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The B-I-B-L-E and the Sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17 by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Dec 5, 2023


The B-I-B-L-E

I came into this world on October 31, 1956, at Saint Luke’s Hospital in the quaint town of Bluefield, nestled within the hills of West Virginia. My family hailed from a long line of coal miners, their lives deeply intertwined with the rugged terrain of Gary, West Virginia. In the search for a brighter future, my parents made a pivotal decision in 1958, one that would change the course of our lives forever. They uprooted us from the coal fields and set our sights on a new horizon, the bustling inner-city neighborhood of Chicago known as Uptown. As the years rolled by, 1963 found us making yet another move, this time to the sprawling cornfields of Northwest Indiana.


Ours was not a particularly religious household, with the occasional obligatory visit to the church on Easter and Christmas being the extent of our spiritual endeavors. My childhood, for the most part, exists in a blur of hazy memories, where days were filled with games of ball with friends, fort-building adventures, exhilarating races on our bikes with banana seats, and quenching our thirst straight from the garden hose. We roamed freely, only returning home just before darkness blanketed the world.


However, one summer, my family made a different decision. It was time for me to hop aboard the church van and embark on a journey to Vacation Bible School. Amid the days spent there, three distinct memories stand out. First, there was Mrs. Perry, a warm and welcoming soul who greeted me with a smile every morning as I crossed the threshold of the church. Second, I remember crafting a wooden contraption adorned with brass hooks, designed to hold keys. Lastly, there was a song that reverberates in my memory to this day – "The B-I-B-L-E."


We were each handed a Bible, and when the time came to sing this special song, our teacher would instruct us to “Stand and lift your swords high in the sky.”


The B-I-B-L-E

Yes, that's the book for me

I stand upon the Word of God

The B-I-B-L-E


I do not want to mess with your childhood theology but the “sword” the Apostle Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:17 is not just The B-I-B-L-E. Revelation can come from many places.


The Sword – Only Defensive Weapon

The Gladius sword was the trusted weapon of the individual Roman soldier on the battlefield. In the Book of Ephesians, Paul discusses six pieces of armor, drawing parallels between our spiritual armor and the tangible gear we carry into battle. Among these items, the sword occupies a special place, it is the only offensive weapon that Paul mentions.


History of the Gladius

During the first century of the Roman Empire, various types of swords were wielded by soldiers, gladiators in the arena, and even civilians. However, the most prevalent sword was the Gladius, particularly the Gladius Hispaniensis, often referred to as the Spanish Sword. There is debate surrounding its origins, but the prevailing belief is that Romans adopted this weapon from the Iberian mercenaries who fought alongside Carthage during the Punic Wars.


The Gladius was a remarkable weapon in its own right, characterized by its compact and deadly design. It measured no more than three feet in total length, with a blade spanning roughly two and a quarter feet. Forged from steel, it featured handles crafted from various metals or wood.


There existed three primary types of Gladius swords, named after the regions where they were initially discovered: Mainz in Germany, Fulham in Britain, and Pompeii in Italy, with the latter being the most common variant. This weapon wasn't limited to military use; it was also the favored choice of gladiators in the arena. Its prominence endured until the latter part of the first century AD when it gradually gave way to the Spatha sword. (1)


Military Use of the Sword

The Gladius featured a distinctive design characterized by a short double-edged blade that tapered toward the center before widening and terminating in a prominent point. This unique design facilitated the execution of both cutting and thrusting techniques. Amidst the chaos of battle, legionaries frequently employed their scutum shields, securely held in their left hands, as formidable defensive bulwarks against the onslaught of enemy spears and sword strikes.


With the protective cover of the scutum in place, the Gladius was deftly maneuvered by skilled warriors to deliver slashing or stabbing blows, strategically targeting vulnerable areas such as the abdomen, groin, knees, arms, and neck. (2)

What truly endowed the Gladius with its remarkable versatility was its double-edged blade, affording Roman soldiers the capability to employ an array of slashing techniques. While these strikes did not invariably result in fatal injuries, they adeptly set the stage for lethal thrusts. The pointed tip of the Gladius stood as the favored option for executing deep thrusts, showcasing its effectiveness in breaching various types of armor. Soldiers executed these thrusts with straight arms, thereby minimizing their vulnerability during the attack, effectively safeguarding their arms and flanks. (3)


To ensure the Gladius remained securely housed, it was encased within a scabbard meticulously crafted from wood covered in leather, forming a sheath that enveloped the entire length of the blade. Metal fittings were incorporated into the scabbard's design, enhancing its overall durability, and it was suspended from the waist, perpetually within easy reach.


The Spiritual Origin of the Sword

Paul uses the Greek word rhema not logos for the English word translated as “Word.” As a spiritual analogy, Paul informs the Ephesians the blacksmith of the sword he speaks of is not from Mainz in Germany, Fulham in Britain, nor Pompeii in Italy, but the “sword (μάχαιραν - machairan) of the Spirit (τοῦ πνεύματος - tou pneumatos - genitive of origin), which is the Word (ῥῆμα - rhema) of God (θεοῦ - Theos).”


Rhema vs Logos

Evangelical and Charismatic Christians differ in their interpretations of what the Greek word Rhema means. In general, Evangelicals do not make a distinction between logos and rhema. However, many Charismatics would interpret Rhema as those times when either through reading the Bible, listening to a sermon, singing a hymn, or some other means, God communicates personally to that person through the Holy Spirit. (4) W.E. Vines offers this understanding of the Greek word Rhema. (5)


The significance of Rhema (as distinct from logos) is exemplified in the injunction to take "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," Ephesians 6:17; here the reference is not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture.


Practical Application

Rhema’s source is the Holy Spirit, and this “word” is a specific insight, revelation, or instruction, given to an individual personally to speak to their specific situation when fighting the “schemes of the devil (6:11). This does not mean we should believe everything someone tells us when they say, “The Lord told me . . .” All revelation whether personal or corporate must be in line with the Bible (Logos).

Remember, the Gladius sword was used in close, hand-to-hand combat. No other weapon would work at close quarters. In times of spiritual distress maintaining our spiritual disciples such as Bible reading, attending services, and seeking Godly counsel, all are avenues God can use to provide us courage and strength. He will speak to your heart in the heat of the conflict. Do not forget the secret weapon of prayer found in verse eighteen. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”


When you are in a spiritual struggle needing assurance from God he may use a sermon, Bible verse, or a conversation to speak to you about a specific situation in your life. He may reveal something to you in your prayer time that is just for you


A Rhema Word to Terry?

For those of you who are regular readers of my blogs, you're likely aware of my frequent travels back and forth to Lebanon, Tennessee. These journeys have all been part of our ongoing preparations to construct the life-sized Tabernacle of Moses. As of now, we've received requests from approximately 5,100 individuals who are eager to secure free tickets for touring the Tabernacle between September 30 and October 1, 2023.


While spending my time in Lebanon, a kind-hearted person arranged for me to stay in a rustic cabin. This quaint retreat has provided me with a wonderful opportunity for study and prayer, offering a serene respite amidst the bustling preparations for the Tabernacle's grand display.

Notably, a local family residing just up the road from the cabin displayed exceptional Southern Hospitality. They've been making early morning visits to leave me care packages filled with warm oatmeal, fresh fruits, dates, and various other treats, embodying the warm and generous spirit of the people of Lebanon.


One evening, on September 6th, after wrapping up our work at the warehouse where we diligently cleaned and repaired the Tabernacle, I decided to grab dinner at the nearby Shoney's restaurant, conveniently located just off I-40. I parked my truck in a shaded spot within the restaurant's parking lot, adjacent to the side of a gas station. Against the gas station wall, I noticed a slender, tanned man with his head down. It seemed as though he was seeking refuge from the midday heat under the shade of a nearby tree. What struck me was that several passersby walked past him without offering any assistance, and a thought crossed my mind: "You should help him get something to eat."


I took a moment in my truck to gather my thoughts and say a prayer. I prayed for each of the volunteers who had generously contributed their time, talents, and resources for our upcoming Tabernacle tours. I also expressed gratitude to the Lord for providing me with a comfortable place to stay and for the meal I was about to enjoy.


Flashback to a Fort Lauderdale Dumpster

As I exited my truck and headed towards the entrance of Shoney's, my mind was suddenly flooded with a vivid memory from my past, one that dated back almost fifty years, to sometime between 1972 and 1973. At that time, I was a teenager who had run away from home. I hitchhiked my way down Interstate I-65 to Birmingham, Alabama, eventually making my way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had very little money, and most of it was squandered on youthful folly. I slept wherever I could hide without drawing the attention of the police or anyone who might pose a threat.


During this challenging period, I met a young man around my age who introduced me to some survival tactics. Not far from the coastal strip, there was a small restaurant that saw a bustling lunch crowd each day. My new companion had struck up a friendship with the restaurant's busboy. When the lunch rush subsided, there was always an abundance of leftover food that would otherwise go to waste in the dumpster. As long as we kept our distance from the back entrance, the busboy would allow us to salvage the discarded food. At the time, I never gave it much thought, other than being grateful for the free sustenance it provided.


Meeting Carl the Homeless Gentleman

That dumpster scene suddenly flashed before my eyes. I halted in my tracks, turned around, and approached the homeless man who was seated against the wall of the gas station. With a friendly introduction, I told him that I had noticed him sitting there and felt he could use a friend. I extended a twenty-dollar bill to him.


He initially declined, saying he was "okay." He introduced himself as Carl and mentioned that he had been "on the road for a while." I shared with him the reason for my presence in Lebanon, explaining that I was about to have a meal and had thought of him. Once again, I offered him the twenty-dollar bill. He hesitated, asking, "Are you sure you can spare it? That's a lot of money." I assured him that I was in a good position to help, and my sole intention was to assist. We exchanged goodbyes, and I turned to head to the buffet. It was Wednesday, which meant seniors enjoyed a discount, which brought a bit of humor to the situation.


I must confess that my work with individuals battling substance abuse had my mind whispering, "He's just going to use the money for alcohol. You should have kept the money."


Yet, my heart echoed the scripture, "I was hungry, and you fed me."


After finishing my meal and returning to my truck, I found Carl seated against the wall, savoring a large bottle of cold water and a gas station hot dog.


I couldn't help but wonder: was the thought that had prompted me to help him get something to eat a divine message, a Rhema? Was my flashback to the days of receiving discarded food by the dumpster in Fort Lauderdale a Rhema or merely a triggered memory? Was it because I had just finished praying that my memory had resurfaced? Or was the scripture verse from Matthew 25 that came to mind a logos or a Rhema? Was the thought, "He's just going to use the money for alcohol. You should have kept the money," part of the enemy's ploy to deter me from following my heart's prompting? Or could the entire incident be what my psychologist friends refer to as "Magical Thinking"? I leave it to you to judge. Irrespective of the reasoning behind it, I'm grateful that I followed my instincts.


Coincidence or Confirmation

The following day, as I checked my emails, I noticed a message in the PayPal account associated with the ministry of the Tabernacle Man. It was a donation of $200 from someone in Winter Garden, Florida. It caught my attention because such donations were rare, and $200 was a substantial sum. I reached out to the kind lady who had donated. In her email, she expressed, "I am so blessed by your videos on Leviticus," referring to the five Levitical offerings. Coincidence or confirmation that I did the right thing helping Carl? I leave it to you to judge.


References

(1) "Swords of the Roman Empire | World History.", accessed 21 September 2023.

(2) "Ancient Roman Swords – Ancient-Rome.info.", accessed 22 September 2023.

(3) "Why Is The Roman Gladius Such An Iconic Weapon?" HistoryNet.com. , accessed 20 September

2023.

(4) "What Is the Rhema Word?" Christianity.com., accessed 21 September 2023.

(5) "Word - Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words." StudyBible.info., accessed 21

September 2023.

(6) “Roman Soldiers” picture adapted from Sentex64, Flickr, 2009. Creative Commons.


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