What Is the Sword of the Spirit and How Should I Use It?
- Hope Bolinger Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 19 Dec
The armor of God in the Bible is an outfit of spiritual protection against the schemes of the devil. Christians may notice something interesting: every piece of armor (with the exception of one) is defensive. The defensive pieces help us block the blows of Satan.
We have only one offensive piece of armor, instead of defensive: the sword of the Spirit, or, the Word of the Lord (the Bible).
All the pieces of the armor come from God, but this piece in particular is God himself, the Holy Spirit. It’s Logos, the same word used to describe God in John 1:1. When we enter battle, we must arm ourselves with the Truth of God, refusing to compromise to the world’s standards.
In this article we’ll dive into the nature of the sword of the Spirit, how to use it, and more.
What Is the Sword of the Spirit in the Bible?
We read about the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-18 (passage below):
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. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18
The sword mentioned in Ephesians belongs to the Holy Spirit. Both offensive and defensive in nature, a sword can protect a soldier against the blows of an enemy. Soldiers have to know how to properly wield a sword for maximum effect.
In the same way, we can’t misuse the sword of the Spirit, or we’ll put ourselves in danger on the spiritual battlefield. Whenever using the word of God for the offensive (evangelism efforts) or defensive (apologetics), we need to know everything we can about it.
As pointed out in Matthew Henry’s commentary, this sword has the ability to trample any objections to Christianity posed by Satan. A single text can reassure us when the devil assails us with heavy blows.
The Spirit supplies us with this sword through the Word. Like a trainer, he teaches us how to use it properly.
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How Do We Use the Sword of the Spirit?
So, how do we use the Bible properly to a) spread the Gospel and b) be prepared for any questions or doubts that may arise regarding Scripture?
1. We Must Read the ‘Sword’ in Context
One of the worst ways to use your sword is to read it out of context, or read into it your own cultural biases (this is known as eisegesis). For instance, say you read Philippians 4:13. You read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If you don’t know the original context of this verse: Paul, suffering in prison, with a thorn (a weakness) that God won’t remove, you might interpret it differently. You might say, “Well, I can do all things, so I’ll win the Olympics.” That’s not what the verse says.
To properly wield this weapon, we must learn all we can about it, including the context of certain passages.
2. We Must Learn as Much as We Can about the Sword
How do we do this? We study the Sword daily. We read our Bibles and study commentaries and hear sermons preached on the word, so we can gain an understanding of Scripture.
1 Peter 3:15 calls us to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. But if we don’t have a solid knowledge of Scripture, we may not be able to give a proper explanation.
Atheists and those of other religions will often twist Scripture or point out more difficult passages or problems (such as highlighted in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel). We must be ready to give an answer to these difficult questions, through engaging with God's Word every day.
We also must be ready to spread the Gospel, through an understanding of it.
An Ethiopian eunuch, in Acts, reads through a portion of Scripture, but doesn’t understand it. Luckily Philip, a follower of Jesus, is in the area and explains the Scripture to him, leading the man to convert to Christianity. We learn Scripture so we can help elucidate its meaning to seekers and those who wish to understand it (Acts 8:26-40).
3. We Must Ask God to Reveal Himself through the Sword
As mentioned before, we won’t always have all the answers. But, when we’ve accepted God as Savior of our lives, his Holy Spirit reveals his character and his plan for our lives through Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:10-15).
By spending time with God in his Word every day, we learn more about him, and grow closer in relationship with him.
All in all, we must put on any piece of the armor through prayer and through regularly engaging with Scripture, including the sword of the Spirit.
What Does Jesus Say about the Word of God?
Jesus seems to say a lot about God’s Word. He uses God’s Word as a defense against the devil’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-11). He frequently quoted the Old Testament in his sermons, and that God’s words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35, Matthew 5:18). In other words, they’re immutable, unchanging, and timeless.
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Where Else Is Sword Imagery Used in the Bible?
Psalm 149:6 describes the praise of God as a double-edged sword.
In addition to symbolizing God’s Word, the sword appears to represent punishment from God. God will sometimes lift his sword against Israel’s enemies or Israel itself when they fall prey to sin.
However, most Christians will associate the sword with the Bible. God has the ability to penetrate even the most stubborn of people through his Word. He cuts right to the heart and changes lives entirely.
A Prayer for You to Use the Sword of the Spirit
Heavenly Father, equip me with the sword of the Spirit today. May I be ready to give a reason for the hope that I have within me. Whenever the devil launches doubts or twists Scripture, help remind me about what your Word really, truly says. As I study your Word today, help me to bear in mind the original context of the passage, so as not to distort the meaning through my own cultural biases. Reveal to me the meaning of your Word and how it applies to my life today. Whether I fight an offensive or defensive battle today, don’t let me leave without the sword of the Spirit, which is your Word. Amen.
God only gives us one offensive weapon in the spiritual armor: the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word. But this doesn’t leave us vulnerable on the battlefield.
In fact, he could not have given us a better offensive and defensive weapon. The Word of the Lord has the ability to penetrate stubborn human hearts, to open their eyes to the truth of God, and to give them an opportunity to accept the gift of salvation from Jesus.
The Word of the Lord also helps us when the devil launches defenses against Christianity. He may ask us difficult questions or cause us to have doubts, but if we regularly engage with the Word of the Lord, we can remind ourselves of who God really is.
However, if we want to wield this weapon well, we have to train properly.
We need to ensure we truly understand the original context of passages and not take portions of Scripture out of context, simply to back up cultural biases we may have.
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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.
This article is part of our series on the Armor of God. To learn more about the meaning, context, and purpose of each piece of armor in the spiritual life of the believer, visit the articles below.