“. . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
The sword of the Spirit is our only offensive weapon. Strictly speaking, the words, “which is the Word of God,” refer not to “Spirit” but to “sword.” We know of no passage in Scripture where the Holy Spirit is called the Word of God. But there are passages where the Word of God is called a sword—see Rev. 1:16, 19:13, 15, 21,Is. 11:4.
Another important question here concerns this “Word of God.” Is this Word of God merely. the written Word of God, the Bible? Do we have tautology here, inasmuch as the girdle of truth also refers to the Bible? Is, then, this written Word of God, the Bible, called the sword of the Spirit only because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit?
We repeat: this is the only offensive weapon of the Christian soldier. Indeed, it is not our calling to Christianize the world, improve it by means of laws and legislation, make it a better place in which to live. Our only hope lies in the Word of the living God.
The sword of the Word of God.
The sword in this text refers to a short sword, attached to the belt of the soldier, which could be handled easily by the ancient soldier. This was the weapon used by the ancient Roman soldier.
This sword, now, is called the Word of God. I know of only one other passage in Scripture where the Word of God is called a sword, namely Heb. 4:12. However, we do read repeatedly that out of the mouth of the Lord proceeds a sharp, two-edged sword. Now that which proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord is surely His Word. This sword here is undoubtedly the Word of God.
We also read here of the “sword of the Spirit.” This sword of the Holy Spirit is the only offensive weapon in the arsenal of the Christian warrior. A common interpretation of this “sword of the Spirit” is that this sword is provided by the Spirit, and that it refers to the gospel, the written Word of God. However, against this view are serious objections. First, this would involve us in tautology, repetition, as far as the girdle of truth is concerned. Secondly, the Word of God is called here a sword. A sword kills. This can hardly be said of the written Word of God as such. Thirdly, throughout the description of the Christian soldier’s armour in these verses of Eph. 6 the girdle is the truth, the breastplate is righteousness, the shoes are the preparedness of the gospel of peace, the shield is faith, etc. This would surely indicate that this sword is the Spirit. Honesty appears to demand this conclusion.
What is this sword of the Word of God? First, the scriptures are meant here. Fact is, we are exhorted to take this sword. So, this sword must be the scriptures, because what else would we be able to take up and use? Besides, there is no mighty Word of God except through the scriptures, the written Word of God. If we fail to maintain this truth, then we will fall into the error, the abyss, the thick fog of False Mysticism. The Word of God, the mighty, powerful Word of God is always heard through the scriptures. If we despise the scriptures, neglect them, separate them from the living Christ, we will be hopelessly lost in the mire of False Mysticism, where we will hear all kinds of voices except the voice of the living God and of the Son of God.
The scriptures, therefore, are surely meant here. Of these scriptures Christ is the center. This is extremely important. Christ is the revelation of the living God, God’s Party in the midst of the world through whom the living God reveals Himself. As the supreme Servant of Jehovah He glorifies God as the Head of all the elect given Him of the Father; He manifests God in connection with all our sins and trespasses, reveals God’s righteousness and justice, but also His unchangeable love and mercy, as He suffers and dies for them that they might live. And it is exactly in connection with that Christ, revealed in the scriptures and set forth in the gospel, that man reveals himself; and it is also through that Christ that God reveals and maintains Himself in all His dealings with the children of men.
However, there is more. This text also refers to the mighty, all-powerful Word of God. Do we not read that the Word of God here is a sword? Does not this sword emphasize the mighty, devastating, killing power of the Word of God? This can hardly be said of the scriptures as such. The written Word of God as such can neither make alive nor kill. It is true, of course, that the contents of the Bible and the contents of the Word preached according to the scriptures always judge and discern the thoughts and intents of the human heart. The scriptures glorify God and always set forth man as he truly is. However, these scriptures as such are no sword that smites with devastating and killing effect. You may read it, hear it proclaimed, criticize it, judge it, listen to it, or refuse to heed it. The Bible itself does nothing. God’s Word, however, is always powerful, the word as God Himself speaks it, the word as it proceeds out of His mouth. This word is creative, almighty; irresistible. Of this word this text speaks. The scriptures are a sword exactly because they are this Word of God. And they are this Word of God because the mighty God speaks through them, not only in the elect but also in the reprobate. And in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ God will again cause His Word to be heard, His Word of judgment and doom, when finally, by that Word of His power, all that was hid shall be revealed, the books of our consciences will be opened, and the enemies of Christ who are the enemies of God will be destroyed even forevermore.
We must bear in mind that the sword power in Scripture always represents the power of the magistrate. And the power of the magistrate is always two-fold: the magistrate has the power to judge and also to execute that judgment. We must also bear in mind that this sword is wielded here by the Christian warrior. He does not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against all the forces of sin and darkness. And this sword is his only offensive weapon whereby he attacks and destroys the enemy.
True, this sword of the Word of God is also such in the elect. It is a sword of the Spirit. This is not merely a sword of man. Through it the living God speaks His own mighty word through the Holy Spirit. Without this powerful, efficacious Word of God the scriptures would be quite powerless. One, then, would be able to hear it preached, even read and study it. One could also form an opinion concerning it, approve or disapprove, agree or disagree. But, these scriptures themselves could never lead out of darkness into His marvelous light, convict of sin. . . , But now the Sword of the Word of God begins to operate. As the scriptures are preached and we hear with our natural ear, God speaks His Word, by His Spirit, His own mighty Word, applying the truth to our hearts and minds, cutting, knifing through, as a sharp two-edged sword, calling and leading us out of darkness into light, leading us in the way everlasting.
This applies, however, particularly to the wicked. First, this sword of the Word of God comes to man with divine authority. Man may not do with it as he pleases. He may not sin, may not refuse to repent and believe, may not reject the living Christ, seek the things that are below, refuse to walk in all the commandments and precepts of the Lord. The scriptures speak to him with divine authority. The preaching of the gospel is not simply an offer; the Lord does not merely plead with the sinner, ask or beg him to believe in Him. But this preaching fastens itself, through the Spirit, upon the minds and consciences of all its hearers. That Word lords it over us; it commands us to forsake sin and to serve the living God, and man may not refuse or reject it. He rejects it, of course, but he is held accountable. And how could he be held accountable and responsible if he were merely asked to turn to and believe in the living God?
Besides, that Word of God also hardens and destroys and kills! That Word of God is always powerful. It never returns to God empty-handed. It always performs its mission. It is never unsuccessful. Of course, the primary purpose of the gospel is always the gathering of the Church. Nevertheless, that gospel also has a purpose with respect to the reprobate. Indeed, on the one hand, the enemy will not be able to answer you. O, he may rant and rave. He will continue to attack you, persecute, and even kill you. But, if we proclaim the “Thus saith the Lord,” he will not be able to refute you. We must not approach him apologetically. We must proclaim the scriptures, and the devil will flee from us, even as Christ silences him in the wilderness. This, however, is not all. That Word of God will also destroy the enemy. It will harden him, cause him to grow in sin and in wickedness, evoke from him an ever increasing hostility, cause him to gather treasures off wrath, always preparing him for his divinely ordained condemnation.
All this will culminate in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then Christ will appear. In that day God will not speak His Word through the scriptures anymore. Then the written word will no longer be necessary. Christ Himself will appear in glory and majesty upon the clouds of heaven. Then God will again speak His Word, and with terrible and everlasting finality! Then all the powers of darkness and the enemies of the cross will be completely exposed and revealed. In that day He will speak and the righteousness of God will be fully revealed in the damnation of the sinner. Then the elect will know themselves as never before, and the enemies of Christ will be crushed forevermore.
This exhortation is, of course, very particular. One does not tell a farmer to perform a delicate operation upon a brain tumor. Only the Christian soldier is meant here.
First, we must be Christian soldiers. Christian soldiers are not manufactured or produced by training. They are born, born again, not from below but from above, of God. The carnal man cannot use this Christian armour; he simply cannot put it on; it just does not fit him. Neither does he will to put it on. And he cannot be trained to use it. So, we must be Christian soldiers, called by the grace of God out of sin and darkness into His marvelous light.
Secondly, we must take this sword. Know the scriptures. Not merely a part of them, but all of them. A gospel on a thumbnail will not suffice. We must be thoroughly indoctrinated, thoroughly founded in the inspired Word of God, and in all of it. And, we must know how to use these scriptures. Do not hesitate to quote them and use them, knowing that they are the sword of the Spirit, through which the Lord will speak His own Word, lead you in the way everlasting, and give you the sure and certain victory.