Previous article in this series: August 2023, p. 446.

Your very real and dangerous foe, the Devil, watches for your ruin. He is a ferocious predator, seeking to devour your soul. Ephesians 6:10ff. describe our spiritual warfare against this Devil and his hosts. This portion of Scripture, which really amounts to a warfare manual, supplies critical points that every Christian soldier should know. One of these points is how important preparation is: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth…and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace…” (vv. 14a, 15). Another of these points concerns defense in the war: “… having on the breastplate of righteousness…above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation…” (vv. 14b, 16-17a).

Still another of these critical points about the spiritual warfare is the necessity of good offense. That is what we will look at this time. The offensive piece of equipment for the Christian soldier is the sword, with which the soldier goes forth and attacks. Ephesians 6:17b refers to it: “…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The description of the sword

Picture, once again, the Roman soldier in the ancient days of the apostle Paul. In one hand he held a shield, and in the other hand he grasped a sword. The word for “sword” used in Ephesians 6:17 is not a long sword, but a short sword or dagger, one or two feet long.

Once again, the apostle takes a military item familiar to his reading audience, and uses it to illustrate for them and us the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God—a piece of the armor of God that is for offense.

The sword is the written Word of God. The Bible is not man’s word, nor is it man’s word interwoven with God’s Word. If this were true, then the Bible would not serve as an effective weapon in the battle. But as the Word of God, Scripture is an entirely unique book that we approach with reverence, is the only authority for what we believe and how we live, and is an effective weapon against the Devil.

This written Word is God’s revelation of Himself to His people in Jesus Christ. What an amazing miracle that is: the highly exalted God and Creator of heaven and earth…makes Himself known to us! What love and what grace! He tells us about His work of salvation. Whether it is the prophetic pages of the Old Testament or the fulfillment of prophecy in the New Testament, the content of Scripture is the gospel of Christ and Him crucified. What makes up this written Word, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, is the message of sin and grace. Christ is the unity of the book, and that is partly why “word” in Ephesians 6:17 is singular.

This sword, the written Word of God, has its source n the Spirit. That is what sword of the Spirit means. This Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is God. In what sense does the Word of God have its source in the Spirit? The Spirit prepared all the circumstances under which the human writers penned the books of the Bible, and the Spirit also prepared the human writers themselves to write those books. Furthermore, in what we call the work of inspiration, the Spirit moved these men to write down God’s Word, controlling them as they wrote so that they wrote only God’s Word. II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The words “inspiration of God” mean “God-breathed.” II Peter 1:21 states, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The word “moved” means “carried along.” The sword, which is the Word of God, has its source in the Spirit, and thus is an effective and powerful weapon in the warfare.

The use of the sword

This is the sword that we are to take up and use. The soldier who takes up and uses this sword in spiritual combat must know two vital things.

First, the soldier must know the enemy. The Devil has many tactics, which we have been observing in this series. What we want to notice this time is that he tempts us to view the Bible as having little value. Satan knows how important the sword is, so he wants that sword out of our hands. To do that, he tempts us to elevate other books to the level of or above Scripture. Or, he tries to shift our attention to counselors at the expense of God’s Word. Not that there is anything wrong with a wholesome book or with a good counselor, as such; but if these are lifted above or used at the expense of the Bible, a serious problem exists. Additionally, Satan tempts us to neglect Scripture, to see it as irrelevant to our lives, or to be lazy about reading it. Similarly, he seeks to lure us into filling our schedule so full of deer and shotguns, basketballs and volleyballs, Instagram and Snapchat, tasty food and good friends, highschool academics and college degrees, that we have no time for concentrated study of God’s Word. Know the enemy and his tactics!

Second, the spiritual warrior in Christ’s army must know the sword that he is using. It is shameful and dangerous if we do not know how to take up and use the sword. It must not be, dear readers, that we are ignorant of how to slash and stab with this word, or that we use it imprecisely. Is your Bible dusty? How critical that we know how to take up and use the sword—reading it, studying it, meditating upon it, and memorizing it! When it comes to discouragement in dating, a friend who has approached you with deep hurt in their life, complicated issues within your local congregation, or a variety of other scenarios, are you able to wield the sword with accuracy?

Knowledgeable soldier, use the sword!

The Roman soldier in the heat of combat did not leave his sword in the sheathe. He took it out and proceeded to slash, stab, draw blood, and even kill with that offensive weapon. So must you take your sword and use it. A dusty Bible is a sheathed sword. May dust never collect on your bedstand Bible! With this sword, you slash, stab, draw blood, and kill the enemies before you—spiritually speaking, of course. The same Spirit who accomplished the work of inspiration is the Spirit who enlightens us spiritually. It is the Spirit who also strengthens us to take up the sword. It is the Spirit who works with the Word, making it effectual. This is the Spirit of the victorious Jesus Christ who has established the kingdom in His own blood, now sits on His throne in heaven, and will see to it that the sword is used for the accomplishment of His purpose; of this, we can be confident.

Let’s look together at a few scenarios in which the sword is unsheathed and used.

The sword is taken up when the Word is faithfully proclaimed from the pulpit. The preaching, when it is faithful to the Scripture, is a double-edged sword. In the case of the reprobate, that sword goes forth to smite and destroy. In the case of the elect, that sword goes forth inflicting pain, but it is a piercing for saving good. On the mission field, a hardening takes place among the reprobate under the sword, and the same sword slashes at the works of darkness to deliver the elect from slavery. Especially, the minister unsheathes and swings the sword in what we call polemics, preaching that exposes errors, refutes them, and sets the truth over against them. Proper polemical preaching will slash at such errors and trends as common grace, federal vision, evolution, and evil trends in society—and that is for our protection. But also, polemics, properly done, will not neglect to aim at the errors and sins in our own lives—a painful piercing for our good.

The sword is wielded when it comes to the presence of sin in our lives. In our personal devotions we go to the Scriptures and apply them to the sins that we struggle with day after day. In the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we take the sword and repeatedly thrust at those sins in our lives. Perhaps we see sins that others are walking in—oh, how reluctant we are to get involved, to confront, to rebuke…but we must! We bring the sword, the Word, to those walking in sin, calling them to repentance. It is our prayer that the Spirit use this Word to prick deep within.

The sword is grasped and thrust forward against Satan who comes with his temptations. When Jesus was tempted of the Devil, He answered the Devil with the Word of God. Jesus took out the sword! In this we learn how we, too, must face our adversary: not with our own words or wisdom, but with Scripture alone. When the Evil One tempts you to use your body impurely, swing at him with I Corinthians 6:19-20—“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” When the Devil tempts you to act wrongfully toward another person, slice hard at him with Ephesians 4:31-32—“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” In what particular ways does Satan tempt you, young soldier? Which specific Scripture passages can you take up to fight against him?

The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! Take it up, use it, in the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ who has the victory both now and forever.