Summary: 63rd in a series from Ephesians. The sword of the Spirit requires using specific Scriptures in specific circumstances.
There certainly shouldn’t be any doubt by now that those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ are in a serious and difficult battle with the evil one. But if any of you discount the seriousness of that battle, the sixth and final piece of the armor of God should dispel any such doubts. Although we’re only going to focus on the last part of verse 17 this morning, let’s read out loud this entire section that begins in verse 10:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV)
I wanted us to read this entire passage again this morning for a couple reasons. First, we need to make sure that we understand the sword of the Spirit within the context of all the armor. Second, this is a good way for us to review all the armor, which I’ll come back and do at the end of the message this morning. With that in mind let’s concentrate on this last piece of armor that Paul describes at the end of verse 17:
Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Up until now, every piece of the armor has been strictly defensive. Each of those five pieces of armor – the belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield and the helmet – were intended to protect the soldier from the attacks of the enemy. But this last piece of armor, while it can be used to ward off the blows of the enemy, also has some offensive capabilities. And we need that sword because our enemy is real and powerful and we need to be able to fight back when he attacks.
Roman soldiers used two different types of swords. Last week, we talked about the broadsword, which was a heavy weapon, usually about four feet long which was swung with both hands in a manner similar to the way we would swing a baseball bat. And that sword was used primarily to try to split open the head of the enemy as it came down upon the head. The Greek word for that broadsword, ”romphaia”, is used in the New Testament, primarily in the book of Revelation, where it is an instrument of God’s judgment against those who have chosen not to commit their lives to Jesus.
But the Greek word that Paul uses here, “makaira”, and which is used frequently throughout the New Testament is a much smaller sword. The word described a sword that was worn in a sheath or scabbard by the Roman soldier that could be anywhere from about six inches to 20 inches long. In Matthew 26 we read that the Roman soldiers who came to Jesus carried that type of sword and that Peter used a similar sword to cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest.
The most significant characteristic of this sword for us as we consider the armor of God is that it was a weapon that was used for close hand-to-hand combat. Because of its short length, it was only effective when the enemy was close and engaged in a fight. And when Paul commands us to take the sword of the Spirit, he is emphasizing once again the seriousness of the battle and the danger our enemy, the devil, presents.
But before we go any further, I want to remind us that our responsibility when it comes to our spiritual battle is to stand firm and maintain the ground that Jesus has already secured on our behalf and not take new ground. That’s why Paul repeats the command to stand throughout this section. But since, as we’ve seen, the sword is also an offensive weapon, how do we reconcile those two seemingly contradictory ideas? Given the entire context of this section, I think we can rightly conclude that…