Disarming the Saints: The Bible as Defective Weaponry
©2008 Brandon Staggs
In Ephesians 6, the Bible calls itself "the sword of the Spirit." Believers are told to take "the whole armour of God" so that we "may be able to withstand in the evil day." Scripture is hereby likened to a weapon, and we are therefore expected to wield it. 2 Corinthians 10:4 makes it clear that we as followers of Christ are in a state of warfare. As believers, we are furnished by God with a variety of armaments with which to fight our battles. Since God has given us the ultimate offensive weapon, his word, it is to be used, not ignored or shunned.
Further, it is imperative that the believer trust his weaponry. No soldier wishes to go to battle with defective or unreliable armaments, and in the case of we saints, our God has not demanded of us that we fight battles with tools in a state of disrepair.
Knowing this, Satan has fought his side of the battle in part by attacking God's word itself, and by convincing believers that they can not, and should not, rely upon it.
The Power of Scripture for the Believer
Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we read that we are to actively resist "every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God" and that we are to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." How are we to do this, though? How do we take our thoughts captive and maintain obedience? The Bible tells us:
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
It is through God's word that our thoughts are discerened. It is also knowledge of Scripture that prevents error:
Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Scripture is our source of knowledge of doctrine and righteousness; our means of reproof and correction:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Many Christians believe that they will stay away from error simply through prayer and influence of the Holy Spirit. And yet in denying the power of God's word, and refusing to rely on it, they reject the very means God has given them to avoid error. Is it any wonder that the Lord said:
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
The Power of Scripture Against Satan
We see the power of Scripture in the temptation of Jesus Christ by Satan:
Matthew 4:1-11 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Three times Satan tempted the Lord, and three times the Creator of the universe (John 1:3), who had the power to simply strike Satan out of all existence, answered: it is written. Let this sink in. Consider that your God in the flesh, while being tempted by the Devil himself, used the sword of the spirit as his rebuke! If Scripture is the weapon of choice for Christ, how dare anyone who claims to follow Christ assume a greater weapon is at our disposal.
Satan's Attack on God's Word: Yea, Hath God Said?
Satan knows the power of God's word. In the temptation of Christ, we saw Satan twist Scripture to his own ends. Satan's attack on the words of God is as old as Man:
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
From the very beginning, Satan has cast doubt on God's word in man, and then moving from doubt to outright denial:
Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
We see in Eve's deception that Satan's attack on God's word begins with a seed of doubt, and then grows into open denial of God's promises. Any such form of attack on God's word, beginning with "Yea, hath God said," must be instantly and completely rejected.
The Threat from Within: Manufacturing Defective Weaponry
2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
Satan's outward attack on God's word is not enough for him. His battle against truth continues:
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
Scoffing Scholars and Dull Swords: a Seed of Unbelief
As we saw in the temptation of Christ, "it is written" is the ultimate rebuke against temptation and error. Remember that the Bible likens Scripture to a sword, which is a weapon used both offensively and defensively. In our protracted spiritual warfare, we must take on the armor God has promised us -- we have no right to request otherwise, and will have no excuse if we ignore the Sword at our disposal.
Recall Satan's method of planting the seed of doubt in Eve: "yea, hath God said?" And now consider how modern scholarship has planted seeds of doubt in believers about the trustworthiness of God's words, in effect doing Satan's bidding and asking, "yea, hath God said?"
Example: The deity of Jesus Christ
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Have you ever been asked by someone caught up in a cult about the deity of Christ? Where do you turn to to answer? Can you say "it is written?" The above scripture quotation is taken from the King James Bible and it leaves no doubt whatsoever about the deity of Christ. It is written: God was manifest in the flesh!
But what of the "other swords" Christians may use?
- And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. (NASB)
- Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (NIV)
Much has been written about the reading of this verse, but the point here is that the reading "he who" does not provide for an authoritative "it is written" rebuke. Just "who" is he? The scholars say that you can go to another verse or footnote to deduce who "he" is, and that may well be the case2. But those scholars have given you a dull sword: the one God has given us answers with one swift slash, while the others require thrusts upon thrusts to deliver a similar blow.
Example: The Triune Nature of God
1 John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
Notice the powerfully decisive text of the King James Bible. In one verse, the very nature of God as a triune being is disclosed clearly. This is the most clear statement of the Trinity in the entire Bible. It is the only verse that mentions all three persons of the Godhead as being one. It should come as no surprise that the true reading of this verse has been viciously and ruthlessly under attack since the book of 1st John was written3. But what of the modern "swords?"
- And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth. (NASB)
- For there are three that testify: (NIV)
These modern swords, when it comes to the Trinity, are rusty and dull.
Instead of boldly proclaiming "it is written," mounds of commentators have sheathed their swords with comments like these:
"It would be much easier to prove the doctrine of the Trinity from other texts, than to demonstrate the genuineness of this." --Albert Barnes
"Though a conscientious believer in the doctrine of the ever blessed, holy, and undivided Trinity, and in the proper and essential Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, which doctrines I have defended by many, and even new, arguments in the course of this work, I cannot help doubting the authenticity of the text in question..." --Adam Clarke
"It is generally agreed that v.7 has no real authority, and has been inserted." --C. I. Scofield
All three of the above commentators have generally good teachings in their writings, but they have all fallen prey to Satan's attack on the veracity of Scripture in this instance. Contrast the unbelieving tone of the above statements with these bold writings:
"an express testimony of the triune Deity, by whatsoever carelessness or ill design left out of some copies, but sufficiently demonstrated by many most ancient ones" --Matthew Poole
"That there are three persons, yet but one God, that do bear witness to the divinity of Christ, and of the plenteous redemption wrought by him" --William Burkitt
"...which is to be understood, not only of their unity and agreement in their testimony, they testifying of the same thing, the sonship of Christ; but of their unity in essence or nature, they being the one God. So that, this passage holds forth and asserts the unity of God, a trinity of persons in the Godhead, the proper deity of each person, and their distinct personality, the unity of essence in that they are one; a trinity of persons in that they are three, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and are neither more nor fewer; the deity of each person, for otherwise their testimony would not be the testimony of God..." --John Gill
Mighty in the Scriptures or Just Disarmed?
Apollos was "mighty in the scriptures." (Acts 18:24). One can scarcely imagine Apollos afraid to use the sword God gave him because a scholar claimed it wasn't trustworthy. He "spoke boldly" (verse 18:26), and once he had the way of God expounded to him more perfectly, "he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." (verse 28)
The critic will argue that there are no doctrines missing from modern versions, and that even when one verse is weaker than in the KJV, the whole of the doctrine can be found elsewhere. But this attitude towards God's word is not Scriptural. Modern scholarship cannot deny that its teachings are often started with "yea, hath God said?" When their new versions of the Bible contain footnotes telling the reader that the "oldest and best" manuscripts do not contain the last twelve verses of mark, or that 1st John 5:7 does not belong in the Bible, what is it except a seed of doubt? We have seen that this method of questioning what God said is Satan's method for growing outright rebellion against God, as in the case of Eve's deception. It is also clear that Satan wishes Christians to be ineffective warriors, and has been at work deceiving many into accepting defective weaponry. It is Satan's goal to dull our sword, making us unwilling to trust it and wield it boldly.
Claiming that every doctrine is in there somewhere, each time something is weakened or deleted from the Bible, is not being "mighty in the scriptures." Instead of clinging to a rusty, dull sword, boldly wield the complete and sharp sword of the Spirit: the King James Bible.
1 Indeed, James White claims that the weaker reading is unimportant because the NIV and NASB include the stronger reading in the margin. (The King James Only Controversy, James R. White, Bethany House Publishers, 1995, p. 207) The question is why the seed of doubt should be allowed to be planted by contradicting the text in footnotes, and how long it will be before the footnote is removed entirely.
2 See http://av1611.com/kjbp/faq/holland_1jo5_7.html, excerpted from Crowned With Glory, Dr. Thomas Holland, Writers Club Press, 2000, pp. 163-168. See also John Reynolds' comments on this verse (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 6).