empire fought the servants of God so bitterly, but the gospel is still here while the Roman Empire and the pagan gods are completely destroyed. That is possibly the most remarkable victory of recorded history. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh; (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). The-Greek philosophers mocked, the idolaters raged, and Rome fought; but the little rock cut out of the mountain prevailed. Humble men who were armed with the gospel, for which they were willing to die, won an absolute and complete victory. No Roman ruler, pagan priest, or Greek philosopher dreamed of such defeat when the struggle began.
Emotionalism would not have crushed the powerful foes of the early Christians. They had conviction, knowledge of God’s wisdom, courage, and zeal. There was the power of lightning in their message and example. They did not,try to destroy these strongholds with thunder. Sensationalism, excitement, and the waving of flags would never have done the job. Compromising truth in order to make friends with the dragon, the beast out of the sea, and the beast out of the earth would have led to failure. It was a fight unto the death of the weaker.
Today atheism, evolution, fornication, alcoholism, robbery, blasphemy, ignorance of the Bible, materialism, and denominationalism are as powerful as the ancient foes of Christ. Brave men who are well armed are needed now for the fight. Gideon’s army was cut down to three hundred men who would surround the innumerable host of the Midianites, hold up lighted torches, and stand in their places. God can win by few or by many. The strongholds of our day can be pulled to the ground if there can be found an army of faithful men who will faithfully follow and boldly proclaim the whole counsel of God regardless of the sacrifices.
The fornicators, social drinkers, lovers of the praise of men, blasphemers, materialists, and unconverted ignorant men are found among the influential church members in some places. If the ground should open and swallow all such nominal church members, the pure in heart that remain would make a smaller but more powerful army against the devil’s strongholds in our day. Emotionalism, compromise, and noise will not clean up our wicked world. Who has the whole armor of God at hand and a willingness to use it? The host of the Midianites heard the trumpets and saw the torches of Gideon’s three hundred brave men. The victory was not won by the men who were hidden in caves. If God be for us who can be against us?
Truth Magazine XXIII: 47, pp. 759-760
November 29, 1979