The Armor of God (VIII): The Sword of the Spirit

This is the eighth and final part in an eight-part series on “the armor of God” in Ephesians 6. It starts here.


. . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17)

I mentioned at the beginning of this series that the entire panoply is defensive, with the sole exception of “the sword of the Spirit.” Now we arrive at a discussion of the meaning of this weapon.

The sword is a metaphor throughout Scripture for the Word of God, and not just in Ephesians or Hebrews. There are three elements that the word of God is compared to (whether in simile or metaphor):

  1. Light
    lamp [Ps. 119:105]
    fire [Jer. 23:29, technically a simile]
    mirror [James 1:23, simile]
  2. Food
    milk [1 Pet. 2:2, Heb. 5:12, 1 Cor. 3:2]
    meat [Heb. 5:12, 1 Cor. 3:2]
  3. Weapon
    sword [Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12-13, Rev. 1:16; see also Isa. 49:2, Hos. 6:5, Rev. 2:12, 19:15, 19:21]
    hammer [Jer. 23:29, simile]
    fire [Jer. 5:14, see also Jer. 20:9, 23:29]

There may be a few similes not mentioned here. For instance, the Word is like a seed that brings life (1 Pet. 1:23), and the Word is like water that cleanses (Eph. 5:26-27).

Overall, though, the most common metaphor used of God’s Word is a weapon. And out of the weapon metaphors, a sword appears to be the most repeated throughout both Testaments.

The Word Reveals, Nourishes, and Hurts

These metaphors that are repeated throughout Scripture enable us to see the Word as accomplishing at least three functions in our lives: It reveals, it nourishes, and it hurts. Needless to say, the third of these is the most surprising, especially since it is the most repeated!

The Word reveals. As a lamp, the Word reveals the way to live; as a fire, the Word brings safety at night, but in that passage in Jeremiah, it is also, yet again, a weapon. And as a mirror, the Word reveals to us ourselves.

The Word also nourishes. Both Peter and Paul compare God’s Word to “spiritual milk” that brings us to maturity. There is also a word from God that is like “meat”—it strengthens us and energizes us. The Word also takes time to digest! We need to take it pieces, not all at once, lest we miss the maturity that comes with each morsel of revelation.

The Word hurts. Take a look at Jeremiah’s word:

12 They have lied about the Lord,
And said, “It is not He.
Neither will evil come upon us,
Nor shall we see sword or famine. . . .”

14 Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts:

“Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire,
And this people wood,
And it shall devour them.”

(Jer. 5:12, 14, NKJV)

God’s Word is amazingly powerful. The same Word that said in the beginning, “let there be light”—and there was light—still has power to build and destroy, to create and to undo. In a sense, some Creation processes have freedom to run “in the background” with or without divine maintenance—although truly “in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17) But when he wants to tear down entire nations, he does it, not with lightning and thunder, with his arm and his power, but with his word.

Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. (Rev. 19:15, NKJV)

The same sword that, in the end, defeats Satan’s armies, is the sword that we as believers wield against him. His Word is that powerful. Amazingly, this “sword” is the only weapon mentioned.

Finally, the Word hurts to heal. When the author of Hebrews calls the Word “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit” (4:12 NKJV), we should take notice that he’s talking about believers. The author of Hebrews speaks of warning believers, to “be diligent to enter that rest” (4:11):

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (4:1 NKJV)

The sword of the Spirit may pierce us now as a way of helping us to know if our efforts are from the soul or from the spirit. As we close our discussion of God’s suit of armor, let us make every effort to find ourselves among those that are pierced here and now by the Word of God—for everyone who is not pierced by it now, will assuredly be pierced by it hereafter.

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