The Sword of the Spirit
Paul continues laying out the "whole armor of God." Ephesians 6:17b states, "...and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Most of us are not fighting in hand-to-hand combat on a regular basis, but we must put ourselves in that era. Think of the pieces of armor that Paul names here, and notice that there is only one offensive weapon: the sword. All of the other pieces of armor are defensive weapons, allowing us to fend off the attacks of Satan and to “stand firm.” But this is our one offensive weapon: the Word of God. The Bible. When the forces of darkness attack us, the only way we can fight back is through Scripture.
Take Christ’s example in Matthew 4, when He was tempted in the wilderness. Satan came at him with the best temptations he had. Jesus responded by going directly to Scripture. Even when Satan tried to use and twist Scripture, Jesus replied with Scripture rightly interpreted.
The Bible is our ultimate weapon against Satan because it points us to Christ, who is the Word, as John 1 tells us. Therefore, we must use Scripture to rightly respond when our hearts or Satan condemns us.
The Word Cuts and Heals
Not only that, but the sword of God’s Word is that which heals us. This may seem counter-intuitive: how can a sword heal my wounds? I will refer to Iain Duguid again. He uses three helpful pictures regarding the “sword of the Spirit.” He says it is like "a sword, a garden shear, and a scalpel." The sword defends us against Satan. The garden sheer prunes the unnecessary branches in our life. And the scalpel opens us up, not for our harm, but for our good. The scalpel cuts away the harmful parts within us, namely our sin. Hebrews 4:12 makes this clear:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
God's Word will often cut us deeply. And it is meant to. But like any good surgeon, that deep cut is meant to change what is bad within us and transform us into the image of Jesus. The Word that cuts is the very same Word that heals.
The Word Sets the Agenda
This is exactly why we, as a church, commit ourselves to the Word of God. This is why we commit to expository, book-by-book preaching. Every once in a while, we will do a more topical series, but even in those series, the driving factor is God’s Word. We firmly believe that God’s Word can set the agenda a whole lot better than you or I can. I hear often, “we need preaching that is relevant, that regards issues that we are facing today.” People often don’t want just another “Bible study.” The problem with that thinking is that we make something other than the written Word of God the agenda: either your interests, current cultural topics, or what hobby-horse the preacher has been on lately. But God has intentionally given us His Word in the way in which He desires it. He hasn’t left out anything that He meant to put in. He is sovereign and has sovereignly used mankind to bring about His Word revealed to us.
The practical application here is straightforward: get into God’s Word. Or better yet, get God’s Word into you. Gather with the church to regularly study God’s Word. Gather to regularly listen to the preaching of God’s Word. Listen to other messages or podcasts or even the Bible app on your phone. Have a regular time that you are reading, studying, meditating on, and memorizing God’s Word. Planning that out is helpful. I would highly recommend having some sort of reading plan (whether it be weekly, yearly, etc.).
This isn’t about guilt or an added burden. This is about survival as a Christian in spiritual warfare! You need Scripture just as a soldier in battle needs a sword. You will quickly get slaughtered without it.
We need God's Word. Daily. This is essential both on a personal level and an interpersonal level. We should read and meditate and study on our own, but we should also do the same together with the Church. For 2,000 years now, the Church has devoted itself to the teaching of God's Word. It shouldn't be any other way.
Sermon Series: Ephesians: Church Alive In Christ