What I got wrong about the Sword of the Spirit

When I was a kid, I literally wore the armor of God.

Does anyone else remember these kits? A big plastic shield had a plastic red banner over the center of it that read “Faith.” A helmet with a sliding plastic visor and the word “Salvation” on the top. And I fought off all manor of imaginary evil with the sword of the Spirit.

All of God’s armor is meant to strengthen and help us—but perhaps the most misunderstood item in the set is that shiny sword.

Ready… Set… Stand!

As I prepare a message on the armor of God and read over Ephesians 6:10-20 again, I’m struck by a few things.

First, I’m struck that Paul never tells us to fight. I remember hearing many people say, “The Sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon God has given us.” And while I don’t disagree, I read the rest of the passage and am struck by how we’re expected to use that weapon.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:11

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore….”

Ephesians 6:13-14a

Across this passage, Paul never says, “Fight back!” Instead, he tells us four times to “stand.”

So what does that mean? That God doesn’t expect us to have a mission? That He just wants to take all the bombardments of hell? Well, sort of.

What offense looks like in the Kingdom of God

Take a look again at that sword.

“and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”

Ephesians 6:17-18

The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Our sword is the word.

Now, contrary to third-grade Camden, I don’t think that means we get to swing a large metal sword that has “Spirit” written on the side. Nor do I think it means God intends for us to thwak people with our Bibles, either physically or spiritually.

Think about it: what word have followers of Jesus been given—a word so powerful it can break chains, liberate the bonded, send demons fleeing, and raise the dead to life?

The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and the Word of God is the message of Jesus and the new humanity He brings. We have a word—a message, a declaration—that the war is over, that death is beaten, and new life has come.

So use the sword! But use it like a redeemed child of God, in the same way Jesus did.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

Isaiah 61:1-2; also see Luke 4:18-19

Just like Paul, we pray, “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:19-20).

Make no mistake—we live in hostile enemy territory, where we need God’s armor to protect us. We take a stand against every power that opposes the declaration of Good News, and we pray for boldness to proclaim it anyway.

The sword of the Spirit is an offensive weapon, yes. Yet it’s not to be used for theological arm-wrestling or poking holes in weary souls. The world has enough Bible-thumpers; instead, let’s carry Good News like a sword, bringing fell strokes of freedom, deliverance, and healing wherever we go.

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2 Comments

  1. Well said – so often we Christians can take offence … at non-Christians and (even more so) at other Christians. A charitable spirit that listens, seeks the god for others, and learns to disagree well is what we need – what I need

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