The Sword of the Spirit
December 5, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Paul’s words, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” are well known among Christians, but do we truly live mindfully of spiritual warfare? It is far too easy to allow our sight and physical realities to command our attention. The call of Scripture, however, is to be battle ready for spiritual warfare. Through this multi-week series, we will consider what Scripture teaches about this spiritual struggle. This is part ten.
The helmet of salvation is the last piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6. The pieces of armor are primarily defensive in nature, protecting one’s soul and mind and heart from the threats of the devil. In a nutshell, God’s powerful, redemptive work through Jesus Christ envelopes us to protect against Satan’s lies, temptations, and attacks.
Paul is not done, though. He also calls the church of Christ to take up an offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit. Christians are not merely caught in a defensive posture, but we are empowered to fight back against “the spiritual forces of evil.” Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:19 that we would know the “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” Power for what? Power to be strengthened through his Spirit in our inner being (Eph. 3:16). Power “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Power to put off the old self and put on the new self (Eph. 4:22-24). Power to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1).
The sword of the Spirit is the channel of that “immeasurable greatness of his power.” The armor protects us in God’s grace. The sword helps us grow in God’s grace.
Paul explicitly states that the sword of the Spirit is “the word of God.” Let’s consider briefly why the word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit” and how it works in our lives.
Peter explains that Scripture is a product of the work of the Spirit: “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). This undergirds our belief that the Old Testament is God’s word. Jesus promised his disciples that “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn. 16:13). This is the foundation of our belief that the writings of the apostles, the New Testament, are God’s word. The Bible is God’s word because the Holy Spirit directed its composition.
Paul chooses to call the Bible a sword because the Holy Spirit uses the word to conduct spiritual surgery on our hearts and minds. In conversion, the Spirit removes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh (Ez. 36:26) as we hear and receive the promises of forgiveness of sin and eternal life. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The Holy Spirit works in and through God’s word to apply the power of the gospel to our lives.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Paul outlines our call to holiness. He contrasts those “who do not know God” with those who have received the Holy Spirit. Those who do not know God are ensnared in “the passion of lust.” Those who have received the Holy Spirit “know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” The Holy Spirit does not “magically” create this transformation in believers. He works through “the sword of the Spirit.” We are called to take up this sword and allow the “immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power” to transform us. This only weakens Satan’s power against us, as we grow “strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”