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Wielding our Weapons

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 35, July-September 2004.

THE Lord has given two great weapons to His church by which she is to wage her warfare. These weapons are not carnal, forged of iron and steel, but spiritual, being fashioned in heaven. When they are laid aside the church is vulnerable and liable to be overrun: when they are taken up she is impregnable and the Lord does great things for her; the very gates of hell open before her and the devil yields to her his prey.

Firstly the church has the weapon of preaching. In true preaching the Word of God, which is described as "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph.6:17), goes to work, smiting the conscience and laying bare the heart of man. The power of preaching, contrary to the view of many, does not lie in a man's eloquence, fervour or persuasiveness (though a preacher should cultivate his ability in these areas). In fact it does not derive from man at all. It comes by the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

It is a rule that God only blesses that which first comes from Himself and this holds good for preaching. The Spirit of truth will own the Word of truth. While a minister is not meant simply to repeat the words of Scripture when he preaches he should be careful that his sermons are constructed only of biblical material and are shaped according to "the form of sound words" (2Tim.1:13). This was the apostolic method, as indicated by Peter. "But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1Pet.1:25). Sermons must be full of Scripture!

The need is for preaching that cuts and wounds and gets to men's spiritual vitals. Worldly men will accept criticism from their fellows and even receive a strong rebuke but they will not easily suffer the accusation of sin in the Name of the thrice-holy God. Yet that is exactly what is required! To preach merely of faults and failings, of shortcomings and of missing the mark, is inadequate. Such strokes will hardly graze the skin. Sinners must hear of their guilt and corruption, their inability to do good and their liability to punishment and damnation in hell.

In equally forthright terms sinners must be urged to flee from deserved wrath through heartfelt repentance and receive undeserved mercy by embracing the Lord Jesus Christ in the arms of faith. Agentle word about "giving your heart to Jesus" and "taking Jesus as your friend" will not do. The blade of truth has been blunted. When preaching is plain and pointed it drives the sinner to his knees – which is exactly the place where He will find the Saviour.

Secondly the church has the weapon of prayer. In true prayer the Spirit of God prompts our petitions and the Word of God directs them. Thus we pray "according to the will of God" (Rom.8:27). When we do we have confidence before the Lord, for "if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us" (1John 5:14). We are "praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20). Prayers must be full of the Spirit!

Without prayer even the best of sermons will lack force and have no thrust. The blade of truth will not enter into the soul. Peter reminds us that the preaching of the apostles was "with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven" (1Pet.1:12). Most notably this was evident at Pentecost. But prior to the wonderful events of that day we learn that the disciples "were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). They were in the upper room, the chamber where they continued in prayer and supplication (1:13,14). The fruit of what was done there privately was seen publicly when countless souls were "pricked in their heart" and brought to Christ.

Weary saints, lift up your hearts to God! Weary preachers, lift up your voices for God! Wield your weapons, and may it please the Lord to grant His gracious blessing upon His cause once again.