SWORD OF THE SPIRIT (from chapter six)
The seventeenth verse segues to the final piece of the
believer’s panoply by using the word “and” again – “and the sword of the
Spirit, which is the word of God”. “And” in that context would relate back
to the word “take” – “And take the helmet…and take the sword…” We are reminded
then of the imperative of that command.
Nothing would be more out of place than a soldier in a war
zone without his M-16. I have seen in swash-buckler movies where one swordsman
knocks the sword out of the other’s hand. There the star of the show stands
swordless in the fight of his life. And it is always over some damsel in
distress. Of course, at the last minute the good guy pulls off the ultimate
upset and saves the day but that is the movies, we’re talking real life. A
sword is of no value until you “take” it.
The Greek word is machairan, somewhat related to our
word machete. It was a shorter dagger for close up combat. That requires the
believer to actually be in the arena of combat. It is one thing to talk about
warfare while sitting in a comfortable Bible study or watching God-TV from a
couch five-thousand miles away from the mission field. A short sword
necessitates close encounters with the enemy. You are nearer the front-lines
than you may suspect.
A second word, rhomphaia, is used for the Thracian
long sword. Vine’s Dictionary questions whether it was a sword or a spear. This
sword is used to symbolize anguish (Luke 2:35), war (Rev 6:8), judgment (Rev
1:16, 2:12, 16) and sovereign rule (Rev 19:15,21).
Paul has the shorter sword in mind. It is like a pistol
compared to a long-range rifle. The sword has to be gripped in the hand.
David’s second lieutenant, Eleazar the son of Dodo (“Dodo’s” boy, guess you can
live down a name) “attacked the Philistines till his hand was weary, and his
hand stuck to the sword…” (2 Sam 23:10) At battle’s end his comrades had to pry
his fingers loose from the sword. They say, get a grip! That this sword
is called “the word of God” instructs our need to rightly and tightly handle
the Word. Grace grips the heart and faith grips grace. The greater the
understanding of the Word, the stronger is the grip.
The machaira was the soldier’s only offensive weapon.
All others were protective, but this instrument was assertive, inflictive and
“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, and with it He
should strike the nations…” (Rev 19:15) We are the Body of Christ; He speaks
through us to the nations. Some battles are better fought with flower bouquets,
but here we are wrestling against demon hosts. We are not on a peace mission
with the realm of darkness. Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace but a
sword” (Mat 10:34). Jeremiah adds, “and cursed is he who keeps back his sword
from blood” (Jer 48:10). Does your sword bear blood or polish?
In the mouth of the prophets this sword brings judgment –
“Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon
in his hand” (Ezek 9:1). Swords are deadly weapons, not plastic toys. Samuel
slew king Agag, a type of the flesh, with his sword. “Therefore have I hewed
them by the prophets; I have slain
them by the words of my mouth…” (Hos 6:5)
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper
than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and
of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the
heart” (Heb 4:12).
Being double-edged the word cuts going and coming. A
convicting, cutting message from an evangelist’s lips pierces the hearts of his
listeners but also lacerates himself as it comes back around.
It is the machaira of the pneumatos, the
“sword of the Spirit”. The Holy Spirit uses man’s mouth as an extension of
Himself and that mouth is to be filled with “the word of God”. Williams called
it “the sword the Spirit wields”. Of Stephen we are told that the Sanhedrin
could not “resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10).
It “pierces” as much as slashes. The word of God is a
scalpel, an instrument of incision that can save life as easily as it can take
The sword’s effectiveness depends on its weight, its
sharpness and the accuracy of the one who wields it. Sometimes we hear what
could be called a “heavy” word or a weighty message which has a strong impact
on our lives. As to the razor-edge, we are sharpened by studying the Word which
enables us to “rightly divide” truth (2 Tim 2:15). And as to the person
wielding the sword, remember that in the Garden Peter grabbed a sword (it was
more likely one of the butcher knives used to prepare that evening’s Passover
meal), and swung it in the direction of the high priest, lopping off his
servant Malchus’ ear instead. Three years was evidently not enough boot camp
training for Peter. Soldiers need to refine their aim.
The moral of the story – Peter operated “in the flesh”
rather than being led of the Spirit. As a result, the sword, or “the word”,
became a destructive device in his hand. That it cut off an innocent
bystander’s ear implies that he destroyed another man’s ability to hear from
God. Jesus restored the servant’s hearing, his last miracle en route to Calvary, so all turned out well, but it served as an important lesson to Peter – don’t ever
use the Bible blade in a vindictive way or innocent people will get hurt. Paul
wrote, “…not handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor 4:2).
A perusal through the encyclopedia reveals much about Roman
warfare, crossbows, catapults, various javelins and so on, but in His wisdom,
the Lord has only given the believer one weapon, His word. That is sufficient.
Jesus stood toe to toe with the devil and countered every temptation like an
Errol Flynn swordfight scene. He drew the sword of the Spirit from the scabbard
of His memory and cried, “It is written!” The sharpness of His intellect and
the weightiness of His anointing drove back the enemy and it still never fails.