June / July 2016 - Vol. 86

the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God
Our Weapons in Spiritual Warfare.
by Michael Harper

To lead a person to Christ and not to show him how he can be filled with the Holy Spirit is like recruiting someone for the army and not providing him with adequate weapons. If he goes to war unarmed, and unprotected for that matter, he will make little impression on the enemy, and likely as not will finish up a casualty or a prisoner of war. Jesus himself made sure that his disciples did not commence battle until they had been filled  with the Holy Spirit and equipped with spiritual gifts, and He offers the same resources to us.

There are many kinds of weapons in God's armory, and the Christian soldier needs to be acquainted with each of them. There are some that are offensive weapons, others used for defense. Some to neutralize the enemy, others to protect ourselves from his attacks. Paul describes them well in this way:

It is true that I am an ordinary weak human being, but I don't use human plans and methods to win my battles. I use God's mighty weapons, not those made by men, to knock down the devil's strongholds. These weapons can break down every proud argument against God and every wall that can be built to keep men from finding him. With these weapons I can capture rebels and bring them back to God, and change them into men whose heart's desire is obedience to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The Name

No one reading the New Testament can escape the crucial nature of the name of Jesus in every part of it. Let us list some of its uses:
Salvation – "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" Acts 4: 12 (see also 9:21, 10:43 and John 1:12)

Justification – "you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" 1 Corinthians 6: 11

Healing – "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk" Acts 3:6

Preaching – "Philip preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" Acts 8:12 (see also 9:27)

Exorcism – "1 charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her" Acts 16:18 (see also Mark 16:17)

Church discipline – "I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing" 1 Corinthians 5:3-4

Worship – "always and for everything giving thanks in the' name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father" Eph. 5:20

Prayer – "whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that The" Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, 1 will do it" John 14:13-14

The gift of the Holy Spirit – "but the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things..." John 14:26

Persecution – "then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." Acts 5:41 (see also Matthew 5:41, Matthew 24:9 and Acts 9: 16)
It can all be summarized by the words of Paul, "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).

You could not have a more comprehensive injunction than that! The name of Jesus, however, is not to be used as a kind of lucky talisman, and there is nothing magical about the word itself. In Acts 19, as we have already seen, the sons of Sceva tried to use it this way with painful results. But from Pentecost
onwards the name of Jesus figures very prominently in the whole forward movement of the Christian Church.

The name of a person in both the Old and New Testaments means very much more than the word itself. It means the entire person, his attributes, personality and power. We recognize the same in everyday life. A cheque without a signature is only worth the paper it is printed on. It all depends on that name at
the bottom right-hand corner. That signature or name represents that person's financial resources and the part of them which he is prepared to part with. It is as if Jesus left behind Him a cheque book full of blank cheques which He has signed with his name. The believer fills in the amount as the will of God is revealed, and the cheque once presented is met by the inexhaustible riches of Christ. So through the name of Jesus, some believe, others receive the Holy Spirit, others are healed and others are delivered from satanic power. How tragic when we use the cheque book of our own resources and find the cheques are always bouncing! God's cheques, when signed with the name of Jesus, are always honoured.

The name of Jesus is a powerful weapon

When we use the name of Jesus we are recognizing the fact that we are not ministering in our own name or for our own blessing. We are acting as his representatives. When people accept Christ through our witness, or are healed through the laying on of hands, or set free through the ministry of exorcism,
then it is Christ who has ministered. He has met with these people, and we have only been his representatives and means. As we invoke the name of Jesus, we are bringing that person into his presence that He might minister to them. We must also guard jealously the glory and honor of Jesus' name, and see that none is given or received by ourselves.

The name of Jesus is a powerful weapon in our hands, and since we are to do everything in that name it should often be on our lips and in our prayers. We must always use it reverently and discreetly. We must never want to become so familiar with it that we lose the sense of awe and wonder that surrounds it. It
is the name to which one day every knee will bow and every tongue have to confess. We must bow to that name now, and confess it boldly and believingly, and as we pray for others according to their need, let us use it firmly and confidently.

The Word of God

This weapon has already been mentioned in the previous chapter. It is the one offensive weapon referred to in the famous passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. The armor is for protection, but the sword of the Spirit "which is the word of God" is useful for both attack and defense. In Hebrews 4:12 the word of God is again likened to a sword-it is "alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the place where life and spirit, joints and marrow, divide. It sifts the purposes and thoughts of the heart" (NEB).

There is nothing quite like the word of God, proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, for forcing the enemy into the open and revealing the presence of Satan's influence. Martin Luther recognized this, as part of a verse of one of his famous hymns reveals:

And let the prince of ill
Look grim as e'er he will,
He harms us not a whit,
For why?
– his doom is writ;
A word shall quickly slay him.

No doubt too this is the explanation for the experiences of the early Methodists. For when John Wesley and others began to preach in some places, strong people would begin to cry out, sometimes manifesting the symptoms of epilepsy. There is no more powerful combination than that of the Spirit and word of God. When mixed in the right proportions the enemy is sure to be exposed and overthrown.

But the word of God is not only an irritant, it also heals and strengthens. It has been said of preaching that it should "disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed." This aptly describes the ministry of the word. When we are counselling and trying to help people who are oppressed by satanic power, we must know how to apply the word of God not only in diagnosing the cause of the trouble, but also in prescribing the remedy.

Mrs. Jean Darnall has devised a very helpful method in this respect. She calls it "scriptural prescriptions," and like medicine they are to be taken by the patient "three times a day." We simply write out for the one we are trying to help (or for ourselves if we are treating ourselves!) a set of relevant scriptures. It is then suggested that these be read aloud three times, morning, noon and before going to bed. First, they are spoken to God, as witness that He has written
this and so will fulfill it; secondly, to ourselves, as witnessing to the fact that it applies to us and we believe it; and thirdly, to the devil, as Jesus did in the wilderness, so that he has eventually to flee.


Paul regarded this as a weapon as well as part of the Christian armor to protect him from attack (Le., the breastplate of righteousness). In 2 Corinthians 6:6, he refers to "the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left." It seems as if we should be ambidextrous in our spiritual warfare! Ready for
anything! But Paul probably means here "weapons for enemies all round us."

In the context of 2 Corinthians 6, from which this text comes, Paul is defending himself from the misrepresentation and obloquy of his Christian opponents in Corinth, who wanted to exalt others over Paul. His ministry and life had been seriously criticized, and he is at pains to point out the features which could swing the pendulum strongly in the right direction and be the means of drawing millions back to God and his kingdom.

It is not the purpose of this book to give a detailed explanation of these gifts, but to draw attention to the three which are particularly appropriate-"the word of wisdom," "the word of knowledge," and "the discerning of spirits." The first two are often paired together. They are the means of conveying to us inspired understanding of situations and of people's needs.

The best examples of the operation of the gift of the "word of wisdom" can be found in the inspired way in which our Lord answered his hecklers. There were times when many present must have thought it impossible for Him to answer the questions put to Him without falling into the trap that had deliberately been set. "Fetch me a coin" was just such a "word of wisdom," in answer to the awkward question about whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar or not. And we can expect the same help from the Holy Spirit when placed in awkward situations.

To give you a modern example, a minister was facing the danger of division in his church when some of the members were being filled with the Holy Spirit and receiving charismatic gifts. Others in the church resented what was happening. One of them expressed his concern to the minister after a Sunday
service. "It stamps us second-class Christians," he alleged, adding sarcastically, "and they're a queer lot for all that." "Well," said the minister in reply, "perhaps they need it more than you do." It was the perfect answer-a word of wisdom. It pacified an irate church member, who very soon was rejoicing in
the same blessing himself.

Jesus often manifested the companion gift-the word of knowledge. In the days of his life on earth He was given, on many occasions, supernatural pieces of information which proved invaluable to his ministry. He knew, for example, the real need of the woman at the well of Sychar, and that she had been married five times. He knew exactly when "the hour" had come. He "saw" Nathaniel under the fig tree before He had ever met him.

The gift of "discerning of spirits"

And the Holy Spirit gives this gift today. It is particularly useful when trying to help people who have had damaging experiences in early childhood, which they cannot themselves remember and which they may have repressed. A woman was being prayed for, with deep needs affecting her physically as well as spiritually. Suddenly one of those present, who hardly knew her, described a toy pet. Immediately memories came back of a serious deprivation when a small girl of a much loved toy. Healing followed the release of this among other memories during prayer and the laying on of hands. Another example concerns a young man at a conference. In a time of prayer someone shared a vision, which exactly described some of this man's past life, and revealed the basis of fears which had hindered his spiritual development and prevented him from witnessing freely. Later that evening the fear was dealt with and a new release experienced.

Jesus, of course, had this gift of "discerning of spirits" and manifested it on many occasions. It is a gift of discrimination, and indispensable in spiritual warfare. It helps us to distinguish between various possible agencies and to discover the true source and motivation of life and action. Jesus' ability is described as "He knew what was in man" (John 2:25). He was able to interpret human motives and assess the genuineness or otherwise of people's words and actions. He seemed instinctively to recognize hypocrisy on the one hand, and reality on the other. He knew when men had faith, and when they did not;
when they were telling the truth and when they were lying. The "Word made flesh" was able to discern "the thoughts and intents of the heart" as the written word does according to Hebrews 4: 12.

Since Jesus gives us the same commission as He received from the Father, anoints us with the same power, and promises that we will do the same works, it is not surprising when we read in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples were equipped with the same discernment. Peter, for example, recognizes the hypocrisy in Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3), and exposes the wickedness of Simon Magus (Acts 8:30). Paul discerns the spirit of divination in the servant girl (Acts 16: l7f), and so on.

The Holy Spirit desires, through the operation of this gift, to enable Christians to distinguish accurately between what comes from above," and what rises "from below." What comes from God, what comes from man, and what comes from Satan. In any given situation there may be a mixture, but the Holy Spirit will help us to analyze the situation and label the parts correctly.

"Trained by patience to distinguish good from evil"

Although these gifts are part of the' 'spirituals" (pneumalikoi),which means that they are given by the Holy Spirit and are not natural abilities, they will still be manifested in proportion to the spiritual development of the Christian. There is a need, as expressed in Hebrews 5:14, to have our faculties "trained by patience to distinguish good from evil." As with all the other gifts, practice is the surest way to learn. A humble attitude and a readiness to admit failure when it occurs are important factors in the learning process. If one is not able to distinguish clearly at the time, one is often able later to do so in the light of subsequent events. But we should expect to know at the time, and this will be our experience increasingly as time goes on.

There will be some to whom the secrets of this particular area of the kingdom will be revealed in greater degree than to others. This is not necessarily any reflection on either faithfulness or dedication. We need to recognize that there are different ministries in the body of Christ as well as gifts. Just as James in
his epistle discourages people from becoming teachers (James 3: 1), for they are to be judged with greater strictness, so naturally we shrink from the responsibility of this ministry of discernment. However, every Christian needs in some measure this gift, for we are constantly forced by circumstances to require it.

[This excerpt is from Spiritual Warfare: Defeating Satan in the Christian Life, Chapter 8, © 1970 by Michael Harper. The book was originally published in 1970 by Hodder and Stoughton, London, UK and by Logos International, Plainfield, New Jersey, USA. An online version of the book is available from the Harper Foundation at: http://www.harperfoundation.com/books.html]

Michael HarperArchpriest Father Michael Harper (1931-2010) was a world-renown leader in the charismatic renewal movement. He was a minister in the Anglican Church for 40 years. He joined the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1995, and was appointed Archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the UK and Ireland. 

He and his wife Jeanne formed the Fountain Trust in 1964, which organized charismatic conferences all over the world at which he addressed thousands of people. Jeanne co-edited the songbook, Sound of Living Waters, which is still used by many charismatic churches today. Harper also founded Soma (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), which was committed to sharing ministries between the developed and developing world. 

He was involved for many years with the World Council of Churches. He spoke at several Catholic meetings. He met Popes Paul VI, John Paul and John Paul II. 

He also edited Renewal, the longest-established charismatic magazine in the world. He wrote 18 books, including the bestseller Equal and Different, which set out his views on women’s ordination and the gender debate. Colleagues remember him as a man with the ability to build friendships across the Christian traditions. A gentle and humble man, Harper was nevertheless a dynamic speaker and networker, able to draw people in, whatever their background or differences from himself. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne.

Some of his books and articles are available online at: http://www.harperfoundation.com/books.html.
Return to Table of Contents or Archives  • (c) copyright 2016  The Sword of the Spirit