The Sword of the Spirit

As Paul brought his letter to the church in Ephesus to a close, he spoke of the armor of God in Eph. 6:10-17.  When one looks at this discussion it is immediately evident that every piece of armor in Paul’s list is defensive in nature, except the final one.  The lone offensive element in the armor of God is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17).  This imagery is present in both the Old and the New Testaments and is consistently used in reference to God’s word.

It is significant that Christians only have one offensive weapon at their disposal.  It is even more significant that this one offensive weapon is so precisely defined.  This suggests, first of all, that the Lord did not intend for Christians to be overly focused on winning victories, as it were.  Humans tend to be competitive and combative enough as it is, without giving them multiple ways in which to go to war with one another.  We are to take the offensive against the forces of evil, certainly, but our armory contains a single weapon, which must be wielded carefully.

The fact that our sole offensive weapon is the word of God is a limiting factor in our struggle against evil.  However, this does not suggest that God’s word is of limited power.  Rather, it suggests that we can only use it to accomplish what God intends for it to accomplish.  Speaking of His word in Isa. 55:11, God said, “It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”  Therefore, we may only use the sword of the Spirit to accomplish what God desires.  To do otherwise is a misuse of this weapon.

There is another reason why our one offensive weapon is defined so narrowly.  It is because our victory in the struggle against the spiritual forces of darkness will be won by God Himself, not by us.  This principle goes back to the time of the judge Gideon.  When God reduced Gideon’s army to 300 men, He did it so Israel would not be able to boast that they had, by their own power, destroyed Midian (Jdg. 7:2).  It is demonstrated again in Revelation, where the Lord Jesus is portrayed as having a two-edged sword in His mouth with which He makes war against the enemies of God (Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15).  The victories in both cases can only be attributed to the power of God’s word.

Lest anyone should doubt the power of the sword of the Spirit, God’s word is clear on what it is capable of doing.  In Heb. 4:12 the scripture says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  When Christians take up the sword of the Spirit, they hold in their hands all the power they will need in the struggle against evil.

This, then, is why the scriptures exhort and admonish us to know God’s word.  Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Just like soldiers in a physical army train incessantly in how to use their weapons of war, we who are soldiers in God’s army must conscientiously train with the sword of the Spirit in order to wield it accurately in the Lord’s service.  May each of us who professes faith in Jesus Christ become experts in the use of God’s word, which is the sword of the Spirit.