Summary: The Sword of the Spirit
Stand and Fight: Let’s Get Offensive
Beartown Road Alliance Church
Sunday, August 11th, 2007
This morning we come to the last piece of the armor that God equips us with for the Spiritual battles of life. We’re going to be spending a couple of more weeks wrapping this series up, but as far as the actual pieces of the Armor of God, this is the last one. For many of us, this is the one that we’ve been waiting for. We’ve talked about the belt of Truth. We’ve looked at the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith. Last week we learned about the helmet of salvation that God offers to us. We’ve seen the specific ways that each of these pieces of armor protects us from the different ways that Satan attacks. We’ve seen how each of these pieces reflects the character and nature of Christ and how they are to be practically worn in our life and reflected on our character. But so far, all of the pieces have been defensive. All of them have been to repel attacks, to protect us and to provide cover from the weapons of Satan. These are all good things, but we live in a society that always puts more of an emphasis on the offense.
As a sports fan, I don’t care how good a defense is. I don’t want to see a great defensive effort. I don’t want to see a pitcher’s dual that ends in a 1-0 score. I don’t want to see an NFL game that has 47 punts and ends up 6-3. We want to see offense! That’s why soccer has had such a tough time sticking in America. It’s a beautiful game, there are so many intricacies and subtleties, if you know where to look but to the average American, it’s boring because there are usually only one or two goals scored. We would watch if soccer games ended 18-17! We understand that having a solid defense in any sport is vital, but we are enamored with and captivated by offensive feats. We are an offensive minded people.
So, Paul has spent the majority of the passage teaching us what we can do defensively in this battle, to survive the initial attacks, and now, he turns to the offense. We are given just one offensive weapon but it is all that we will ever need. We are given a sword. The sword of the Roman soldier was short and sharp. It had both edges honed to a razor sharp edge and it was designed specifically for hand-to-hand combat in close quarters. Contrary to many of the movies that show battles from this time period, the soldier did not swing the sword in broad and powerful strokes against the enemy. This would have required too much energy and the soldier would have tired quickly and would have been unable to continue the fight. The Roman soldier was trained to use his sword with a short, quick stabbing motion. His sword was not to deflect or to parry, he had a shield for that, his sword was to pierce and to penetrate, it was to put an end to the battle. The sword was an instrument of death. It was designed to kill and the soldiers were trained to use it in that way.
As Paul moves on to the sword, it would have been with the understanding that once we had put on all of the defensive armor, we could then take the sword in hand and engage the enemy with the sole purpose of ending Satan’s influence and the grip of sin and temptation in our lives. There is no mistake in the wording that Paul uses in another letter, the book of Colossians, where we are commanded to “put to death” whatever belongs to our earthly nature. Whatever it is in our lives that is keeping us from enjoying the life that God intends for us to have, we are to put it to death. Paul doesn’t tell us to set it aside, he doesn’t tell us to just ignore it and hope it goes away, he tells us to kill it. None of the other pieces of armor that we wear allow us to do that. The only way to accomplish this in our lives is to use the sword as it was intended to be used and to kill the old self, the sinful nature, so that the new self, the part of us that walks by the Spirit, can thrive and grow.
Now, it’s important to understand that I am not talking about perfection. So many people get discouraged and frustrated because they think that Christianity calls for an unachievable, impossible sinless perfection in our lives. After trying to hit that mark and failing repeatedly. Many give up. If we could achieve perfection we would have no need for God’s grace and mercy in our lives. Killing the old self does not mean that we become perfect. We’re human and sin is always going to be in the picture on some level. It does mean that we have grown and seen victory over the habitual and voluntary sin in our lives. We are no longer a slave to sin, feeling helpless and powerless to fight the temptations and compulsions of sin. This means consistently making the right choices and learning from and moving on when we make the wrong ones. We will not live lives that are characterized and defined by sin when we begin to use the sword to push the battle and defeat the enemy.