The Sword of the Spirit

In Ephesians 6:17, Paul exhorts every believer to take the whole armor of God. Included with the “panoply” is one weapon which is called the Sword of the Spirit.

Military Use

Your mind is probably thinking now about a knight from King Arthur’s round table — a well-armored man with a large sword swung with two hands. In your mind, the hero is swinging his sword with all his might and his enemies, small trees, and anything else in the way are cut in half by his powerful sword. That’s not what Paul meant here. The Greek word “μάχαιρα refers to ‘a relatively short sword (or even dagger) used for cutting and stabbing’, and was distinct from … ‘a large, broad sword used for both cutting and piercing’”1 This type of dagger was good for close combat where you would not have room to swing a long broad sword. The short sword could be used for quick thrusts that would slip through the joints of the enemy’s armor.

Spiritual Use

Paul urges us to take the short sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. A couple of thoughts:

  1. It is the Word of God.
  2. Paul uses the word ῥῆμα and not logos. “The two terms are often interchangeable, but the latter tends to emphasize the word as spoken or proclaimed (as in 5:26).”2 What God has spoken to his holy prophets has been recorded in the Bible which is rightly called the Word of God. The Bible is the perfect and completed compilation of what God has said to us. The spiritual sword then is used as we speak God’s Word to others.

  3. It is the sword of the Spirit.
  4. As you think of the battle, realize that you are not alone. The Holy Spirit who was given to each believer also has an important role in our spiritual battles. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-10). He is also effective in this role (Heb. 4:12). What a comfort this is to know that he is with us and that he will apply the Scriptures as needed in every situation. He can both comfort and convict as necessary.

  5. It is our offensive/defensive weapon in the spiritual battles we face.
  6. Armed with a good knowledge of the Scriptures, we can do two things. First, we can defend ourselves against the temptations hurled our way by recalling/quoting a Scripture verse that applies to the situation. This is what Jesus did repeatedly when tempted in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). Second, we can speak Scripture to present God’s truth for those who need to hear it. When we present the Scriptures to someone, the power is not in our speaking ability or logic, but in the Word of God itself. Remember that!

As you use the Sword of the Spirit today, remember that your short sword may need to be “thrusted” many times before the enemy is defeated. One verse may not defeat the enemy like a broad sword’s stroke. So, know, understand, and memorize the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15) so that you can repeatedly be used by God the Holy Spirit to defeat your spiritual enemies.

1 O’Brien, Peter, The Letter to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 481.
2 O’Brien 482.

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