“And take…the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God;” Ephesians 6:17b
Fellow soldiers, we have come to a military metaphor in the New Testament which is not difficult to interpret because we are told exactly what the sword of the Spirit is—it is the Word of God! The pieces of equipment in the complete armor of God spoken about up to now in Ephesians chapter 6 have been defensive. They protect or support the warfighter. The sword here is the Roman gladius issued to every soldier. It is an offensive weapon that, unlike a javelin, dart, or arrow which are used at a distance, is used when the soldier comes close to the enemy.
The Word of God is an offensive weapon against temptation
The sword of the Spirit is a spiritual offensive weapon given to every believer by the Holy Spirit of God to be used when (among other times) engaged in spiritual warfare with our adversary, Satan. The Scripture is our primary weapon when confronting temptation to sin. Jesus used the Word of God when He was tempted in the desert. (Matthew 4:4,7,10) May God’s Word reside in our hearts so firmly that we can pull it out at a moment’s notice and fight off any spiritual attack. (Deuteronomy 30:14; Psalm 119:11)
The Word of God convicts of sin
God’s Word is invaluable when the enemy gets past our defenses. Overt temptations are sometimes the easiest to repel by recalling a timely verse from the Bible. More difficult to fight off are the subtle, inner temptations that we don’t see or might not even be aware of. In this case, God’s Word serves as a finely honed blade to expose our sin and bring us to repentance. The power and precision of the Sword of the Spirit protects us within, but only if we use it!
“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.” Hebrews 4:12
The Word of God is an instrument of judgment
A spiritual sword wielded in judgment by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a terrifying image that is expressed five times in the book of Revelation. Each time, the glorified Christ is pictured with a two-edged sword in His mouth to emphasize that the Incarnate Word (John 1:1,4; I John 1:1) is coming to judge the world with the words of His mouth. (John 5:22; 9:39; 12:47-48)
“He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” 1:16
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword…’” 2:12
“Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” 2:16
“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” 19:15
“And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse…” 19:21
God will accomplish His purpose
Like a soldier’s sword that is solid metal and will never fail him, the Word of God is reliable and guaranteed to always accomplish the purpose that God intends, whether to combat temptation, reveal the innermost thoughts of the heart, or to judge all mankind in the final judgment.
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Be alert! Grab your sword! March on!
“…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Ephesians 6:16 (NKJV)
Among the different types of shields used by Roman soldiers, the one mentioned in Ephesians 6:16 is likely the large, rectangular or oval, scutum shield used to protect front line soldiers and those behind them from the hail of arrows that rained down from a distance before the legion engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. The smaller parma shield was round and held in the left hand while fighting with a sword in the right. Shields came in many sizes depending on the function of the soldier and contrary to some stories or movies, Roman military shields were made of leather and wood and not metal.
The literal purpose of the soldier’s scutum shield was for defense from potentially fatal projectiles like arrows, javelins, or flaming darts fired by crossbows. The Apostle Paul uses the shield as a metaphor to describe faith which will protect us from the evil one—Satan. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8)
Brother soldiers, faith is your constant defense against an adversary who will fire his arrows at you when you least expect. You must believe and trust God’s Word, or Satan’s spiritual arrows will wound you when you need your strength the most. Without faith, you could be struck seemingly out of nowhere and not know what to do. You’ll be terrified when the arrows rain down on you. Don’t be a casualty! Faith in the Lord Himself and His Word must be your constant shield at every moment so that you’re ready when a trial, temptation, or calamity comes at you from “out of the blue.”
“The LORD is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.”Psalm 28:7
Be alert! Grab your shield! March on!
The Belt of Truth
“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…” Ephesians 6:14a (NKJV)
The Roman soldier girded his waist with what is called in Latin a balteus. This piece of equipment served three vital functions— practical, identifying, and ornamental. It was practical because when worn over a chain mail or solid breastplate, it helped relieve the heavy weight of the armor on the soldier’s shoulders. Rings on the belt kept the soldier’s dagger (pugio) within easy reach. Second, Roman law said that only soldiers could wear a balteus. It immediately identified them as soldiers because they were required to wear it at all times, even when not in uniform. Finally, the belt and the straps hanging in front displayed the metallic emblems, badges, seals, and tokens from the soldier’s various assignments, service accomplishments, and battle campaigns.
The Holy Spirit is the inward mark of the believer–He is bound to the Christian with a permanent seal that cannot be broken or removed. (II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) The indwelling Holy Spirit is the source of all outward spiritual evidence (fruit).
Truth is one outward mark of the Christian—it is a daily emblem or badge to the world that we belong to Christ because the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) is in us. In the book of Ephesians, where the Apostle Paul speaks about the belt of truth, he also mentions how we are to walk like the new men that we are because we are saved. “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up [mature] in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (4:15) “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’” (4:25) Like the balteus belts worn by Roman soldiers that identified them as military men, truth should be our characteristic mark wherever we go and whatever we do.
The Apostle John began his third epistle with an observation that nothing made him happier than knowing that his readers had God’s truth inside them (they were saved and the Holy Spirit of truth was in them) and that they were walking (living) in that truth. “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in [the] truth.” (III John 3-4)
As we put on our daily armor in preparation for battle, let’s purpose in our minds to make truth our outward identification and badge! “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” (I Peter 1:13a) Especially in a day when truth is mocked and under attack, some might notice that our lives are identified by truth and ask us why that is. (I Peter 3:15)
Stay alert! Grab your weapons! March on! SPEAK THE TRUTH!