The Sword of the Spirit

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

Ephesians 6:17

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day. . .”

Such is the exhortation the apostle delivers to the church, according to the immediate context.

And he proceeds to describe in detail the various aspects of the panoply, that complete suit of armour, which the church in the present evil world is to take unto herself. “Having your loins girt about with the truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace . . . taking the shield of faith . . . the helmet of salvation . . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

The sword of the Spirit!

How striking is the fact that of all the aspects of the Christian’s panoply, the sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon prescribed! All the rest is for defensive purposes only.

One does not fight the enemy with his girdle, with his breastplate, with his shield or helmet. Only with the sword does one go out to do battle with the foe.

O, indeed, these protective elements in the Christian’s armour are most important. Without them one cannot long endure in battle. But, as it is true in all warfare, victories cannot be won by hiding behind defenses. The battle must be taken to the enemy; and victory is attained only through a great offensive. So it is also in the spiritual warfare unto which the church is called.

Take to you the sword of the Spirit!

The apostle does not leave us in the dark as to what he refers. For he adds the explaining clause, “which is the Word of God.”

The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit!

When the apostle speaks of the Word of God here, it should be borne in mind that the translation does not really do justice to what the apostle actually says. Pact of the matter is, that the New Testament Scriptures use especially two words which are generally translated: word; but they have a shade of difference in meaning. The one refers to the word as—the embodiment of a thought, while the other refers to the word as the thought expressed. It is the latter which the apostle uses here in the text. The Word of God therefore is to be considered as His utterance, that which He Himself speaks. We say, the Bible is the infallibly inscribed Word of God; and this is true, of course. We also say that God causes His Word to be preached; and that, too, is very true. But unless God speaks His Word, the Bible is a dead letter, and the preaching of man has no power.

A most interesting and instructive commentary on the Word of God we find in the Gospel of John. In the first chapter of this gospel the Scriptures identify the Word of God with Jesus. He is said to be the Logos, the Word; and this undoubtedly refers to the Son of God in the flesh as the embodiment, the substance of the thoughts of God. However, in Chapter 3 (verse 34), He is said to be the One Whom God sent, Who speaks the Word of God. “For He Whom God hath sent speaketh the Words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit without measure unto Him.” Literally we may translate: “For Whom God sent speaks the utterances of God.” So that we may conclude that the Son of God in the flesh, Jesus, is both the substance of the Word of God and at the same time the expression of it. Incidentally, the above translation suggests that Jesus is the embodiment and the expression of the Word of God because the Spirit is given unto Him without measure. We are to understand, therefore, that all the Word of God, both as to its essential nature, and its utterance, is actually centrally in Jesus, of Whom the Scriptures inform us that He also is sent of God. And this must mean that unless Christ speaks to us, we do not hear the Word of God.

It is this Word which is described as the sword of the Spirit. Here undoubtedly the Spirit also must be understood as the Spirit of Christ. As mentioned above, the Holy Spirit is given to Him without measure. As the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit proceeds from Him.

That the Word of God is spoken of in terms of a sword, appears more often in Scripture. In Hebrews 4:12 it is described as a two-edged sword, “quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In Revelation 1:16 we read: “And he (that is, Christ) had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword . . .” And in Revelation 2:12 we read: “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write: These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.” And, of course, according to our text, it must be that same two-edged sword—the sword of the Spirit of Christ.

That the text speaks of the sword of the Spirit as being the Word of God, cannot mean that the rest of the armour has nothing to do with the Word of God. Do we not read of “the girdle of truth?” Now surely, “the truth” is also the Word of God. And do we not read of “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel?” Surely, also “the gospel” is the Word of God. So also “the breast plate of righteousness,” “the shield of faith,” and “the helmet of salvation” are all related to the Word of God. It must mean that all the armour of God we are to take to ourselves is invested in the Word of God. But, as was suggested, of all the armour, the sword of the Spirit is the sole offensive weapon. All the rest is intended for our defense.

Indeed, we need the whole armour!

Mere foolishness it would be to proceed into battle with only a sword. Would we not be always vulnerable to all the fiery darts the enemy will shoot at us? Why, we would be mortally wounded before we even had opportunity to strike at him with our sword. Indeed, nothing must be missing in the entire panoply as described by the apostle. Nor should we, like Goliath, take the enemy for granted, and allow the visor of our helmet to be raised instead of down and in its proper place. But just as foolish it would be to proceed into battle with all the armour except the sword. It would be like being in an army tank without guns. It would perhaps afford us a temporary shelter, but eventually we would be destroyed. We are called not only to stand in battle, but also to fight. We need not only the protective armaments of the Word of God, but also the offensive weapon of the Sword of the Spirit, which also is the Word of God.

Make no mistake in sizing up the enemy!

The apostle forewarns us: “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

The enemy, therefore, is not physical, but spiritual!

It follows then that our battle is also a spiritual one!

But let it be abundantly clear, our battle is not in another world than the present one in which we dwell. Do not make the mistake of concluding that we are to fight an eerie, mystical, battle with a host of evil spirits somewhere in the spirit world, while we play lovey-dovey with the wicked all about us in the earthly world in which we dwell. Many there are today who would so interpret the battle of the church. Such, if they are fighting at all, are fighting a mystical enemy, one whom they never see, and they fight as those who are beating the air. Such also are they who would at the same time make this present evil world a better place to live in. And they play ball with the world.

In no uncertain terms, our battle, though it is not with flesh and blood, is in this present evil world which is for the present under the sway of Satan; our world in all of its departments. And this means that though our battle is a spiritual one and not with flesh and blood, it nevertheless often takes on the form against flesh and blood. Did not the Lord Jesus forewarn us that a man’s foes shall be they of his own household? (Matt. 10:36) Accordingly, the battle begins in one’s own household. Yea, it begins in one’s own flesh, against which he must struggle all his life long. That battle may be necessary to wage against one’s own father and mother, brother or sister according to, the flesh. That battle will have to be waged even in the church, where always Satan desires to introduce his lie, with all kinds of false doctrines. That battle will have to be fought against the wickedness in the community, the state, and the nation, yea, in all the world which is under the dominion of darkness.

In that world of darkness we are to stand as children of light, militating against the darkness. And because the darkness always hates the light, you cannot escape the battle. It is the battle of the antithesis. And this is the battle of the ages.

Take unto you the whole armour of God, and with it the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, and that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day. And need we remind you that if the evil day was there already when the apostle penned these words, that that day will become progressively evil as the time proceeds to its end? It is in this present world that “the evil day” gets progressively worse.

O, surely, our battle is not against flesh and blood, it is not carnal in nature. Nor is our battle against the world to gain the world. Nor should our battle be with the purpose to gain the world for Christ. Bluntly we say it, Christ is not interested in this world, nor should we be! Christ is interested in the new world in which righteousness shall dwell; and because our interest is also in that world, of which we are already its citizens, we take our stance in the present world which is evil and fight.

But always that battle must be with the use of spiritual weapons, having on the whole armour of God, and in our hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Not with our own weapons must we fight.

For that battle we must be trained!

No more than a raw recruit can go into battle with a broom stick on his shoulder, and expect to overcome the enemy, can the child of God, and the church of Christ battle against the spiritual powers of darkness unless thoroughly equipped, and scrupulously adept in carrying his armour, and using his sword.

The boot camp where the Christian warrior can be trained for this spiritual warfare is within the church itself. Under the Means of Grace, particularly the proper preaching of God’s Word, where one hears Christ speaking to him in that preaching, there he will receive his soundest training. He must learn to hear the Word of God before he can say: “Thus saith the Lord.” And let him be sure that when he confronts the enemy he does not come with his own words. It is only before the sword of the Spirit that the powers of darkness will fall. How beautifully the Lord Jesus demonstrated this when by the Spirit He was led into the desert to be tempted of the devil. In each of the temptations He replied to the devil: “It is written.” It is the Word of God in Christ that speaks, and it is this Word that will overcome the enemy. From this Word the devil will flee away.

In that spiritual battle there is no armistice. Only two things can terminate the battle of the child of God: the day of his death, and/or the day of the Lord.

Until then it is incumbent on all the children of God that they stand fast. Appropriating with believing hearts the sword of the Spirit, and standing in the ranks of the faithful, faithful unto death.

In, that battle they already have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!