Thus far, the armor of God we’ve been studying has all been defensive. The girdle, breastplate, footwear, shield, and helmet all protect us. They’re essential in battle, but they’re not something we can use to attack and (with the exception of the shield) they’re not actively defensive either. This next piece of armor, though, is a weapon.
receive … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17, LEB)
Paul tells us exactly what we’re given as the only weapon included in this Armor of God. It’s called the Sword of the Spirit and it is the Word of God. Now it’s up to us to learn how to use the word as a sword.
Avoiding Word Confusion
There are two words in Greek for “word,” and we have to start by defining them if we want to avoid confusion. Just looking at the English, we would connect Eph. 6:17 with Heb. 4:12, which says, “the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit” (WEB). But these versus aren’t talking about the same thing.
In Hebrews, it’s talking about the logos (G3056). This word refers to a spoken word of intelligence, and it’s what’s used as a name for Jesus in John 1:1, 14. Reading on in Hebrews makes it clear that He’s being talked about in this passage as well (Heb. 4:13-16).
In Ephesians, on the other hand, the word is rhema (G4487). It refers to the spoken or written sayings of God, but isn’t used as a title for the speaker. So in Hebrews, the Word as a sword refers to Jesus cutting into people’s spirits and knowing them deeply. Ephesians is talking about wielding the word, or scriptures, of God as a weapon.
Fencing With Spiritual Foes
Jesus Christ provides the perfect example of properly using God’s words in battle. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that after Jesus’ baptism He spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. Matthew and Luke’s accounts are the most detailed, providing record of three specific temptations and Jesus’ responses.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” (Luke 4:3-4, WEB)
Jesus quotes Deut. 8:3 to counter Satan’s attack. He’s successful, but the devil isn’t done yet. He takes Jesus up to a mountain and shows him all the world’s kingdoms in a moment and offers Jesus rulership over them on one condition.
“If you therefore will worship before me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered him, “Get behind me Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’” (Luke 4:7-8)
Jesus doesn’t need to come up with lengthy reasons or arguments why this is wrong. He rebukes Satan, refernces Deut. 6:13 and the first commandment (Ex. 20:2-6), and that’s that. Now the devil changes tactics. He starts quoting scripture himself.
He led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you;’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest perhaps you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answering, said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:9-12, WEB)
It’s worth noting here that all Jesus’ responses come from the Torah (the third one is from Deut. 6:16). His reliance on those scriptures speaks eloquently of how important they still are for believers today. Furthermore, this conversation demonstrates that not only must we know scripture well enough to use it as a sword, but we also have to know it well enough to recognize when someone misuses it. We have to keep sharpening our sword of the spirit with Bible study and reading while praying for God to open our eyes and hearts to a right relationship with His word.
There are also a handful of scriptures that point to a compelling connection between God’s word and His spirit in us. David tells us that “Yahweh’s spirit spoke by me. His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2, WEB). When God’s spirit is in us His words will be coming out of our mouths.
And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says Yahweh: “my spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have placed in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of your children’s children,” says Yahweh, “from now on and forever.” (Is. 59:21, LEB)
This is a covenant, an unbreakable promise God made to His people. His spirit and His words will be in us as long as we’re part of His people. It’s important to us that His spirit stays in our hearts and His words stay in our mouths.
Getting back to talking about Jesus’s relationship with God’s word, John the Baptist said of Christ that “he whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for God gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34, WEB). Not only does this further illustrate that speaking God’s words (rhema) is connected with His spirit, it confirms that Jesus’ words are key part of our sword.
The Spirit is the one who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63, LEB)
The one who is Himself “a sharp two-edge sword” (Heb. 4:12-13) gave us the words of God, both Old and New Testament. It’s also because of Him that God gives us the Spirit that we need to use those words properly (John 7:39; 16:7). And He showed us how to use the word of God in our battles against Satan by using it as a sword Himself. It is vital that we take up God’s word every day in our mouths, minds, hearts, and hands to stand firm in our Christian fight.