The Sword of the Spirit
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Ephesians 6:10-17 (ESV)
At its height the Roman Empire covered territory from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Syrian desert in the east, and from the Sahara in the south and north to the Rhine estuary and the Scottish lowlands. It was achieved and maintained by a disciplined, well-armed army. The sword the Romans generally used was not like the long large sword of the medieval knights that was heavy and took both hands to wield. The Roman army ‘gladius’ sword was only about 18 inches long, and you might think that it wouldn’t be up to the job of either attack or defence. But both edges were sharp and it could be moved quickly and used to great effect to stab or parry; and whilst a soldier could easily use this weapon in the one hand he could use the other hand to defend himself with his shield.
The sword is the only offensive weapon Paul puts in his list of a Christian’s spiritual armour. Jesus used it to conquer the devil in the greatest battle of all time which took place in the desert, when the devil threw ‘grenades packed with scripture’ at Jesus, in an endeavour to weaken him, wound him and ultimately kill him spiritually. His aim was to get him to turn from God, and surrender to him. Jesus, though weak from lack of food and completely unable to defend himself from any physical attack, was armed with the word of God. Not only did he withstand all the attacks of the devil, but he utterly defeated him. Rome eventually could not stand up against attack and fell; but Jesus reigns on high, and his kingdom is one that shall never be destroyed.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” That power is there for us too: the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and it’s as if it’s alive; it has ‘divine power to destroy strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4). It’s for us to use, though it doesn’t belong to us—it is the sword of the Spirit and proceeds from Christ himself, as through the Spirit he enables us to both defend ourselves and fight back against foes both outside and within ourselves. Let us give thanks to God for the enduring, empowering word of God.
Father, you have not left us helpless against forces that would overwhelm us. We can be strong in Christ, and your great power. May we treasure your word as it is brought to life and strength for us by your Spirit.
Study by Hilary Buck
Grace Communion – Lewes
The Priory School
LEWES BN7 2XN
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