Jerry C. Brewer
“In conversion and sanctification, the Holy Spirit operates on the hearts of men only through the word of God.” A burr under the Calvinistic saddle, that truth can be unwittingly diluted by a misapplication of Ephesians 6:17. The argument is sometimes made that Holy Spirit wields the sword of the Spirit in conversion and sanctification, thus proving the Spirit’s work through the medium of the word. That argument not only fails to prove the proposition, but actually concedes the Calvinist’s position. In his 1938 debate with N. B. Hardeman, Ben M. Bogard made that very argument in his affirmation that the Spirit exerts a direct influence upon man.
“The Spirit works as if there were no word and the word is used as if there were no Spirit. Not separate and apart from each other but together, side by side on the same thing. The gospel is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:15) (sic) and as the sword is distinct from the soldier and the soldier distinct from the sword, yet both soldier and sword work together to slay the enemy, even so the Spirit and the word work together to save the soul.” (Ben M. Bogard, 2nd Affirmative, “The Work of The Holy Spirit, Hardeman-Bogard Debate, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 1938, p. 31).
Those today who say the Holy Spirit wields the sword make the same fundamentally flawed argument. In the context of Ephesians 6:17, Paul delineates the defensive and offensive items of spiritual warfare to be utilized by the Christian soldier. The truth is girt about his loins, he wears the breastplate of righteousness, is shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, holds the shield of faith, wears the helmet of salvation and wields the sword of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit wears none of the armor, nor does He wield the sword. Foy E. Wallace, Jr. wrote,
“It is said that the Word is the sword that the Holy Spirit uses. Rather, the Word of God is the sword that the Holy Spirit forged for us to use. The Spirit does not wield the sword—we ourselves wield it, and if we do not wield it, then it will not be wielded. If the Holy Spirit performs some direct operation in wielding the sword, the action and method should be subject to definition and description, and demonstration… As the smith forges instruments and weapons, the Holy Spirit by inspiration in the apostles of Christ forged the sword of the Word for us to wield.” (Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Mission and Medium of The Holy Spirit, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, 1967, p. 85).
If the Spirit wields the sword, advocates of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit are correct in their assertions and Bogard was right in his debate with Hardeman. But they argue from a faulty premise. The Holy Spirit does not wield the sword any more than God wears the “whole armor of God.” (Eph. 6:11). The “armor of God” is the armor God provides and the “sword of the Spirit” is the sword the Holy Spirit forged. If the “sword of the Spirit” means the Spirit wields and uses the sword, then the “armor of God” means God wears the armor as a defensive measure. If not, why not?