Marriage and Spiritual Warfare, Part 7
“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” Eph. 6:17b
You have heard it said that when in danger it is either “fight or flight.” Sometimes getting away from danger is the best option for our safety (Prov. 27:12). But in marriage, flight it is not an option. When our marriages are in danger there is only one option: fight! There are times when it seems that fighting for our marriage is a must, or else it will just wither and die. Sometimes a spouse may wander, spiritually or morally. It is time to fight. Sometimes my own heart may be cold. It is time to fight. On occasion, it may simply feel like things are falling apart, with no discernable cause. It is time to fight. One spouse may sin grievously against the other. It is time to fight. In marriage, when Satan rages, when the darts are flying, when it seems that the health of a marriage is giving way to disease, the foundation is crumbling, sin has infiltrated, it is time to fight. Yes, we must use all the defensive armor provided for us and use it conscientiously. But we must also take the fight to the enemy. When a marriage is in danger, retreat is not an option.
How do I fight for my marriage? I am not called to fight my spouse. I am called to fight my sin. I am called to fight the devil. I am called to fight for that which is worth fighting for. Fighting in marriage should be avoided at all costs. Fighting for marriage should be fully engaged at all costs.
Paul says we are to “take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” The kind of sword mentioned here is a machaira, which was a short, double-edged sword or dagger, used in close quarter fighting. Of course, all warfare that included swords was close quarter, but the use of this sword was for very close combat. The sword is both defensive and offensive. Paul identifies the sword of the Spirit as “the Word of God.” This is the same way it is used in Heb. 4:12. The OT background is Isa. 11:4 and Isa. 49:2. This sword is the Warrior-King’s words of salvation and judgment. This sword, in Eph. 6:17b, belongs to the Spirit, it is His effective powerful weapon. The Spirit enables the Christian to wield the Word of God like a sword in battle.
Another interesting observation is that the sword of the Spirit is the “word (rhema) of God.” In this context, it may refer to the Word as it is spoken. Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes, “He means our ability to select and to use the appropriate word or passage as any given point.” This Word is hidden in our heart (Psa. 119:11; 1 John 2:14). This Word is at work in us (1 Thess. 2:13). This is the Word I need to use when I am fighting for my marriage.
How do I use the sword of the Spirit to fight for my marriage? I need to use it to build up my spouse and myself. We are called to build each other up (1 Thess. 5:11). Satan is trying to tear us down. We need to be building each other up. Using the sword of the Spirit in our marriage means that we read the Word together, talk about what we read, talk about what we hear preached. This is preventative, and wholly necessary. Satan wants to destroy my faith, my spouse’s faith. The fight of faith is a real fight, and we need to be strong in the Word together!
I must use the sword of the Spirit in my own fight against sin and temptation. I need to be fighting against the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). I need to fight against the passing pleasures of sins (Heb. 11:26). I need to use the Word of God specifically in my own fight. The best thing I can do for my marriage is fight my own sins with the promises and threats of God’s Word.
John Piper notes, “Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God. No one sins out of duty. We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness. That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself (Psa. 63:3). Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s. All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without Him” (Piper, Future Grace, 9-10).
I must use the sword of the Spirit in my spouse’s life, when he/she is discouraged, depressed, bitter, angry, wayward, confused. I must pray the Word for my spouse. I must try to minister the Word to my spouse. It is not always easy, and they may not always want to hear it, but it is the primary weapon we have to fight for our marriages. If we go for help or counsel, we need to make sure it is biblical help. A counselor who is not a skilled swordsman is only of limited value. I need the sword to penetrate my heart, wound and heal. My spouse needs that.
When I am trying to minister the Word to my spouse two final points need to be made. First, if we are using the Bible like a 9-1-1 call (in the case of emergency only) then it will be unnatural and forced. If the Word of God is a regular part of our marriage, there will be something natural to sharing the Word in times of danger. The second point is to learn the specific texts, promises and threats, that are relevant to any given situation. When those texts are used, in love and by the power of the Spirit, they have the capacity for great usefulness. If a spouse feels burdened, know what texts to use. If a spouse feels discouraged or fearful, know the texts to use. If a spouse is being sinful, know what texts to use. Pray those texts. Read those texts. Share those texts, in a context of love and humility. This is how we use the sword of the Spirit to fight for our marriages.