“And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)
The pieces of armor we’ve put on so far have all been defensive, but the sword of the Spirit is both a defensive piece of armor and an offensive weapon. The classic example of the use of God’s word as a defensive weapon was given by Jesus when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. As recorded in chapter 4 of both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels, Jesus repeatedly used the Scriptures to parry Satan’s attacks, beginning with: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” Satan himself even used Scripture in trying to trick Jesus into sin, but our Lord recognized the enemy’s misuse of God’s word. Thus, Jesus not only gave us the example of how to use our sword effectively in defense against Satan’s snares, but He also demonstrated how important it is to be thoroughly familiar with God’s word. After all, Satan has been attacking and twisting God’s words since the Garden of Eden, so a mere superficial knowledge about the Bible will not be a sufficient defense. We need to diligently, consistently, and prayerfully read and study the Bible – not just favorite stories or passages, but the whole counsel of God, comparing scripture with scripture. As we do this, the Holy Spirit will give us the insight and understanding to make the Scriptures ‘come alive’ to us; that is, they will become meaningful in our everyday lives and situations. Then, when we’re faced with temptation or stressed in a trial, our sword will be readily available, for Jesus promised: “the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
But just hearing and knowing God’s word won’t always ‘cut’ it, for Paul tells us that: “not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified.” (Romans 2:13) And James exhorts: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22) In other words, we must practice with our sword, not just have it to look at! Therefore, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who needs not be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15) We ‘practice’ with our ‘sword’ by applying it in our lives; we ‘handle’ God’s word by LIVING it.
Paul’s analogy of a sword in Ephesians 6 pictures the short, double-edged weapon that the highly trained Roman soldiers used to conquer the world, and Hebrews 4:12 states that “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.” There’s nothing superficial or superfluous about God’s word! It cuts to the heart of every matter, and directly addresses the issues of life, both temporal and eternal. 2nd Timothy 3:16,17 tells us: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” In other words, the sword (God’s word) is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being, but this offensive weapon will also make us offensive to those who love darkness and reject the truth, for as Jesus said: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them”. (John 17:14)
It is interesting to note that the Greek term used in Ephesians 6:17 for “word” is not the familiar “logos” of John 1:1, but “rhema”, which means “utterance” and carries the connotation of breaking silence. It is difficult for us to comprehend the power behind God’s word. Consider though that the Genesis account of Creation chronicles how God SPOKE the universe into existence. The physical, material, temporal world we live in came into being from the spiritual realm through the utterance of God’s voice breaking the silence of eternity past. As Jesus explained: “It is the Spirit who gives life;…the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63; again the “word” is “rhema”.)
Not only is God’s word powerful for the creation of all life, but it is also necessary to the continued existence of life. Hebrews 1:3 points out that Jesus “upholds all things by the word [rhema] of His power”. Also, God’s word is eternal. Isaiah 40:8 informs us that the “grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever”; and Jesus stated: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) This is so because, as explained in John 1:1,14, Jesus is the Word. Furthermore, in Revelation 19:13,15, Jesus is presented thusly: “and His name is called The Word of God. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations”. When Christ returns to earth and speaks to those in rebellion against Him, His words will strike and defeat them. This prophecy vividly portrays the offensive use of the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.
NEXT MONTH: Conclusion – The Power of Prayer