Skillfully Wield “the Sword of the Spirit”
“Accept . . . the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.”—EPH. 6:17.
1, 2. How should we respond to the need for more Kingdom proclaimers?
UPON seeing the spiritual need of the crowds, Jesus told his disciples: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Jesus did not let matters go at that. After speaking those words, “he summoned his twelve disciples” and sent them out on a preaching, or ‘harvesting,’ tour. (Matt. 9:35-38; 10:1, 5) Later, Jesus “designated seventy others and sent them forth by twos” to do the same work.—Luke 10:1, 2.
2 The need for more Kingdom proclaimers is also great today. The worldwide Memorial attendance for the 2009 service year was 18,168,323. It exceeded the total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses by over 10 million. The fields are indeed ripe for harvesting. (John 4:34, 35) We should, therefore, pray and ask for more workers. But how can we act in harmony with such requests? We can do so by becoming more effective ministers as we zealously share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work.—Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 13:10.
3. How does God’s spirit play a key role in helping us to become more effective ministers?
3 The preceding article discussed how being directed by God’s spirit is instrumental in our “speaking the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31) That spirit can also help us to be skillful ministers. One way to improve our effectiveness in the ministry is to make good use of the excellent tool Jehovah God has provided—his written Word, the Bible. It is the product of holy spirit. (2 Tim. 3:16) Its message is inspired of God. Hence, expounding Scriptural truth skillfully in our ministry amounts to being directed by holy spirit. Before considering how we can do so, let us reflect on just how powerful that Word is.
‘The Word of God Exerts Power’
4. What transformation can God’s message found in the Bible bring about in a person?
4 What power God’s word, or message, has! (Heb. 4:12) In a figurative sense, the message emanating from the Bible is sharper than any man-made sword, for it figuratively pierces to the dividing of bones and their marrow. Scriptural truth reaches the innermost part of a person and penetrates his thoughts and emotions, exposing what he really is on the inside. That truth can exert its transforming power and can bring about genuine changes in a person. (Read Colossians 3:10.) Yes, God’s Word can change lives!
5. In what ways can the Bible guide us, and with what result?
5 Moreover, the Bible is a book of matchless wisdom. It contains helpful information that can show people how to live in this complex world. The Word of God illuminates not only our immediate steps but also the roadway ahead. (Ps. 119:105) It is a tremendous help when we are dealing with problems or are making decisions about our choice of friends, entertainment, employment, dress, and so forth. (Ps. 37:25; Prov. 13:20; John 15:14; 1 Tim. 2:9) Applying the principles found in God’s Word makes it possible for us to get along well with others. (Matt. 7:12; Phil. 2:3, 4) With the road ahead figuratively well-lit, we are able to take into consideration the long-term effects of our decisions. (1 Tim. 6:9) The Scriptures also foretell God’s purpose for the future, helping us to pursue a lifestyle that is consistent with that purpose. (Matt. 6:33; 1 John 2:17, 18) What a meaningful life a person can enjoy if he allows godly principles to guide his life!
6. How powerful a weapon is the Bible in our spiritual warfare?
6 Think, too, of what a powerful weapon the Bible is in our spiritual warfare. Paul called God’s word “the sword of the spirit.” (Read Ephesians 6:12, 17.) When presented effectively, the Bible’s message can free people from spiritual bondage to Satan. It is a sword that is saving lives instead of destroying them. Should we not strive to wield it skillfully?
Handle It Aright
7. Why is it important to learn to use “the sword of the spirit” well?
7 A soldier can wield his weapons effectively in warfare only if he has practiced and has learned to use them well. It is the same with the use of “the sword of the spirit” in our spiritual warfare. “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God,” wrote Paul, “a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Tim. 2:15.
8, 9. What will help us get the sense of what the Bible says? Give an example.
8 What will help us to ‘handle the word of truth aright’ in our ministry? Before we can clearly impart to others what the Bible says, we need to get the sense of it ourselves. This calls for our giving attention to the context of a verse or a passage. According to one dictionary, “the context of a word, sentence, or text consists of the words, sentences, or text that come before and after it and help to make its meaning clear.”
9 Understanding a Scriptural passage correctly requires that we consider the surrounding text. Paul’s statement found at Galatians 5:13 illustrates that need. He wrote: “You were, of course, called for freedom, brothers; only do not use this freedom as an inducement for the flesh, but through love slave for one another.” What freedom was Paul speaking of here? Was he referring to freedom from sin and death, from bondage to false beliefs, or from something else? The context reveals that Paul was speaking of the freedom that results from being ‘released from the curse of the Law.’ (Gal. 3:13, 19-24; 4:1-5) He was referring to Christian freedom. Those who appreciated that freedom slaved for one another out of love. Those who were unloving engaged in backbiting and bickering.—Gal. 5:15.
10. To understand the meaning of the Scriptures accurately, what type of information should we consider, and how may we go about obtaining it?
10 The word “context” has another meaning. Synonyms for “context” include “background, conditions, . . . situation.” To understand the meaning of a scripture correctly, we should consider background information, such as who wrote the Bible book and when and under what circumstances it was written. It is also helpful to know the purpose for which the book was written and, if possible, the social, moral, and religious practices of the day.*
11. What care should we exercise when explaining scriptures?
11 “Handling the word of the truth aright” involves more than explaining Scriptural truths accurately. We should be careful that we do not use the Bible to intimidate people. Though we can use the Scriptures to defend the truth, as Jesus did when he was tempted by the Devil, the Bible is not a club with which to browbeat our listeners. (Deut. 6:16; 8:3; 10:20; Matt. 4:4, 7, 10) We should heed the apostle Peter’s admonition: “Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.”—1 Pet. 3:15.
12, 13. What “strongly entrenched things” can the truth of God’s Word overturn? Give an example.
12 When handled properly, what can the truth of God’s Word accomplish? (Read 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5.) Scriptural truth can overturn “strongly entrenched things,” that is, expose false doctrines, harmful practices, and philosophies that reflect imperfect human wisdom. We can use the Bible to cut away any ideas that are “raised up against the knowledge of God.” The teachings of the Bible can be used to help others bring their thinking in line with the truth.
13 Take, for example, the case of a 93-year-old woman who lives in India. From infancy she was taught to believe in reincarnation. When she began to study the Bible through correspondence with her son living abroad, she readily accepted what she was learning about Jehovah and his promises. However, the teaching of reincarnation was so embedded in her mind that she protested when her son wrote her about the condition of the dead. She said: “I just cannot understand the truth of your Scriptures. All religions teach that something inside us is immortal. I have always believed that the body dies and that an invisible part is reincarnated in other bodies over and over again some 8,400,000 times. How can this not be true? Are most religions wrong?” Can “the sword of the spirit” overturn such a strongly entrenched belief? After further Scriptural discussions on the subject, she wrote some weeks later: “I am finally beginning to understand the real truth about death. It gives me great joy to know that when the resurrection occurs, we will be able to meet our dead loved ones. I hope that God’s Kingdom comes soon.”
Use It With Persuasion
14. What does it mean to persuade our listeners?
14 Using the Bible effectively in the ministry is not just a matter of quoting scriptures. Paul spoke with “persuasion,” and so should we. (Read Acts 19:8, 9; 28:23.) To “persuade” means to “win over.” The one persuaded is “so convinced that [he] puts confidence in someth[ing].” When we persuade a person to accept a Bible teaching, we are winning him over to place his trust in that teaching. To accomplish this, we need to convince our listener of the truthfulness of what we say. We can do this in the following ways.
15. How can you direct attention to the Bible in a way that creates respect for it?
15 Direct attention to God’s Word in a way that creates respect for it. When you introduce a scripture, focus attention on the importance of knowing God’s thinking on the subject. After posing a question and getting the householder’s response, you may want to say something to this effect, ‘Let us see how we can get God’s mind on the matter.’ Or you might ask, ‘What does God have to say about this situation?’ Introducing the text in this way emphasizes that the Bible is from God and helps build high regard for it in the mind of the listener. Doing so is especially important when we are witnessing to someone who believes in God but is unfamiliar with what the Bible teaches.—Ps. 19:7-10.
16. What will help you to explain scriptures properly?
16 Do more than just read scriptures; explain them. It was Paul’s custom to ‘explain and prove by references’ the things he taught. (Acts 17:3) A Scriptural text often contains more than one point, and you may need to isolate key expressions that apply to what you are discussing. You may do this by restating the thought-conveying words or by asking questions that will help the householder to recognize them. Then, explain the meaning of that part of the scripture. Once that is done, help your listener to see how the text applies to him personally.
17. How can you reason from the Scriptures in a way that is convincing?
17 Reason from the Scriptures in a way that is convincing. Using heartfelt entreaty and sound logic, Paul convincingly ‘reasoned with others from the Scriptures.’ (Acts 17:2, 4) Like him, endeavor to reach the heart of your listener. ‘Draw up’ what is in it by using kind questions that reflect personal interest in the individual. (Prov. 20:5) Avoid being blunt. Present arguments in a clear and logical manner. They should be supported by satisfying evidence. Your statements should be solidly based on God’s Word. It is better to use one text well by explaining and illustrating the point than to read two or three scriptures in rapid succession. Using corroborative evidence can also ‘add persuasiveness to your lips.’ (Prov. 16:23) At times, it may be necessary to do research and provide additional information. The 93-year-old woman mentioned earlier needed to know why the teaching of an immortal soul (or spirit) is so prevalent. Understanding where that doctrine originated and how it entered most religions of the world was essential to persuade her to accept what the Bible teaches on the subject.*
Continue to Use It Skillfully
18, 19. Why should we continue to wield “the sword of the spirit” skillfully?
18 “The scene of this world is changing,” states the Bible. Wicked men are advancing from bad to worse. (1 Cor. 7:31; 2 Tim. 3:13) So it is vital that we continue to overturn “strongly entrenched things” by using “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.”
19 How happy we are to have God’s Word, the Bible, and to use its powerful message to uproot false teachings and reach honesthearted ones! No entrenched thing is stronger than that message. Let us, therefore, put forth earnest effort to wield “the sword of the spirit” skillfully in our God-given work of Kingdom proclamation.
Excellent aids in getting background information about Bible books are the publications “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” Insight on the Scriptures, and such articles as “Jehovah’s Word Is Alive,” in The Watchtower.
See the brochure What Happens to Us When We Die? pages 5-16.
What Did You Learn?
• How powerful is the Word of God?
• How can we ‘handle the word of truth aright’?
• What can the message of the Bible accomplish as to “strongly entrenched things”?
• How can you improve your persuasiveness in the ministry?
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How to Use God’s Word With Persuasion
▪ Create respect for the Bible
▪ Explain the Scriptures
▪ Reason convincingly so as to reach the heart
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You must learn to use “the sword of the spirit” effectively