Sword of the Spirit
“…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” –Ephesians 6:17b
The character of our armor is the same as the nature of Christ. The Christian soldier is to put on the belt of truth and Christ is the Truth (John 14:6). He is our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and we put on the breastplate of righteousness. He is our peace (Eph. 2:14) and our feet our to be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. As soldiers of Christ we are to have a shield of faith while Christ is our faith (Gal. 2:20). Christ is our Savior and our salvation (Luke 2:30) and from Him we are to receive the helmet of salvation. Finally, we are to receive from God the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and Christ is the Word (John 1:1,14). No wonder Christians are called upon to put on “the whole armor of God.”
The Roman Soldier’s Sword
All the other pieces of armor mentioned in Ephesians six have been of a defensive nature. Now we come to the only offensive weapon. However, the Romans used their sword for both protection as well as for attack. The fact that Paul uses the word for the short sword (Greek, macharia) rather than the long sword suggests hand-to-hand combat. This sword was about a foot and a half long and dual edged. It was so proximately associated with the Roman army and their success, that they were called “short swords.” It was this short sword which was used by Peter in his futile attempt to defend Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night He was betrayed by Judas and then arrested (Matt. 26:47). It was also the same sword the soldiers carried who came to arrest Him (Matt. 26:47). It was this type of sword which was used to put the apostles James to death (Acts 12:2).
The Christian Soldier’s Sword
“Of the Spirit”
The Christian is to receive the sword of the Spirit. Is it “the sword which consist of the Spirit, or the sword which the Spirit provides?” (Mitton 227). It is not the Spirit itself but the Spirit is the source of the sword. The sword is not the product of mere men but is the result of penmen or prophets as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Peter wrote, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Bible is the Holy Spirit revealed Word of God. Because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is perfect and flawless.
The phrase “of the spirit” in Greek is translated “spiritual” in Ephesians 1:3; 5:19. Therefore Paul could be describing the spiritual nature of the sword as opposed to the carnal sword. All our weapons are spiritual.
“The Word of God”
The sword is the “Word of God” or the Bible. Why or how is the Bible a sword. This is best answered in Hebrews 4:12: “for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The Hebrew writer gives four different characteristics of this spiritual sword which separates it from a the actual Roman sword. First, it is a “living” sword. The sword is alive. The Bible is the most unique book in the world. It is “God-breathed” or inspired, because is come from the very mouth of God. When the Bible is read, God is speaking to the reader. Furthermore, the Bible is always relevant. It is not some dead and out dated ancient writing. The relevance of the Bible never fades away with the passing of time. It is applicable for all generations of all peoples throughout all the ages. This Book is been on the cutting edge for thousands of years.
Next, the Bible is powerful. The Greek term for “powerful” is energes from which the English terms “energy” and “energetic” is derived. The term is used to refer to the potency of a venomous snakebite. The Word of God is powerful in that it has the power to create. God said “let there be light and there was light.” God spoke the universe into existence. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Christ could at a word heal lepers restoring their missing flesh. God’s Word has the power to effect or accomplish whatever is spoken. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Only the Words of God have the power to save. Paul told the Romans, “for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Christ could verbally declare that one’s sin have been forgiven. Additionally, the Bible has the power to transform. Charles Swindoll comments, “news articles may inform us. Novels may inspire us. Poetry may enrapture us. But only the living, active Word of God can transform us.” Remember, the Bible was not given just for our information but for our transformation.
Third, the Word of God is penetrating. It is from the Greek term diikneomai meaning “to go through.” The Bible as it is read does a living spiritual autopsy upon the reader. The term refers to the dissection or division of parts of a body. The proverbial expression “joints and marrow” are used to indicate the Roman sword’s penetrating power. It could cut right through the bone. The word penetrates to the inmost recesses of our spiritual being by “dividing soul and spirit.” When the sinner hears the Word of God it will convict or prick their conscience as Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36). On the other hand, the hearing of the Word of God could cut through and wound. This was the result of Stephen’s preaching before the Sanhedrin. “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54)
Finally, the Word of God is “discerning.” The term discern is from the Greek kriticos from which comes the English terms “critic” or “criticize.” The Word of God “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Just as the God sees every thought of man, His book can read the mind of the reader. Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe, German poet and dramatist, said, “I read all kinds of books, including sacred books, but the Bible stands alone because it reads me” The Word of God sits in judgment on all the activity of the soul and spirit.
“Weapon training was most important. The intelligent use of the sword is mentioned particularly in a surviving Roman training manual. The method taught was to thrust, rather than to slash at an opponent; for a slash-cut rarely kills, but a thrust makes a deep penetration of the vital organs” (Michael Simkins, Warriors Of Rome, p. 28). In the hands of an unskilled novice there is the danger that one could seriously harm themselves with the sharp two-edged sword. Every good swordsman knows that proper training is a must. Someone skilled in the use of the sword needs to instruct the trainee: “Here is your weapon. Put the pointy end in the enemy and not in your tummy.” Swordsmanship must constantly and diligently be worked at (2 Tim. 2:15). A soldier is never wasting his time just while sharpening his sword. Paul told Timothy to give himself to “reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13). The Christian trains with the sword of the spirit by reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and sharing the Word of God. In contrast to the literal Roman sword, the more you use the Word of God the sharper it becomes in your mind while the more the Roman sword was used the duller it became. The better you know the Word of God, the easier it will be for you to detect Satan’s lies and reject his offers.
Learning from the Master Swordsman
The Bible is filled with stories of the great swordsmen of God’s Word. However, none are greater than that of Jesus Christ. After His baptism He was alone in the wilderness, but not for long. Satan came and tempted Christ. He may have been without food, but He was by no means defenseless. Satan attacks Jesus at His weakest point. “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3). Jesus blocks this attack by using His sword quoting from the book of Deuteronomy. He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4). The Devil does not give up easily. He takes Jesus “up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours” (Luke 4:5-7). Jesus is offered a chance to switch sides, but instead He “said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve”’” (Luke 4:8). Satan picks a different battleground. He sets Jesus on the pinnacle of the temple and tempts Him by quoting scripture from Psalm 91:11-12. “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone’ ”(Luke 4:9-11). Jesus does not fall for this trick sword play, He again quotes from the book of Deuteronomy. “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Luke 4:12). With this Satan’s final thrust being block by the Master Swordsmen he retreats but only to wait for a more opportune time to renew his attacks. Christ will be ready.
Do you think of scriptures when faced with temptation? If your soul depended upon our understanding of the book of Deuteronomy, how many times would you fall victim to the Devil?
At last the Christian soldier is dressed to kill. Attached to the belt of Truth is the sword of the Spirit. Satan has nothing in his scabbard or quiver which can match the armor of God. Only a feeble imitation and misrepresentation. Soldiers of Christ, arise and put your armor on.